Category Archives: Life queries

All The Small Things


January is often a time of fresh beginnings, indulging in hopes or dreams for the coming months and for embarking on the new year with a general spirit of optimism. However, this is a year like no other. I mean, the same could also be said of last year, which then technically renders that statement untrue. Nevertheless, this is not your typical January.

Many people have found much to be happy and productive about during the last few difficult months. I’m pleased for them. Really, I am. Some of my friends have loved having this extra time time with their families, thrived during homeschooling, developed new hobbies and some writerly friends have made much headway with their ongoing works in progress. I haven’t. I have not made sourdough. I have not baked banana bread. I have not written a novel. I have not mastered the violin. I have not even completed a full week of Joe Wicks (although given his injury at the time of writing perhaps even he is bored of it and resorting to the old ‘pulled a muscle’ trick to get out of school PE).

But I have worked. Being a key worker (it’s not a noble calling, it’s just that my job is essential and cannot be effectively done from home) means that I have spent this pandemic in an endless cycle of juggling working on site (stressful and potentially compromising to my health), parenting (in new circumstances so not always brilliantly), home-schooling (ditto) and generally trying to get through the madness (ditto). It hasn’t left much time for lofty goals and big ambitions.

But I’ve managed a couple of things. Recently I found a list of household jobs I optimistically wrote last January (ha!) and whilst many of them still remain on the list, I did a few. Changed a light fitting, replastered a ceiling. Upholstered two chairs, painted a bench. I didn’t write a novel but I did write a couple of short stories. And you know what? I’m okay with it.

Our world is currently very small. We can’t go anywhere, or do anything. We’re confined to a very small space and it’s okay if our dreams and ambitions are quite small too. I can’t do anything about all the big things right now so I’m finding ways to be okay with the small ones. Taking a walk, making a (tentative) bit of progress with the laundry pile, dancing round the house to some 90s grunge. They’re very small pleasures, but right now, I’ll take them.

What would Paul do?


I’m currently experiencing a peculiar period of flux in my life. I’m well aware that devoting a blog post to what is essentially a spot of navel-gazing might feel, and indeed be, a touch self-indulgent but I hope the end result will be acceptable to the majority and not be judged too harshly. It comes with a free poem, if that swings it?

As with any significant change in circumstances, there is an accompanying emotional maze to navigate. To say I have veered from euphoria to despair and back, via guilt, with an unexpected pit-stop at shame and an uncomfortably lengthy comfort break at overwhelming anxiety is to miss an opportunity to shoehorn in the hackneyed phrase “emotional rollercoaster.” It may be trite, but it is true.

And, as with just about any quandary, the sensible course of action is to take some advice on how best to proceed. But from who? Friends? All fantastic and all offering their own valid perspectives. But all with completely different suggestions and opinions, which is not entirely helpful. Family? Err, pass (although obvs love you all). What is needed is someone sufficiently removed from a situation to be able to offer the necessary impartiality and clarity.

Really, as on so many other occasions, I find the best thing to do is to stick on some music and wait to feel better. When it comes to solving dilemmas there are always one man’s words I’d choose above any other. Not just a great musician but an outstanding poet, Paul Simon is my go-to guy. He’s been there. He’s done it all. Granted, he may not always have the route fully mapped out, but, like a dog-eared and coffee-stained A-Z, I trust him to get us there eventually. Are his suggestions helpful? Not always. But will I feel better for listening? Absolutely. The following poem was written with this in mind, and even though the tone might suggest he doesn’t always have the answers, in truth just asking the questions is what really matters. So, whether the advice is what I really want to hear or not, I ask myself: What would Paul do?

Paul Simon Says*

To navigate these intricate pathways
And walk sure-footed along life’s maze
Is a challenge that tests all but a few.
So I sought out a guide, brought him along for the ride
Hoping his words would steer me true.  

Paul Simon says learn to fall before you fly
But how many stumbles before my wings stretch wide
And lift me to the higher ground?

Paul Simon says we share ceilings and floors
But has no wise words for me about unlocking doors
In these walls that surround.

Paul Simon says wear diamonds on your shoes
But jewel-strewn heels will surely bruise
And trainers are comfier when you’re homeward bound.

Paul Simon says we can rewrite the end
But life splintered in fragments is so hard to mend
And denying the obvious is easier, I’ve found. 

*Written for the Lipschtick poetry oracle project

Where’s my reset button? Or, the ideal Leap Year Day…


Being in the midst of particularly frenetic time at both work and home, it has only just come to my attention that this is in fact a Leap Year. That special once-every-four-years day when we get 24 whole extra hours to play with.  Not being especially scientifically minded, I gather that broadly speaking said extra day is to make up for the fact that rather inconveniently our Earth years do not equate to a precise number of days but instead thoughtlessly feel the need to spread into part of an extra one too. Poor organisation aside, the extra day gives the world a chance to catch up with itself. Reset, if you will.

So it seems only logical to me that the same should also apply to human civilisation too. We are frantically busy trying to keep up with the pace of modern life but all too often we find that we have lost ground without even really noticing it. We stop making headway and find ourselves slipping further and further behind. Clearly what is needed is a reset day.

This extra day, I feel, should absolutely not be just another normal working day. It shouldn’t be just an extra shift at work, or another day in the mundane household routine. It should instead be a chance to spend the day doing something you love, be it writing, photography, yoga or just catching up with friends. A sort of mini-Christmas, without all the stress of present buying and organising family visits. A day to take stock, to rediscover the things that really bring you pleasure and to remind yourself what really brings you your happy.

For me the reset day would be a chance to think about all the writing projects that are constantly buzzing round my head, to possibly come up with some semi-realistic goals and put in place some plans of how to achieve them. Then just luxuriate in the time to write for pleasure, instead of for work. Sheer bliss. That would be my ideal Leap Year Day.

Unfortunately I have not had mental efficiency to plan myself a reset day this Leap Year and will instead be working. I hope that you might manage something a little more inspiring and a lot more fun. Even if it’s just an hour to yourself, please, try and find the space to indulge. And, I promise, next Leap Year Day I will be doing the same and pressing my reset button. After all, I’ve got four years to plan it.

Writing gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are…


As aphorist Mason Cooley almost said.

There’s no doubt that reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures, especially when it comes to escapism. But what of writing? Stepping into an imaginary domain of your own creation, having the power to shape your own worlds and visit them any time you like? Surely there can be few better diversions when everyday life gets a bit grim. In your writing, at least, you can have some measure of control. A small chance of a happy ending.

Creative writing can indeed be welcome escapism but writing in other forms can also serve a useful purpose. Functional writing, be it spectacularly vitriolic poetry or angsty blogging, has the potential to make a hugely positive impact on the author. Let’s face it; there’s plenty of things we would all like to say that we don’t always have either the opportunity or the courage to do so.

The unsent letter is a popular therapeutic tool. There is no doubt that it can be incredibly cathartic to scribble down your innermost thoughts about something that is troubling you. Your reactions, responses, all those pithy one-liners you couldn’t quite think of in time when somebody said something upsetting or enraging. Putting it down on paper can be a good way to process an emotionally thorny issue. Not only can you get it all off your chest, metaphorically speaking, but writing allows you to take some time to marshal your thoughts. Less immediate than simple verbal expression, the enforced delay can assist when you need to attain clarity. Re-reading your words can help give perspective, suggest solutions or offer comfort you previously couldn’t see.

The key word is, of course, unsent. However, those of you who possess a similarly masochistic streak to myself know how hard that particular type of restraint is. Once your words are down, making sure the message is passed on to the person who has done wrong by you is very hard to resist, for all that you know it will just hurt you further. Getting your thoughts out into the ether is all very well but simply letting them float free, unfettered, without a target, does have an element of aimless resignation about it. As writers we want our words to have power. To mean something. To provoke a reaction, good or bad.

I would counsel you not to send such missives but that would be hypocritical of me. Does it work? And if you mean by work, heal me of my grievous wound? Hardly. But would I do it again? Absolutely. Having to say my piece, whatever the cost, is a lure I am always unable to resist.

I was once described as blunt yet healing. It was, I believe, supposed to be a compliment, although as I remarked at the time, I would prefer to be described as incredibly intelligent and sexy. As it later turned out, I am apparently too blunt and not sufficiently healing for this particular acquaintance. I think it, I say it. A lack of filter has always been one of my less appealing qualities. But then I am, as are we all, a work in progress.

So to that end, I say scribble away. Get it all out. Will you feel better? Possibly. Will you feel worse? Very likely. But at least you will feel.