Archive for the ‘ Shropshire ’ Category

Pretty Dresses and Sunshine Days

Now that was a proper sunny day wasn’t it? Doesn’t a bit of sunshine lift the mood? Wow – just lovely. Time to dust off the bbq and dig out the sunhats and cream. (That’s jinxed it – it will probably be raining by the time you read this.)

They say the best things in life are worth waiting for. Like the Spring days we are experiencing now.

Last time I blogged I was a bit despairing and thought I had made a terrible mistake turning down a job back at the newspaper where I first started out as a journalist.

Now I’m about to start a different and, I believe, much better job. It was definitely worth the wait.

From May 3rd I take over as editor of Shropshire Life magazine, a niche county publication aimed particularly at posh, well off and aspirational people in my beautiful home county.

I am so looking forward to getting started, though I fear the good folk of Shropshire might be a bit alarmed by my populist approach and lack of airs and graces. Ah well, what’s the worst that can happen? (*erm, spiralling decline in readership, withdrawal of advertising, the sack?*)

Anyway, as part of my pre-start preparations, I visited Albrighton Hall in Shropshire on Thursday evening to attend a forum of readers of Shropshire Life. I must confess I was dreading it. I’m not exactly a chav, but I do sometimes find posh people a bit intimidating. I was expecting lots of blue rinses and monocles, double barrelled names and name-dropping.

Instead I got to spend a funny, insightful evening with a bunch of people who, for the most part, I’d happily have as friends. They were all bright and interesting, not at all snobby, and included a teacher, a struggling farmer, a shop owner,  a small business manager, and a youth centre boss. I came away with a spring in my step and a hatful of new ideas.

In the meantime I’m trying to make the very most of my last few weeks of relative “freedom”. The job should only entail about 5 hours work a day, but that will limit how much additional freelance work I can take on, at least for a while; but more alarmingly it also curtails the “me time” that I had got used to enjoying while the kids were both at school this past few months.

When I say “me time” I do of course include in that things like the ironing, cleaning the loo, washing the floors, hoovering, dusting, shopping, gardening, running errands and cooking.

But it also includes lovely time meeting with friends over coffee or a beer, going out for long walks in the countryside, visiting my folks, wandering aimlessly around shops sans kids, enjoying bizarre and usually short-term craft projects, writing, taking photos and generally having a nice old time.

Sadly the first part of my “me time” will have to continue – the chores and so on will not do themselves – but I fear the latter part will get squeezed out.

So I’m planning one hell of a busy and pleasant few weeks until S-Day. One of the lovely things I did last week was spend a day with my friend Becky, who I met when we both took a beginner photography course at Kidderminster College. She’d asked me to go along with her to help take some publicity pictures for a family friend, Charis, who has set up her own designer dressmaking business.

We turned up on a beautiful day – a bit overcast but warm. We found a nice spot at the edge of the large pond Charis’s home overlooks. Modelling the clothes were Charis’s younger sister and a friend. They were incredible and very patient as we amateurishly took the best photos we could.

Thankfully she is delighted with the finished results. They will find their way onto her website and into publicity material to launch her new venture.

I too was pleased with the results. The models were brilliant, especially considering they had never done any modelling before; the setting and light were good; and the dresses were just beautiful.

As someone who struggles to take up a hem, I can appreciate the intricate skills she shows. If you have a wedding looming, or want a one-off dress for a party or special event, you should give her a call. Her website is at http://www.charismaticcloth.co.uk The photos will be uploaded in the next few weeks (you can see my full set on my facebook page if you know me).

Each dress can take weeks to make from concept to finish. As I said at the beginning of this blog, the best things in life really are worth waiting for.

Black and white and red all over

 

 

 

Tree shadow, white wall and scooter boy

Well, what a week or so that was. It started with a job interview and ended with a canalside walk in the sunshine.

Before I get started, I warn you that I fear this is going to be one of those revelatory blogs. I’ve been drinking coffee with the odd drambuie liqueur, don’t feel like bed, do feel like chatting. Everyone else in my family is asleep. The laptop and this blog will have to suffice.

So, I’ll roll back 10 days to a job interview – my first proper one for a decade or so. I worried about what to wear, what to say, what to do with my hands.

The interview was held in the building where, as a young wannabe reporter 20 years or more earlier, I had turned up to try to land a place on one of the country’s best training courses. The sliding doors were still in place. Behind the desk was the same receptionist. And greeting me at the interview was someone who had worked alongside me all those years ago. He was the boss now. I couldn’t help joking about something that had happened two decades earlier. He didn’t laugh.

Anyway, the interview resulted in a job offer. It wasn’t exactly my dream job, but over the course of the next few days I got to really like the idea. In fact, I decided it was not just a job I wanted; it was the only thing I needed to make my life complete.

In fact, I decided the only thing stopping me accepting the job was my family circumstances. Curse them. For a few days I felt resentful and bitter. My ambition was being thwarted by my kids, without them even knowing about it. I’m ashamed to say I think I was even a bit mean to them as a result – older son would certainly argue I was a bit strict when on Thursday I banned him from riding his bike for a week for “being sullen”.

It took a while to work this out of my system. Even on Friday I was still in two minds about what to do. I knew there were genuine practical difficulties that would be extremely tough to overcome. The job would involve a two hour round trip every day. My hubby works over an hour away, and we have no family living nearby.

In fact there were more good reasons for turning it down than accepting it. Top of the list was the fact that I’d only wanted a part time position, which was not on the table.

Then I learned some terrible news and some worse news.

Someone I know and like (I’m reluctant to call her a friend only because we know each other purely in a professional capacity, but I know she is someone I’d like to have as a friend) was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is young and fit and gorgeous. It is a cruel and horrid disease.

The news has made me more determined than ever to do my little tiny bit to help find a cure or prevent more women (and men) suffering. I’m proud to be “walking the walk” by taking part in the London Moonwalk in May, with all money raised supporting breast cancer charities and hospitals. It’s a 26 mile night walk. I am halfway through my training regime and woefully under prepared but this recent news has made me more determined than ever to knuckle down. After all, a few blisters and aching bones are nothing compared to what cancer sufferers have to put up with. Feel free to support my efforts if you can…http://www.walkthewalkfundraising.org/blister_sisters

Then on Friday night I had a really vivid, bad dream. I woke up feeling really sad; at some point in my dream someone close to me died. I didn’t know who or how but it was a thought which stayed with me when I woke. I remember I posted a status update to this effect on my Facebook page on Saturday morning.

Two hours later my mum called to tell me my dad’s lovely cousin, Rachel (known as Ray), had died that morning. Ray had been hospitalised with a serious bout of pneumonia and pleurisy before Christmas. We exchanged emails and commented to each other on Facebook, keeping up a regular dialogue. She had suffered a lot in recent years with illnesses, including cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, but remained positive, upbeat and smiling throughout. She was the chronicler of my dad’s family history, the keeper of the flame…and suddenly, that morning, she was gone.

It is a terribly selfish thing to say, but her death helped me to see sense; to see the future I really wanted for myself and my family. This is nothing to do with sacrificing my own ambitions for my kids – I am horribly ambitious in some ways and determined to achieve success in my own right. But not at the expense of all the things that already make sense in my life; of all the things that already work well; and most of all of the precious time I get to spend with people who really matter.

So, I’ve turned the job down. It was never going to work; and the moment I pressed the send button on the email about my decision I felt relieved, rather than regretful.

Along the way between interview and today the muddy waters that have been swirling around me for months have suddenly cleared. For the first time in ages I realise what I want and how I’m going to try to achieve it. So thanks to everyone whose comments of support helped me along the way…you did help, enormously.

And so to that canalside walk earlier today. It was a simple stroll in the winter sunshine. The sky was a beautiful clear blue, like a Mediterranean sea. Trees were reflected in the still canal. I walked hand in hand with my lovely family, feeling the rays on my face. My heart was smiling. A corner had been turned.

White Blue

Standing in the Sun

Boys at war

This photo just about sums up my two boys in an instant. They are play-fighting with sticks – but in this moment their personalities shine through.

Littlest boy is the fierce aggressor; leaping in, taking a gamble, leaving himself open to a clever cut-and-thrust, but daring to go for it all the same. This is the boy who likes karate, running fast and getting stickers; who laughs long, loud and openly; who has a tendency to laziness; who is the leader of his little gang of boys at school, pushing them to be different (and sometimes naughty).

Big brother steps back and out of the line of attack. He’s a natural defender; a strategic thinker, rather than impulsive actor; the one who has a distaste for violence and aggression generally. He likes solving puzzles, reading books, running fast and getting unconditional praise; he responds to the slightest slight or the most constructive criticism as if he has been felled by a brutal swordsman. He is caring and sensitive and funny; he is also animated about his pain, emotional or physical.

They are very different but adore each other; I adore them equally. They are my best work. Two different sides of the same coin.

I like how the sun shines on them both in this picture – littlest boy has his back to it but it still swathes him in light, while big bro turns away from it, towards the shadows, but is still caught in its rays. I’ve also included pictures of them taken separately, also yesterday (below). What a pair of beauties (though I appreciate I am hugely biased.)

I was discussing the other day why I blog. One of the reasons I mentioned was my desire to keep a diary of sorts of my life and innermost thoughts, as a kind of legacy for my kids. It’s also a way to let them know (as I do every day anyway) how amazingly proud of them both I am, of how much they are loved. Thanks boys, for being just the way you are.

Little Box of Memories – Rewind

My mum recently discovered a small knitted bag, buried at the bottom of a box in the attic. C0ntained within it were just seven objects, all relating to my life in January, 1981.

I didn’t realise it at the time but the short period these things relate to symbolise my dramatic transition from a tomboy girl to a young woman.

I was 12 years old in January 1981; I would turn 13 a few months later. I lived with my mum Olwen and dad John, brother Steve and sister Julie, in a bungalow my dad had built pretty much singlehandedly for us in Little Stretton, at the foot of the Stretton Hills in South Shropshire.

We’d moved there from Shrewsbury when I was 10 – by the time of my 13th birthday we were back in Shrewsbury.

It was a strange chapter in all our lives. Me and my sister continued to go to school in Shrewsbury, mum’s job was there and so was a lot of my dad’s building work. Our hearts, friends and family were in Shrewsbury, but our home was 12 miles distant.

I remember my over-riding thought about living in Little Stretton was that it was “boring”.

I’d been used to living among thousands of people on a big housing estate, and jumping on my bike and seeing all my neighbourhood friends whenever I liked. To suddenly be in a tiny village, apparently cut off from civilisation, was a terrible culture shock. Never mind we were at the foot of the Stretton Hills, living in a place of outstanding natural beauty.

That’s not to say I don’t have fond memories of the time. We had so much freedom, coming and going as we pleased. I do remember spending a lot of time on my own, and not hating it.

I used to spend hours exploring the countryside on my bike and on foot. A nearby campsite was a regular haunt – it was where mum would send my brother to find me if I failed to get home in time for tea.

I think I was happy. I certainly don’t remember being unhappy.

Anyway, let’s see what that bag of memories tells me.

First out was a diary and matching address book, bound in a tasteless orange and white floral cover. Almost certainly a Christmas present.

I opened the diary with glee, hoping to find a deep and insightful glimpse into my pre-teen psyche. It covers a short period – from January 1st to February 6th, 1981 – but includes my first ever trip away from my parents, a school skiing trip to Italy.

This would have been a pretty special, possibly frightening, time for me, so I hoped my diary might be full of existential angst, the trials and anxieties of going into the unknown, maybe even a sign of a flair for wordsmithery…but no such luck. There does seem to be an awful lot about boys.

Sample entry:

January 2: Still dreaming about Pete. He actually spoke to me at athletics. He wished me a merry Christmas. When I walked out of Sundorne to go home, he slowed down. I think that means he likes me. (???)

January 6: We kept teasing Susan A at school because Jon Hunter danced with her at the school disco for fun. Sarah and Julia wrote a letter to him pretending to be from her, but he didn’t fall for it.

Then came that fateful trip to Alleghe, in northern Italy.

My diary informs me I was in room 51.

Every entry for the week begins: “I went skiing today”. I mention an instructor called Phil a lot, then I spend the rest of each entry agonising over whether I like Toby or Clive (from a Leicester school trip at the same hotel, apparently) the best.

This turmoil appeared to continue after the trip too, until I finally appear to make my mind up and, according to my diary entry of February 4th, I wrote to Toby. (I have no information to suggest he ever wrote back.)

Last diary entry, dated February 6th, says simply: “Nothing much happened. Had German test. Think I got 20/20. I think I like Toby best but I’m not sure.”

Then nothing. At all. By the way, I wonder what happened to my crush on Pete the athlete?

So, this diary is nestled alongside the address book, which appears to contain names from my primary school along with the names and addresses of pop stars (or at least their fan clubs.) I’m pretty sure I never actually wrote to any of them.

Next out of the bag is a deep blue swimming costume, adorned with a palm tree and two swimming badges. I only ever achieved my 25m badge at school – I never learned how to breath in water, so could only swim as far as I could get with one lungful of air.

Next, a copy of Chart Songwords, January 1981 edition. It was a special edition, including lyrics from two John Lennon hits in his memory. I like to think he would have approved of the idea of little boys and girls singing Imagine in front of the bedroom mirror as a fitting tribute.

All the top bands of the early 80s are there – The Specials, The Police, Madness, Elvis Costello, Adam and the Ants, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bad Manners, Gary Numan. Indeed, most are still on tour, scraping a living off nostalgia.

These little mags, filled with lyrics from the latest pop hits, were all the rage in the early 80s. I used to love getting my songsheets out, putting on a 45 and singing along (only when the house was empty, mind.)

My favourite sign of the times is the penpals section; so naive and innocent, every one of them. How about Joan, 14, who lives on a farm and likes Matchbox, The Nolans, The Police, Kelly Marie and Abba? What I found shocking is that each entry included the child’s full name and address. Those truly were innocent, less fearful times, weren’t they?

Next out of the bag was a 2nd place certificate from the Junior Girls’ 1500m at the English Schools’ Milk Championships, 1980. My athletics career went rapidly downhill from this highpoint, ending in a fug of smoke and stolen kisses behind the bike shed when I was 14. I could have been a contender…but then again, probably not.

The most bizarre find in the bag of memories is a signed picture of DJ “Emperor” Rosko. A Radio 1 DJ at the time, I can barely remember him and have no idea how I came upon his signature. However, a search on Wikipedia reveals he’s still DJ’ing, still under the Emperor Rosko pseudonym. These days his audience is a bit more, erm, choosy (apparently you can find his “LA Connections” show on Bolton 96.5 FM, Sundays, 4pm).

The final find is a supporters’ club membership card, number 386, for Shrewsbury Town FC (1980/81 season). Those were heady days for the Blues – the period of their greatest cup and league successes, when our Division 2 rivals included the likes of Chelsea, West Ham and Newcastle.

It’s a strange collection that will resonate little with anyone other than me. These are my things, my memories, and not another soul has the same ones. That’s amazing, and scary, and incredible, all at the same time.

What I love is how this little collection catches me forever stuck between the tomboy child I was and the teenage girl/young woman I was growing into.

Before many more months were out I would deny my tomboy self, feigning a lack of interest in football and sport generally in order to fit in with my new friends.

I became obsessed with the kudos of having a boyfriend, as is beginning to become evident in my diary, but was emotionally unprepared for what that might entail.

That school trip to Italy even marked the time of my first period – a true physical moment of transition between girlhood and womanhood.

Around this time (certainly when we lived in Little Stretton) I also experienced my first bereavement – at least, the first I was fully conscious of. My grandad died in Shrewsbury Hospital after fighting cancer for months.

I remember vividly the dark, blustery night my mum returned home from hospital to break the news. It was my first glimpse into the awful trauma of bereavement – I remember as if it were yesterday how my mum clung to me and my aunty Cyn, sobbing as if her heart would break.

It’s fascinating now to have this glimpse back into my 12 year old self.

I thought I was deeper, somehow – more emotionally articulate, more self aware, less obsessed with boys, than I appear to have been. But then I’m probably being hard on myself.

I was just a kid then, after all. It was going to take years for me to become a woman. I’m still only just getting there now.

Little box of memories, part 1

I keep everything my kids do. Every painting, every school book, ever sketch, every word they write.

It’s all stored neatly in labelled boxes in the attic, by name and age. Not for long though.

I realised the other day that they are only part way through their childhoods and already the attic is full. I’m going to have to pare things down.

My mum and dad kept an eclectic selection of bits and pieces from my childhood. I’ve got my first infant school books, some drawings, some schoolwork, certificates and medals from various sports and arts festivals and all my school reports.

I love the insight they bring into a life I can only just remember; the way the smallest thing can trigger an avalanche of memories.

The other day mum turned up with a small bag of stuff she had discovered during a recent clear out. It was a snapshot of my life, circa 1981, when I was about 12.

There were seven things in the bag.

Each of them says something special about that time in my life.

I guess you’d like to know more…if so, tune in tomorrow when I will reveal all.

Sorry, I know that’s a copout but I really am done in. Same time, same bat channel…

The Silence of the Cows. (or Worst. Job. Ever)

I recently won a competition. There was no prize, beyond the satisfaction that I was the hands-down winner.

I don’t win much, so I was pretty chuffed. Never mind that the contest was to find who, out of eight women, could officially claim to have had the worst job. Ever.

Back in 1985 I was in the middle of my first year studying A-levels at Shrewsbury College of Arts and Technology. For personal reasons I won’t go into, I decided to abandon my studies and get a “proper job”. In those days Thatcher’s Government had recently launched the Youth Training Scheme (YTS). Critics claimed it was a cheap form of child exploitation, with little in the way of meaningful training.

I need say nothing about that other than to say that during my six months as a YTS trainee I learned how to type. And I saw more of life (and death) than I cared for. Enough of the real world to know I just wasn’t ready for it (certainly not in exchange for £25 a week).

My first placement was in a hospital. Why this was I’m still not sure (In my YTS interview I’d definitely told them I wanted to be a journalist. Or a novelist. Or a UN peacekeeper. But definitely not a nurse.) Anyway, I rolled up to Shrewsbury’s Copthorne Hospital to take up my post as a Ward Clerk.

My job was to take care of the admin for two surgical wards, making sure notes were filed correctly, admission and discharge sheets filled in, reports compiled and phone calls answered. It soon became apparent that the job also involved lots of additional tasks – making tea, chatting to patients, fetching and emptying bedpans. Before I knew it I was even taking temperatures and pulses and filling in medical forms. All this as a completely untrained school leaver.

Anyway, I loved most of the patients and they seemed to like me. I got to see people at their most vulnerable and anxious, and hopefully my little smiling face and teenage banter brought them some comfort. I got careers advice galore from the patients, mostly of the “go back to college” sort.

Thankfully most of the patients made it home. A few did not. I found this very difficult to deal with, particularly as not once did I receive any advice or support. Death was dealt with practically and efficiently and was not dwelt on. I found each death shocking. I realised one sweet old lady had died when I went to fill her water jug at the start of a shift. She’d been telling me the day before how much she was looking forward to going home to her grandchildren.

It was a part of the job I hated. But it did not make this my worst. job. ever. That came at my next placement.

I’d obviously done a good job as a clerk, so I was sent off to ABP, the local abattoir, to help administer the transport depot.

I should say at this point that I had become a vegetarian months earlier, after reading a famous series of articles in The Times supplements about factory farming of chickens.

The transport depot was attached to the main factory, which in turn was situated on the outskirts of Shrewsbury, amid rolling green pastures. Every day hundreds of cows and sheep were brought in by lorry to graze briefly in the fields before being herded to their deaths.

I tried to stay oblivious to the carnage going on mere yards away, instead focusing on my task, which was to ensure delivery drivers could feasibly make it to and between various Tesco depots all over the country within very strict timescales. I got to know the UK motorway system intimately.

On my first day I was taken to the dining hall for lunch. En route I was shown around the packing area, where burly lads and lasses boxed up joints and steaks, ready for shipment. Inside the canteen, men in blood spattered overalls tucked into roast lamb and beef stew. It was enough to make my tummy do somersaults.

Worst of all was the sound of the cows in the fields. As soon as a herd started to trundle towards the slaughterhouse, bellowing would break out. It is hard to describe, but to simultaneously hear dozens of cows begin a low moo-ing left me in no doubt that they knew what was coming.

I didn’t last long at ABP. The last straw came when my boss kindly offered me a guided tour of the factory, with the bonus that I could select my own lamb in the field, then follow him/her through slaughter, gutting, butchering and packing – and then I could even take him/her home. I think mum was a bit cross I turned down the offer.

I saw the light and decided soon after to return to my A-levels, and then on to university.

Since then I’ve done lots of things as a journalist that were emotionally difficult; I’ve witnessed death firsthand, I’ve visited the scenes of innumerable tragedies and had to interview people in the midst of terrible tragedy. But those cows moo-ing. Still brings me out in a cold sweat to think about it.

Worst. job. ever. Anyone beat that?

PS: Due to the fact that I’ve spent all day quarantined in my bedroom, I have no today picture to share with you. I could have shared my sick bowl, or box of pills and remedies, or my unmade bed in the style of Tracey Emin, but I just didn’t have the energy. Hope to resume normal service soon. Bloody flu. Euurggh.

Climbing Clee: “If you don’t go, you won’t know” and other tall tales

“If you don’t go, you won’t know.” It’s an oft repeated mantra among mountaineers and explorers – and has long been a favourite saying of the Man in our house.

It’s what tumbles out of his lips, unbidden, every time he sees me casting a wary eye over the weather forecast on the eve of a proposed outdoor adventure. “They’re wrong 50% of the time,” he says. “I prefer to just do what they did in the olden days – stick your head out of the door and see for yourself. And then go anyway.”

So I did. This morning. And, like my ancestors before me no doubt, I decreed that as my head was getting wet it was, in fact, raining. Thus, a walk up the Titterstone Clee (renowned locally for being bleak, windy, remote and completely lacking in shelter), with two kids in tow, was probably not such a good idea.

I trotted off back to my still-warm bed and plotted a grand day in – listening to the radio, catching up on some reading, playing a family boardgame, building the Taj Mahal out of lego, maybe even doing a bit of work…bliss.

Two hours later, I had lost all feeling down the left side of my face. Not a stroke – that might have come as a blessed relief – but the result of being lashed in the cheek by galeforce, icy winds. My hood kept getting blown back, my wet hair was whipping into my eyes and my jeans were soaked through.

Littlest boy was just behind me, plaintively crying out: “I just want to go home,” while his stoic elder brother was yomping on ahead, leading us through the storm towards the summit.

Titterstone Clee, for those of you from further afield, is a famed landmark in my part of the world. It’s the third highest hill in Shropshire, standing a paltry 533m high, but is also perhaps its most unattractive. It is scarred by old mining works and is also home to a radar station, including the uber spaceage “golf ball” satellite, which helps control air traffic. Some 2,000 people used to work in the mines hereabouts – now its home to a handful of radar station staff and thousands of sheep.

It’s a peculiar place to be in a rainstorm. It is close to civilisation – a road runs to the radar station on the summit – yet it seems particularly desolate and bleak. Today it was foggy, dark and downright spooky.

On a clear day it provides fantastic views across England and Wales. From the top it is possible to see all the way to the mountains of Snowdonia, the Peak District, Cotswolds, Malvern Hills, Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons. Today we could not even make out the road, mere feet away.

We’d brought a beautiful new kite with us, hoping to take advantage of the wind to send it soaring into the sky. It was too windy to even take it out of the bag.

We’d also brought a flask of hot chocolate and a picnic, in the vain hope the rain would miraculously clear and we could breathe in the refreshing air while feasting on Philadelphia sandwiches and bananas. It was too cold to stop, even to catch our breath.

I’d brought my camera with me, with grand plans to take some multiple exposures of the radar installations while also photographing the kite flying antics. These quick snaps were the best I could do without drowning all the equipment.

We didn’t even make it to the true summit. This picture of the radar installations, just metres below the summit post, shows how close we got.

All in all we were out of the car for a paltry 45 minutes. It felt like hours. The littlest was crying, the eldest was soggy, my mission to capture our day on camera was thwarted.

But hubby – he was pleased. Apparently, we could now be delighted because we had “put a deposit in the bank of weather” and so were now “in credit”. (I’m not making this up. This is what my husband told me, seemingly forgetting I am 42, not four…)

On the bright side, once we got back to the car and turned the heating on full, we had a lovely half hour watching the rain continue to lash down and gazing as an impenetrable fog cast a ghostly pall over the entire hill.

While tucking into the picnic and slurping down the hot choc, we all sang along with the only CD in the car, a home-made reggae Christmas album (sample lyric: “On the first day of Christmas JahJah gave to me, a garden full of sensei”). The kids know it off by heart. I live in dread of the day the Reception class teacher quizzes me about my littlest boy’s knowledge of ganja and weed.

This hiatus also gave me a chance to share memories of my first boyfriend, Morris, who had the middle name Clee as he was conceived in Clee Hill village. This was long before the Beckhams made this slightly queasy concept fashionable.

My three month relationship with Morris, aged 11, consisted of him walking me to my bus after school every day and giving me a peck on the cheek in the same alleyway en route. That was it. We didn’t speak the rest of the time. I dumped him very publicly in front of his friends, telling him: “I think we are getting too serious. I just want to be friends. Do you still want to walk me to my bus?”

Once the reminiscing had finished, accompanied by “yuk” and gagging sounds from the boys, we then decided we would make it to the summit after all by driving up to it. To do so involved passing through a gate marked “no public access beyond this point”.

Now, our eldest is a stickler for rules. Breaking them, no matter how trivial, brings him out in hives, and we hadn’t gone 20 ft through the gate before he began to beg us to turn back. I trundled on regardless, but I too chickened out when we reached a second sign warning we were now entering a restricted area patrolled by security guards. So we didn’t even make it to the summit by cheating.

But it wasn’t a wasted morning. If we hadn’t gone, we wouldn’t have known, would we?