The Naked Truth

… About Am Dram!


‘ ‘’The Giggleswick players do Full Frontal’’ by Valerie Goodwin, who KNOWS because she’s lived it!

The story behind the play!

All Am Dram groups seem to have *certain stock characters*- or they certainly do from my experience- I’ve been a member of about 15 different groups now ranging from BFPO to Southend and London to Edinburgh, so actually a pretty wide area has been covered!

  1. The wardrobe lady/ teas and biscuits/ back stage organiser, let’s call her Wendy. She doesn’t want to ACT but likes being ‘in charge’ although if you say so, she will quickly demurr. Knows everything about everybody and who last romanced who!
  2. The Oldest member, barely mobile and as for learning his lines- forget it. But very quick with a ‘last time we tried that was in 1991 and it didn’t work because it’s against fire regulations’. Always wants a part but .. oh dear.
  3. Larry, who seems to be in it so he can be backstage and ‘help’ with costume changes…
  4. Mandy, who does the full ‘rabbit in the headlights’ when on stage and totally freezes up.
  5. Kelly and Mitzi, two giggling girls who barely ever stop laughing and chattering, and have their mobile phones welded to their hands it seems.
  6. Anne, who ‘always directs’ but goodness only knows what her actual credentials are for doing it, she just always has! Never gives actual ‘notes’ except for ‘Learn Your Lines’ and ‘face Front’ and ‘Speak Up’. But no-one else wants to diect, do they?
  7. Faye, who is a rather older lady but insists on playing the ingenue parts, yes, she calls them ‘ingenue’; she thinks she’s Audrey Hepburn, but Mitzi says ‘Audrey Who? You mean the plant out of Little shop of Horrors?’
  8. Emma, desperate to escape her boring life and husband but keeps missing rehearsals because Jason isn’t well or Rob needs her to take his Mum to the hospital.
  9. Billy Elliott clone, who is a *dancer* and is only doing this in the hopes he can *dance* at some point, and ‘let’s not learn the lines and let’s improvise’ ( Shakespeare?) and where is he ? Oh, he’s nipped out for a fag..
  10. Tom, the lighting guy, who insists on using technical terms to impress you but can’t actually light the actors so the audience can see them, misses his cues, leaves the actors in the dark for a freeze that lasts for eternity and can’t just.. aaarghh. Also got drunk on one of the nights and was sick in his mic.

There’s many more.. check out the play ( available for a mere £10 from Smith Scripts) or come see it in Doncaster!


‘If I were you’ No, you wouldn’t.

Also titled: A non beginner’s guide to parenting

Or ‘It doesn’t get any easier, does it?’

Remember those days when they kept you awake at night.. oh wait, they still do, but now it’s because they’re on the night shift and don’t go to bed at 10pm like you do, and their music and *games* are so bluddy loud. Also they make a noise coming downstairs and using the bathroom like a barrel going into a pub cellar and emptying out. Or a capuccino machine. TMI? Let’s leave it there.

Gone are the days when your young chicks would leave the nest, because hey look, they can’t afford to.  rental properties cost almost a kidney nowadays, and as for *buying* their own place ( hollow laugh, like Vincent Price on Thriller).

So today I typed this: RANT alert. Please look away if you’re not a parent, or will be inclined to say ‘If I were you’ because if you think about it, if you were me, you’d have done what I did! OK here’s the situ. Numero uno needed money for deposit on flat so he can finally get his life on track. Asks his Dad for it, who replies ( after deadline for flat deposit was passed) that son ‘needed to have earned the money’ which tbh he never had to do as his own parents were TOTALLY and 100% backing him every inch of his life. So would’ve been one thing to make sure his son had the day to day support and emotional backing from him that was NOT there; helping him get a car, seeing him struggle with his studies and etc etc; day to day; but NOW to say ‘you should’ve listened to my advice.. oh wait, I never actually gave any day to day and wasn’t THERE much was I? Or at all, the past 7 years. So thank you to his Gran and thanks to me for raiding my piggy bank his son WILL get a chance to sort his life out but NO THANKS to pontificating ‘you should have earned it’ person, who oops, we’ve lost our key to the tardis, yeah.

Feel weirdly better for typing all that , other possibles would be: go down the patch and give it a damn good digging and imagine *putting stuff underground* that might do some better forking good as compost.

So back to the generic rather than the specific: the sheer 24/7 of parenting and the lifelong commitment is a bit like marriage but MORE than you can ever imagine as a beginner. You tell yourself,  I should’ve done X instead of Y, and folks say to you: ‘You’re too soft on those boys’ but  just remember, you are YOU and have no choice about being YOU, and they are what you made them because YOU are their genetic and environmental and shaping and ‘educational’  self, so they can’t help being what YOU made them. So like the words of the song, they’re your fellas and you love them, and all the rest is talk.

Here endeth the lesson.


It’s been a year now, being retired, what’s different?

Is it time to have a wee mull over what’s changed since I hung up my chalk and bid farewell to the teaching lark?

Some of you reading this- assuming there’s anyone reading it- are contemplating retirement and you might even have gorn on a few ‘training days’ to get prepared.

I didn’t go on any, mainly as none were offered.

But tbh I was thinking; oh, this’ll be like August, only more of it!

I’ve tended to be one of those people that just assume ‘Oh it’ll be Fine, what can possibly go wrong?’ but I also have as a mantra: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Another one of my sayings is: If wishes were horses we all would ride.

So anyway, everyone told me ‘You’ll be so busy you won’t know how you fitted work in’ and ‘Make sure and get some pattern and routine in your life, like it’s Wednesday so it must be yoga at 11am’ or summat.

And I say unto you: Just like everything else in life, it’s different strokes for different folks, and what works for some won’t suit everybody, which now you read it, is of course and obv.

Some of the things that have changed about me, since last August:

  1. I don’t need to, so I won’t.
  2. I don’t have to listen to this, so I’ll kind of shimmer away.
  3. Don’t talk to me unless I talk to you first.
  4. Don’t give me advice unless I ask for it; and even then, I probs won’t follow it.
  5. Avoiding eye contact and unwelcome conversations because ( see the preceding).
  6. Isn’t it restful not to give a sh1t about being perma single? And why the eff did I waste so much time trying to be a couple. Bleugh. It’s very Zen indeed not trying to make someone else bearable!
  7. I am going to have a badge made saying ‘I just told you my name, why did you shorten it?’

So I guess that all sounds like I’ve become a pretty glum kind of hermit, but actually I can now decide who and when and how long my conversations last.

I find myself tunelessly singing while I dig up potatoes on my patch and find peppers growing in my poly tunnel with a joy that amazes me.

Hurrah for being retired.

Free at last, free at last, thank the Lord I’m free at last.

The laying on of bricks

Brimscombe is a rather unique place, dear readers, which is a converted factory in Stroud that used to be Damien Hirst’s workshop.

It’s now used both as accom for WRG which is ‘waterway recovery group’ which is quietly and rather ‘under the radar’ restoring the nation’s canals and a 2nd hand book shop raising money for same.

Have you seen the red vans with WRG on the sides? Were you aware, when walking towpaths, cycling or boating on canals, that WRG did its first shovelling in the 1970s? Motto: we didn’t know it was impossible so we did it anyway.

Photos exist of scantily clad muddy foolhardy enthusiasts with no H&S to be seen.

It is in fact quite risky work, what with working at heights, canals being deep, slippery, possible  purveyors of Weil’s disease,  and injuries with huge tools. Yes. And PLANT. Which is big Tonka machines, diggers and dumpers.

But nowadays we have personal protection gear to the max, including high vis to the point of radiance and hard hats and steel toe caps and plastic goggles and gloves. Sometimes all this schtuff feels a bit like overkill (!) but due to lime mortar it is needed. And as I got told, if we fall in, the high vis would help us be seen so we can get fished out, but please don’t as it makes a mountain of paperwork.

So I started with WRG in 2010 after being a NT volunteer before that, since the mid 80s.

These are called working holidays and I liked the idea of a *cheap* holiday and WRG is cheaper than NT, by almost half the price now.

People say, so you’re *paying* to do all that brick laying and wheelbarrowing?

Well technically I am learning skills from brick cleaning to wall preparation, dry stone walling, wacker plates, arbotechs, brick laying, mortar mixing..and the money pays for my food ( lots of it, and not cooked by me personally on a WRG camp, which is a big plus) and cake. And the accom. Which differs from NT accom in that you don’t get a bunk bed in a shared dorm (except for the Haybay  on the Chelmer which must qualify as best place to sleep on a WRG camp?)

Other drawbacks on a NT working week : you have to take your turn cooking on at least one meal, usually more. Plus the rota (same as on a WRG camp), so washing up, etc. And NO BURCO on site on a NT camp which is a HUGE wahhhhh for me, tea being vital.

I would say that the BIG plus for me on a WRG is meeting people like dear Rob, brick whisperer, time and again, but there again you have David, Margot and other adorable folk on a NT camp.

The basic standard of accom on both is not dissimilar , really, so think of a much used rather casually maintained but interesting historically ‘base camp’ so we’re not talking 4 stars. They used to be – and sometimes still are-village halls, so that will tell you.

Two showers at the most between 10 people? Often more than 10. NT tends to have more showers.

I actually prefer NOT sleeping in a dorm tbh as there’s always at least ONE mega snorer, one cougher, one getting up frequently bod, ( and it might be my own self doing all those!) one early riser and zipping and unzipping and lights going on and reading with torches that lights up too much, so it’s me outside in the van. Bliss.

So readers I hope you will consider the laying on of bricks for a week as a new experience- have I sold it to you?

Rebel with an Allotment

So on the 2nd of June I took over my allotment!

I was a bit apprehensive and very nearly said No when my name came to the top of the list, as I thought: I’m so busy already, how will I fit it in?

I’d been down and had a look, and it was overgrown and neglected *but* had rhubarb, apple trees and raspberries in a netted cage .Plus a view of the church, and right next to the  hedged bowling green ( endless odd unintelligible conversations, on the lines of ‘Good wood, Eileen’).

I met a few of the allotmenteers which was another source of trepidation, as what if they were uber bossy? But so far apart from Mr Scruff and Another One who I swear is assessing my value as compost material, they are either absent or silent, so all good there.

So I woke up  the morning after I’d said No and thought: I WANT this, so I rang back and it was very early but she was there, at the council, and I said Yes Please.

And I am so glad I did!

From the first forking of the weeds to the planting of our seeds and beans and coming to water every day and shrieking ‘Look! They’re growing!’ Much to our neighbours’ amusement. They also have been very generous with their surplus plants, so Yayy.

We’ve met birds, toads, frogs and slow worms, and three cats. And rescued a bird caught in the net of the raspberries. And had a bucket load of said rasps. Yum.

Everything tastes immeasurably different!

AND I now have a huge poly tunnel and am experimenting.
The radishes are just spectacular and magical.
STILL more raspberries, a ‘punnet’ or so every day.
I continue to build my raised bed which is hilariously inept, made as it is, of leftover bits of wood, all different sizes and rottenness, and with a dash of brio and zany DIY skills that caused a sharp intake of breath from my son.
But I’m enjoying it, so that’s all that matters.
And I’m learning HOW to be a driller, which is just wonderschon.
I planted a mint plant under the raspberries , and yes, I know it’s a thug, but it should be OK in there.
I’m having the best time doing What I WANT to do and ignoring all the books!
Yayy REBEL of the Allotments.
I read the packet and it says ‘sow in April’ and I think.. well, I only got the plot in June, so how’s that going to happen?


‘There’s just Too Much Politics At the moment’

In 1913  a woman who was determined to make her voice heard ran out at the King’s horse and was knocked flying and trampled.

She dies 4 days later, on June 8th.

June 8th is also the day we are having an ( unexpected ) General Election.

I wonder what Emily would think about the woman who said ‘Oh not more politics, I’m sick of it’.

Emily might also  be surprised that 9 million women didn’t vote in the last election, because :

‘they’re all as bad as each other’

‘my husband votes for us in this house’

‘I can’t be bothered with all that politics stuff’.

These might be the same women who look at the price of courgettes and say ‘Blimey, they’ve gone up’ or ‘Why are there no cheap oranges?’ or ‘I dunno why someone doesn’t do something about the state of the roads’ or ‘My nephew is in a class of 40 now and we got a letter asking us to help with buying text books’.

They might also be told they can’t have that knee replacement or catraract operation, and their Granny was on a trolley in A&E for 12 hours.

4,093 operations were cancelled last year.

Some schools have lost over £500 per pupil, which is why they had to make some teachers redundant, which is why…

but y’know.

Don’t bother voting, and don’t worry about it.

Although I wonder what Emily would say.


Canal capers. ‘What floats your boat?’

There really *is* nothing so nice as messing about on the water, folks. And if, like me, you were feeling uber stressed after yet another speeding fine ( !?) and if, like Pixie you were feeling pretty frazzled after  being i/c a class of wee darlings and if, like Numero Uno son you’d had health issues..but in fact Anybody would be better for a few nights ( in this case) 4.. or even 6.. or more!

Of being away from Traffic, Noise, Hustle and Bustle, Work, People, and the 21st Century generally..

The peace that surpasseth all understanding can be found in a narrow Nature reserve ‘corridor’ that seems unchanged since the industrial age began and horse drawn barges were towed up and down at a pace that we should all aspire to and return to, if only to re-charge.

The quacking of ducks and the gentle chugging of the boat as you proceed through the green water at a pace only slightly faster than an amble, plus the hypnotic sight of GREENery and trees and golden brickwork bridges and vistas and views and willows and swans; fine old buildings coming down to the water’s edge and almost bowing  down to admire themselves in the reflections.

Of course this man -made haven, created in the late 1700s in many cases, has been painstakingly preserved and restored by none other than Volunteers and Enthusiasts, often in the  1960s and ongoing ..

If there is a down side  to all this it *might* be the locks and the only downside there tbh is IF there is an audience and IF there is That Odious man of a certain age ( always over 50) there he will ALWAYS tell you ‘You shouldn’t do it like that, you want to be doing it like this’..Curse him and pity his poor wife. But leave him and his interfering narkiness behind and sit on the arm of the lock gate and watch the rushing waters and marvel at the simple mechanism of a design that survives centuries of use and has not been improved on.

Many fascinating stories can be told of How the canals began and How they were brought back from a sad neglect to their present day idyllic selves.

One of my favourites is a plaque on the Stratford canal : ”SONACS; we were not experts so we did not know what could not be done’ Hutchings, MBE, project leader.”

There’s a lesson for us here; until we try we can’t know what we can do.

Testing Day.

OK well.   There was I , offering to be assessed to see if I was ( like an astronaut)  and had the Right Stuff.

The place was a weird sort of refuge or conciliation or summat Christian reconciliation centre or some such , completely off the beaten track down a long rutted road, shades of The Avengers episodes from the late 60s.

Stained glass and a warren of little rooms and narrow staircases.

Loads of young hopefuls all looking like extras for Game of Thrones.

Plus a guy with handlebar mousetache like a 25 year old Jimmy Edwards.

Started to feel like I was hallucinating.

5am start and somewhat sleep deprived and low blood sugar from no brekkie.

Older folk ( my age)! arrived with one called ..  the lead singer of Rolling Stones, but only one G. Again, I had a strange ‘am I dreaming?’

One of the women was going on about how great her job was and I asked, what is it?

”Admin for an air conditioning company”.

My face.😳

First task was ( shudder) ”Team Activity’

(more shudder) Which comes up next to ‘ice breakers’ on two words you don’t want to see on your agenda.

OK so ( in teams)” build a plastic straw structure with pins which will support a brick”.

Heart sinking.

Later we have the ”blindfold build a tower from wee bricks and your partner tells you what to do” schtick.

Both of them are really ‘how does this person work in a pair or a group? Are they uber bossy/talk too much/take over/ can’t co operate?”

In between we have ‘interviews’ and ‘written plans’ and ‘what to do if one of the dorms floods” and schtuff like that.

We also had: over lunch , while eating, we will observe you ‘chatting’ and doing that ‘getting to know you” malarkey.

If I do say so myself I could’ve waltzed most of the day if I hadn’t been so knakkrd *plus* wondering if – now I’m retired- how desperate am I to have a full week in  charge of about 12 teens? And y’know who might be the person I am teamed with…arghh.

SHE of the  Motor Mouth Micro Managing and telling peeps in exactly what size cm chunks to slice a gourd.

BUT will be interesting to get ‘my score’ as apparently we all will have a feedback which will tell us how suitable we are.

So. Looking fwd to that.

Oh and going back to my ‘ types at the bunk house’

I missed out:

VERY capable dynamic and inexhaustible Women who make you feel like you are watching Wonder woman but not in her red sparkly head band.


Kneels in awe.

AND they are super whizz at jigsaws as well.

Guilt trip

We need this sometimes.
Personally I spend my life in a constant fog of guilt and self recrimination and beat myself up literally ALL the time.
1) what happened to my resolution to de- clutter, de-junk and sort out all the accumulation in this teeny house? There is less and less carpet in here and more and more bags, boxes, piles of schtuff and utter guff.
I am now completely paralysed by the sheer AMOUNT and how long it takes me to do ANY of the chucking and sorting. I’ve now got seven years’ worth plus 4 peoples’ JUNK in here. When I left that school and took a tiny weeny amount of the GEAR from there, literally a car load really and YET I had no room for it and possibly should have left EVERYTHING.
2) Eating. Shouldn’t eat this , that and t’other and should be doing X and Y instead.
3) Exercise. Same as 2. Altho’ I am often going swimming and fairly long walks , mainly so I’m not in the house!

AND I should have done a whole list of things today already, or at least not sat here on my astoundingly wide arse typing away and achieving nowt.. mea culpa maxima culpa

Oh well

On the chucking out.

Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And Then What? Will I suddenly need it? Miss it? Long for it? As I did for my lost toys that I’d kept since I was 5 and left behind in the previous house when that was suddenly  ( bit of a long story there).

So basically I need to weigh up which is worse: having all the clutter against the pain of sorting it and the dread of missing it once I’ve chucked it.

I seem to be in a kind of holding pattern with it. Impasse.

More on that story later..oh and btw that isn’t MY angry christmas rabbit, but it works as an image, no?


Mouse in the house

In the last fortnight my little bit of Bohemia was invaded by rodents , or maybe – hopefully, but highly unlikely to be- just ONE mouse.

Everyone knows the chances of JUST one mouse are enough to fuel the improbability drive to Neptune and back.

So there I was in the bathroom at 7am when suddenly a little rat like creature emerged and was black beady eyes  and dark grey fur about 4 inches long, sans tail. Well, it had a tail, but I’m not including that in the measurement.

Cue screams enough to wake the neighbours and son arrives post haste and by this time it has vamoosed *past me* and into the impossible small gap where the pipe goes into the wall. I THINK. Anyway I stuffed said gaps with steel wool ( Ha!) and set traps and what not.

Then a few days go by, with us checking traps and contacting water ( to check drains) and council and everyone else I can think of, getting quotes of upwards of £45 for ONE visit. I’d already spent a LARGE amount of money on traps, steel wool, poisons and an electronic zappy trap.

So Saturday I’m sat in the kitchen – again, bright daylight-and it comes UNDER the door ( again a tweeny little gap) and runs past me again and goes behind the fridge.

So now I’m not going in the kitchen OR the bathroom and it’s looking like I’m being driven out of my home!

So traps in the kitchen. And I wasn’t going in there unless I had one of my house mates with me.

Bad times. I forgot to say I also looked in the upstairs cupboard where I’d kept the top of the cake I had made for son 2, Arnie’s face ( long story) and it had been GNAWED and various clothes chewed up and made into nesting , presumably. Garghhh.

BUT then a few days ago we were checking the traps and K was blithely assuming they were all empty when we opened the zappy one that takes 4 x AA batteries and !!!!

THERE was the varmint. Much to K’s shock; and then L pokes it with a spoon. K   says ‘we’re not using that spoon again?’

L takes trap outside to empty it and I’m screaming ‘Put your shoes on’ and ‘double bag , double bag it’ and ‘Not in there’  and ‘Aaarghh’

..and then he comes back in, without the trap, so we have to get it and re-set it, because *surely* there’s more?

And breathe.

The saga continues.