A celebration…

…even if it is on the wrong day

Happy Mothers’ Day America! You might get this wrong along with a load of other things (use of the letter ‘u’, pronunciation of lieutenant, etc etc) but that doesn’t make it a less important version of the holiday than the British one. (It kind of does.)

On a serious note, a special very first Mother’s Day to the wonderful Carolina who gave birth to Julia Marie a mere eight days ago and who is basically amazing and one of the only people I know who can rock the hospital gown look.

Because this is fake Mothers’ Day, I have decided to repost something I wrote for my mum last year, but which got lost in the great blog disaster of 2012.

This has the added bonus of meaning I don’t actually have to think of anything to write today.

So here it is:

“My mum… and just a few of the things that make her my mum.” (First published March 18 2012)

1) She once forgot I was in the back seat of the car and drove all the way to college only to have to turn around and drop me at my grandma’s house.

2) She made me wear a blue, knitted jacket with a bell on the hood so she didn’t lose me in shops. It made me look like Noddy. (For this I have always blamed my brother who used to hide from her in clothes racks.)

3) She once forgot where she left me and was fairly surprised when she walked into her friend’s house to find me there. She later admitted this on BBC’s Woman’s Hour to the hilarity of all concerned.

4) When I forget to get in touch, she thinks it is a good thing because I must be having fun.

5) She was always right when she told me to take a jacket and I would never admit that I regretted not listening to her.

6) When we went on ferries she dressed my siblings and I in the same outfit so she could show people in case one of us got lost. (Again, this is totally my brother’s fault.)

7) She definitely isn’t eccentric.

8) When having a bad hair day she drives wearing a woolly hat to flatten her hair.

9) In recent years she has been on more jaunts, adventures and trips than I have managed to fit into my entire life. (2013 UPDATE: She will be spending Christmas and New Year hiking to the Everest base camp. Obviously.)

10) When we were growing up, she kept our baby teeth and now has no idea what to do with them.

11) She’s always right, even when she’s not.

12) Sometimes, when she is laughing at something, she sounds exactly like Eeyore.

13) One year, when asked what she wanted for her birthday, she said ‘An Indiana Jones pinball machine’ (we’re still working on it.)

14) She plays the drums.

15) If she pays for things on her credit card, and then doesn’t open the bill, it doesn’t count.

16) She really definitely doesn’t snore.

17) When I was 18, she bought me a plane ticket and packed me off Greek island hopping. In the months I was away she only called me once because she thought something felt wrong. My purse had been stolen an hour earlier.

18) She has absolutely no frown lines, or wrinkles at all really.

19) If people take the time to listen, her life stories are some of the best they will ever hear.

20) She’s a journalist who would rather stay silent than tell a lie.

21) I miss being small enough to curl up in her lap.

22) Every night, she would read to us for half an hour. When we got older we all wanted different books, so she had to read out loud for ninety minutes every night. I used to follow her around and listen to the other stories as well.

23) When she read, she did all the voices.

24) She strives constantly to make me more organised and less of a procrastinator despite the fact that this has been a losing battle since the day I was born.

25) She came on our school trip to Cadbury World and so I wasn’t restricted by the spending money limit the school set.

26) She once made bread and butter pudding without the butter.

27) When my dad was on a teacher-training course, she set the fish fingers on fire and he came home to find her putting out the flames in the back garden.

28) She won’t be called grandma, but my brother’s and sister’s kids don’t know how lucky they are to have her as their not-grandma. They will one day though.

29) Sometimes, she doesn’t know what country she’s flying to until she gets to the airport. Sometimes not even then.

30) She doesn’t want me to grow up, come home, or settle down.

31) When we speak on Skype, I can only see the top half of her face and her collection of model cars. They aren’t toys, they’re models.

32) She used to sing ‘You are my sunshine’ to me until I fell asleep.

33) She introduced me to The Beatles and, at five, I would bounce up and down on her bed singing all the words Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

34) We’re undeniably similar, and I long ago gave up fighting turning in to her. There are far worse people to be.

35) For more about my mum, visit www.notdeadyettravel.com – says it all really.

Doing all the voices for a whole new generation.

Doing all the voices for a whole new generation.

PS, I already did the discussion of where the apostrophe should go in my real Mother’s Day piece.


You are my sunshine…

… a memory for Mother’s Day.

It would be so easy to cheat this year. So easy to repost my Mother’s Day blog from last year. The list of things that my funny, wonderful, utterly eccentric mum has done and will (I hope) continue to do.

But I won’t cheat. That post will stay nestled away in my archives waiting for a time where I am too tired or uninspired or homesick to write something new.

So let me tell you a story:


“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”


I’m sick, lying curled up in bed in the small room at the front of the house.

It is my room, with Paddington Bear on the walls and Mr Men on the lamp shade and thick curtains to block out the sun.

In a few years, stuffed toys will give way to posters of impossible girls as my brother takes over, needing to escape the sisters that bookend him in our family tree.

In a few decades more, as we desert the nest, mum will create an office full of books and model cars and a whirring, over-used computer with a cluttered desktop.

But right now it is my room, and I am snuggled in the single bed that is far too big for me.


“You make me happy when skies are grey…”



One of the ‘nothers’ – the collective noun I give my siblings.

My mum’s hand pauses slightly at the noise, then carries on gently stroking the tangle of hair that has flopped on to my burning forehead.

I am staring at the picture that hangs on the wall, a view of fields through a window. It is the frame, really that I am gazing at. Thick wood, it seems big for such a small picture.


I can’t tell if it is my brother or my sister trying to break into the cocoon of comfort wrapped around me. It doesn’t matter.

The Little Grey Rabbit book we have just finished reading is on the chair next to my bed, next to my snowman who always stands guard over my sleep.


“You’ll never know dear, how much I love you.”


I have Poppy clutched to me with one arm, the white dots on her red dress swimming as I begin to drift.

My free hand is running along the soft green blanket with the family of ducks on it, untangling the green and white tassels, trying to separate the colours and then knotting them back together.

It is my sister’s blanket really, I am devastated when she takes it from me, because it ‘was hers first.’

In twenty years or so I will nearly cry when she returns it without a word just days before I fly away.


Mum shifts from where she is lying, facing me, wrapping me up in her softness.

The mattress lifts as she stands up and suddenly there is too much space in my bed and I’m breathing in the cold air of the room instead of her warmth.

I feel lost, rather than angry, now that her attention has been stolen away from me.

She walks softly to the door, dims the light until there is barely an orange glow illuminating the adventures of the bear from darkest Peru on my walls.

Click. The door closes.

The mattress squeaks in the new-found silence as she lies back down, a barrier between me and the world.

Peace at last.


“Please don’t take my sunshine away.”



(A quick aside, according to this article using the apostrophe after the ‘s’ is grammatically correct but not historically accurate. As a Classics student, history beats grammar, as a journalist, this is a decision for an editor so I copied the Guardian’s style guide.)

(This digression was mainly to head my dad off at the pass when he corrects my punctuation.)