I do my best thinking while driving. I drive a Fiat Panda.

Archive for the category “Parenting stuff”

B is for Busy… also for ‘I’m Back!’

I’ve been away.

I’ve Been a Bad Blogger (Because I’ve Been very Busy)

A long time ago (or so it seems), I started this blog initially to record family events, so there would be a record of some of life’s significant moments, especially considering how fast children grow up. These next few photos show in a quick snapshot how quickly they’ve grown, from a few randomly selected Januaries.


Liam (grade 3) and Matthew (grade 1), first day of school, January 2014


Liam (grade 5) and Matthew (grade 3), first day of school, January 2016


January 2017


School begins, January 2018 – Liam now wearing the coveted grade 7 blazer, Matthew in grade 5


After starting out as a mommy blogger, my recording of life’s significant moments morphed a bit and extended itself into the inclusion of other things. Inspiration and energy struck quite randomly sometimes, including an early entry when I flexed my blogging muscles on my enduring fascination with sharks (still so much to say on that note! but I’ll contain my enthusiasm, at least for now).

The point was, though, that I enjoyed writing my blog and putting down my thoughts – which sometimes struck me quite out of the blue. It was so lovely to have a platform on which I wasn’t asked to present ‘the precis version’ – and for those of my friends who need to be hanging their heads in shame here, you know who you are… (she said, sternly)

And so the anguished cry goes up: “Where have you been?”

One, two, three… cue anguished cries.



Thank you, that’s better.

I realised that I just got busy. But this is a shameful excuse for someone with a blog.

And I have new things to say now, which shouldn’t be surprising to those who know me…

But being the neat freak that I am (which again shouldn’t be surprising to those who know me), I can’t post new thoughts until I’ve taken care of some two years or so of silence – dead air, in radio terms.

So here is the longest blog entry I’ve ever written, broken into three or maybe four parts (I don’t know yet quite how long it will be!) and dedicated to my family, especially my beloved children, Liam and Matthew, who grow taller and smarter and nicer and cuter every time I turn around.

With love and hugs from your mom

…who loves you more than the sun, moon and stars…


…even when life is Busier than she would like it to be.


So let’s update the record a bit.


All about Being Busy

Here we go: back to mid-2015

I last wrote a blog entry in February 2017, but even before that I hadn’t been posting as much as I wanted to anyway. I’m now going to post lots of photos to remind me and mine of some interesting, significant and even just slightly obscure moments that took place in the past. Just because I can. It’s my blog, after all.

Speaking of obscure: that first time your child sneaks your mobile phone to quietly take a selfie can be really funny. Here are Liam and Matthew, then in grade 4 and 2 respectively, in some totally odd selfie moments in my car in July and August 2017. I wasn’t there at the time – possibly chatting to my mom after the early-evening pick-up from her house – and so was most surprised to find these later. (There were many more, but here are three of the good ones) As you can see, Liam is the ringleader and Matthew pops up from a safe position in the background. This is quite a good visual metaphor for how they operate in general, actually…


Stealing mom’s camera – Liam is trying to work out how to do this, and Matthew’s little face pops up in the background


Now Liam is trying to get clever, and Matthew is amused


I’ve chosen to post this one specifically to embarrass them when they each turn 21…


This next photo shows the time I won the till-slip competition at our local Pick n Pay. A R1,000 grocery voucher is never to be sneezed at! Here are the children and I up on the wall of the Northcliff corner PnP in August 2015. Wow, that seems a long time ago… Liam and Matthew were then aged ten and just turned eight. We’d been going through some tough times, so the unexpected financial gift was really welcome.

Fame at last


August 2015 was a projects month. Liam was involved in creating a grade 4 project on electricity, which his dad helped him with, while I helped with the artwork. In a separate grade 2 project, Matthew sold soda floats, and here again we had fun with the poster. I’d only recently discovered the joys of metallic acrylic paint, so we used it as much as we possibly could, as you might notice.

August projects – Matthew is still so small that he forgets sometimes about the need to show his face in a photo while showcasing his artwork


August projects – ah, there you are, Mattie!


This blog story would be incomplete if I didn’t mention our visits to our local Ocean Basket, where we love to enjoy sushi and chats. Liam and Matthew – my little sophisticates – have enjoyed sushi and been able to use chopsticks pretty well since they were quite small. The waitresses at our local Ocean Basket adore them.

It’s been one of my children’s favourite restaurants for a while now – sometimes it has even beaten the local Spur into second place! When we go there, we catch up with each other in a way that is easier sometimes than at home, and laugh a lot, especially if Liam is doing one of his famous Doc Martin impersonations. (As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog entry, in our house we are big fans of the British TV series starring the good but very grumpy doctor.)


Here is Matthew waiting for his sushi…


And Liam also. So happy! Yay! Sushi!


I’m just posting this second pic of Matthew waiting for sushi because I think he looks adorable in it. I am a mommy blogger after all!


Hmmmm. Is it Liam or is it Doc Martin?


Can you spot the real Doc Martin?


Here’s an amusing photo (well, I think so): It’s December 2015 and if you look very closely you can spot my car in the work car park, back when I was based in Sandton. This was my favourite parking spot – even though there was a vicious wind that blew through the area in winter – because it was a bit away from everyone else and close to the stairwell. Here you can see the famous Panda – after which my blog is named – flanked by slightly bigger cars.

She really is very small and dainty, my Panda. I do love her. The only thing that would easily replace her in my affections is a vintage convertible MG, in British racing green.

The famous Panda, just a tiny bit smaller than the other cars

This same December (2015) was the year the children’s TV arrived for Christmas, and Santa Claus, aided by his elves Jean and Anthony who were visiting from Australia, brought a ‘voucher’ so we could go away for a couple of days. The boys also received a blow-up shark and dolphin for pool time, and new masks and snorkels (clever Santa). The voucher was just for the three of us, as Frank unfortunately was needed elsewhere. I wanted to take the boys away for a short break, because it was also the first Christmas after my dad’s death on 28 October 2015, and we were all still a bit raw.

Liam, then aged 10, was aware of the real identity of Santa Claus this year – he came and asked me a direct question that needed a direct answer – but Matthew (8) remained deep in the Santa Zone. And so that December, Liam enjoyed being a Big Kid and sent me knowing looks every time Santa’s name came up in conversation…


Christmas Eve December 2015 with Vincent the cat, and a Christmas Bear (Matthew is wondering when Santa will arrive)

The next day, the new TV for their bedroom had arrived – they’re still a little overwhelmed here

Happy children getting used to their new stuff – no longer quite so overwhelmed

Spot the Vincent cat… always where the action is!

And then soon after Christmas it was time to go away for a couple of days, and play and relax.


It was a nice pool, and just behind them is a jacuzzi, which was a real hit


Mom is just parking off and taking the required selfie to prove that she was there

Watching the children play pool was amusing. Liam takes it very seriously and Matthew slightly less so, which I suppose is also a reflection of their attitudes towards life in general. To be honest, they make up their own pool rules quite a lot (which also involves a bit of discussion at ad hoc moments).

Good shot! Or was it? It depends on the rules…

Discussing the new rules…

Matthew likes to dance while he plays pool


Liam does not dance during such times; not Good Form

This will be good for geometry studies later on

It was a lovely break and I was a little sad to go home. But 2016 was beckoning, so we loaded up the Panda and headed home.

Matthew hidden under the blow-up dolphin


Liam hidden under the blow-up shark

This time around, the dolphin and the shark were out of the Christmas packaging that they’d arrived in at the hotel, so packing the car was interesting. My Panda really is very small…

But she takes us to different places on minimal petrol and turns on a dime. I can also park her in places that don’t look like a parking space to drivers of bigger vehicles – I really do love her!

And I also do some of my best thinking in her when I’m on my own, while my children and I have had some amazing chats in her while we’ve been en route around town.

I guess this blog – sporadic as it is sometimes – would likely not exist without my Panda. So hurray for her! She gave me a vehicle to write from. See what I did there?


To be continued into 2016…/more in my next blog entry

Going to the gypsy fair

My boys are slightly annoyed with me at the moment. I recently changed the CD in the Panda when they weren’t looking, which caused a certain amount of consternation.

For now, it’s au revoir American rock, in the form of Journey and Steve Perry’s famously-ranging tones…

steve perry journey


…and hello to Irish rock and soul band Hothouse Flowers and the heartfelt vocals of Liam Ó Maonlaí. Life is about change and variety after all, is it not?

Liam Hothouseflowers


I tried to tell this to my children, politely and diplomatically, but they weren’t impressed. My response was to be greeted by two very mulish little faces. Ah well, they’re only ten and eight, and to their great credit they really do like the music of Journey.

When diplomacy didn’t work I simply reminded them that it is, actually, Mom’s taxi. Therefore, Mom’s music rules, she has final veto powers and she will turn bear-ish if pushed too far.

polar bear

(I know – I’ll tell Liam that this new lead singer shares his name! Maybe that will impress him.)

Anyway, that was a short while ago. We’ve since had a few instances when the CD was sneakily changed back to Journey when I wasn’t looking, but we managed to keep these at ‘instance’ level and not ‘international incident’ level.

So now the boys are starting to thaw just a little, having finally permitted themselves to discover a couple of tracks that they actually like.

My own current favourite Hothouse Flowers track, during my drives in my Panda, beckons sweetly and enticingly of running away from current responsibilities:

bareback horse

Blazing eyes, bareback horses
And a redhead smile
I’m tempted strongly, strongly tempted
By the call of the wild

Going to the gypsy fair
I’m gonna find some freedom there
I wanna dance ’til I don’t care
At the gypsy fair.

Because, you know, sometimes a girl just likes to dream of a brief hiatus with no responsibilities for a while. However, that’s not on the cards just yet, and so I will look for other inspiration from my desk area at the office, where I have an image stuck up that reminds me to ‘Look up, get up and never give up’.

But I think I could be allowed to permit myself one heartfelt sigh before I get back to work. And then I’ll put my nose once more to the grindstone, with just one proviso: every now and then, I plan to look out of the window and dream of the time when I will be free to go to the gypsy fair.

And I will dance till I don’t care.

dancing gypsy


Precedent setting

“Mommy,” said Matthew, gracing me with his most winning smile and then flinging his arms affectionately around me, “Can I please have a three-day birthday this year also? Like Liam did? Pleeeeeeeaaase?”

He was, of course, harking back to what had turned out to be our three-day birthday celebrations for his big brother a few months before. I noted with some interest that Matthew was also admirably demonstrating his solid grasp of the concept of ‘setting a precedent’.

Considering that he was turning only seven, I thought this was quite sussed. Not entirely unique – I think all children who are over three and have siblings pretty much get the concept. It lurks under the umbrella of general fairness, usually prefaced with remarks like, “Well, he/she has already got an XYZ and so I think you should buy me one also otherwise it’s not faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrr.”

My real reason for being amused at Matthew’s understanding of precedent-setting lay mainly in how he’d presented his request.

Frank and I have long been aware of Matthew’s uncanny ability to turn on the cuteness factor when he wants to get his own way. We believe he went to a charm school for babies when we weren’t looking.


Matthew sunglasses

We have no idea where he gets it from but when he wants to be, he is a winning flirt. This includes flirting, as may be required, with his parents.

Under the circumstances, we had no option but to acquiesce. It did seem only fair. We were slightly disadvantaged in accommodating Matthew in that Liam’s birthday had fallen this year on a public holiday, and I’d then been obliged to take two days leave from work straight after that because it was school holidays. And thus had occurred the ‘three-day birthday’.

So, in the absence of a convenient public holiday for our second-born, we started a few days early with Matthew. The weekend before his birthday we went to Bambanani to spend his birthday voucher. Once again the children ate spare ribs (not an everyday treat).

So all good.

Then came his actual birthday on a normal weekday, and cupcakes went to the school to be shared out among classmates and teachers. Presents, of course, were also given out in the morning before school, the big one being the PSP. We didn’t really have an option here: Liam had been given a PSP four months previously and there was no way that this particular gift could NOT be repeated for Matthew.

Happiness is… both your children engrossed in their portable electronic games while their parents get to read books/chat/catch up with chores/watch favourite TV programmes without being interrupted by the sound of piping voices from the small beings in the house.

And then, on the Friday afternoon after his birthday, Matthew, big brother and some of his friends went to play battle games. After putting on a cool jacket over the child’s normal clothes, the aim is to shoot laser guns at each other in a dark maze-like place that I personally find to be claustrophobic and frightening, but then I’m a girl so I suppose I have an excuse. (Apparently this game has been around for years and years but I missed it because I was perennially reading.)

WorldDominator and DeathStar

Code names like ‘Armageddon’, ‘World Dominator’ and ‘Death Star’ (well, something along those lines) are given out and you can watch the children climb up the rankings of the games on screens outside the Battle Zone. The birthday package includes three games in total, each lasting 15 minutes. Besides a brief scare during which Matthew skidded and fell onto his laser gun while running gleefully out of the second session because he was so pleased with his performance, all was, thankfully, incident-free.

incident free

After the Battle Zone, eight happy small boys plus assorted parents and family members then moved on to a nearby restaurant for the pizza and birthday cake part of the birthday celebration.

This included handing out a small gift for each child in the form of a brilliantly simply flying object resembling early helicopter dynamics, apparently based on a long-ago Da Vinci invention.

Well, actually, this particular theory is absolute surmise on my part, but the 21st century’s ability to borrow from the past in the name of reinventing the wheel never ceases to amaze me. Just look at how legwarmers and clogs occasionally pop up again, albeit briefly, and don’t get me started on the bubble skirt (and really – who would EVER have predicted that?).

So in between munching on pizza, pasta and birthday cake, a happy time was held by all children while they played with their unidentified Da Vinci-esque objects in a safe place outside.

birthday cake Matthew

And so the birthday party officially ended shortly afterwards, and I was very grateful that the next day was Saturday and I could have a bit of a lie-in and relax, in the sure knowledge that all parental birthday duties were now over – and, moreover, fairly executed.

“Mommy,” said Matthew early the next morning, when I was still waking up, “you know how I’m having a three-day birthday this year like Liam did? I still have one more day to go…”

He said this while flashing me his most winning smile, and while I was still a bit vulnerable and not quite compos mentos.

“Okay, my love,” I said absentmindedly.

“…Wait a minute!” shouted my brain synapses as they finally started firing on all cylinders again. “Oy! We have actually fulfilled the mandate here!”

So nice try, little man. I am NOT setting a precedent for a four-day birthday celebration next year.

Unless it begins with mine.




A feast of birthdays or a birthday feast?

Happy belated birthday Liam!

I haven’t written for a long time (clearly). Since my close encounter with rock stardom, as described in my last entry, Liam has turned nine years old and we celebrated for what seemed like about a week, although it was really only three days.

The Monday of his actual birthday was a public holiday, so we were able to go out for sushi as a family (the sushi was the birthday boy’s request). I am always so proud when my children use their chopsticks. Such little sophisticates!

On Tuesday, I took a day’s leave and the boys and I went off to Bambanani, where the little gourmands then chose to tuck into spare ribs.

Wednesday was the really big day: another day’s leave for me and I took five little boys to the games arcade and then a third birthday meal. It was a bit like herding cats, only significantly more difficult.

Imagine: I stayed cool, calm and collected throughout. My occasional alter-ego, Shouting Mommy, was nowhere to be found. I am quite proud of this.


incredibles mom and dash

But it was worth every moment, not to mention every rand spent on every ride and electronic diversion. I have never seen such joy on a child’s face as when my birthday boy and his friends came off what I can only describe as the ‘disco-ball bumper cars ride’.

Matthew spinning

For this, you must imagine five little boys riding around on circular hovercrafts, complete with their own individual controls that could move the hovercrafts not only in any desired trajectory, but which could also make them spin on their own axes.


Matthew spinning fast


Matthew spin grin

Add in flashing lights on the floor and loud music, as well as the stated purpose of barging into all your friends as often as possible for five whole minutes, and you can imagine the delighted squeals and giggles.


hovercraft bang


Little boys, when given access to a collective hearts’ desire like this, do indeed giggle and squeal.

I am stating this for the record while my boys are nine and six, and plan to remind them of this fact should they get uppity with me in the future, after their voices have broken and they’ve started shaving.

But back to when Liam turned nine.

Restaurant-wise, the children then deigned to lower their standards a tiny bit and we hit the Spur for a late lunch/early supper, where burgers were the order of the day.

At this point, I’d invited my friend Anne to join me in a glass or two of wine. She accepted my invitation most graciously – even though it was the Spur, where the waiters break out into odd line dances around the restaurant from time to time – for which I was very grateful. I was starting to feel Shouting Mommy stirring in her sleep and I wanted to keep her in her box for the day and not come out and spoil things.



And on Thursday, with the three-day birthday celebration over, I went back to work for a comparative rest. But the look on my little birthday boy’s face will stay with me for a long time.


Birthday boy smiling

Now, if I could only work shorter days and spend more time with my children and more time writing… that would be a dream come true.

Working on it, dear readers. It’s in the three-year plan.


Mantra for the month

If I judge myself on my time-keeping, I often score a C-.

If I judge myself on what I achieve in a day, I am an A +++, over-achieving super-hero.


Come to think of it… I am a working mother.

I am always a super-hero.





Warm regards



First day of school

From: Panda’s work name 

Sent: 20 January 2014 10:14 AM
To: Panda’s boss
Cc: Panda’s neighbours at the next-door desks
Subject: First day of school


Hello Boss  (And copying my office ‘neighbours’, and Other Office Mom, for whom this all awaits)

Thanks very much for letting me take a half day this afternoon and work from home this morning. The photos show why. As you can see Matthew is beaming from ear to ear at having now officially started Grade 1!

Liam and Matthew 20Jan14

You will all be very pleased to know that I got my children the last two pairs of brown school shoes in Woolworths Cresta that could fit them.

When I went to Edgars initially, all confident-like of a quick in and out, tick-that-box and move on to the next school requirement I had to sort out, I went dizzy and faint for a second (okay slight exaggeration) when the Edgars assistant told me very sadly that due to some horrible error, Edgars Cresta had not received a single pair of brown boys’ school shoes.  Only black.

I squeaked in horror, “Do you have any idea how much business Edgars is losing right now?” and he shook his head in sad acknowledgement. I trust that somewhere in the Edgars supply chain there is a headless body sitting at its computer frantically trying to prevent a final written warning from being issued…

Anyway it was a very close thing.  But we now have school shoes and all the other bits of required uniform, as well as stationery, lunch boxes, school bags, stationery boxes duly art-worked (okay I’m an over-achiever)…. It is all Done with a capital d.

Matthew 20Jan14

So all good. Proud Mom now signing off and getting back to work. Less stressful, come to think of it…

See you all tomorrow!


Linda and Ralph in St Peter's Square

As I look back

Through a lifetime of memories

I see how you gave me

The strength and abilities

To grow into myself

Like an earthbound creature

Growing its wings

Pegasus beautfiful

And as my return gift to you

I shall make sure

With every fibre of my being

That I, too,

Will teach my children

– your grandchildren –

How to grow their wings

And also learn to fly.

Liam and Matthew Heinke

Asimbonanga for Madiba

Here is my tribute to Nelson Mandela – first published July 2012.

The world will remember the date you left us: 5 December 2013.

Rest in peace: great man, great humanitarian, humble human being. 


All the colours of the rainbow (and the healing power of music)

My children are colour-blind.

It’s awesome.

In this still-fledgeling democracy that is South Africa today, 18 years after the country queued, and queued, and queued some more to cast its vote in the first democratic elections, my children are colour-blind.

It is a great joy to me.

They do not see black, white, pink, purple or green – only their circles of friends. And in this world of theirs, all ‘colours’ of the rainbow are equal, with the possible exception of real-life pink for Liam, who wrinkles up his nose and tells me in his little gruff voice that ‘pink is for girls mom!’.

And my boys can dance, also.


Who says white boys can’t dance?

I watched the children covertly the other night while I was in and out of the kitchen preparing dinner. Liam and Matthew were in the lounge where I’d introduced them to a Johnny Clegg CD – he who is known as ‘the white Zulu’ – and they’d loved the music instantly. They swayed, they stomped, they moved to the beat and they felt the rhythm.

I was so proud.

They’d discovered ‘Asimbonanga’ as their track of choice, and they played it over and over again. They know it practically off by heart now, including most of the isiZulu.

The song stirs up such memories for me. It was one of the anthems of my youth, when as a sheltered young adult I first learned – properly – about the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the great Madiba, who was incarcerated as a political prisoner for 27 years. At the time I first got to know the song, Madiba was still some years away from his release from his island prison, Robben Island off Cape Town.

My friends and I went to quite a few concerts where Johnny Clegg played, first with Juluka and later with Savuka. He and his early-rainbow nation brothers and sisters sang and danced their hearts out, and whenever they performed ‘Asimbonanga’, the emotion in the room was always tangible and always running high – but in a good way.

There we were, crowds of young, mainly white youth in an apartheid South Africa that was not of our making, and there as Johnny sang we fell silent, swaying with one movement, arms uplifted, cigarette lighters lit in that universal music concert’s peace sign.

There we linked arms, minds and souls as we listened, united, to the haunting melody and the even more haunting words. There we remembered, through the song, fallen heroes of the struggle, black and white, male and female. There we were united in understanding and a yearning for peace, even if we couldn’t speak isiZulu. Somehow, we knew what the words meant in their very essence, deep down in our core.

There at those Johnny Clegg concerts, we were part of the fore-runner of the dream of a rainbow nation that has almost come to pass.

Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina (We have not seen Mandela)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona (In the place where he is kept)

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water


A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me?


Steven Biko, Victoria Mxenge
Neil Aggett
Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina (we have not seen our brother)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’wafela khona (In the place where he died)
Hey wena (Hey you!)
Hey wena nawe (Hey you and you as well)
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona (When will we arrive at our destination) 

And as I listen again to these inspirational and haunting words, I ask myself when, indeed, will we arrive at the destination we were all looking for in those days of dreaming? The days when we voted with our hearts and our souls for a united rainbow country?

I ask myself:

When will the children be educated as they were promised?

When will the women and children be free from the scourge of rape and murder?

When will government corruption and ineptitude be punished?

When will politicians who lie, cheat and steal acknowledge their guilt and tell the nation, “Yes, I made a mistake. Yes, I was wrong. Yes, I will make amends. Yes, I will step down”?

When will nurses and policemen and teachers be properly paid, properly trained, properly mindful of their hugely important role in this fledgeling democracy of ours? 

When will the taxi and bus industries, which transport millions of people every day, be better regulated so that we are not outraged on a daily and weekly basis by stories of horror motor crashes that kill and maim innocent people?

When will motorists stop shooting their cars recklessly through bright scarlet traffic lights, endangering the lives of law-abiding citizens?

When will motorists start buckling up their children in car seats?

When will we adopt a culture of kindness to animals?

When will….

I must stop before I descend into mere ranting.

I must look on the bright side. I was not made to ignore the silver linings.

I must remember that the voice of the people is growing – yes, I do believe so. Think about the outrage around the e-tolling saga; think about the outrage around Nkandla (God BLESS Thuli Madonsela!); think about the journalists and satirists and yes, even businessmen who speak out – and out – and out some more despite legislative attempts to gag them.

Think about the good initiatives that take place in South Africa, led by business, led by the media, led by the medical industry, led by private individuals.

Think about the Madiba legacy – the magic that was his; the magic that pulled a country back from the brink of civil war; the magic that can still be if we only look for it and better yet, create it.

Think about it.

Think about the children of South Africa as they play together on playgrounds that are all the colours of the rainbow nation.

Think about it.

And then do a little spot of rainbow magic Madiba singing and dancing, by order of the great man himself.

Oh, oh, oh to have been there….

Hey wena!

Yes, you.

And me.

And you, and you, and you…

Let’s work together to arrive at our intended destination after all.

Let’s blind South Africa with all the colours and all the hope of the rainbow.

Think about it.

Then do.

Comfort from the Narnia Chronicles

Well, 2013 has been – in places – a bit rough so far. But nonetheless, those rays of sunshine do, and must, peek through.

A few months ago, I took enormous pleasure reading ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ to the boys every night, skimming over the difficult parts very fast (like the events on the Stone Table with Aslan and the White Witch and her dreadful menagerie), and then we watched the movie all as a family one weekend (skimming even faster over the events at the Stone Table).

So this past weekend, after a satisfying little outing of sushi…

sushi with Liam and Matthew smaller

…the boys and I went to the book store up the road, where I found another Narnia book to read to them (I really do want a complete box set one day).

However, back at home, once we’d begun our bedtime story that night, we all realised that ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ wasn’t the next one in the sequence of Edmund and Lucy’s Narnia adventures after ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. So Liam and Matthew decided that they would rather put reading it on hold until we found the next one that featured Edmund and Lucy (it seems to be ‘Prince Caspian’), and they said we should stay in the sequence. I thought it was very mature of them to exhibit this delayed gratification.

What they don’t yet know is that I have been far less mature myself, because I started reading ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ surreptitiously on my own. (I can’t let them know – there would be howls of outrage!)

Dawn Treader book

And in this lovely book of adventure and philosophy intertwined, I have found some marvellous words of solace springing out at me at unexpected moments. They remind me that through the dark clouds there is always hope of a brighter dawn once more, and that hard work is never in vain.

Thank you, CS Lewis, for these and all your other inspirational words. Now, can anyone lend me ‘Prince Caspian’ until I finally get my box set?

(Some of my favourite words of inspiration from ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ now follow.)


“Adventures are never fun while you’re having them.”


“One of the most cowardly things ordinary people do is to shut their eyes to facts.”


“But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”


 [When Eustace was turned from a boy into a dragon, and how he was turned back into a boy again:]

“The water was as clear as anything and I thought that if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first.

“…I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snakey sort of things and can cast their skins. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully…

“…in a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for a bathe. But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before.

“…So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe…

“…Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, however many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Eustace dragon

“Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – “You will have to let me undress you.” I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt.

“…Well, he peeled the beastly stuff off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been.

“…Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that very much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.”


“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are – are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”


Yesterday, today and tomorrow: songs of an unfolding heart

Sometimes the songs and the music of your life’s personal soundtrack arrive when you are still too young and inexperienced to appreciate their significance, or even the true meaning of some of the words. And yet, because it’s part of the soundtrack of your life, the words haunt you and stay with you from youth to less youthful.

And then one day you wake up and find you can put them in some kind of sequence.

Relate them to those you love.

Realise why the song always spoke to you, when love and sorrow and even some kinds of special joy had not yet properly crossed the threshold of your life.


“Ahhhhhhh,” you think, “I get it now. Ah yes…”

Here are a few of the songs from my personal soundtrack: far from all – just a hand-picked few for now because otherwise this post would have been even longer.

All together now: violins, guitars, piano, voices. Especially voices.


(Click on the song titles for the video/audio links.)

John Denver

Sweet surrender

I like to imagine these words playing in the background when my future husband, then aged just 17 to my 12, was trudging along a road in the semi-desert close to the Namibian border, forlorn and alone. I like to think that the promise of me in his future was there all the while in the heat mist swirling up from the tarmac; while his soul yearned for freedom from the emotional pain and something in him still clung to a belief in better days to come.  

John Denver

Lost and alone on some forgotten highway
Travelled by many remembered by few
Looking for something that I can believe in
Looking for something that I’d like to do with my life

There’s nothing behind me and nothing that ties me
To something that might have been true yesterday
Tomorrow is open and right now it seems to be more
Than enough to just be here today

And I don’t know what the future is holding in store
I don’t know where I’m going, I’m not sure where I’ve been
There’s a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me
My life is worth the living, I don’t need to see the end

Sweet, sweet surrender
Live, live without care
Like a fish in the water
Like a bird in the air

Sweet, sweet surrender
Live, live without care
Like a fish in the water
Like a bird in the air

Guns ’n Roses

Sweet child o’ mine

Late teens; early twenties. Sisters. Experiencing moments of telepathy across the ocean. Crying with laughter at elephant-in-the fridge jokes on the kitchen floor – the same laugh coming out of two siblings’ mouths in a funny kind of stereo. Snaking separately through the crowd at The Doors when the song played, summonsing us to meet on the dance floor. An invisible spotlight shines on us as I look back – together, we were invincible!

To Pook, from Seet-sah. It will be okay even when it’s not. Love in abundance!


She’s got a smile it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky
Now and then when I see her face
She takes me away to that special place
And if I’d stare too long
I’d probably break down and cry

Oh, oh, oh
Sweet child o’ mine
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Sweet love of mine

She’s got eyes of the bluest skies
As if they thought of rain
I hate to look into those eyes
And see an ounce of pain
Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place
Where as a child I’d hide
And pray for the thunder
And the rain
To quietly pass me by

Oh, oh, oh
Sweet child o’ mine
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Sweet love of mine

Nick Cave

Are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?

This one is for all those times when I had to keep believing that the right person was still out there, knowing that if I did not believe, my fundamental faith in a mostly-positive universe would crack irrevocably and change me into someone I was not meant to be. This one became part of our wedding music.

Nick Cave

I’ve felt you coming girl, as you drew near
I knew you’d find me, cause I longed you here
Are you my destiny? Is this how you’ll appear?
Wrapped in a coat with tears in your eyes?
Well take that coat babe, and throw it on the floor
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

As you’ve been moving, surely toward me
My soul has comforted and assured me
That in time my heart it will reward me
And that all will be revealed
So I’ve sat and I’ve watched an ice-age thaw
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

Out of sorrow entire worlds have been built
Out of longing great wonders have been willed
They’re only little tears, darling, let them spill
And lay your head upon my shoulder
Outside my window the world has gone to war
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

O we will know… won’t we?
The stars will explode in the sky
But they don’t… do they?
Stars have their moment and then they die

There’s a man who spoke wonders though I’ve never met him
He said, “He who seeks, finds, and who knocks will be let in”
I think of you in motion and just how close you are getting
And how every little thing anticipates you
All down my veins my heart-strings call
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

Cowboy Junkies

If you were the woman and I was the man

This one celebrates the romantic in me and the beginnings, finally of an ‘us’ . Unexpectedly, I said “I love you” first. I was that brave because it was right. (I like this live version of the song featuring John Prine’s gravelly guest vocals.)

Cowboy Junkies


If you were the woman and I was the man

Would I send you yellow roses

Would I dare to kiss your hand?
In the morning would I caress you
Like the wind caresses the sand,
If you were the woman and I was the man?


If I was the woman and you were the man

Would you send me yellow roses
Would you dare to kiss my hand?
In the morning would you caress me
As the wind caresses the sand,
If I was  the woman and you were the man?


If I was the heart and you were the head

Would you think me very foolish
If one day I decided to shed
These walls that surround me
Just to see where these feelings led,
If I was the heart and you were the head?


If I was the woman and you were the man

Would I laugh if you came to me
With your heart in your hand
And said, ‘I offer you this freely
I will give you all that I can
Because you are the woman
And I am the man?


Colbie Caillat


Such a funny little love song this – so sweet and innocent, and probably this is why it’s my love song for my children: for their bubbly faces, their sweetness, their innocence and the way that they make me smile. They can be tiring years, when your children are young; physically and mentally exhausting sometimes, but I’m trying to hold on to this stage for as long as I can.

Vivienne boys DStroom

Will you count me in?

I’ve been awake for a while now
you’ve got me feelin like a child now
cause every time I see your bubbly face
I get the tinglies in a silly place

It starts in my toes
and I crinkle my nose
wherever it goes I always know
that you make me smile
please stay for a while now
just take your time
wherever you go

The rain is fallin on my window pane
but we are hidin in a safer place
under covers stayin dry and warm
you give me feelins that I adore

It starts in my toes
make me crinkle my nose
wherever it goes
I always know
that you make me smile
please stay for a while now
just take your time
where ever you go

What am I gonna say
when you make me feel this way
I just……..mmmmmm


Il Volo (my love)

This is the song that pulls at your heartstrings long before you have ever been tempted to walk out the door during the bad times. This is the song for anyone who will ever think – with your heart breaking at the time – that you just might not come back. This is the song that gets you with its pain and its joy and its breathtaking emotion, perhaps before you have even come close to understanding the emotion’s true depth.

Pavarotti and friends

Stray cat in a mad dog city
Nine ways to sorrow
A moment’s all it takes to say goodbye

I’m waiting

Wild cat in a sad dog story
Nine roads to follow
A moment’s all it takes to say goodbye

For all the love that’s torn us, for us
For all the pain so sweet
Say you won’t, say you won’t leave

My love, I’m dreaming of one girl
Someone to make my world
Someone just like you
My love, the girl that I’m dreamin’
To give me that feeling
Someone just like you

Lost cat in a dead end story
Nine lines that echo
A moment’s all it takes to say goodbye

I’m waiting

Stray cat in a mad dog city
Nine lives to borrow
A moment’s all it takes to say goodbye

For all the love before us, for us
For all the pain so sweet
Say you won’t, say you won’t leave

My love, I’m dreaming of one girl
Someone to make my world
Someone just like you
My love, the girl that I’m dreamin’
To give me that feeling
Someone just like you

Siamo caduti in volo, mio sole (We fell while flying, my sun)
Siamo caduti in volo (We fell while flying)
Siamo caduti in volo, mio cielo (We fell while flying, my sky)
Siamo caduti in volo (We fell while flying)

Gonna paint this town, for you
Turn it upside down
Say you won’t, say you won’t leave


This beautiful pain


I write this with tears in my eyes as my father’s frailty; his subjugation to his illness seems to grow so much faster than we had ever imagined. Fittingly it is a Scotsman’s voice in this love song; this ballad and this lament that I copy down for my Scottish father, who seems threatening now to fade like the light in the song words below.

My father, Ralph, has loved my mother, Linda, all the days I have known them – and she in turn has loved him. How lucky I am to have seen this shared love for so many decades.

I have appreciated the beautiful lyrics of this song since I first returned to my Scottish homeland as a young adult and felt the hills calling me with an insistent voice I recognised  and responded to immediately. I particularly like the section that says, “You put all of my youth in my future. You put the future back into my past”, and I had always thought this to be a love song for me and mine. And perhaps it is also that, but right here, in this time right now, it is my father’s love song for my mother.

I have only just understood this.

Linda and Ralph in St Peter's Square

Day was young and desire was stirred.

Summer was all but gone.

Light was fading from the side of your face.

Sinking low in the corn.

All that’s constant and wise

I still see in your eyes

It was always this way from the start.

Right here where I stand on the last of the land.

But you’re still breaking the heart.

Now all I have is rushing right through my hands.

Sailing over the seas.

Down that tide where fresh and salt combine.

All victories are released.

We who wrestle the years

Have traded our fears

For a glimpse of ecstasy in the dark.

Turning ice in the fire but still we’re denied.

But you’re still breaking the heart.

The skies turned red without failure.

They held their promise and dread till the last.

You put all of my youth in my future.

You put the future back into my past.

So shine a light and shine it brightly now.

You know it all takes its course.

And all the many ways I’ve tried so hard

To reach this potent source.

On the day behind time across the divide.

Along the cord came all light out of dark.

Now I stand amazed in this beautiful pain.

But you’re still breaking the heart.

Midge Ure


 This is the song of my youth and the song of myself.

This is a song that speaks to my idealistic core.

It reminds me of the unfolding young adult I once was, who struggled to combine poetry and beauty with the bittersweet realisation that life is not always malleable when you want to shape and bend it to your will.  

I did not yet know for whom I was going to breathe – and who in turn was going to breathe for me – but this was my song when it was my turn to sense the spirit of the future still destined to cross my path as part of the unfolding Plan.

This is my little bit of inspiration when times are tough, and even more so when they are good.

Always remember to breathe.


With every waking breath I breathe
I see what life has dealt to me
With every sadness I deny
I feel a chance inside me die

Give me a taste of something new
To touch to hold to pull me through
Send me a guiding light that shines
Across this darkened life of mine

Breathe some soul in me
Breathe your gift of love to me
Breathe life to lay ‘fore me
Breathe to make me breathe

…This life prepares the strangest things
The dreams we dream of; what life brings
The highest highs can turn around
To sow love’s seeds on stony ground


Thank you to all the artists who have produced my life’s sound track to date. Thank you now most particularly to:

John Denver

Guns ‘n Roses

Nick Cave

The Cowboy Junkies

Colbie Caillat



Midge Ure.


My life has been infinitely more musical because of all of you.

And thank you to Frank – who notably has also played and sung live for an audience – for making so much of my sound track come to life.

Frank guitar 1

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