Do you need a block of wood?

I know I do. October is an odd month for me, one where I usually end up feeling out of sorts, grouchy, and generally grumpier than usual. Sometimes it catches me unawares, takes a while for my brain to consciously register what my body has already identified as an anniversary. Well, two, actually and this might be why I am returning to one of my favorite films:

‘There are a million things one might do with a block of wood. But what do you think might happen if someone, just once, believed in it?’

– Suzanne Weyn, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

Medium 2 Oct 2019

This sweet, beautifully cinematic film contains one of the funniest boardroom scenes I can remember seeing. The main characters sit around a large oak table with a motley collection of toys to discuss the Emporium’s ‘temper tantrum.’ It’s the bickering between the two supposed adults; Henry superbly played by Jason Bateman and Molly, which makes it so funny. As Molly, played by Natalie Portman, tries to describe, to explain the ‘magic’ of the shop to Henry, who is entirely focused on ‘the paperwork.’ He is the accountant or ‘Mutant,’ hired by Mr. Magorium to go over the books.

I also deeply appreciate Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium for the straightforward and elegant way in which it deals with death. Understated and sensitive, this film shows how death affects those left behind and how it might affect the person facing the end of their life.

But the real purpose of today’s blog is to look at our hero, Molly Mahoney, and how her lack of self-confidence contributed to her losing her ‘sparkle.’ Somewhere along the line, she has lost sight or confidence in her dream to write and perform her first concerto. She has become too comfortable in her supporting role as the manager within the ‘magical’ toy store that is the Emporium. Seeing this and knowing that change is coming, Mr. Magorium, played by Dustin Hoffman, makes Molly a gift:

Mahoney: ‘What is it?’
Mr. Magorium: ‘It’s the Congreve Cube.’
Mahoney: ‘It looks like a big block of wood.’
Mr. Magorium: ‘It is a big block of wood. But now, it’s YOUR big block of wood.’

Medium Sept 2019

Mahoney: ‘Thank you. I was just saying last night I don’t have enough big blocks of wood.’
Mr. Magorium: ‘Unlikely adventures require unlikely tools.’

– Suzanne Weyn, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

And, so it begins. It takes an accountant, a death, and a block of wood for Molly to find her ‘sparkle’ and recognize her magic. Until then, she had firmly believed that Mr. Magorium was the only one capable of producing it. Only when she is forced into defending the ‘block of wood’ and the store’s magic, in yet another discussion with Henry, does Molly begin to see and own the magic Mr. Magorium had seen within her all along.

It’s her self-belief that finally restores and renews the shop.

So, I ask again, do you need a block of wood?

Janice Taylor

Thank you at for the excerpt.



Almost 30 years ago now.……………

Still can’t remember the exact date I stopped smoking, but I do know it’s not far off thirty years ago, now. Looking back, it seems almost too easy to forget that I was at one time, a pretty heavy smoker.  Puffing my way through 25-30 cigarettes or roll-ups a day, my habit increased markedly once I started working full-time.

Stoptober Pittabread Oct 2015

So, to mark the start of Stoptober, I am updating a post I first wrote and shared four years ago.

Because in the end I gave up, simply to get rid of the slightly ‘sickly’ feeling I had every time I woke up in the morning. I grew tired of the daily nausea.

My motivation wasn’t money, and it certainly wasn’t about my health in general. I was only interested in finding a way to rid myself of the daily physical queasiness that was more annoying, than debilitating. So, I decided in the first instance to think only in terms of two weeks at a time. At the time I saw no point in setting myself a long-term goal as far as quitting, was concerned.

The first two weeks were the worst, the time where I chewed, sucked and munched my way through a ‘mountain’ of sweets, gums and chocolate. Decided to worry about any possible weight gain, another time, though in the end I discovered this was largely another myth.  And it was as much about keeping my hands busy as anything else, especially after so many years of rolling my own.

In any case, two weeks became one month, one month, three and before I knew it a whole year had passed without me smoking and apart from the first few months, I didn’t suffer from any strong physical cravings either.

Strangely enough I didn’t experience any real ‘cravings’ until around five years or so later when I went on a ‘girlie’ holiday, with a friend and my sister.

I remember waking up from an afternoon siesta with a real ‘gut wrenching’ craving for a cigarette and realising that I could so easily undo at least 5 years of non-smoking I opted for the Vodka. It worked, one tot or maybe two, 😉 was enough to kill off the ‘craving’, but it taught me a salutary lesson. I was never going to be entirely free; it could still surprise me at any time.

Today, I think the maxim ‘once a smoker always a smoker’, still applies to me. So, on those occasions when I wonder to myself, ‘how nice it would be to have that one cigarette’ especially after a good dinner I remind myself that:

One, would become three, three become five and before long I would be puffing my way through a packet of twenty a day. Far better, to not bother.

I also don’t ever want my daughter to see me with a cigarette in my hand, don’t know why I feel so strongly about this, just do. I couldn’t bear to see the worry and anxiety on her face if she ever saw me with one. Helps keeps me focused.

So there you have it, until next time


PS The early morning ‘queasiness’ did in fact disappear.


Woman walks into a bar, meets a bear, a coyote and a rat……..

Have you ever wondered what you would do, if you ran across, a bear? No, me neither until our recent holiday in Canada.

In August this year we enjoyed ten lovely days in Vancouver as a family of three, a city we’d first visited twenty years ago, when it was just me and my husband. On that first trip, visiting friends out in the country we had, from the safety of their kitchen caught sight of a bear in the garden. Still, the chances of this happening again in the middle of Vancouver seemed highly unlikely.

Vancouver Bear sign only August 2019

Which is why all three of us were discombobulated, by this sign, spotted while taking a walk in Robert Burnaby Park no more than twenty minutes away by foot, from our rented flat. Especially as me and my husband had carelessly dismissed our daughter’s questions and concerns about bears in Vancouver.

It’s highly doubtful that picking up the phone would have been my first response, though I did grab a rock, well maybe a large stone and my husband afterwards admitted to looking around for a large stick. Both of which would have been completely useless had we in fact seen a bear.

Nonetheless I was relieved to be provided with a bit more information on another trip out, this time to Whistler, eighty miles or so north of Vancouver:

Vancouver Me and bear 4 August 2019

If you meet me …..

  • Do not gather around me (or my cubs)
  • Stay calm, don’t run.
  • Back away slowly, give me space
  • Never feed me.
  • Keep dogs on a lead.

Would have to say, with some tiny adjustments this set of instructions could usefully be applied to the being on the right, 😉.

On another walk, in Queens Park towards the end of our stay we came across this sign, alerting us to Coyotes:

Vancouver Coyote 1 August 2019

I was particularly interested in what to do if a Coyote got too close:

Be Big, Brave and Loud

  •  Stand your ground with arms overhead
  •  Yell, ‘go away Coyote’, to alert others.
  •  Never run and maintain eye contact.

Not sure just how Big, Brave and Loud I would be if faced with a Coyote but still reassured by the practical advice. And I liked the fact that there was another Hotline to call, should your Coyote appear to be too aggressive.

Though must admit being Big, Brave and Loud sounds more like a good night out on the town to me, than a means of staring down a Coyote. But each to their own.

So, that just leaves the rat, and this is based on a long-standing family joke about the time I did pick up the phone to call Islington Council to report a rat I’d spotted snuffling amongst the bins at the end of my road. In my defence it was large, and I was reading The Rats by James Herbert at the time. But Outraged of Islington was seriously in danger of disappearing up her own bottom as she picked up the phone to report, said rat.

Luckily I have two younger sisters who very quickly brought me back down to earth, asking for details of the call and ‘did I think Islington was a completely rat free zone?’  You can read the full story here.

So, there you have it

Until next time

Janice Taylor


How I met your dad………

I would love to say he wafted down into my arms on a gentle cloud, that our eyes locked over a crowded dance floor or indeed he came charging up on his handy steed and swept me off my feet.

But, all that of course would be complete bollocks.

Pittabread July 1 2019

It took a while, but I did eventually realise that I couldn’t do like a Disney princess, assume the position and wait for my prince to happen along. Which was a bit of a surprise, given that at the time I was working full-time in a village full of men; a.k.a Ford’s Research and Development facility in Dunton.

So, in the end I decided to roll up my sleeves and set about the serious business of finding a partner.

Enter, then the (I can’t for the life of me remember the name), dating agency with its’ £150 a year membership fee. This worked reasonably well to begin with, I even managed to date one person on and off for about a year. Unfortunately, Mr Click, best to keep him anonymous turned out to be a bit of an arse and I’m glad I took the opportunity afforded by a cold winters night to end our, ‘relationship’.

Then I found Selective Singles, via a purple A5 leaflet left behind in my new flat and attracted by the promise of meeting other discerning singles, I decided to give it a try. I was selective, I was single. It made sense.

There was quite a lot of paperwork; at least three in depth questionnaires on interests, hobbies, preferences, etc. And only once I’d completed and returned these was I then invited to meet Tim DeVine, the proprietor of Selective Singles at his offices in Covent Garden.

I did gulp when Tim revealed the cost of his service was £600. Good men didn’t come cheap, apparently. But seeing my reaction, Tim offered me a discounted price of £400 along with instructions to keep the details of our transaction, strictly private and confidential. To this day, I don’t think your dad knows how much more he paid, compared to me.

So, having parted with the cash and had my passport, payslips and proof of address checked, I was now on the official list of Selective Singles. All done and dusted with pen, paper, envelopes and stamps. The only picture I ever saw was the one Tim took of me with his Polaroid.

The rules of engagement were simple, details for each person were provided on a single sheet of grey A4 paper and it was up to you to pick up a phone, have a conversation and decide whether you wanted to, actually meet.

Must admit it only took about eight months or so for my enthusiasm to fade and boredom to set in. I’d had conversations, a few dates in bars and cafes. I’d spent a fair number of evenings waiting outside Covent Garden Tube, for dates, that didn’t always show up as arranged. Maybe it was time to embrace life fully as a single woman and move on. I’d come to accept that being a wife and mother was not going to be part of my future.

Pittabread July 2 2019

I was done, there were going to be no more singles, selective or otherwise. Your dad was the last name on my list. We had spoken a few times on the phone, about five months in and somehow due to holiday commitments on both sides we hadn’t quite managed to pin down an earlier time to meet. It worked out that he was going to be my final date. Feeling quite laisse faire about the whole thing, I did half contemplate not showing up.

So, while I was impatiently waiting at Piccadilly Circus, your dad had ten minutes, dressed in my  checked mini skirt, black jumper and knee length black boots, little did I realise that the man I was meeting for the first time was my future husband and that I was meeting him on his birthday.

So, there you have it.

Until next time.

Janice Taylor


A minor point, but if pressed your dad would have described me then as solid rather than slim build, the only part of my description he ever took issue with. I have to say after 23 years he’s probably right 😉.



Saying yes……..

I have been thinking recently, about how I can best encourage our daughter to create a life that she really wants to live.  And realise that so far in my life most of the funny, exciting and unusual things have happened to me more when I said yes than when I said no. So, this month’s post is my random collection of memories from when I just said, ‘yes’.

Emerging twenty-one years ago as a newly- wed, onto the steps of St Peters, Brockley and being showered with rose petals, appropriated from the garden three doors down. Someone (who shall remain nameless) had figured out that as neither confetti nor rice were allowed, stolen rose petals were the next best option.

Wedding day June 2019

Officiating as Reverend Janice, in the wedding ceremony, between Prince Aloysius Charming and Cinderella in the 2017 production of Cinderella and the Beanstalk at The Old Market, Hove. Couldn’t resist when asked in the final moments of the show. Some of you will already know, I love a panto.

Sightseeing around Paris with no knickers after a night out and a last-minute change of sleeping arrangements. In my knee-length skirt, no one would have been any the wiser if I had not inadvertently stepped onto an air vent whilst crossing the road back to the flat where we were staying.

Eating frogs, legs soaked in garlic on said trip to Paris.

Leading Prayers from the front of our church at Easter alongside my friend ‘Alice’ and our two primary age children. I stopped worrying about being stared at when I realised that all heads would be bent down, in prayer.

Squatting in a field at midnight, along with forty others, somewhere in France on the second leg of our coach journey to Italy. Our driver had consistently and persistently refused to allow us access to the loo on the coach but did generously allow us the time we needed to get ourselves sorted, in the field opposite the gas station. We’d already arrived too late to use their loos.

Tumbling out of a hired, white mini- van to play Gaelic football, in a park somewhere in North London. I remember lots of running around, I was a lot fitter then, lots of people (15 aside for Gaelic) but not so much with the ball itself. Come to think of it, I have a vague memory of having a go at rugby too.

Getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning to catch sight of a ‘Lesser Spotted Grebe’, well  some kind of bird. Travelling to somewhere like Kings Lynn, in my friend Mandy’s canary yellow Volvo along with Martin, our resident Twitcher.

Whooping it up at the Middlesex Sevens Rugby tournament and laughing at the three men bellowing out behind me, ‘It’s not the taking part. It’s the winning.’

Trekking for three hours on horseback in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, in 2014. It started with us stopping the traffic as we trotted across the main freeway and ended with a knee-deep jaunt in the sea.  I’d been under the impression that a paddle meant a couple of inches, around the horses’ hooves.

2004-12-31 23.00.00-190

Clubbing every night for a week, in Fuengirola, Costa Del Sol, on my one and only full- blown girlie holiday with my sister Jackie and my best friend Fiona. One of the funniest holidays I’ve been on, with its own cast of characters from the lovely Jonathon our tour rep, Lego Man who we took under our wing, Fiona’s fan club from Newcastle and applique lady, who always wanted a gossip with us ‘young uns’.

Returning to London by coach with food poisoning after a week of camping in Spain. I was meant to be earning my passage back by serving teas and coffees to the other passengers. But in the end the driver took pity on me and allowed me to sit up at the front.

Swanning around on campus in my first year at Hatfield in a graduation gown and from memory a straw boater. Ten pounds seemed such a bargain at the time for this iconic piece of clothing, spotted and paid for at Camden Market.

Being quizzed about my career prospects at the Houses of Parliament by my then boyfriend’s father, the MP for Bradford South as he was then. It was the first time meeting his parents, so being interviewed by his dad was a little nerve wracking to say the least.

Spitting out, after a night of clubbing, the chewed, saliva covered scrap of paper, on which was written the phone number of my friend’s future husband. She did have to scream at me a few times, before I deposited it into her palm.  She didn’t want to have to try and find him again in Charlie Chans.  But I did get a lovely thank you from her husband at their wedding reception for not swallowing his number completely. You’re welcome.

Singing a solo part with Brighton Goes Gospel at their summer concert in May 2013, my first term back after the death of my mum.

Watching Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi back to back in a London cinema with my mate, Jules.

Floating off on a cloud of Pethidine around sixteen hours or so into my labour with our daughter. The effect was instantaneous and as the needle entered my arm, all I clearly remember is turning to the nurse and asking, ‘how long does this last?’

Looking back, I can see that saying yes more times than I said no, meant that I did stuff and at the end of my days the one thing I know I won’t be doing, is boring myself to death 😉.

So, there you have it until next time.

Janice Taylor

My battered bible………….

It really has seen better days, but still in my possession because it was gift from a dear friend. So, if you were to open it up and turn a page or two you would see:


 Happy Christmas



xx Dec 03

Written in ink that is fading now, but not her memory or her character. In fact, reading this again, reminds me that Alice was never overly sentimental. She generally said what had to be said and could be blunt and to the point at times.

Pittabread June 1 2019

Alice is no longer with us, as she died four years ago, but as I look at my red battered book, with its sellotaped spine, curling pages and rumpled tired looking cover. I think, in fact I know she would be pleased. This is a bible that has been well used and well worn, and Alice who lived with cancer for over ten years was an amazing woman of faith. She could when she chose, pray the ‘hind legs’ off a donkey and held a deep and abiding love and trust for Jesus Christ.

When I knew her, I had the privilege of hearing Alice pray. It didn’t seem to matter how many people were present, she was somehow always able to weave all the different requests, issues and pleas into a single, flowing conversation with her Lord. I used to sit and marvel at the words that seemed to flow from her and settle around whoever needed to hear them.

And yes, there were times when I would surreptitiously glance at my watch and wonder, a bit guiltily quite how much more Alice would have to say. But, oh what would I give now to hear voice and hear her cajole, plead and pray on someone else’s behalf? Or maybe even mine? This, for me was one of her gifts and I know it was something she worked on and developed as her conviction and belief grew.

My friend Alice was brave, loyal, prickly and frankly bloody annoying at times. But she was courageous in sharing her story and her faith. And I know I’m not the only one who thought this.

So, this tired, battered and barely taped together book is my small way of honouring Alice wherever she may be.

Though I suspect if she were alive right now, she might well have ‘rolled her eyes’ and quietly gone out and bought me another 😉.

So, there you have it until next time

Janice Taylor

PS, Alice is not her real name, but those who knew her will recognise who she is.

In my fifties and so over cooking………

It’s finally time to come clean, I am bored out of my noggin with the whole, shopping, storing, preparing and cooking of food. It’s never been a favourite pastime, since my days of ‘Cook and Hostess’ at O’level.  My interest, in cooking has over the years quietly and determinedly slid off the edge of a cliff.  There are too many other things I’d rather be doing and if one more person suggests ‘bringing a dish’, I will run screaming from the room.

Noooooooo, let’s not. There are restaurants, cafes, takeaways, a city full of places to eat.

I couldn’t give a flying f*ck about Fennel. And I can no longer be bothered to invest the time and effort, life is simply too short.  But because we do in fact need to eat, I have over the years found ways to distract myself from the sheer tedium that is cooking – I sing, write, record video and or practice my tap. As often as I can, once I’ve bunged something in the oven, I go off and practice on my piano. If all else fails, I get my husband to do it.

Family holidays are for me an opportunity to forget about buying and cooking food. A chance to enjoy well cooked, interesting dishes without my effort. This is one of the reasons why, I stopped hosting overseas students. After twelve years, I could no longer be bothered. If the three of us want to eat beans on toast one or three nights 😉 in the week, then we can.

There, glad to get that off my chest.

When I was five and a half months pregnant with our daughter, I did try a French cooking course one summer, in a chateau in the Charente, in southwestern France. Despite the picturesque setting, all it did was tire me out and piss me off and I never tried a single recipe from the accompanying folder when I got back. It’s still sitting there, seventeen years later,  on a shelf stuffed with other cookery books that I’ve barely looked at.

Willy Wonka, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had the right idea, a three-course meal provided by a piece of magical gum. This scene, has always made me laugh.


Okay he had a few glitches to iron out, but the idea still has merit and the gum could always be served with a side salad.

So, it may by now, come as no surprise that I don’t bake either. Sorry ‘Bake-off’, happy to watch and all that, but no floury hands for me. A trait, I think  that I share with my mum, who from what I remember never really enjoyed cooking, neither. She too found it all a bit of a chore. In fact, when I was heading off to Poly in the eighties mum went out and bought me the ‘1000 Recipe Cook Book’, crammed with recipes for all occasions. Thirty-five years later it’s the only one that’s still in our kitchen and referred to, admittedly more by my husband. This is the one cook book that I will hang onto. Mum taught me many things, but cooking was not one of them.

Pittabread April 2 2019

Whenever she came to visit, the gift for mum was not having to think about, and cook meals. She would happily, garden, iron, decorate and clean ovens, but she would never have volunteered to cook. It just wasn’t her thing, so why ask?

Now, of course I do need to give some thought to our daughter and her relationship with cooking. I fear my lack of enthusiasm has passed through to another generation, though I do know a good cook book 😉.

So, there you have it.

Until next time.

Janice Taylor

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