Wednesday, 20 December 2017

A Merry Christmas from York, and Tooting.

York - where I come from - has been named most festive city in the UK due to positive tweeting -…

Sadly, I'm not going to York this year but I always think Christmas is a place we mostly go to in our minds anyway, so even though I will be staying in Tooting I am going to be shutting the door, lighting the fire and the candles, and visiting Christmas for a while. See you when I get back. 

Merry Christmas.

Love E x


P.S. Meanwhile, here's a little poem I came across, by Roald Dalh.

Mother Christmas

"Where art thou, Mother Christmas? 
I only wish I knew, 
Why Father should get all the praise, 
And no one mentions you.
I'll bet you buy the presents, 
And wrap them large and small, 
While all the time that rotten swine, 
Pretends he's done it all.
So Hail To Mother Christmas, 
Who shoulders all the work! 
And down with Father Christmas, 
That unmitigated jerk!"

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

I Should Be So Lucky.

Coming to the end of my first term as a student again I thought I might offer a little guide to anyone considering the same. So here are few tips and observations about life on an M.A. as a mature student.

Your comfort zone

Expect to be pushed out of it. If your idea of comfort was a bit of home-working punctuated with the odd foray out into the world - as mine was - then regularly filling a rucksack with books and a laptop, marching to the station, catching a train, sitting in a university seminar or lecture theatre surrounded by people who are mostly much younger and brighter than you are, definitely constitutes being pushed out of it. Surprisingly this turns out to be a good thing, a very good thing.

Ivory towers

It's not just the learning, it's the place. There's a huge library. There's a cinema and a theatre. There's a pub. There's a cafe, where they serve quinoa and couscous with seeds on top, and it's cheap. There are gardens. There's a grand hall with people playing live music in it on a seemingly endless basis. There are people walking around wearing all manner of outlandish clothing: girls who dress like boys, boys who dress like girls, and girl/boy/boy/girls who you aren't certain if they are a girl or a boy and who don't want to be pressed on the matter. Being part of this will make you feel modern, and young.


One of the main differences with university second time around is it's not accompanied by social angst. New friends would be nice but not essential because you already have some. The thing is, you will make new friends whether you want to or not because suddenly you are exposed to a smorgasboard of fabulous people who all love the same thing you do - in this case, great writing - and who are bright and funny and kind. Also there are celebs. There's a person on my course who's off the telly but I'm not going to tell you who he is because this would be uncool, and it's all about being cool now. All this will restore your faith in humanity. It's worth going back to university for this alone.

Reading, writing, and drinking 

Be prepared to have to think, and write stuff that makes sense. I'm not used to either. Part of the reason I've temporarily given up alcohol is in order to have a clear head so I can do this, unlike my two eldest sons who are also students and who have been thinking for some time, so they tell me, while also drinking masses, apparently, although not at the same time, they insist. On Friday Middle One texts me from his university library to ask me what I'm up to in mine. "I'm writing a critical commentary," I write. "I just mentioned Shakespeare and Chekhov in the same sentence!"

"Sounds wild," he replies.


Universities are inspiring places. You will not so much be exposed to new ideas and challenges as have them chucked at you, this is energising. You will be encouraged by brilliant people to fulfil your intellectual potential, which is amazing. During my first hour-long tutorial I couldn't stop gushing. "This is fantastic! Thank you so much!" Until the wonderful academic I was talking to gently pointed out that I didn't have to thank him, he was only doing his job.

Something's gotta give

Last time I had homework to do Kylie Minogue was in the charts singing I should be so lucky and Maggie Thatcher was having a barney with some miners, unluckily for them. This is swotting on a grand scale, with LOTS of reading. In order to get it done you'll probably need to cut things out. This means not watching so much crap on the telly, chucking that Metro away when they hand it to you at the Tube and cancelling your subscription to Red magazine in favour of finally getting to the end of Moby Dick. On the upside it's the perfect excuse to quietly slip away from domestic tasks at Christmas, like the washing up, with the words "Sorry, I have some, you know, like, proper reading to do."

Love E x


P.S. I reckon returning to education as a mature student might be a great cure for depression. It offers a focus in a creative environment where you're surrounded by lovely people. Perhaps the government should consider funding M.A.s rather than doling out anti-depressants? Okay, so they're expensive, but not as expensive as 64.7 million prescriptions for anti-depressants, which was the number issued last year in England, the most ever.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The coincidence.

I'm at a gig in Herne Hill on a Wednesday night, hiding behind a coat stand so the band can't see me. How did I get here? To explain that I must to rewind... 21 years.

My eldest son is in a band with someone he has known since he was six-weeks-old because his mother and I met at postnatal classes. We had the same distinctive pram, when everyone else had plain blue ones, ours were green with white spots, so we started chatting, which is how we discovered our baby boys had the same name and were wearing the same striped outfit from Gap. Of course we had to become friends after that and so we saw a lot of each other when the boys were little, but then she and her family moved to a different part of south London and what with her full-time job and my filming, and now the MA, you know how it is, sometimes you lose touch with people and I haven't seen her for ages.

By another amazing coincidence, despite living miles apart, our boys ended up in the same class at secondary school, which is where they started playing music and writing songs together. I like to think of them as the Lennon and McCartney of Cornwall because now they go to the same university, in Cornwall, which is yet another coincidence, and they are in the same band and that band just made an album, and is in London for one night for a gig in Herne Hill.

So, anyway, back to Wednesday evening in a pub in New Cross Gate, where I'm sober, of course, and proudly showing some of my new student friends pictures of my sons on my phone and telling them this story of serendipity: two mothers meeting, discovering they have boys with the same name, years later those two boys being in the same band, now playing in London...

"That is a lot of coincidences!" Says one of my new student friends. 

"Yes it is," I say. "Life is full of weird coincidences, or fate, perhaps."

"So, you're going tonight, yeah?" Says another of my new student friends. "To see your son and your friend?"

"Oh no." I say. "He doesn't want me to go to the gig, in fact he'd kill me if I turned up, and I don't think my friend will be there anyway; I reckon all parents are banned."

"But you have to go," says another of my new student friends. "Go!"

Yeah! I think. Too right. I gave birth to him. I brought him up. I bought him that first guitar, arranged guitar lessons, played him all that inspiring music. Why shouldn't I go? I have to go. I'm going!

So I text my husband to meet me there and order an Uber from New Cross Gate to Herne Hill.

When I get to Herne Hill my husband is already waiting outside, talking to the friendly bouncer. "They're on at a quarter to ten," the bouncer is telling him, "so if you don't want to be seen you'd better go and sit in a pub nearby or something until then." So we do.

At a quarter to ten we return, and as we're walking across the room we suddenly see our son - with his band - heading in our direction, so we dive behind the aforementioned coat stand until he passes, then hover at the very back of the crowd so we can watch him on stage, singing his heart out and playing his guitar, but he can't see us.

I squeeze my husband's hand. "It's like that time when he was five and he was an elephant at the Royal Festival Hall and we went to watch him dance," I say.

Before the band reaches the end of their last number we sneak away so he won't see us when the lights go up and he gets down from the stage. We bump into the bouncer on the way out. He insists we have a photograph taken, with him. "Proof!" He shouts, squeezing between us and throwing his arms round our shoulders. "Or he won't believe you were here!"

Next morning, I receive a text message. "Sorry you weren't at the gig last night, Liz! I was there and you would have loved it!"

Turns out that by coincidence the friend I haven't seen for ages was also at the gig with her husband, but they were in the mosh pit, jumping up and down.

Love E x