It’s time to bin attendance awards

In any group of parents, no matter what age or experience, nothing seems to get the garbage fire rage burning quite as warmly as the subject of attendance awards. This is not, to be clear, about legal action taken by a local authority against a parent failing to get their child to school regularly. These are the certificates and treats and weekly newsletter trackers and termly celebrations insisted on by schools around the country to improve their attendance figures (regardless of whether they need improvement or not). Continue reading →

Three things I learned from Luca Guadagnino at BAFTA Guru Live

I’ve never wanted to direct films.

Watch them? Definitely. Write them? Eventually (I’ve always envisioned it being an adaptation of prose, not being a habitual screen- or scriptwriter, although a good friend and I have been batting around a TV series idea for ages). Write about them? All the time, whether I’m asked to or not.

But I’m not a filmmaker. Which is why when I first became aware of the BAFTA Guru Live sessions, I wasn’t sure if I really should grab a ticket. I mean, they’re open to everyone and you don’t need to give any reason for attending, but I felt a directing masterclass might be more for filmmakers than writers. Still, I simply couldn’t resist nabbing one while I had the chance.

So, as a different flavour of creative, was it worth me going along? Unquestionably. Continue reading →

The not-40 before 40

What is it that makes us think that round numbers are somehow significant?

We seem compelled to mark them in some way; to say I am still alive as if getting through a decade is specifically more significant than any other period of time. And I’m as susceptible as the rest; I approach my fortieth, which is in the pleasingly rounded year 2020, with a feeling that it marks an inevitable turning point in my life. I’m not waiting for it to get stuff done – in fact, my year of Doing has already borne personal fruit – and I’m not expecting it to be all sunshine and roses; there is no stage of a woman’s life that doesn’t come with a patriarchy shit sandwich.

Yet in my mind, it has acquired some important punctuation. It’s not a full stop, but it does mark the end of a clause; perhaps it’s one of my beloved semi-colons. With a little over 18 months to go, I feel increasingly itchy to set myself some small challenges; no skydives or lion-wrangling, necessarily, but just a few things to pledge to myself – a birthday gift from the past promised to the future.

There won’t be forty of them (necessarily). They are not in any particular order. There are no consequences for not carrying them out. Some are specific tasks to be carried out by the time the decade switches; others more like resolutions for a better life ongoing. They are a clustered hope of things to come as I steer for the next harbour, shared so that others in a similar boat might enjoy the glow from the lighthouse.

  1. Finish the first draft of my current project. I’m 30,000-odd words in. This is definitely doable.
  2. Develop the *brilliant idea* that came to me over the weekend; not allowed to draft it until the first is completed though.
  3. Launch my pin business (more on this to follow – in progress).
  4. Visit Japan. Booked for next year!
  5. Make my halting and irregular yoga practice less halting and more regular. I never regret this when it happens. (Also check out Dana Falsetti’s pay-what-you-can, accessible online studio.) I’m not setting a weekly minimum, but I know when it’s better and when it’s worse.
  6. Read a book in Greek. I’m so slow, and it might have to be a kids’ book, but I’ve never properly committed to doing it. It’s time. And might encourage me to actually teach my daughter some of my second language (yes, I know, I know).
  7. Learn to put my damn clothes away. This one’s really for my long-suffering, much neater husband.
  8. Get sensible about saving and spending. I do not need about 60% of the stuff I impulse buy. And clothes where I already have a similar version, unless there’s a very good reason for having two, should have a one-in, one-out policy.  Setting a budget a using a pre-pay card to stop the lunacy.


That’s it for this sitting, but I’ll return to add more as and when they become important to me.

Do you feel that sense of mounting momentum as you approach a ‘big’ birthday, or are they all same-old to you? Did you make a list? I feel quite excited about all that middle-age promises to reveal, so feel free to bring the chat.

The Book Club: what I’ve read so far this year

I miss my old office book club. It quietly ground to a halt when three of the four or five remaining hardcore members (including the designated organiser) all left within weeks of each other, but we still occasionally meet up to discuss books, watch films or go to the theatre. Still, that regular monthly-or-so community event with its collective nerdery and copious red wine is something I miss.

I’m not going to suggest an online book club, because we all know what happens. Continue reading →

Incredibles 2 UK premiere red carpet

Film review: Incredibles 2 – plus a Jack Jack drawing masterclass with Brad Bird

When I was eight years old, my cinema experiences involved attending a reasonably clapped out West London screen – still with ashtrays built into the seat backs – and being permanently scarred by Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It led to a lifelong love of films all the same. My daughter just attended her first film premiere, alongside Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson, weeks after being given the opportunity to draw alongside an absolute animation hero of mine.The universe likes its little surprises. But that’s parenthood for you. Continue reading →

Why the most important character in Lady Bird wasn’t Lady Bird.

Some of us are born Julies.

The story isn’t often about us – and when it is, or at least when we get a chunk of the story, it’s usually not a Julie telling it and then they get it all wrong.

(Contains spoilers if you haven’t yet seen Lady Bird. Though you should get on with it now.) Continue reading →

Gladstone’s Library aka I took a holiday alone and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done that I’m thinking of right now

I am a work-out-of-home mother. This necessitates some sacrifice in the amount of time I can spend with my daughter, and that can be difficult. My employer is reasonably flexible, allowing regular work from home which means maximising before and after school time. Despite various weekend commitments Continue reading →