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.