April Fool

April 1st – April Fools’ Day. Also known as All Fools Day
Where did all that come from then eh? Apparently it was first recorded in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I don’t remember that part when I studied Chaucer as part of my A Level Literature….I do remember there being lots of rude bits that used to make us giggle and guffaw while the teacher spluttered and reddened at the front of the class. Well, it was…well, a fair few years ago…so teachers weren’t used to talking about bodily functions and sex. Even a mere mention of Juliet’s bosoms heaving atop the balcony whilst she looked about for the lusty Romeo was almost enough to bring the class to near-riot mode. I think hormones must have been stronger then…something to do with us not getting them until later I think.
Back in those days we weren’t allowed to go past Go, collect £200 and pick up hormones until a lot later…I think it was almost synonymous with O’ Levels (for those under a certain age, those were the olden day version of GCSEs…but much, much harder of course).
Nowadays young people (cue squeaky Cockney pronunciation of ‘young’) seem to get their hormones almost as soon as their age hits double figures. So the teachers have to wise up a little. I’m sure the sixth formers today have far more answers than questions when they’re studying Chaucer. I’m sure they wouldn’t be all giggly and restrained when discussing what it is that women really want. (You’ll need to read the book for yourself if you want the answer to THAT question).
So back to April Fools’ Day.
There were a few spoof news articles…although nothing to compare to the ‘Spaghetti Trees’ of my childhood. A few social media statuses that seemed to provoke more arguments than laughter.
A few news articles that the pre-election population of Britain hoped were spoofs…but unfortunately weren’t.
And that was about it really. No one to play tricks…no trickers, no trickees. It’s just not the same being off work for April Fools’s Day. It’s not the same when I don’t have a classroom full of students who don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I tell them they have a 2hour test (Oh yes I can be THAT mean).
The dogs weren’t up for a bit of foolery. I tried putting their food bowls upside down in the feeder…and they just looked at me and whined. I hid behind the door when they came in from outside and then jumped out at them shouting “boo!” …and they just jumped up me with muddy paws (nothing new there). I put on my OH’s Cowboy-stylee fishing hat and did a little dance around the kitchen…they just barked at me.
No fooling going on there then.
So I gave up. I did the usual day one of the Easter holidays type of stuff. I did 3 loads of clothes washing. I tidied up and put the paper in the recycling. I cleaned out the turtle’s tank (a vile and smelly job that paints a picture of that hard-shelled green Pasty that is totally at odds with a poem that formed a previous blogpost).
I had a shower. And looked in the mirror. Oh great, thanks, a single ‘old lady’ hair had sprung itself on my chin. I guess this heralds the start of the downward spiral into cat-lady territory. A bit of a slap in the face, that. Welcome to Spring…oh by the way, you’re getting old.
And there was me thinking I could defy age…April Fool.


Ladies that amble…


I’ve joined the SAS. Yes, honestly.

Now before you get all worked up about me ziplining my way into guerilla hideouts I think I had better clarify:

SAS stands for Saturday Amblers Society. It is a walking group for a group of *ahem* young ladies…well okay, Women of a Certain Age, who walk. Not hiking, no that would be altogether rather too strenuous – that entails measuring distance in terms of miles rather than kilometres. We decided that we needed a form of gentle exercise and that walking would be it. It would also involve the countryside and getting back to nature.

Oh who am I kidding? It really involves a ramble around some fields, woodlands or lanes and lo and behold there’s a pub and we might as well stop for a spot of lunch. Well it would be rude not to. It is also an excuse to go into Blacks and other such outdoorsy types of shops and purchase walking paraphanalia (just what does one do with a ‘gaiter’?)

So the SAS involves some work colleagues and assorted friends. The idea is that once a month, on a Saturday, we go for a nice slow amble and a nice leisurely lunch.

Assorted walking footwear has been purchased, a small rucksack has been tried on for size (keys, phone, lipgloss and bottle of water all neatly fit inside – it is very small), nordic poles (purple) ordered. So everything’s ready for the first mission.

Just call me Wainwright.

Team photo

No plug in, baby

wet dog

I bought a new air freshener the other day. This warm and oh so often wet weather just serves to intensify that well-known aroma of wet dog that fogs the utility room and seems to permeate every corner of the house thus necessitating the need for a fresh floral façade.

I don’t have those plastic-vented stick-em-on-the-table air fresheners. Oh no, those are far too low tech and 70s vintage era for me. “Ah…the plug in…?” I hear you surmise. Well, no. I’m afraid I’ve read too many of those ‘The air freshener burned my house down’ kind of stories to risk using one of those. Nope. Not going to jeopardise my life with one of those lily of the valley Molotov cocktails, no way.

No. I have one of those huge contraptions that sit on the coffee table like an ancient monolith. Pffshhing out bursts of eye watering perfumery at regular intervals and requiring new batteries every three days and refills every five. You know the ones – running costs on a par with your monthly gas bill.

Anyway, there I was standing in the supermarket gazing at a vast array of refills.

Ever done that? It’s incredible. It’s mind-boggling. Whatever happened to names like ‘lemon zest’ or ‘vanilla’ or ‘grass cuttings’? We recognised those – we all knew what those were going to smell like. But now none of those simple names are good enough and the manufacturers appear to have employed graduates of poetry rather than chemistry in the production rooms.

Now they are called things like ‘Spring Meadow’ (does it smell like sheep poop?), ‘Frosty Mornings’ (eau de de-icer?) and ‘Oriental Magic’ (waft of a Geisha’s G-string?). Too confusing by far. Supermarkets don’t appreciate you spraying them all in the aisle first so these confusing names leave consumers having to pick something vaguely familiar in a colour that they like.

So. I purchased one called ‘Brecon Beacons’ based on the premise that I spend a lot of time in Wales. I have been to the Brecon Beacons.

 It did not


Like that.

I was expecting something that resembled spring rain on abundant wild flowers. What I got was shepherd’s armpit with undertones of hiker’s sock.

So this is a plea really. To all manufacturers of air fresheners: please, please call your products something that is easy to understand. Something that resembles the smell.

In the meantime I will just tell any visitors to my house that they are experiencing the very height of vogue in the perfume world – Eau de Wet Dog.   That aint no plug in, baby.               

 air freshener paw

Ascending Scales

New Year. 1st January 2014.
My bathroom scales have just looked reproachfully at me from the corner of the bathroom. I glared back at them and continued to fold my warm, bath-softened body into a large towel. A very large towel.
Who exactly do they think they are? What business of theirs is it how many juicy mince pies I have eaten over the festive season? (About 20)…how many bottles of wine I have glugged down my parched throat? (About the same)
Surely I have the right to comfort eat in my own home…well, in anybody’s home actually…? It is WINTER for God’s sake! Does anyone sit and judge the amount of pre-winter stocking up done by other creatures? Squirrels, for example? No. I thought not.
So why then the annual guilt? Just how many people will spend today joining gyms, eating salad, pushing the kids out of the way to commandeer the games console for the latest iFit programme, wobbling about on bikes (yes, it is possible to forget how to ride one) and generally dusting off the old Nikes?
I am NOT going to join in!
I cast a scathing look at my bathroom scales. I ‘accidentally’ dropped a towel over its smug face. Weigh that you pious bastard.
I flounced into the bedroom. Well…flapped would be a better word..
I slunk back in. I triple-locked the bathroom door. I closed the bathroom window. I uncovered mine enemy, Removing the towel from its knowing eyes. I removed my own towel (don’t worry, I won’t describe that bit – it is before the watershed).
I stepped carefully on, pretending that I really don’t care.
The scales let out an audible expulsion of air….more of a harrumph than a sigh.
I won’t tell you the number they showed me. Well my hair was still a bit damp so I can take half a stone off for that, oh and I still have false nails on so that’s another 4 or 5 pounds.
Anyway, I don’t have time to waste here…I’ve got to go and find my trainers out from the back of the shed…


Photo © David Vale


The clack of heels moved further away from me. Leaving me alone. Listening to the sound do my own breathing. It sounded ragged and loud to my ears.

I slowed my step. Longer pauses between the almost-complaining squeak of my shoes. Stopped. Looked up just in time to see the last flash of a couple as the rounded the corner and were soon out of sight. Silence. The cold corridor stretched ahead of me. Seeming to get longer the longer I looked. An elastic walkway.

I hitched the heavy bag further onto my shoulder and began to walk forwards again: the effort of moving one foot on front of the other drawing me down like leaden boots. I wanted to turn around: knew then my feet would find the impetus to carry me swiftly out of that place. Instead they dragged slowly, taking a lifetime to move forward. I didn’t want to face the horror that would await me at the end of that slow walk. The start of a new school year was always frightening. I knew how the kids felt.

20130904-215021.jpg Photo © Cassie Tillett

Jason squeezed his left eye shut, felt the tips of his eyelashes brush his fattened cheek. He looked down the cold metal, tried to still the tremble that threatened to increase until it shook his shoulders. He blinked. Once. Twice. Then a tighter, fatter scrunching of his cheek. He cupped his left hand under the damp pad of his right hand. The one that held metal.
He had found the gun, wrapped in a dirty cloth in the alleyway behind the shops. He had stuffed it under his jumper, darting looks over his shoulder to make sure that no-one had seen. They would take it from him. His Dad would be called and there’d be shouting and maybe a sharp stinging slap. Not fair. He took it behind the garages and unwrapped it carefully. He’d weighed it in his hands like he’d seen them do on the telly. Strange how the metal quickly warmed to the skin on his hands. He’d looked around. That’s when he’d noticed the bird. Sitting in a corner by the door that led to the flat above the chippy.
He raised the gun back to his cheek and looked down the barrel. Concentrated so the trembling stopped. His finger held on the trigger, poised. He had almost forgotten to breathe. All he could see was the bird. The unsuspecting bird. Time stood still, he could almost hear its magnified heartbeat. For now.

20130903-221011.jpg Photograph © David Vale


A shoulder
Coquettishly bare
She smooths her hands over the rounded skin
Over and over
As if polishing marble.

Black lashes
Part and bat
She raises her eyes and looks straight
Across the narrow street
Through the window, right into my own eyes.

She knows
It’s part of her game
She know that her audience stands face-pressed
against glass
Clouded by shallow breath.

Evening shadows
I can see into her room
As fabric unbuttons, unfolds and flutters to the floor
She steps outside
Of the silk pools.

Skin sheens
So cool and smooth
Pearlescent in the evening light
And still she strokes
And watches me, watching her.

I try to look away.
Look down into the narrow chasm at the people below.
But they are hidden inside their clothes
Distant and cocooned.
I look back to her window. Entranced.