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Boy Racer

Capri

Hi, I was once you and now I’m me.

I hear you before I see you, revving your engine, squealing your tyres, racing up the road just an inch off the car in front. I stand there shaking my head at you, disgusted at your speed and  disregard for the rules of the road.

I once commented on our local town Facebook page, something along the lines of “Who are these idiots tearing around the estate – they’re going to cause an accident”. Someone replied, possibly one of your friends “Weren’t you ever young once?” I’m sure it was supposed to be a rhetorical question and designed to wind me up further than I’d already wound myself, but the question took me by surprise.

Yes! Yes, I was young once. Yes, I did tear around in a car revving my engine, squealing my tyres, racing up the road just an inch off my friend in front. I’d forgotten! I’d forgotten what it was like to be young and full of energy and fun and life and vigour. When the slightest thing would excite me and set my adrenaline running. When I was an adrenaline junky and speed was my drug (mph not chemicals).

These days boy racers are in hot hatches, in my day we were in Capris, Cortinas and Escorts. But only the cars have changed. I remember feeling invincible. I remember feeling fully alert – far more alert than the old fuddy-duddies shaking their heads at us as we raced past. We used to reason that we were safer on the roads than the old folk because our reactions were faster and at the speed we were going we had to be fully aware of our surroundings.

We survived. Some of us. Through luck not brilliant driving. Nobody’s ever as good as they think they are. But we were young, we were arrogant and we were fairly skilled and very lucky.

As I’m older, I probably have lost some of my spark, but it’s not old age that’s worn it away: it’s experience. The experience of knowing a child who was accidentally killed by a “boy racer”. Having a relative killed on his motorbike. Seeing too many reports on the news. Being a parent and feeling the empathy with bereaved parents. You are a brilliant driver I’m sure, but sometimes other people make mistakes and your speed does not make allowances for this.

So, to the young man in the little blue car with smoked windows. I’m not going to shake my head or my metaphorical fist at you anymore. I’m going to understand how you feel, but I’m going to make a suggestion. The way you feel right now, so alive, so full of life, so excited at just being. So brim full of joy that you can’t help but race. Let me tell you that all this will be taken from you in a flash if you make just one mistake that ends a child’s life.

But … you DON’T have to stop racing. The racing adrenaline is inside you. Don’t fight it embrace it: Save your money, save the money you normally spend on fuel and tyres and fines and get yourself to a race circuit. Who knows, if you’re good enough maybe you could make a career out of it, or if not a career, certainly a hobby for life. You’ll meet so many other like-minded people, that instead of people wanting you to go slower, they’ll be cheering you on to go faster. Instead of a police fine, you’ll win prizes. Go for it. If you want it you can get it. Tell me when you get there – I’ll be cheering you on and wishing someone had told me to do this when I was your age. I’m excited for you.

Happy racing. Safe racing 😊 x

A retired “boy” racer.

Mixed Race! Well Who Isn’t If You Go Back Far Enough?

Have you ever wondered about your ancestors? Wondered what stories they would have to tell? Wondered what trials and tribulations they’ve endured? Wondered what they have excelled at?

More and more people are using ancestry websites to find out about their family, and every single one of my friends who has started researching their family background has uncovered a family secret! So I often wonder … Am I related to someone of importance? An inventor? A member of the Royal Family? Or am I related to a serial killer or famous fraudster?

A couple of years ago, my sister discovered that we are part Southeast Asian. It came as a complete surprise to me – I was born with blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin. We were trying to discover whether we had German or Scandinavian routes and discovered we have Southeast Asian routes!

What is ridiculous is that we never worked it out before. Our mum always complained when her photo was taken that smiling caused her eyes to narrow. She had dark skin, dark hair and was fairly small yet very athletic and flexible – all stereotypes of Southeast Asian women. It’s strange how you don’t really look at someone you see every day. She was just Mum.

Then we dug out a photo of her dad. A picture we’d seen many times before. He was little, with dark skin and similar shaped eyes.

My friend has already researched her family and was intrigued so she researched ours. The probable strand that came from Southeast Asia stopped in Ireland so she continued along my maternal grandfather’s mother’s path and ended up in 1708 in Orkney. Not only have I “out-northerned” all my friends (something to be very proud of when you’re a Northerner), but this means we almost definitely descended from Vikings!

I had already suspected the Viking strand for a long time, because I can’t eat ice-cream without getting a headache. I had read somewhere that Vikings have a thinner palate and therefore are more susceptible to brain freeze. Also my colouring suggested I may have descended from Vikings.

It gets more interesting, because my blood group is A rhesus negative. Apparently, according to the internet (so it must be true) A- blood combined with blue eyes means I am probably descended from Aliens!

So here I am, part Southeast Asian, part Viking, part Alien and part probably many other races too!

So when I hear the racists’ battle cry “go back to your own country”, which country shall I go to? I don’t yet know which part of Southeast Asia my Southeast Asian ancestor came from, but we have deduced s/he stopped off at Ireland on the way to England so shall I go there? The ancestors from Orkney and Shetland were settled there for several generations, shall I go there? What about the fact that they were more than likely Vikings – shall I go back to Scandinavia? Which country in Scandinavia? Does a planet count as a country? I really have no clue which planet my Alien ancestors came from or whether it still exists – what if it doesn’t exist? Oh this is a pickle!

There’s a strong possibility that people who look a lot less “English” than me are more English than me. Oh dear, I really don’t think the racists have thought this far enough through … what if THEY’RE not 100% English? Should they send themselves back?

So many questions, so few answers, but I think I have a solution. It’s a bit wild and wacky and far out but, bear with me … how about we all just leave each other alone and get on with our own lives! It can’t be that hard can it?

I’m off to make some green, sweet n sour, ice cream 😊 #mixedrace #mixedcultures #mixedfoods

alien 1

Here Lies Rachel Coverdale

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Recently, I took my life in my hands: I went to “The Big City”. I’m just a country lass and although I always enjoy London when I get there, I still get a bit intimidated by its sheer size and all the terrible murders Sherlock Holmes has to solve. Therefore, I was a little anxious as I climbed aboard The Grand Central train on Tuesday.

The journey down was fine – 2.5 hours of reading “Gone” by Michael Grant just flew by. I got to London and blended in by walking fast with my head down. It’s actually quite a skill and I feel like I’m picking it up really quickly. It should be an Olympic sport. Proud that I knew my way to The Tube, I headed straight down and inhaled the stale air that came gushing up to meet me. I then stared gormlessly at the map trying to work out which line I needed to be on. This is where my disguise failed and I was exposed as a Northern country bumpkin. I tried to ask people for help, but they were all rushing around with their heads down and I couldn’t make any eye contact. Then I remembered – eye contact is illegal in London.

Eventually I found someone whose job it is to speak to foreigners like me. She gave me three instructions in a row; I followed the first two instructions and then asked again for the third. Blending in like a Londoner again, I rushed down the left hand side of escalators, overtaking the mildly rushing commuters and keeping up with the excessively rushing commuters – I was in the pro league! I made it to Liverpool Street and then rushed onto the tube for Bethnal Green feeling very smug at the way I entered quickly but casually just as the doors were closing. Honestly, I was blending in so well I could easily be an undercover spy for North Yorkshire.

The tube set off and I’ve never heard such an horrific noise in my life. Well actually I have, but only on horror-action movies. You know when a bomb throws a bus onto its side and it scrapes along the road forever, making a horrible loud metallic screeching noise? Well imagine that louder and screechier! It was horrendous. I no longer looked at the ground. My knuckles were white as I clung to the rail. I glanced around at the other passengers. I thought, I’m in one of those moments when complete strangers all bond and pull together in an emergency. Nobody looked up. The screeching got louder. I held on tighter. Nobody looked up. The noise quietened slightly and I reflected on the fact that this tube wasn’t “tube shaped” like all other tubes I’d ever seen or ever ridden on. It was more hexagon shaped – squared off rather than rounded and looked like it was probably too old for safe service. Suddenly the screeching started again – long and protracted. I was pretty sure something was terribly wrong. I started to think about the last conversation I had with my husband:

Me: I’m worried about going to London. (How prophetic!)

Hubby: It’s just a city like any other city with good areas and bad areas. Where are you going?

Me: Bethnal Green.

Hubby: Oh! That’s where The Kray Twins are from!

Well that memory hadn’t helped at all. Even if I survived the horror tube journey, I was going to be horrifically murdered when I got off.

This was the point I began to think of my epitaph for my grave.

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved wife and mother.

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved wife, mother and grandma.

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved daughter, wife, mother and grandma

But one day my grandchildren will have children. Graves don’t get updated so should I put that part down now?

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved daughter, wife, mother, grandma and great grandma.

But where would it stop? The great grandchildren will have children too and what about the fact that I’m my grandparents’ granddaughter?

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved granddaughter, daughter, wife, mother, grandma, great grandma and great great grandma.

Maybe it would be easier to just say ancestor and descendant? But what about my brother and sister – they haven’t been acknowledged. My friends haven’t either.

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved descendant, ancestor, wife, sibling and friend.

Now unlike Frank Sinatra, I don’t have regrets. There are plenty of things I would do differently if I had my time again, but I don’t really have regrets. In fact, my life has been extremely colourful – to the point that I often hold back on some stories because I simply don’t think anyone would believe them. If I wrote them as a fiction story, people would think some of the events were too far-fetched or exaggerated. Every mistake I’ve made has become an adventure or as Grandma used to say “it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry”. That’s it settled then.

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved descendant, ancestor, wife, sibling and friend.
Her life was her best story.

No doubt Bethnal Green would turn out to be another one of my dramatic adventures.  Talking of which, why wasn’t I at Bethnal Green yet? And then I realised … I was going the wrong way. The tube scraped to a stop and I literally jumped out and ran across to the opposite platform and straight into another train; smooth like an assassin chasing down their victim. I hoped it was going in the opposite direction and I hoped it wasn’t going to kill me.

The tube set off with the same unmistakable screech. I tightened my grip on the hand rail. Nobody looked up. I looked down and awaited my fate. Eventually, with my nerves in tatters, I reached Bethnal Green. It looked scary. It looked like the type of place notorious gangsters would hang out. I crossed the tiny park and walked up the steps to the old run down Victorian building which claimed to be the address I was going to. The paint was peeling off the door and for a moment I hesitated and thought I’d just spend this month’s wages on a taxi straight back home. Then two little robins and a sparrow hopped out from under the bush next to the door and I thought, surely you wouldn’t get lovely little birds outside a murderer’s house? I banged on the door with forced confidence and …

It was the right place and the meeting went ahead as planned. I was almost disappointed not to be fighting off some East End gangsters. Almost …

Are you as brave as a toddler?

Spring is just around the corner and parents all over the country can’t wait to release their tightly coiled toddlers into the garden! Many, quite wisely, haven’t waited for Spring and have been throwing them out into the garden, parks and mountains all winter. After all, so long as they’re wrapped up warm, it’s definitely worth it. I know it’s the only thing that keeps some parents sane.

Parents have the choice of a) staying in doors where it’s nice and warm, kettle is in arm’s reach, fridge just below it, TV is waiting to entertain, there’s a soft, warm, dry sofa to sit on, the house is cosy but … there are three wild bipeds bursting your ear drums as they scream like mandrakes, running round your legs, between your legs, up the walls, across the ceilings, swinging from the light fittings, destroying everything in their path OR b) go out into the bracing wind, trudge waist high through mud, get side swiped by sharp tree branches you couldn’t see due to trying to turn your head away from the driving rain and hail, almost fainting with hunger and busting for a wee but … your three little cherubs are being all cute hunting for pretty leaves or animal footprints and shouting baa at the cows and moo at the horses.

As you might have gathered, we’ve been out doors all winter, but I never fail to be amazed at just how brave our little ones are. Yes, it could be argued that they’re naive or just plain stupid. But how much of a superhero do you need to be to put your face up to a 5’ cow when you’re less than 3’ tall? Imagine patting a dog that is bigger than you? Fancy swinging on a rickety piece of wood that takes you to four times your own height! Or sliding yourself off the equivalent of a small building and straight away running up to do it again!

Our devilish darlings are the ultimate action adventure heroes and we should be encouraging their wild and reckless behaviour for as long as it lasts. I’m sure all our wonderful representatives at the Winter Olympics are just big toddlers who never learnt fear as they grew up.

The beauty of taking your littlies outdoors are endless: you remain sane, they take in fresh healthy air, exercise increasing strength and stamina, build a good appetite and better absorb nutrients, feel joyful and invigorated, they sleep better, their eyesight develops better with changing from looking close up to looking over distances, their skin and hair improves due to the better blood circulation, this also develops their brains better, they develop problem solving skills and practice being brave and facing fears … the list goes on.

In fact, not only does the list go on but the benefits continue long after the outdoor session is over. I’ve sat in countless training sessions and school assemblies where it has been pointed out that many children with bad behaviour and/or poor grades are giving in to fear: fear of failure. It’s a brave person who sits a test and tries their hardest even though they know they may well fail. It would be much easier to not try then there’s no shame in failure – no proof you couldn’t do it.

So, what happens as our children grow up? When they’re toddlers, it doesn’t matter how many times they face plant when trying to walk, they just keep trying until they can do it. It doesn’t matter how many times they stick the spoonful of porridge in their eye and their ear, they just keep trying until they can do it. Why then as they reach their teenage years, do so many give up and not try?

I think I have the answer. When your toddler fell on their face did you tell them they’d just scored a pathetic 9%? Did you tell them if they didn’t succeed you’d not let them watch TV? Did you compare them to another toddler the same age who didn’t face plant half as often?

When they tried to draw a picture of a dog, did you point out that it looked more like an egg and had too many legs? Did you tell them to keep doing it again and again until they got it right?

No. What we did was ignore every fail and encourage every success. We never scored them or compared them, so they felt safe to keep trying. They didn’t understand that not succeeding meant failing. For many years, it wasn’t until Year 11 that they really felt that danger of failure, and for many of them, they’d been so positively encouraged up to that time, that it gave them strength to go on. Now, due to SATs testing we are teaching our Year 6s that they have the potential to be failures. Shockingly, our Year 2s also have that experience. The fleeting feeling of freedom, safety to explore, try and enjoy will be thoroughly stamped out of them before they turn 8 years old.

So, what can we do about it? Well I can blog on here, we can shake our heads, roll our eyes and tut, we can sign campaigns to get the government to scrap all SATs. But in the meantime, let’s get our children out in the fresh air, encourage them, love them and support them, so that they will always feel brave: as brave as a toddler no matter how old they get.

20170305_112606Fun ideas to encourage our ankle-biters to play out:

  • Hunt for animal footprints or signs of animal homes
  • Collect pretty leaves
  • Build a den
  • Touch insects and invertebrates
  • Splash in puddles
  • Roll down hills
  • Make a pattern out of pretty stones
  • Make a mud pie
  • Play animal bingo
  • Hunt for Easter eggs (can be decorated boiled eggs)
  • Go Geocaching

Scientists or Wizards?

I’m lucky enough to be married to a wizard. He often comes home from work and tries to explain to me why the different potions he mixed in his cauldron turned into magical roof coatings, but the science part of my brain is under-developed and it quickly starts to melt, so he sighs and agrees “yes it’s magic.”

I’d love to be a wizard. What must it be like to open kitchen cupboards and fridges, take random pieces of food and wizardy-wizardy-woo them into a fabulous meal?

To me, my lack of scientific knowledge means nothing is impossible and I’m sure that’s the first step to being a wizard. Once upon a time, simple humans thought once you’d seen something happen, you’d never be able to see it again. Then some bright wizard invented film! A couple of hundred years ago, we couldn’t imagine travelling from Edinburgh to London in less than 4 weeks and then some clever wizard came along and invented the train. Now it’s only about four hours. Thanks to SpaceX there’s a strong chance we could be reaching Sydney in that time in the not too distant future!

Therefore, I think it is perfectly feasible that one day, people will be able to see and hear things that happened in the past, possibly hundreds of years ago, before recording equipment had been invented. I’m convinced that everything we say near wood or stone is somehow imprinted into the natural material and we just need to find a way of extracting that information, then we’ll be able to hear what the cavemen were saying, when they were carving buffalo pictures into the cave walls.

This causes me a problem when I walk over the stone bridge in our town. I often use dry sarcasm (I know – the lowest sense of wit) when speaking. For example, when I was dropping my son off at school this morning, we were almost late because we hit every red light. After one set I commented “how dare that woman use the traffic lights to keep her little child safe as she crosses the road – doesn’t she know we need to get to school?” Then I realised we were driving over the stone bridge so I had to say out loud “sorry – just a pathetic attempt at humour”.

My son thinks I’m a little odd, but in a hundred or thousand years, he’ll realise I was right. Thanks to a future wizard, we’ll be able to eve’s drop on Dick Turpin’s gang as they hid in the Royal Forest of Waltham and we’ll be able to watch dinosaurs making their dens in caves.  Nothing is impossible. Bookmark this blog – I know I’m right!

caveman