Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Bedtime Story (5/12/2018)

As is tradition on this blog, I'll be writing some Christmas themed bedtime stories, this month!  However, before we get into the first one, I would like to make a small announcement.

For over three and a half years, I've been writing weekly bedtime stories.  These stories have been published here for free and there is now a full list of hundreds to share with the children in your life.  Whilst I've enjoyed creating these stories, it has, at times, been difficult to maintain a level of originality and to ensure that new stories are ready to go up each week.  Finding time to podcast the stories as well, in order to make them more accessible, has also been challenging, given that this blog is something I maintain as a hobby, alongside my day job, my YouTube channel, running an abuse-awareness campaign account on Twitter, being in charge of social media for the chorus I sing with and of course, practising for said chorus.  Add to that the fact that I would like to be writing more books and a wider range of blog posts and you might understand just how much effort goes into ensuring that the bedtime story feature goes live each week without fail.  

For these reasons, I have decided that, as of January 2019, the bedtime story feature will be going on an indefinite hiatus.  I'm referring to it as a "hiatus," rather than saying the feature will stop and never return, as I don't want to rule that out entirely.  However, for the foreseeable future, my goal is to find time to write more blog posts and to potentially begin working on a new book, whilst also trying to grow my YouTube channel and begin working to improve my directing skills (did I mention I'm also Assistant Director of the chorus I sing with?!).  With all of that taking priority, I don't see myself finding the time to keep up with the bedtime story feature, as the very last thing I want to do is to rush the process and create stories that are not up to the usual standard I pride myself on.

I'd like to thank everyone who has shared the weekly bedtime stories with the little ones in their lives, over the last almost four years.  The bedtime stories page will remain up on this blog and therefore the stories can still be enjoyed for years to come.  I also hope you will enjoy these last few, festive additions and that you'll continue to visit this blog, to see what I get up to next!

With that out of the way, let's get on with the story!  As usual, it's also available as a podcast.

"What Shall We Hang On The Christmas Tree?!"

The Christmas tree was standing tall,
Green and lush and proud.
Mum handed decorations to all;
Shiny baubles, gold and round.

But "what are these?" Young Florence asked,
Looking ready to make a fuss.
"These round things don't mean anything!
We should hang something special to us!"

Her brothers frowned and scratched their heads.
Whatever did young Flo mean?
"Our Christmas isn't baubles and stars," Flo said.
"It's a very different scene."

"We should hang excited faces,
Hardly able to sleep.
And piles of torn off wrapping paper,
Lying crumpled in a heap."

Her brothers gathered closer:
"We could make our own!" They cried.
"Pictures of what Christmas is to us;
Festive films, cocoa and mince pies!"

And so the family set to work,
creating decorations to hang.
Laughter rang out through the house,
As from each mind an idea sprang.

"I'll draw my cosy pyjamas,
I wear each year on Christmas Eve.
The ones with Santa's sleigh on the front,
And reindeer flying up the sleeves!"

"Then I'll draw Bobby at dinner,
refusing to eat any sprouts,"
Florence said with a giggle.
"Those Memories are what Christmas is about."

Her brothers laughed and nodded.
"I'll draw Dad with the Christmas lights,"
Bobby replied, with a chuckle.
"They always get into a fight!"

"Draw the dog chasing wrapping paper,"
Flo's brother, Ben, exclaimed.
"Or the photo of Dad eating turkey at midnight!
The one Mum printed out and had framed!"

They all sat around the table,
Sharing memories from Christmases past.
With each joyful memory they laughed and smiled,
Hardly believing that time flew so fast.

"Remember when Ben got a ping pong set
And the ball flew across the room?
It knocked over a flower pot
And Mum just laughed and gave Ben a broom!"

They thought back over presents
And family games they'd all played.
They remembered delicious Christmas dinners
At a table all festively laid.

Christmas cracker jokes that made them groan,
Cosy evenings with a warm, glowing fire.
The three children remembered it all
And their smiles grew wider and wider.

"This is what Christmas is all about,"
Flo said, "not baubles on a tree.
But memories shared and fun to be had,
With your best friends and your family."

And together they hung all their pictures
On the Christmas tree with pride.
Seeing all of their happy, festive memories
Made each of them feel warm inside.

"We'll add the baubles as well though,"
Flo said, grinning from ear to ear.
"Because decorating the tree together
Can be a memory we make this year."

It really was the prettiest tree;
Probably the family's best ever!
But better than any decoration
Was the joy of just being together.


Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Bedtime Story (28/11/2018)

Sometimes, I am guilty of being a bit needy and perhaps trying too hard to show people what they mean to me.  I think it's almost certainly because of situations I've found myself in, over the years, where someone I've wrongly thought of as my "best friend" has turned out to be anything but.  This story is all about friendship, love and letting someone know you care.  

If you would prefer to listen to this story, it is also available as a podcast.

Melanie's 'Best Friend' Mission

All weekend, Melanie had been up in her room, working on a top secret project.  She hadn't gone to play at the park with her older brothers.  She hadn't watched any of her favourite TV shows.  She was only interested in finishing what she was working on. 

Finally, on Monday morning, as Mum was getting everyone ready for school, Melanie emerged with her project completed.  In her hands, she held a rather misshapen scarf.  

"Remember when Nan said she was going to teach me to knit?"  Melanie beamed, holding the scarf up for approval.  "Well, I practised and practised and I've made Willow a scarf.  She always gets cold, this time of year and I wanted her to have something to keep her warm, because she's my best friend."

Nobody mentioned the holes in the scarf.  Nobody mentioned that it was wider at one end, or slightly frayed at the edges.  Everyone told Melanie what a lovely thing she'd done.

At school, Willow grinned when she saw the scarf.  "I can't believe you made this all by yourself," she exclaimed, wrapping it carefully around her neck.  "Thank you!"  

Willow wore the scarf at play time.  She and Melanie played together just as they always did.  But, as they walked back to the classroom, after the bell rang, Willow noticed that one end of the scarf was stuck in the zip of her coat.  Even though she tried her hardest to get it out gently, before long, the scarf began to unravel.  All of Melanie's hard work was undone.

"I'm so sorry," Willow sighed. 

Melanie shook her head.  "No, I'm sorry," she insisted.  "I didn't make it strong enough.  It wasn't very good."  She stared at her feet.  "I just wanted you to have something nice to keep you warm.  I wanted to show you how much you mean to me, but I couldn't even knit a simple scarf..."

Willow opened her mouth to reply, but Melanie trudged away, taking her seat in the classroom without another word.

Their teacher handed out thread and some brightly coloured beads.  "We're going to practise threading and making patterns," she announced.  "You can make a necklace, a bracelet or anything you like, as long as you remember to stick to a pattern."

Melanie's eyes widened.  "I know how to make it up to you!"  She gasped, turning to Willow.  "I'll make you a necklace!  Then you'll know how special you are to me!" 

"You don't have to make it up to me," Willow insisted, but Melanie was already scooping up all the purple and green beads, because she knew those were Willow's favourite colours.  Willow smiled.  "Okay, well I'll make you a necklace and we can swap at the end."

For the rest of the lesson, the girls worked hard on their necklaces.  Just before lunchtime, their teacher told them it was time to finish up, so everyone began carefully tying knots in their thread.  Willow tied her thread and held up a pretty, pink and blue necklace.  "Here you are!"  She grinned.  

Melanie was struggling to tie her thread into a knot.  It kept slipping through her fingers, somehow.  The more she tried, the more flustered she became.  Before she knew what was happening, the thread slipped out of her grasp once more and the beads came sliding off, scattering all over the table.  "No!"  Melanie cried, clutching at the beads as they rolled away.  "I promised you a necklace," she whimpered, avoiding Willow's gaze.  

Willow held out the necklace she'd made.  "Do you want to wear the one I made you?"

"I don't deserve it," Melanie replied.  "I'm such a rubbish best friend.  All I wanted to do was show you how much you mean to me, but I can't, because I'm not good at anything."

"That's not true!"  Willow cried, but Melanie had already darted out of the classroom.

Willow finally caught up with Melanie in the hall, queuing up for lunch.  "Please don't be upset," she urged.  "You don't have to do anything special to prove that you're my friend."

"But you do so much for me," Melanie insisted.  "I just want to show you what it means to me."  She blinked suddenly, reading the dinner menu on the wall.  "I know!  They have strawberry mousse for pudding, today.  I can get one for you, it's your favourite!"

Willow frowned.  "But you don't like strawberry mousse," she reminded her.  "And I can just get my own.  You can get a pudding you do like!"

"But if I get a pudding I don't like and give it to you, you can have two!"  Melanie replied.  "And then you'll know that I really care about you and it'll make up for the scarf and the necklace."

Before Willow could stop her, Melanie had placed a strawberry mousse onto a tray and had handed over her dinner money.

"There!"  Melanie beamed.  "That's to show you that you're my best friend!"  She turned to carry her tray to a table, but didn't notice another child standing close by.  With a gasp, Melanie tripped, dropping her lunch tray onto the floor and sending its contents flying across the hall.

"Melanie!"  Willow shrieked.  "Are you alright?!"

Melanie's eyes streamed with tears.  "I just keep getting everything wrong!"  With a sob, she ran out of the hall.

It took Willow a while to find Melanie.  Eventually, she spotted her sitting, huddled beneath her coat, in the cloakroom outside their class.  "What are you doing here?"  She asked, sitting beside her.  "Come back and have some lunch.  You must be starving!"

"I dropped my lunch all over the floor, remember?"  Melanie sniffed.  

"You can share mine," Willow promised. 

Melanie shook her head.  "You're always doing nice things for me," she sighed.  "And I tried so hard to do something to show you how grateful I am and I just...  I make a mess, every time."

Willow smiled.  "I know you're grateful," she insisted.  "But I'm not your friend just so that you'll feel like you have to do nice things for me, you know.  I don't expect you to make presents for me, or go without pudding just so that I can have two!"

"But I just want you to know how much you mean to me," Melanie replied.  "I want you to know that you're my best friend."

Willow chuckled and placed an arm around Melanie's shoulders.  "I do know," she told her.  "And it's not because of anything you buy or make me.  I know I mean something to you because you make time for me.  You listen to me when I'm sad.  You help me whenever I need it.  You always think of me and you want to do nice things for me.  I know I'm your best friend, because you're mine.  That's much more important than any present or extra pudding could ever be!"

"Am I really?"  Melanie asked, managing a smile.  "Even though I'm clumsy and silly and I made a scene in the hall just now?!"

Willow grinned back at her.  "Always," she promised.  "Those things are just part of who you are and I love everything that makes you you."

Melanie flung her arms around Willow's neck.  "Are you sure you don't want me to buy you another strawberry mousse?!"

Willow laughed.  "I'm more than sure," she insisted.  "You know what I do want, though?"

Melanie shook her head.

"I want my best friend to come back and have lunch with me.  And I want her to promise that she won't ever think I need her to do anything to prove herself to me, again."

Melanie smiled.  "I think I can manage that."

And with that, two best friends walked back to the hall, to share a lunch together.


Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Bedtime Story (21/11/2018)

I'm a firm believer in the BEST things in life being the things that money CAN'T buy.  So, this story is my way of sharing that message.

To listen to this story as a podcast, click here.

"I Wish I was RICH!"

"You should make a wish," Jasmine declared,
As the candles were blown and the birthday cake shared.
Her brother, Harry, yelled at an ear-splitting pitch:
"I wish that I was incredibly rich!"

Jasmine's face looked rather confused.
"Is that really your wish?!" She asked, unamused.
"You could wish for something magic or funny.
I think it's boring to only wish for more money!"

Harry shrugged.  "But money buys things!
Just think of the fun stuff my millions could bring.
I'd buy toys and games and endless sweets.
We'd have day after day of incredible treats!"

"That doesn't sound special," Jasmine insisted.
She gazed at the presents Harry had been gifted.
"Having new stuff is a treat now and then.
You don't need new toys, again and again!"

"If you buy yourself presents every day,
It won't be so special when it's your birthday.
And when you get a treat you've saved up for,
It somehow makes it feel worth so much more."

Harry stuck out his lip, he groaned and he frowned.
He'd heard that money made the whole world go round!
"But if I'm rich, I can have whatever I like;
The latest computer, or a really cool bike."

"I'd fly around in my own private jet.
Everyone would be so jealous, I bet!"
Harry let out a long, dreamy sigh.
"Just tell me ONE thing that money can't buy!"

"I'll tell you loads," Jasmine said, happily.
"Money can't buy you a family!
It can't buy you love or friendship or health.
Some things are much more important than wealth."

"Money can't read you a bedtime story,
Or protect you if a spooky film gets too gory.
Toys and games are good fun to play,
But they won't kiss you goodnight at the end of the day."

"The best things in life can't always be bought,
Like laughter or memories," came Jasmine's retort.
"If you want to wish for money, I can't make you stop,
But you can't buy happiness in ANY shop."

Harry sat and he thought long and hard.
He gazed at all his presents and cards.
It gave him a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
The smile on his face was one he couldn't hide.

"You're right," he said. "My life's too good to switch,
I've got all I need; I don't need to be rich.
I've got family and friends.  I should listen to you!
All my birthday wishes have already come true."


Sunday, 18 November 2018

I'm Getting CRAFTY!

I won't lie to you, dear reader.  My Inktober/Blogtober challenge was exactly that: a challenge.  Writing a blog every day for a month was in many ways a really wonderful experience; it made me rediscover my passion for writing and it forced me to write about different things, taking me out of my comfort zone.  But it was also exhausting.  For the first couple of weeks of November, all I wanted to do was avoid writing, completely.

The trouble with avoiding something is that it's never a permanent solution.  You have to face whatever it is you're hiding from, eventually.  And for me, what I was really shying away from was the fact that for a month, I'd had prompt words to help me write something new every day.  I didn't have to think overly hard about a writing topic, because the words usually led to one pretty easily.  That was a huge bonus for me, because anyone who writes will, at some point in their life, experience the dreaded WRITER'S BLOCK.

Indeed, that's exactly what I started suffering with, the second November began and I knew that anything I wrote here had to come from me and not from a handy list of prompt words.

And that's where my friend Rachel stepped in.

There she is.  She's the one that isn't me.  Obviously.

Rach sent me not one, not two, but three sets of writing prompts I could use for future blogs, should I find myself struggling.  Today, I decided the time was right to do some blogging, so I opened up one of the prompt lists and stumbled upon the question:

"Have you ever given someone a handmade present?"

The short answer is "yes."  From little things I made at school as a child, to bits and bobs I cobbled together as a young adult who was (and, to be fair, still is as a middle-aged woman) always broke this time of year, there have been many times when I've handed someone a gift that I'd made, myself.

The trouble is, I am bad at craft.  Like...  Really bad.  If you've watched my most recent YouTube video, or you've ever stumbled upon the drunk craft channel I co-run with my wonderful friend Lesley, you'll know just how bad I am.

Sometimes, I'm bad at something and my failure to be any good at it causes me to loathe the activity completely.  See: any form of mathematical equation.  But now and then, I am rubbish at something and yet still enjoy it.  See: Bowling.  And also craft.

This year, I decided that I wanted to make something for someone.  I can't elaborate much further, just in case said someone decides to click on this blog and guesses what it is I've been working on, but suffice to say, seeing as I'm someone who is distinctly un-crafty, the task I set myself was quite a big one.  For someone with the ability to thread a needle without poking themselves in the hand, it would probably be nothing at all, but for me, it was no mean feat.

Just going out and buying the things I'd need was a big deal.  I mean, I don't do crafty stuff.  I didn't really know what I needed.  And once I'd gotten the materials home, there was a point at which I sat on my bed, staring at it all, wondering why on Earth I'd decided to try something so far out of my comfort zone.

Then I remembered what I wanted to make and why.  I had already bought Christmas presents for the recipient of my crafty endeavour, but I wanted to give them something I'd taken time over.  Something that really was from me.

I did it.  I persevered at something that I found difficult and although the end result isn't the best thing ever, it's something I'm proud of.  I look at it now (obviously it won't be given away as a present for a few weeks, yet...) and I see mistakes and areas where I needed to slow down and take more care, but I also see a finished product that I never really thought I could achieve.  It means a lot to me that I stuck at it and created something that I think is nice.

The thing is, now it's given me the craft bug.  

This morning, I've painted an object with acrylic paint, ready to turn it into... SOMETHING ELSE.  It's a top secret project (yet again) and I'm getting very excited about seeing this one through, just like my last crafty mission.  Taking bare bones and raw materials and turning them into something pretty, useful or interesting is, as it turns out, an awful lot of fun.  Plus, I get to use a GLUE GUN.  It's win-win.

The things I make might not win any awards for their brilliance.  I certainly couldn't sell them, anywhere.  I'm under no illusion that I'm suddenly incredibly gifted in this particular area.  But I'm learning all the time and I'm having an absolute blast doing it.  There are now bigger, trickier things I want to try, like learning to knit, or making my own jewellery.  I'll probably suck at both, but you know what?  I'll have fun giving it a go, anyway.

And on that note, I ought to go and see if that paint is dry, yet.  I have important, crafty things to do...

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Bedtime Story (14/11/2018)

This story is an homage to some of the children's books I read at work with the young ones I teach.  It's also a good excuse to write about cake...

This story is, as always, also available as a podcast.

Jasper And The Birthday Cake

Jasper's mum's birthday cakes were legendary.  She made the moistest sponge.  She whipped up the fluffiest frosting.  She created cakes of all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of delicious flavours.  Everyone in the village knew that if they wanted a birthday cake made, Jasper's mum was the person to go to.

So, when it came to Jasper's mum's birthday, Jasper was worried.  Who was going to make her cake?!

Jasper got out of bed bright and early.  He dashed into his mum's room and handed her a card and present.  He gave her a big, birthday hug and then, before Mum had time to thank him, he announced: "I'm just popping out to see Gran and Grandad!"  And with that, he darted out of the house.

Gran and Grandad were a little surprised to see Jasper, considering the early hour.  But Jasper had an important plan and he needed their help: together, they were going to bake Mum the best birthday cake ever.

It wasn't easy.  Jasper wasn't sure his arms were strong enough to stir the cake mix properly.  It didn't look as smooth and creamy as when Mum made it.  

Whilst the cake was cooking in the oven, Grandad tried to show Jasper how to whip up the frosting, but no matter how hard Jasper tried, his frosting looked much grainier than Mum's.

When the cake was cooked, Gran took it out of the oven and Jasper pulled a face.  It wasn't perfectly shaped like Mum's were; the top was wonky and there were dents in the sides, where Jasper had put too much baking parchment into the tin.  Then, when he added the frosting, he couldn't help but think it looked much lumpier and messier than Mum's ever did.

Still, Jasper used an icing pen to write "happy birthday Mum!" on the top of the cake in large, slightly wobbly letters.  And even though the cake didn't look perfect, Jasper had to admit that the smell was delicious.

"Come on," Jasper called to his grandparents.  "Now we have to take this cake back to show Mum!"

Jasper set off, with Gran and Grandad close behind.  They hadn't gotten far, when Mr Terrance, the old man whose retirement cake Mum had made a few years before, noticed them and headed over to see what was going on.  He could smell the delicious scent of the cake and decided to follow Jasper and his grandparents, in the hope of getting a slice.

They rounded the corner and headed onto the high street, Jasper leading the way, with Gran and Grandad and Mr Terrance following behind.

As they walked past the corner shop, Mum's friend Betty spotted the cake.  It smelled so good, she thought she might like to try it, too.  And so she followed on behind.

Outside the salon, Mum's hairdresser, Cassie, was just about to open up for the day.  She spotted Jasper, carrying the birthday cake, with Gran, Grandad, Mr Terrance and Betty all following behind.  She sniffed the air and smiled.  Perhaps she could just follow them and see if there was a spare slice for her...

Jasper, Gran, Grandad, Mr Terrance, Betty and Cassie headed down the street and stopped at the traffic lights.  There, Frank the policeman, who'd once helped find Mum's missing purse, was just on his way home from a long shift.  He hadn't had any breakfast yet and the cake had such a lovely smell, it made him hungry.  He decided he'd best follow everyone, just to be sure they were safe, of course...

Crossing the road, Jasper walked past the park, with Gran, Grandad, Mr Terrance, Betty, Cassie and Frank the policeman all following behind.  In the park, Mum's friend Anne was walking her dog, Buster.  Buster tugged on his lead, wanting to know where everyone was going.  Anne chuckled to herself, as she joined the procession of people, walking down the street.

On the corner of Jasper's road, Jasper's best friend Tom was playing on his scooter.  He blinked in surprise when he saw everyone pass by.  Tucking his scooter under his arm, he decided to join them.

And so, Jasper, Gran, Grandad, Mr Terrance, Betty, Cassie, Frank the policeman, Anne, Buster the dog and Tom all arrived back at Jasper's house.  Mum was waiting by the front door.  "Oh!"  She gasped, as she saw everyone.

"I made you a cake," Jasper explained, not noticing the commotion behind him. "But it's not as good as the ones you make."

Mum shook her head.  "You brought everyone with you to share it!"  She exclaimed.  "All my friends and family!"

Jasper frowned and finally glanced behind, laughing as he saw everyone waiting for a slice of his cake.  "I...  Well...  Yes, I suppose I did!"

Mum grinned.  "Anyway, the best birthday cakes are the ones made with love.  Shall we have a slice?!"

"YES!"  Cried Jasper, Gran, Grandad, Mr Terrance, Betty, Cassie, Frank the policeman, Anne and Tom.  "WOOF!"  Barked Buster the dog.

And they all went inside, to eat a very special birthday cake, that may not have looked perfect, but tasted just right.


Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Bedtime Story (7/11/2018)

Being a proud military brat, I can never let Remembrance Day go by without marking it somehow.  As this is the closest bedtime story before the 11th, I wanted to write a poem in tribute.  Today is also the day that my closest friend's poppy exhibition opens to the public at Cornwall's Regimental Museum (I am so, so proud of her!), so this subject just feels very appropriate.

You can also listen to this story as a podcast.

"Why Are They Wearing Flowers?"

Everyone was walking ever so slowly,
In their coats, their hats and their scarves.
Hardly a sound was made as they walked,
Just the birds and the passing cars.

"Why are they wearing flowers?" Asked Sam,
As she clutched on to her mother's hand.
"Those red flowers are ever so pretty, Mum,
But what do they mean?  I don't understand."

"To remember all of the soldiers," Mum said,
"Who never came home from war.
To give thanks to those who fought for freedom.
That's what the flowers are for."

"Where do the flowers come from?" Sam asked.
"And why did they choose one that's red?
Everyone looks serious and sad,"
Sam added, with a shake of her head.

"The red poppy grew in the fields," said Mum,
"After terrible battles took place.
It sprung up, new and beautiful;
Hope in a cold, tragic place."

"Now, these little paper flowers
Can be bought for just a few pence.
And the money we use to buy them,
Goes to good causes, which makes perfect sense!"

"The Royal British Legion
Looks after service folk, young and old.
They help people in all kinds of ways
With the money from each poppy sold."

"The world would be a different place,
If past conflicts had not been won.
So, by wearing poppies we thank the soldiers
And remember them - every one."

Sam nodded her head. "I understand.
Those flowers mean more than I guessed."
And with respect and gratitude,
She pinned one to her chest.


Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Inktober/Blogtober Crossover: Day 31

I can't quite believe I've stuck to this whole "blogging every day for a month" thing, but here we are on the final day of my Inktober/Blogtober challenge and that's exactly what I've managed to do.  Somehow...

The final word is "slice," which could only mean one thing, in my greedy, greedy brain: PIZZA.

If I were to compile a list of favourite foods (please don't make me, it would be much too hard), pizza would have to be somewhere near the top.  It's a near-perfect food in so many ways.  

For a start, it can be adapted to suit almost any taste: you choose your toppings and you can remove anything you don't like before you even make the order.  Want a pizza with lots of veggies on and no meat?  Go for it.  Want a pizza with extra tomato sauce?  That's fine.  Want a pizza with no cheese at all?  It's perfectly doable.

Secondly, it's an ideal food to share, making it a fabulously social meal.  

It's also quick and easy.  Pizza dough isn't especially hard to whip up, if you fancy having a go at it from scratch, but equally, readymade pizza bases are available if you only want to worry about toppings.  And if you're really stuck for time, fresh or frozen pizzas already made up can be found in any supermarket, to be popped in the oven at home, where they cook in no time at all.

If you're lucky enough to live near a pizza place that delivers, there's even less work to be done - just call or go online and order whatever it is you fancy.  There's something deliciously decadent about eating pizza straight out of the box, too.

It's also one of those meals that's versatile to everyone's eating habits.  If you want to pick it up with your fingers, go for it.  If you'd rather have a knife and fork, that works, too.

From stuffed crusts to thin, crispy bases, the humble pizza can be adapted and changed to suit almost anyone.  It's also often the food that accompanies nights in with friends, a quick and easy treat at dinnertime or the need to mope on the sofa for an evening.  

It's a food that can do basically anything.  And for that reason, it will always hold a special place in my exceptionally greedy heart.

Bedtime Story (31/10/2018)

How could I post a story on this date and NOT have it be about Halloween?!  This is all about the REALLY scary things in life...

To listen to this story as a podcast, click here.

What I'm REALLY Scared Of...

It's Halloween and everyone 
Is dressing up as something scary.
But I'm not scared of monsters
That are big, angry and hairy!
The things that really frighten me
Are worse than any ghost that could appear.
So here's a list of all the things
That I actually fear...

Being called to see the headmaster,
When you know he'll be cross with you.
A really difficult maths test,
When you just don't know what to do.
Missing the final step or two,
When you're walking down the stairs.
Having the same school bag as someone else
And accidentally taking home theirs.

Falling out with my best friend,
Or forgetting my school lunch money.
Telling a joke in front of my class
And nobody finding it funny.
Standing on stage to sing a song
And forgetting all of the words.
Having a root canal at the dentists 
- Because my brother says that hurts!

Forgetting my PE kit
And having to do it in my undies.
Being told to be silent somewhere important
Then doing a massive sneeze.
Jumping off the highest board
At my local swimming pool.
Trying to impress someone
And looking like a fool.

Being chased down the street
By an angry, buzzing wasp.
Being in a go-kart
And not knowing how to stop!
Standing in something wet and gross
When I'm walking with bare feet.
Getting lost in the supermarket,
Because I'm too busy looking at sweets.

All these things scare me,
But I still don't hide away.
I go out there and face my fears
Every single day.
And I'm sure you'll understand,
Now you've read of phobias like these,
Why meeting a monster or a ghost
Would frankly be a breeze!


Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Inktober/Blogtober Crossover: Day 30

When I read that today's penultimate Inktober word was "jolt," I thought back to the times in my life when I've had a realisation about myself, someone close to me or the world in general, which has genuinely taken me aback and made me see things in a new way.

There's something quite special about the moment that the penny drops regarding a certain situation or person.  That instant when you realise why you feel the way you do about things can be genuinely life-changing.  Every time you have a major realisation, it causes you to look at yourself and your life through fresh eyes and often, one moment of understanding sets off a chain reaction.  That initial "jolt," when you realise something important about yourself or your life, can alter the path you're on, forever.

My most recent "jolt" was probably also my most important.  It didn't happen in some amazing, lightbulb moment, or anything like that.  It was merely a case of my own mind bombarding me with questions, as always.  But this time, the question came completely out of nowhere and the answer knocked me sideways.

My entire life, I've identified as straight.  My only relationships have been with men.  All my celebrity crushes were on men.  All my real life crushes were on men.  

Whilst I've always been a champion of LGBT+ rights, I never ever saw myself as anything beyond straight.  In fact, if anything, the idea of personally being with a woman always made me feel a bit uncomfortable.  It wasn't what I was into.  I had no desire to be with someone who wasn't a dude.

And then, early last year, my life went through a lot of upheaval.  I had a female acquaintance who knew a lot about the situation I was going through and, despite us not being close friends, or living near to one another or anything like that, she took it upon herself to try to support me for a while.  For a couple of weeks (if that, really), she'd message me via Facebook every other day, to see how I was.  As expected, we ended up chatting about things beyond just my woes and I felt like I got to know her a lot better as a result.  Then, one day, out of the blue, a question popped into my head: 

"What would you say if she asked you out?"

It was a ludicrous question.  She was straight.  I was straight.  There was no chance of that happening.  So I attempted to ignore it, because why answer a question you'll never need to actually respond to?!

But the question was still in my head days later and eventually, I realised the reason I was trying not to answer it - even in my own mind - was because the answer scared me.  Because the answer was "of course I'd say yes."

She was funny and kind.  We had a lot of things in common.  She was easy to talk to.  She was objectively attractive.  Why would I say no, based purely on the fact that her gender was "wrong?"

Of course, given that I was going through a whole mountain of crap, early last year, I didn't have much time to dwell on this potential new piece of information about myself.  Besides, I still fancied guys.  I wasn't gay.

But over the course of the year, I started to realise - and more importantly to accept - that I was open to the idea of being with someone of the same gender as myself.  I began to understand that it's the person that I fall for, not their sex.  My crushes have always been based more on personality than looks, so it perhaps shouldn't have been as much of a surprise as it was.  I fall for someone based on things like whether they make me laugh.  Whether they seem kind.  Whether I can open up and really be myself around them.  It shouldn't have been a surprise to reach the conclusion that those things aren't exclusive to males.  Eventually, I realised just how capable I am of falling for someone regardless of gender and whilst it came as a shock, it wasn't something I felt any kind of worry or embarrassment about.  I was probably very lucky, in that sense.

Now, it's just a part of who I am.  I don't like to put a label on myself, but I know that when it comes to who I fall for, gender is essentially irrelevant.  I believe we're all much more sexually fluid than we ever realise.  Some of us might never feel anything for someone of our own gender and some of us might feel something and be too afraid or confused to act on it.  That's okay.  Others might fall for someone of their own gender and decide to take a chance and see where a relationship might lead.  That's okay, too.   

As long as we can learn to love and accept ourselves, that's the most important thing of all.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Inktober/Blogtober Crossover: Day 29

I always wanted a twin.  In fact, for a worrying amount of my early childhood, I imagined I did have a twin, they were just... invisible.  It's fine, I've had therapy.

Today's Inktober prompt word is "double" and at first, I thought about writing an entire post about my long-held yearning for a twin.  The trouble is, it wouldn't be that interesting.  "I always wanted a twin" just about sums the whole thing up, after all.

What I find much more fascinating, however, is the concept of finding your twin.  

Not literally.  I'm not about to go off on some kind of Blood Brothers style tale about discovering a sibling you were separated from at birth.  Partly because I'm fairly sure that doesn't happen all that often (if ever) and partly because the end of Blood Brothers makes me cry and I don't fancy writing this whilst softly weeping and attempting to sing Tell Me It's Not True in a bad Scouse accent.

When I talk about finding your "twin," I suppose I mean what some people refer to as your "soulmate."  

For me, a soulmate can be someone you have a romantic or a platonic connection with.  It could even be someone who goes from one to the other.  But the most important thing about it, is that the person you consider your "soulmate," your "twin" or your "double" (however you want to say it), is someone you click with in a way that feels special.  It's as though you met them and instantly knew they were going to be an enormously important part of your life.  And the love you have for them, be it platonic, romantic or any other kind, becomes such a deep part of who you are that you wonder how you ever went about your life without them in it.  Where did all that love come from?  How did you suddenly just know that you'd found the right person to give it to?

It's someone who gets you.  Someone who understands your quirks and maybe even shares some of them.  It's someone who's looking outwards in the same direction as you are.  Someone you can communicate an entire sentence with, using only a look.

It's someone who's quite probably into a lot of the same stuff as you are, but who has equal interest in the things you don't have in common and who wants to listen to you talk about the things you love, regardless of whether they share a love for them, too.  Those things are important to you and therefore, they've become important to them as well.

It's someone you feel you can be yourself with, warts and all.  Someone you can tell things to without fear of judgement.  Someone you feel safe with, because you know they understand you.  It's that person you want to share your good news with.  The person you know you can turn to when things go wrong.

It's someone who laughs with you, before you've even told the joke, or explained what's making you giggle.  It's someone who laughs at you when you're being an idiot, and you don't care, because you know they're right.

It's someone who knows all your faults as well as your strengths and who loves you anyway.  Perhaps they even love you more.  And you feel exactly the same about them.

The best way to sum up a soulmate, twin, or double, for me, is with my favourite Dr Seuss quote:

"We're all a little weird
And life's a little weird.
And when we find someone whose weirdness 
Is compatible with our own,
We join up with them
And fall in mutual weirdness
And call it love."

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Inktober/Blogtober Crossover: Day 28

Today's prompt word was "gift," so it's time to talk PRESENTS!

We're at that time of year when I have usually started my Christmas shopping and this October is no exception.  It's one of my absolute favourite things to do and I mean that quite sincerely.  I adore buying presents for the people I love.  In fact, I love it so much that I keep a list of gift ideas for my family and closest friends on my phone all year long, then check it every time it comes up to a birthday or Christmas.

As much as I love being given presents (and I really do love that!), there is something absolutely magical about buying something you just know someone will be thrilled with.  I get really excited when I think of a gift idea that someone will love and the moment that they open it and I see the smile on their face is always a really special one.

Of course, it's also a slightly nerve-wracking one.  When you've put a lot of thought into a gift, there's always a bit of a tense moment, where you worry whether you've got it wrong.  Will they like it?  What if you've got the wrong size, colour or brand?!

Another thing I wish I could do more is make presents for people.  I currently have an idea about the way I want to present the small selection of gifts I've already bought someone for Christmas and in a moment of madness, I decided I wanted to make something to put them all in.  If I had any talent at sewing, knitting or any such stuff, that would be a great idea.  But I can barely thread a needle, so why I've hit upon such a probably foolish plan, I really don't know.  I just know that some of my favourite gifts over the years have been things someone has made for me.  I guess I want to see if I can do the same?!

But whether I make things or buy things, there are few things I love more than getting special gifts for people I really care about.  Christmas is just around the corner, so it's a hobby I can indulge. 

I can't wait!

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Inktober/Blogtober Crossover: Day 27

Sometimes, when I read the Inktober prompt words that are inspiring my daily blogs throughout this month, I think about the people using them as prompts for drawings or painting and wonder how on Earth they come up with anything.  Today's word is "thunder" and perhaps I'm much too literal, but my brain just went: "HOW DO YOU DRAW A SOUND?!"

Eventually, I figured most people will draw a storm.  What makes me think that?  Because I'm going to write about storms.

Some people get freaked out by stormy weather.  I can understand why; it gets dark, the thunder can be very loud and intimidating and the lightning looks incredibly intense and we all know it can be dangerous, too.

I, however, am not one of those people.  I love a storm.

There's something really lovely about being indoors, all warm, cosy and safe, whilst the weather is going crazy outside.  I find the sound of the rain lashing the windows and the wind howling outdoors weirdly soothing.  I'll sometimes sit by the window and watch the lightning as it streaks across the sky.  I find it strangely romantic to be safe and snug inside on a stormy night.

Now, you'll notice I'm talking a lot about being indoors during a storm.  I'll be honest, being outside in one thrills me a lot less.  I don't find it scary, I just find it...  Well, a bit annoying.  Wind and rain are very bad for curly hair and I'm just about paranoid enough to be slightly worried that I'll be that random statistic - a person who gets hit by lightning and dies.  Possibly whilst wearing something embarrassing, knowing my luck.

So, bring on the thunder, I say.  Just make sure I'm indoors.