Posts Tagged ‘ Kidderminster ’

Spring is sprung – and I’ve won the lottery!

“Season creep” is the term describing the gradual process by which one season slowly but noticeably slides earlier and earlier into the next. (It’s not to be confused with the term “slimy creep”, which is when a dodgy bloke slowly but noticeably tries to slide his hand up your leg.)

Spring is the season we in England most often think of as “creeping”. Apparently the rate of “creep” has now reached a couple of days each decade.

This is good, yes? Soon the first day of Spring could well coincide with Christmas Day. January will truly be a month of new beginnings and renewal, instead of the dull, overcast, flu-filled drudge it is now.

Today was, I am convinced, the first day of Spring 2011.

I was fortunate enough to have a day completely devoid of commitments (at least, nothing I couldn’t put off.) So when I walked/dragged the kids to school this morning, blue sky overhead, fluffy clouds a-skittering, I knew it was going to be impossible to resist the lure of the outdoors.

Appropriately suited and booted, I set off from home at about 11am, the Fleet Foxes singing me a lullaby or two through my earphones.

Within minutes I was off-road, heading over the marshland skirting the edge of Kidderminster town centre, pictured above, towards the Staffs & Worcs Canal, which I followed to Wolverley village, about two miles away.

Halfway along, when I stopped to take a few photos, I spotted two discarded lottery tickets on the towpath. Out of curiosity I stooped to pick them up. They are in my pocket now. I assume one of them will prove to be the winning ticket. It will make a great story. (Should you care my “winning” numbers are 11, 26, 31, 42, 43 and 47 or 04, 25, 40, 42, 45 and 47.)

No, Mr Lotto, I don’t want publicity if I win. Oh. Oops.

Anyway, distracted though I was by thinking of where I’d travel to first with my lottery winnings, I carried on walking, reaching Wolverley Court bridge and lock a few minutes later. This is the approach towards the bridge.

It was a glorious day. I was lucky to be able to enjoy it, rather than be stuck in a centrally heated office.

I do count my blessings, I promise; I know I’m lucky to be able to enjoy days like this when it suits me. It also means me and mine will never be rich, not financially anyway. (Oh, except for the lottery millions heading my way.) But there is more to life…

Anyway, back to my theme – which is, or was, Spring. The realisation that Spring might, just, have sprung already, came quite a long way further on.

After passing the Lock pub (and resisting the urge to go in and order champagne all round in lieu of my upcoming lottery win) I headed across a field, bathed in sunshine.

Whatever seed had been sown there was beginning to come to life. Green shoots, standing in stiff rows, swayed gently, like overheated guards at the Changing of the Guard.

Now, I’m a complete ignoramus when it comes to nature’s cycles, but I thought this was significant. I’m certain one of you can tell me what this crop is, if not bog-standard grass…and will also be able to tell me if it would be expected to come up yet? I am interested. Really. (No Latin names though…)

Here’s a picture of it, with sun streaming in to help it keep growing.

Anyway, an hour later I was back home, feeling like shite. Two hours after that I was taking my first antibiotic for a chest infection and dose of flu.

No wonder this walking malarkey was leaving me a bit breathless and knackered. Don’t worry though; now Spring is here I’ll be just fine.

I often get a bit of a cold or somesuch in January – I think it’s the payoff for being fit and healthy for the Christmas/New Year frenzy. Let me know if Spring has sprung in your neck of the woods. I’m expecting daffs by next week. Not that I’ll care – I’ll be in Australia, enjoying my winnings.

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GOODBYE TO ALL THAT!

My little boy O, aged four, leaves nursery next week, ready to embark on his next great adventure. It will be the end of an era and the close of a chapter in both our lives. It will be emotional (for me, not him). There will definitely be tears.

Just over seven years ago now I moved into our current home in Kidderminster, a town with which I had no prior connection and no family or friends, with my then boyfriend R (now husband) and our first born, F, then aged 15 months. We moved in on December 23rd (madness, what were we thinking?). Our Christmas morning pictures reveal a bare living room, bar for a battered old sofa and a TV on a cardboard box (we hadn’t had much time for unpacking).

But there was a fire roaring in the grate, we had champagne to celebrate and we were smiling. We look very contented. I assume we were, though time has left this memory rather hazy. I’m guessing this was because we were on autopilot, shattered from packing, moving, unpacking and Christmas arrangements.

Directly opposite our house was a nursery – a lovely little kindergarten. It was perfect – a picture postcard nursery, with little swiss-style wooden beds, beautiful playrooms kitted out with wooden toys, mobiles, lanterns and gorgeous Scandinavian fabrics, with homecooked food made by a corden bleu cook – just the ticket for an aspiring yummy mummy.

Of course, I am not that shallow – these were lovely extras to the real reason for choosing the nursery, which was the warm, caring staff and freerange, un-school-like ethos, backed up by clear routines and discipline. Being a few yards away didn’t do any harm either. It meant when I first left F with them, aged two, I did not feel quite the same terrible wrench as many mothers and fathers endure, leaving their little ones miles away.

The nursery gave me the chance to get a little of my old life back. I spent two days a week working, mostly freelancing for a local newspaper and writing, before taking my first tentative steps into public relations, while little F learned about tadpoles and jolly phonics and taking turns, and made lovely little friends.

R and I always intended to have a second child, and possibly even a third, and once the rhythm of our lives settled into an easy pattern, we decided to give this baby lark a second go.
Things didn’t work out quite as we had planned.

In fact, after three years of trying, we had practically given up. One final heartfelt late night discussion later, and we decided we should count our blessings and be grateful for the miracle we had been given.

F might not get a brother or sister to play with – but we would fill him up with love and devote our time to making sure he had the best childhood ever. And we would learn to live with the disappointment of not bringing another super-child into the world. It was probably for the best.

Two months later I discovered I was pregnant with O. Well, you know what they say – sometimes the thing you wish the most for happens when you least expect it, or when you stop wishing for it quite so hard.

O has followed in his brother’s footsteps by attending the same nursery, making the transition from the Pumpkin House to Middle Room to Big Room, just as F did before him. He too has learned the delights of cooking hopple popple (bacon, potatoes, onions, leeks) gently over an open fire at Elfin Wood; of marvelling at the size of the squash grown at the nursery’s allotment; of naming the chickens and watching their chicks hatch in an incubator; of incurring the wrath of the owner’s mother, whose punishment is to get a naughty child to sit in the kitchen and help her cook.
He will also follow in his brother’s footsteps into the same primary school, and hopefully he will not be unduly weighed down by expectation (his brother is a bit of an academic genius and most teachers’ pet student).
In pretty much every other way they are different. One is studious, a great reader, a gentle soul, confident on the outside but a worrier on the inside (like his mum). The other is a crazy bundle of chaos, scarily creative, with mischief coursing through his veins (like his mum). I love them both equally, fervently and with all my heart and being.

My two little miracles.

So it’s goodbye to those pre-school years. Goodbye to toddler groups and baby music, to NCT and nappies, to buggies and sleepless nights (so many sleepless nights!), to lugging round a bag full of wipes and toys and crumbled up biscuits, to Poi on CBeebies, to snotty noses and half-drunk cups of tea, to crying in despair while a toddler tantrums, to crying with joy when they tell you they love you for the first time. Goodbye to the most fantastic, scary, emotional, exhilarating, mind-numbing, terrifying, exhausting, anxiety-inducing, ecstatic roller coaster adventure of my life – so far. Bring on the teen years – I think I may be ready for you if I can just have a few quiet years first.

TWITTERING AMONG FIELDS OF RAPE

Rape flowers

I am what is known as one of life’s “flitters”. Or, as my mum used to say, “jack of all trades, master of absolutely nothing.” Or just downright lazy. When the going gets tough, I’m first at the exit.

If I can’t master something pretty much instantly, or if I sense that continuing involves a degree of effort and pain, then I will usually find some excuse or other to abandon ship.

This flaky approach to “knuckling down” explains my inability to speak any Italian beyond ‘ciao bella’ and ‘il mio asino a guasto’; or to have got beyond mastering a shaky rendition of “Hong Kong Garden” on any of the five instruments I’ve attempted to learn. This includes recorder.

If something does manage to grab my attention for more than a nanosecond, I do tend to embrace it rather too wholeheartedly – and inevitably run out of steam long before the finish line.

This loving embrace quickly turns to indifference and ultimately hatred – ergo, my short lived love affairs with wild camping, house renovation, growing vegetables, running (currently rekindled), having a dog, blogging (still at early lust stage) and Iain M. Banks sci fi novels (don’t ask).

Imagine my delight then when I finally got round to activating a Twitter account last week. I thought it was going to be hard for a Luddite such as I to master, but I found it incredibly easy. And what a buzz!

Some of my favourite media writers, comedians and indie pop stars are regular Tweeters – and now I too could join the armies of followers hanging on their every word.

I am now following 67 people – pretty much all of them minor celebrities, indie pop stars, media types, comedians and a couple of politicians, and almost all of them London-based. Most of the people I follow seem to know each other and appear to watch an insane amount of telly.

In return I am being followed by 11 people – these include one friend who never uses it, a couple of record labels who want to promote their artists, and weird people from Japan who have discovered me through random generators.

I have fallen out with my husband, who got so sick of trying to get my head out of my phone or computer that he threatened to divorce me (by text, no less – he claims he tried to tell me to my face but I was too busy laughing at the latest witticism from @gracedent). The kids have asked if there’s any chance they can have some tea tonight “or will you be too busy again?”

I’ve had three direct “contacts” – where I’ve engaged in a conversation of sorts with people I am following. For the record these were with @campbellclaret (former Labour spindoctor Alistair Campbell) @tracey_thorn (one half of Everything But the Girl, who provided the soundtrack to my life through much of the 80s and early 90s) and @martin_carr (former leadman in 90s indie pop band Boo Radleys, now solo, making luscious music).

I have attempted to engage with a few other people by sending witty retorts to comments they have posted, only to be IGNORED. (I mean you, Stephen Fry, Boy George, various comedians.)

And that’s the unnerving reality of Twitter. It is essentially a small nucleus of celebrities, pop stars and media movers and shakers, each with thousands upon thousands of followers, being pursued avidly by the rest of the Twitter community. We circle around them, desperately tweeting undying love, jokes, or trying, like me, to be aloof & witty and so demonstrate that I am somehow ONE OF THEM.

My tweets so far include the following:

“Furry Vengeance = rubbish movie of the year. Nasty developer v nature shtick. HILARIOUS. Kids seem happy. They r easily pleased.”

“Is it too early to start on the vodka?The kids won’t notice, I have drugged them with pineapple upsidedown cake & Wipeout.”

And, in response to Alistair Campbell revealing that his last thought before being anaesthetised before an operation was of Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams:  @campbellclaret Thought u were meant to think of yr nearest&dearest before going under. Oh, right. You poor man.

I’m also following Ed and David Milliband (didn’t want to show favouritism at this stage) and have signed up to @nickclegg and @downingstreet by way of political balance.

Twitter is a stalker’s dream come true – an open window with the curtains flung open, and a great way to boost your name dropping potential.

It can also be a force for good. The most followed celebrities regularly post up appeals or direct followers to news reports or websites to highlight human rights abuses, missing people or worthy causes.

Twitter has exposed ills and raised awareness of injustices – for example, an anti-BP ad which had been rejected by the Financial Times yesterday was tweeted and facebooked across the world within minutes.

Record companies, bands, book sellers, photographers and the like use Twitter to reach their fans direct, offering followers the chance to buy records, books, concert tickets and so on first. Only last week Lucy Mangan, a Guardian columnist and author, offered to post a copy of her new book direct to the first person to tweet her back.

It can also, I am told, be a great way to link up with like minded people locally, especially if you have a special interest or hobby. This I have failed to do so far, despite searching by location – so if there are any Kidderminster/Worcestershire based tweeters out there who want a new friend to follow, tweet me! @janemomma

Then again, you might not want to bother – for after a full on week I fear I am out of lust with Twitter already. It’s like shouting into a black hole. Nobody can hear you. I will be advised, I’m sure, that I need to follow more and more people, and so encourage more people to follow me, to become a real part of the community, but I already feel my indifference rising.

You know that feeling that life is short…well, I’m beginning to have that thought whenever I consider checking my Twitter account or clicking on the Tweetdeck app on my phone. Life probably is indeed too short to be twittering it away with people I don’t know and who don’t care about me. Just think, I could instead be on the phone or even spending actual time with people who actually matter to me. But then again, they wouldn’t be able to tell me what Al Murray had for lunch, nor where was the best cafe to eat in if you happen to be in Sloane Square. Mmm. It’s a tough call.

Anyway, in between Twittering on about nothing much to nobody, I also picked up my camera again. My photography had reached that stage of indifference, mainly because I had come to that moment where I felt I had to either give myself over to it completely or back off.

My gut instinct, as you can guess, was to back off, retire and give up on it. After all, life is short, etc, etc, and maybe I didn’t have the time to dedicate to it, nor the skill to make it worthwhile. It will certainly not pay any bills.

But then I realised I missed it – so I slung the camera in my car when I went to drop my son off at the in-laws for the day. On the way there I couldn’t help but notice the stunning yellow fields of rape dotted among the green and brown between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth.

So on the way back I pulled into a country lane and spent a happy hour walking around a farmer’s field, before heading off and stopping again at a field where I could not only capture more rapeseed scenes but also photograph my son’s favourite tree – the lightning tree – so called for obvious reasons.

It cheered me no end when I got round to sorting through them and putting them on the computer yesterday. I hope they make you feel sunny and warm too! Photography – my current favourite waste of time. Beats twittering hands down.

Field of rape, near Bridgnorth

Field of Rape, near Kidderminster

Oscar's lightning tree by a field of rape, near Dudmaston Hall

Rape flower in field

Reflecting on the positives!

St Mary's Church, Kidderminster

Just back from a week’s holiday to our favourite haunt – the beautiful bay of Woolacombe in north Devon.

Everyone has their own favourite “away-from-it-all” place. Well, this is my family’s best loved, the place where we can all kick back, relax and recharge our batteries. We first ended up there by chance for a weekend away, some six years ago, and had a brilliant time with a group of friends.

Since then we have made an annual pilgrimage back there, either as a family, or with extended family, or with groups of friends.

Every time the experience is different – yet comfortingly the same. I guess that’s why I love it. While everything else in life seems to speed by at a hundred miles an hour, here we can all slow down, take it easy, and get with the surfer vibe.

Every visit, without fail, I can be sure that we will do all of the following:

  • Climb up Potter’s Hill overlooking the bay and marvel at how windy it is, no matter what the season
  • Make the two-and-a-half mile trek along the beach to Putsborough at the other end, take a picture, and then walk all the way back
  • Tuck into delicious grub at the beachfront Red Barn pub
  • Get sick on the swingboats (will I never learn?)
  • Get sick on Big Chief Waffles and scrummy icecream from Normies (will the kids never learn?)
  • Get up early on the first morning to run along the beach to kickstart my new fitness regime (then forget to go again for the rest of the holiday)
  • Buy a bodyboard/inflatable boat/other seaside gizmo which we don’t have room for in the car
  • Enquire about buying a campervan from a surf dude
  • Have a beach barbie while watching the sun disappear
  • Have a serious discussion about what the year ahead holds and what we want to achieve individually and as a family, while getting slowly drunk – then by the next day completely fail to recall what we decided
  • Eat lots of croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast, completely forgetting we are not in France
  • Read at least two books each

Ah, good times. But why am I waffling on about Woolacombe when the picture in today’s blog is of St Mary’s Church in my hometown of Kidderminster?

Well, partly its because I have yet to get round to sorting through the hundreds of pictures I took while on holiday.

But mostly it’s because coming back from holiday always puts me in a reflective mood – and I thought this shot summed up where I am with my thoughts about Kidderminster.

I’m a relative newcomer to the town.  I arrived here eight years ago knowing nobody outside my immediate family of hubby and baby son.

It has taken me a long time to get used to living here but I’ve now made some lovely friends, and discovered some of its hidden secrets. I still think there’s a lot wrong with the town. For example, there’s still only one decent pub (The Boar’s Head Tap House) and barely any good shops – even the new Debenhams is a pale imitation of a department store. It’s a cultural desert when it comes to decent movies, plays and music. Picking a secondary school, as I will soon have to, seems to be about picking the best of a bad bunch.

But that hasn’t stopped me falling in love with it just a tiny bit – especially when the sun is shining.

I took this picture of St Mary’s Church on a suitable sunny afternoon. The church towers over the canal which runs through the heart of the town. It reflects my post-holiday mood – if you look hard enough you will always find something pretty wonderful. Time to count my blessings.

St Mary's Church tower reflection

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