Blossoming.

Let’s, President Bartlet style, walk and talk.

I began this blog around the same time I really got stuck in to the garden. Small Girl had finished breastfeeding and I suppose I was feeling at something of a loose end. You go from being a little human’s lifeline to, well, not a lifeline, and I found that hard.

Look at this. Aren’t forget-me-nots the most darling little flowers in the world. I pulled a handful from the edge of a footpath while walking the dog and stuck it in the garden. Lo and behold, to my absolute delight, it has not only grown but has self-seeded quite happily. I suspect that I weeded out lots before I realised what they were. I adore the simple five-petal shape, clustered into perfect bouquets and that oh-so-finely balanced delicate blue and yellow combination. IMG_5129

Anyway, I guess I was planting a random selection of ideas here on the blog in much the same way I scattered seeds around the garden. I didn’t know for certain which would germinate and which would  produce nothing more than food for slugs. I didn’t know which bits were pretty fillers and which would bring genuine satisfaction. It was all trial and much, much error.

This is a perennial wallflower, (Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’), incredibly good value, evergreen and long-flowering and the petals have a nice way of varying shades depending on how they catch the light. I have yellow and orange versions also which aren’t quite as pretty but earn their place with their sweet, warm scent.IMG_5126

So, the nice thing is, it’s all starting to come together. Blog and plot both are still a little rough around the edges. You can tell that it’s all a DIY effort; no professional landscapers or web designers have been employed. But I am stubbornly independent. I prefer having a slightly wonky home that I made myself than something pristine and perfect to someone else’s design.

Our front garden, which you rarely see, is planted with cherry blossoms, fruiting cherries and cherry plums. Some are little more than twigs but a couple have really matured into proper trees and they are enough to make my heart pound with joy and, I guess, pride. The big pink one is just beginning to unfurl. There is a promise there of something magnificent but also the threat, of course, that bad weather will spoil the show. I am on tenterhooks.IMG_5192

Our biggest cherry blossom has gone for glory this year. Beyond glorious! It makes me feel tiny, cowed. It’s like stars shining or small children singing. It’s bigger than me. This is me, looking up.IMG_5185

The crab apple. Bittersweet. The crab apple was planted, right outside the kitchen window, in memory of a lost baby and blooms every year just in time for her would-have-been birthday. Not just yet, but soon, which is the tough time. It feels good to have a something, though, to watch something grow and flower, rather than an empty space.IMG_5121

And just next to that, the pear is exploding skyward and about halfway to full snowy white blossoming. Look, look at this! Can you see the wing movement? I swear I squealed with glee when I saw this photo this morning.IMG_5138 (3)

Below the pear, I have a few cowslips, again foraged from a roadside somewhere. I fret occasionally about kidnapping these wild plants but I prefer to think of them as stray orphans in need of good home. They seem happy enough although I suppose they may just be putting on a brave front. I prefer wild flowers to all others and I suppose what I most want to capture in the garden is the joy of discovery that you experience when you clamber over a ditch or bend close to a hedgerow and find unexpected beauty. It would be easy enough to fill the garden with bedding plants but I like it most when the garden surprises me. I like it to have a life of its own.IMG_5117

What I didn’t really understand until recently was that writing, like gardening, seems also to have a life of its own. It’s a trickier business, letting loose the writing, not least because the risk of humiliation is greater. It’s easy enough to keep a close camera angle on the bees and deflect your attention from the rotting deckchairs and the ailing mulberry tree. The writing involves a good deal more exposure. Still, somehow, ideas are popping up and growing that I’m fairly certain I never deliberately planted. It’s taking shape and I am beside myself with excitement, fidgeting like a racehorse confined to the starting stalls and desperately, desperately trying to find the time I need to dig and hoe and tend and stake.

The new ribes (flowering currant) is a stunner already and I’m heartily wishing I had planted one (or three) of these sooner. I had read that the leaves smell of blackcurrant but it was still a shock to discover how much they do…much more than the fruiting blackcurrant leaves. I had a serious ‘duh!’ moment last week when, after 44¾ years, it dawned on me why Ribena is called Ribena. How Husband laughed. IMG_5164

We’ve had stunning weather for a few days but we’re back to the regular gloom today. Honest to God, we’re like Pavlov’s dogs in this country, only the stimulus is a ray of sunshine, or any break at all in the clouds. We have seen fine weather. We know it happens. And it will, surely, happen again. But, there are no guarantees so we gaze skyward in ever diminishing, but never quite extinguished hope.

This, to me, is the cutest thing in the garden at the moment. It’s an alpine strawberry in the making, planted next to Small Girl’s fairy garden because these are fairy strawberries, no bigger than your thumbnail but exquisitely sweet. IMG_5132

Potential. That’s what the garden and the blog share and what they are all about. It hardly seems to matter what the endpoint is. Just feeling alive and connected to potential.

The Small Girl sat in bed this week and, for the first time, read her own bedtime story, aloud and to herself. She still needs help with what she likes to call ‘tricky words’ but still, we have truly crossed a line. I am no longer her lifeline, neither for food nor stories. What remains are morning cuddles, and plaiting her hair, buttoning her shirt and reminding her what number comes after 12.

She brought me tulips for Mother’s Day. I can’t seem to grow them. The slugs eat them or the wind strips them so I rely on the kindness of those who know me best to buy them for me.IMG_5148

What I am bursting to tell you is that I interviewed Darina Allen yesterday! Can you believe it? How often does anybody get to meet, let alone have a proper conversation with, their heroes? She is brilliant, honestly. Sparkling with intelligence and genuinely inspirational.

Give me a day or two and I’ll let you know all about it. For now, I have peas to plant.

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It’s the dreaming that matters.

Book review. gregoire delacourt. fredrik backman. sarah crossman.

 

I took a reading holiday this week. Nothing heavy. Nothing challenging. No note-taking or quotation-jotting, just reading for the pleasure of it, for a little light escapism and, I hoped, a few laughs. It ended in tears.

My Grandmother sends her regards and apologises. Fredrik Backman.

My Grandmother Sends her Regards and apologises. Fredrik Backman

See, I didn’t even take a proper photograph but the rhubarb tart is apt as my Granny grew rhubarb against the rear wall of her coal shed. Every time she made a tart she would give us a stalk of raw rhubarb to dip in the sugar bowl while she recounted the provenance of her rhubarb stools (no laughing, that is the correct term!), and the secret of their remarkable flavour (horse manure) with all the pride of a Burgundian vintner.

‘There’s something special about a Grandmother’s house. You never forget how it smells.’

I did say no quotation-jotting, didn’t I? I couldn’t resist marking a few pages in this ridiculously quotable book. In fact, I have already seen a fake hand-painted wooden sign with this one on it:

‘Nothing is really gone until your Mum can’t find it.’

In this house that would be corrected to ‘until Teenage Daughter can’t find it’ as she is our official finder-of-stuff.

The book is about a clever little girl who has a very special relationship with her Granny. In fact, it seems that Granny is her only real friend, the only person in the world who even speaks the same language. And then, Granny dies.

That much I knew before I started which was the reason why, despite rave recommendations, I put this book on the long finger for a few months. I wasn’t certain I could hack a good book about a Granny dying.

‘Sorrow and loss are constant, but if we all had to go through our whole lives carrying them the whole time, we wouldn’t be able to stand it. The sadness would paralyse us. So in the end we just pack it into bags and find somewhere to leave it.’

Elsa’s Granny has spent all seven years of Elsa’s life telling her stories of a faraway make believe land. When Granny dies she leaves a trail of apologetic letters which bring Granny’s fairy tales to life and reveal that Granny wasn’t always the superhero Elsa believed her to be.

‘the best stories are never completely realistic and never entirely made up.’

It’s a lovely book, brimming with imagination and wit, about love and loss and the power of stories to heal the breach.

One. Sarah Crossman.

One. Sarah Crossman. review.

My Middle Daughter knows good books. I know I’ve said this before but, truly, when she hands me a book and says, ‘you should read this Mum,’ I know it will be something special.

I began this book at lunchtime and couldn’t put it down. I carried it with me on the school run and read while I waited for the bell to ring. I held it aloft from splashes while I stirred the dinner and managed to overcook the eggs. I brought it to bed and read to the end while Husband sat beside me face-timing his sister through changing a blown socket fuse. That last bit kind of ruined the ending for me, it was hard to cry with ‘STOP, NO, Don’t touch that one, it’s LIVE’ as a running commentary beside me. But cry I did.

One has all the hallmarks of YA literature. Unusually brave teenagers take on the world, fall in love, get kissed and discover how to live as individuals. One pushes that stereotypical formula to the limit by presenting the teenagers as conjoined twins, Grace and Tippi, named for Hitchcock’s leading ladies. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a quick, emotionally-charged read or anyone trying to tempt a reluctant teenager into reading.

The List of my Desires.  Grégoire Delacourt.

The list of my desires. Gregoire Delacourt. review.

This is a tiny book, let’s say petit, about a French woman in her mid-forties who writes a blog. She makes lists of what she would buy with a lotto win but realises that it’s the lists, not the lotto, that keep her going.

‘Because our needs are our little daily dreams. The little things to be done that project us into tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, the future; trivial things that we plan to buy next week, allowing us to think that next week we’ll still be alive.’

This was my favourite of the three books. It’s a sweet and stylish parable, small but perfectly formed.

A list of my desires (a list, not the definitive list because it changes daily and that is the point):

New tea towels and towels.
A hoover that doesn’t come apart in three places when it hits a rug.
Fancy rose-scented soap from the English market.
A pale pink cardigan for the summer.
Maybe a pale green one too, for a change?
Cereal bowls and spoons.
Yarn. Blue and pink and pale green to throw over a comfy reading chair in the kitchen.
A comfy reading chair for the kitchen.
A fountain pen. The kind you fill from a bottle of ink. I used to have a lovely one.
A shade tolerant plant to fill a big pot in the dark corner of the patio. Any suggestions? I’m leaning towards an Acer.
A Fingal Ferguson knife. Such codswallop, I know. It’s not as though I even know how to use a knife properly but we did say desires.I can’t even bring myself to put my name on the two-year waiting list because it seems such a silly indulgence. But still, beautiful tools bring a particular satisfaction.
A wall. It’s very embarrassing these days to admit I dream of building a wall around my garden but there you go. I want a secret garden to go with my secret door.
Secret door. Oh yes, I got that one, which probably seemed the most unlikely.

Dream big, it’s the dreaming that matters.

What is on your daily dream list? I would love to know.

Book review. gregoire delacourt. fredrik backman. sarah crossman.

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Bee Friendly: Let’s Save Our Bees!

It’s snowing! The kids are ecstatic, the dog is in shock and I can’t help feeling just a little thrill of excitement myself. Sound is muffled today and light is subdued. It feels as though we are wrapped in a huge, thick duvet that’s spilling feathers.

Last week, I was outside in balmy sunshine taking photos of bumblebees. I can’t help but wonder where the poor bees are hiding out this morning.

I’ve been working on an article about bees for Bookwitty.com. We are all aware of the worrying fall in bee populations worldwide but many people don’t seem to realise how critical it is to arrest the decline NOW and how vital a contribution we can all make to saving some bees. We don’t need to volunteer time or donate money; we just need to make a few changes in the way we think about weeds and wildflowers and gardening in general.

I did a lot of research for this article and put a lot of time into it because I really, REALLY would like to do my bit. Please, do read this and please, please, spread the message. Read the full article here.

Excellent Irish Fiction.

Excellent Irish Fiction

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Lá Féile Pádraig Shona daoibh go léir.

I thought I might mark the day by telling you about some of my favourite Irish authors. These are contemporary authors whose books I have loved over the last few years.

Excellent Irish Fiction

Sebastian Barry writes poetic, sparse, spine-tingling books. The Secret Scripture is built around conversations between a very elderly resident of a regional mental hospital and her doctor. We know by now that, in Ireland, you didn’t have to be crazy to wind up in a mental hospital. You can watch a trailer for the up-coming Jim Sheridan film adaptation here. It looks good and Rooney Mara’s Irish accent passes the grade.

You can read my review of Barry’s magnificent latest novel, Days Without End, here.

Sebastian Barry. Days Without End.

John Boyne. I have to steel myself to read his books because they invariably leave me in tatters. I’ve heard that his new book, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, has a bit of humour so maybe he has been listening to reader feedback!

Everyone knows The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. If you haven’t read it, you simply must.

The most recent of his books that I’ve read was A History of Loneliness. This is all I managed to write about it at the time:

‘If you want a true insight into the Irish pysche you should read John Boyne’s A History of Loneliness. I’ve been intending to write about it for weeks but I get a pain in my chest every time I think about it. It is funny, laugh out loud hilarious at times, but don’t read it unless you are prepared to know the worst of us, the evil we accepted in this country and to which we turned a blind eye. The worst was not being shocked by it because this history, to our eternal shame, is embedded in us.’

John Boyne's A History Of Loneliness will break your heart.

Roddy Doyle. A national treasure. I think the nation as a whole loves Roddy Doyle to bits. We quote him regularly but most particularly when announcing the birth weight of new babies. We are a country populated by small turkeys. There is a funny article here on Doyle’s contribution to Ireland. I think we should have a new national holiday called Roddy Doyle Day when we all listen to the soundtrack of The Commitments and eat chips from chip vans.

But seriously, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors is superb.

Colm McCann. Let The Great World Spin is centred on an account of a high-wire walk which took place between the twin towers in 1974. You just have to read it. It’s brilliant.

Paul Murray. I’ve only read one of his books but I enjoyed it very much. Skippy Dies is best described, I think, as an Irish answer to Dead Poets Society. It’s very sad but very funny. More people should read it.

Graham Norton. To be honest, I just didn’t see this coming. I read Holding mostly out of curiosity but I was captivated from the word go. The book gives an honest but gentle view of Ireland rather than the harshly critical study presented by so many Irish authors. We are our own worst critics but Norton writes about West Cork with genuine affection. I wrote a review which you can read here.

Holding by Graham Norton

Liz Nugent. Again, I read Lying in Wait with reluctance (‘domestic thriller’ is not my cup of tea) but I couldn’t escape the hype. It turns out to have been well-deserved. Liz Nugent is a rising superstar. I don’t have a photo because I borrowed this one from the library (which, I’ll have you know, involved adding my name to a LONG waiting list). I’m already anticipating her next book with bated breath. You can read my review here.

book review of Liz Nugent's thriller Lying in Wait.

Joseph O’Connor. I’m a massive fan. I’ve been reading and loving his books for my entire adult life. I wrote a bit about my idolisation of Joseph O’Connor here when I read The Thrill of it All. I’ve chosen The Star of the Sea as the one I would recommend if you were to read just one of O’Connor’s brilliant books.

IMG_9222

Colm Tóibín. Brooklyn. My maternal great-grandparents emigrated to America as newly-weds and settled in a handsome brownstone building somewhere in Boston. My great-grandmother, according to my Granny, loved America. In 1921, my great-grandfather was summoned home to Ireland after a series of tragic accidents made him heir to the family farm. They sailed home with their small family, my Granny ‘on the way’, and as much of their new American furniture as they could manage. Granny always said that her mother bitterly resented that call to come home until the day she died, in her forties, from a brain hemorrhage. Colm Tóibín captures that tug on Irish people, to stay or to go, to stay away or come back, that has become an intrinsic part of being Irish.

It seems an opportune moment to remind you of my previous St. Patrick’s Day posts:

Teeny Weeny Shamrock Pattern. remains my only original crochet pattern. It is, as you can imagine, ridiculously easy.The work of ten minutes or less. My Small Girl has one of these clipped in her hair today and it looks lovely.

Tricolour Toast is a tasty snack in the colours of the Irish flag.

If you have 8 minutes to spare, I recommend taking this link to TodayFM and clicking on the podcast of Ireland’s Greatest Song Lyrics. Spine-tingling stuff. ‘Where’s me jumper?,”Give it to me raw, I’ll take it home cook it myself,”You’re the chocolate at the end of my cornetto,’…ah yes, we are a nation of poets, or foodies, probably both. It all comes back to the famine. But what about this :‘You are the measure of my dreams, the measure of my dreams,

Here’s the one that had me doing my best solo bop about the kitchen table. Love this:

Have a great weekend.

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Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down.

The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood.

 

‘Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.’

My nerdy son informs me that the phrase originated with a WWII American Army General called Joseph Stilwell whose caustic personality earned him the sobriquet ‘Vinegar Joe.’ I’m certain it would give old Joe pause for thought to know that his motto has become a slogan of feminism and individuality.

I have read and enjoyed a half dozen of Margaret Atwood’s books. The Blind Assassin is one of my all-time favourites. But, to be honest, I was afraid to read The Handmaid’s Tale in the same way I remember being afraid to go to the cinema to watch Schindler’s List. I don’t enjoy being horrified. Ever since Virginia Andrews‘ Flowers in the Attic was passed around my school classroom, I have been careful to avoid any books that might fall into the genre of horror.

The word dystopia has become a throwaway descriptive remark. The YA section of my local bookshop is awash with black and purple covers claiming all sorts of dystopian future horror as if it were a good thing.

I instinctively recoil from these books. I want to bury my head in the sand of romance and happy endings. But I know, also, that dystopian fiction serves a purpose. Usually, it teaches us the value of treating our fellow humans as individuals, with equal rights, rather than members of a herd to be corralled or classified. It may be that, in an age where we are constantly bombarded with and bamboozled by information, marketing and propaganda, we have all the more call for role models of courageous individuality.

 

I studied William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Orwell’s 1984 in school. I read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 last year. These are excellent books but I couldn’t say I enjoyed reading them. I also read The Hunger Games and the Chaos Walking series, both aimed at younger adults but plenty horrific enough for me. I guess I have been slowly building my tolerance to the dystopia genre. I would never file any of these under ‘Books I Love’ but, at the same time, I believe there is value in reading them.

The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood.

‘Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.’

It is important that we consider how we assign and how we restrict power. It is essential that we learn how to recognise and limit anti-social behaviour.

‘They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time.’

More than anything, it is vital that we each believe in the resilience of the individual human spirit.

‘But if it’s a story, even in my head, I must be telling it to someone. You don’t tell a story only to yourself. There’s always someone else.
Even when there is no-one.’

Dystopian fiction allows us to learn from a horrific situation without having to live through it. My problem is that I can become completely immersed in a book, so much so that I suffer the anxiety and low mood as if I was really living through it. Just ask Husband, I’ve been like a sore-headed bear all week.

It was worth it. This is one of the most powerful books I have ever read and certainly the best of its kind. It has made me think. It has added to that little store of courage I keep bottled up in my soul like one of those fireman’s axes you see stored behind a sign saying ‘break glass in case of emergency.’My own personal MayDay. M’aidez.

‘Not a dandelion in sight here, the lawns are picked clean. I long for one, just one, rubbishy and insolently random and hard to get rid of and perennially yellow as the sun. Cheerful and plebian, shining for all alike.’

The Handmaid’s Tale is undoubtedly horrific. It is also completely riveting; once you’re in it there’s no escape. Thankfully, it ends hopefully, as most dystopian novels do. As a species, we have often been led astray in a blind race towards progress but we have, usually, found our way back to sanity. It is books like this that teach us how to listen to, and even how to be, the courageous lone voices who refuse to give up.

Sometimes, we shouldn’t choose our books solely according to how much we think we will enjoy them. That would be akin to living on white bread. It behoves us, as educated members of a liberal society, to read better and know more.

After all, if we don’t keep an eye on the temperature we could find ourselves boiled alive.

Even believing this, I might not have finally dived into this book without an encouraging push from Sam at A Coastal Plot, a woman of excellent taste and good counsel.

I was at a conference at the weekend about the food industry where I heard that the mantra of the Terre Madre Slow Food Movement in Spain is this:

‘They are giants but we are millions.’

That seems to me just an alternative translation of Margaret Atwood’s motto.These are words to live by:

‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down.’

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How to make people like your food more without making your food better.

Gastropysics by Charles Spence

I reviewed a book called Gastrophysics by Professor Charles Spence.It’s a fascinating book which left me, by turns, excited and appalled.

Gastropysics by Charles Spence

Everyone who eats in restaurants or buys food in a supermarket, basically anyone other than self-sufficient farmer/foragers should read this book.Anyone in the business of selling food, or writing recipes, or posting photos of food on Instagram, must read this book. At the very least, read my review here.

There are some things I can’t fix but I can try.

‘Your knickers are on back to front,’ I said to the Small Girl who had made a valiant attempt to start putting on her school uniform while I was in the shower.

‘How can you tell which way they go?’ She asked in earnest puzzlement.

I laid her diminutive undergarments on the bed and explained that they were bigger at the back to accommodate her, albeit tiny, posterior.

‘Aha,’ she said, understanding dawning, and then I saw the telltale pinch between her eyes as the busy cogs of her brain turned.

‘You know how your bum is really big, Mum?’ Completely serious, not even a hint that she might be only joking. If only.

‘Yeeeees?’ There was hardly any point in denying the generous proportions of my rear end, at least relative to her own. I could only hope that she wasn’t going to ask me any awkward questions. 

‘Did you ever, like, break your knickers?’

I hope you will understand if I decline to record my answer here for posterity. My aim in telling you this anecdote is to demonstrate that my girl is still small, in stature and attitude. She is innocent and honest and open in the way we all must have been once upon a time in that far away land of childhood.


I attended a meeting at her school last night. It was a short lecture promoting awareness of mental health issues. As it so happened, the meeting took place in Small Girl’s classroom and I couldn’t help scanning the walls for evidence of my own child’s brilliance. I noticed, with some bemusement, a huge poster with a massive smiley face emoji and an equally large frowning face. A small photo of each child was tacked on to the smiley face while the frowning face was devoid of company. I took this, perhaps influenced by theme of the evening’s meeting, to be some sort of mental health promoting device whereby the children were asked about their moods and, thankfully, identified themselves as happy. How sweet, I thought, how wonderfully progressive.

When I got home, Small Girl was in bed but still awake so I snuggled in beside her for a cuddle. I told her that I saw her name on the list of star writers and she wiggled with pride. I told her that I noticed she was listed as this week’s milk monitor and that it was her turn at the sand table. I told her that I saw her photo on the smiley face and said I was glad she felt happy.

‘Oh no,’ she scoffed at my ignorance,’it doesn’t mean that I am happy; it means that Teacher is happy.’

I was genuinely taken aback and even more so when my child explained to me that Teacher moves their photos to the frowning face, she called it the sad face, when they are naughty, thus indicating her dissatisfaction with their behaviour.

‘Was your photo ever on the sad face?’ I had to ask, didn’t I? I thought I had to ask.

My Small Girl turned around, put her face to the wall and refused, despite my heartbroken entreaties, to utter another word.

As I left the room I heard her sob so I went back and lay beside her until she fell asleep. I couldn’t imagine what she could possibly have done to be so upset, ashamed even.

I enquired of Teacher, a friendly and pleasant young woman, what had happened. The answer? She didn’t have a clue. She assured me that my child is well behaved and attentive and that she might only have been moved to the sad face for a short time for ‘not trying  her hardest’ although even at that she couldn’t recall an incident. I tried, without questioning her methodology, to explain that my child was incredibly upset. She tried, without acknowledging the upset, to defend her methodology.

I didn’t really feel I had achieved anything. This isn’t my first time around this particular block. I’ve come to believe that the entire school system is designed to ‘break them in’, like ponies, to prepare them for the treadmill of life, as if there were no alternative. Put your nose to the grindstone at age five, is the ethos, and keep it there. It’s all designed to make children fit into a pattern, laid down decades, if not centuries, ago. I don’t have an alternative and I don’t blame the teachers, they just train the children in exactly the way they were trained to do. They must, in fact, if their charges are not to be labelled as failures. It is all a bit depressing though. 

I got in the car and assured my daughter that her teacher thinks the world of her. 

‘We learned a new sound today,’ she told me, ‘it’s OO. Sometimes it sounds like UH, like in book, but we have to think of words where it sounds like OO in MOO. We have to bring things in for the sounds table next week.’

‘Well,’ I said,’you can’t bring in the LOO because Dad would be very upset.’ She laughed.

‘And Teacher said at the start of the year that you should avoid bringing in FOOD for the sounds table so that’s out of the question.’ I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw the expectant smirk on her face. She’s very good at rhyming games.

‘MUM!’ She exclaimed in mock horror. ‘You can’t be thinking what I think you are thinking!’

‘Oh yes I am.’ I raised my eyebrows towards her delighted face in the mirror and we simultaneously yelled:

‘POO!’

I’ll raise a rebel yet.