A gag a day………

That’s what I am going to be taking away from the two-day stand up course I attended just a few short weeks ago.

Throughout the two days I was struck by the rigour and discipline behind professional stand up alongside the skill and knowledge of our facilitator, Jill Edwards. Now my plan is to get off my backside and attend more live comedy gigs. Something me and my husband used to do regularly, back in the day.

I also want to have a go at writing a gag a day, doesn’t matter how crap they are. At some point, I’ll produce one or two that might just be funny. Won’t know unless I give it a go and this fits in nicely with my daily journaling. Then and only then will I sign up for another course, hopefully before the end of this year. There is loads more for me to learn.

Pittabread Feb 2019

The whole point of stand up as explained to us by Jill is to tell gags. To set them up, then deliver the punchline. No more, no less. I was also relieved on our first day to find that we weren’t expected to memorise our material to begin with. There was no talking ‘off the top’ of our heads. Instead we were strongly, persuasively, and lovingly (I’m joking) encouraged to write out our gags first and then read them out. This is where I could appreciate just how tightly scripted a lot of stand up is, even down to the pauses, facial expressions and physical gestures. At least fifty-percent of stand up is in the silence.

However, I was not sure what to expect when I initially booked my place in May last year.  I clicked on the payment button, thinking that it would be a laugh, a new experience. Though as the 19th drew closer I did start to seriously question the wisdom of my decision and wonder if I should just back out. Then I decided I could attend but didn’t have to do the performance at the end. That was at least enough to get me there on Saturday 19th January this year.

What got me to return on the Sunday was the fifteen other people who also attended and Jill herself. After the first day I felt that these people had my back. They were an amazing group, who provided supportive feedback along with lots of laughter throughout the two days. No egos, no bullshit.

On the afternoon of the second day, whilst learning my set I decided to simply lower my expectations. It would be enough to get up on stage, remember my set, deliver my set and get one laugh. Just one. BOOM! Job done.

So, I finished the course prepared ‘to have a go’ at performing a set. Which is precisely what we all did in front of family and friends on the Sunday afternoon at the Komedia.

A big thank you to my husband and daughter for coming along and capturing my set on video.

You can see how I got on here:

Incidentally, given that I am primarily a career coach, here is a short piece, ‘why did the chicken cross the road’, written about three years ago now about the similarities as I see them between becoming a successful stand up and running a successful business. Have long had an interest in comedy and stand up.

So, there you have it, until next time.

Janice Taylor


My Fantasy Brexit Team ……………

Over the past six months or so I have been coping with the madness that is Brexit, in one of three ways; either I’ve been laughing at it, swearing at it or both at the same time.

So, for this month I’d like to imagine what if we had the option to remove the current pack of jokers and amateurs currently running the show and replace them with a small but select team of professionals. Two of whom are global superstars with the experience, stature and wisdom to negotiate at the highest level. The third would be there to add a bit of muscle and menace.

If I could. If it were at all possible I’d send in:

  • Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda
  • Yoda

To act as our main negotiators. I would then have Lieutenant Colonel Philip Smith, from the 2013 UK comedy drama series Bluestone 42 to cover their backs.

pittabread jan 2019 1

This threesome could in my opinion take the lead on our behalf and achieve the almost impossible.  Negotiate a sensible deal. They would be more than a match for Michel Barnier and the EU 27. The impenetrable and seemingly immovable EU might crumble under the unique and impenetrable wisdom of Master Oogway:

 ‘Your mind is like this water my friend. When it gets agitated it becomes difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle the answer becomes clear.’

Of course, it does!

‘One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.’

Which is precisely where I think we’ve ended up.

I am also sure that the charismatic Yoda, with his 800 years of training Jedi. His affiliations with the Jedi Order, the Jedi High Council and the Galactic Republic would bring some much-needed perspective to the whole Brexit debacle.

‘When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not.’

 Who’s going to argue with this?

‘Do. Or do not. There is no try.’

Let’s get on and get this sorted.

Then we have Lieutenant Colonel Philip Smith, never far away when needed. With a tendency to pop up at exactly the right time, with his rules on leadership and life.

‘What’s the first rule of hospitality?’ Don’t shoot the guests.

What’s the first rule of Brexit? Don’t stuff it up!

 I suspect the Lieutenant Colonel would phrase it slightly differently, but you get the idea.

Finally, I’d have them making their entrance to Eminem’s, Business, the Matoma Remix version. It is a bit sweary, but the chorus, especially nails it for me.

You can hear it here and then imagine the three of them marching in:

It would be epic.

So, there you have it until next time.

Janice Taylor


PS If you have any ideas for your own fantasy Brexit team, then do let me know.


Master Yoda

Master Oogway

Lt Col Smith 

Word count: 454


It’s probably the way I’m wired……..

I haven’t yet had myself formally assessed, but it seems highly likely that I’m Dyslexic and have only come to realise this very recently as I approach my mid-fifties.

It’s taken a surprisingly long time for the penny to drop 😉, given that our daughter was diagnosed as having Dyslexia almost two years ago and it is something that is generally inherited rather than acquired. In my relief at having a definite diagnosis for our daughter and the report we could present to her school I didn’t stop to think about the how and the why.

The realisation only fully hit after I’d joined a writing group and I noticed in our discussions that I’d simply not read as widely as most of the others in the group. My suspicions were also aroused by the feedback I was getting about my written work. It’s the first time that I’ve had my writing looked at and analysed in this way.

Pittabread Nov 3 2018

Though even with this recent realisation I would still rather boil my ar**e than join a book club and no before anyone writes in I don’t think you need to be Dyslexic to feel like this.

So as an interim measure I paid a visit to the British Dyslexia Association website and took a few online assessments, the results of which seem to indicate that I may well be Dyslexic. I won’t know for certain until I have myself fully assessed by a trained specialist. To access their site, please click here.

But now as I look back I think I can see some of the ways it has impacted on my life over the years:

  • I know I had trouble with reading at junior school and was pulled out of all my other classes, so I could be taught individually by Miss Shaw. I don’t remember how long it took, but this approach worked for me. I learnt to read and moved on.
  • I never fully learnt my times table at junior school, despite being made to stand up and recite them with the rest of the class. I could learn the rhythm and move my lips along in time with everyone else, so unless the teacher came up really close she would never have known.
  • Without a pen and paper in my hand, I can struggle with spelling and as for mental arithmetic, forget it.
  • I kind of know my alphabet.
  • Over the years I developed techniques for building in the extra time and space I needed to prepare and process information. Really needed to do this in the final year of my engineering degree, when it seemed we were being hit by a tsunami of assignments. I needed time on my own to make sense of them.
  • It may well have affected my performance on graduate assessment/screening programmes, at the start of my working life.  I generally did well at interview but could never quite get through the written tests, which were often timed.
  • It took me seven attempts to pass my driving test, each time getting a little better, but I needed that extra time. Read all about it here.
  • I love writing, but I’m not a writer who can produce long flowing prose that fits seamlessly together. I write in chunks, in fact I write the scenes I can see in my head.
  • My creativity, crazy ideas and perspectives I’m sure originate from my Dyslexia as does my quirky way of putting things together. I may not always spot or notice what’s obvious to everyone else but pick up on the ridiculous and the oddly out of place.
  • I am easily distracted and put off by long complex, over descriptive prose. I tend to read over a piece of text more than once to get to the meaning. Sometimes the words just don’t make sense. Might well be why I often re-read books, once only doesn’t tend to work for me.
  • Today I can honestly say that reading is still not my favourite pastime, I find it tiring and a bit of a strain. Particularly when I’m having to read and make sense of things in a hurry. Large chunks of densely packed text are a real turn off and I can find myself skipping over it if it’s not grabbing my attention. In short, reading is and always will be quite hard work, though luckily for me I love learning, and this is the payoff for me.
  • Can never compose an email in one take, though this is probably a blessing.
  • If I don’t make the effort to concentrate I can find myself ‘zoning out’ in busy and noisy environments. This can be problematic especially when linked with my ability to daydream at the drop of a hat, you can read about my Walter Mitty tendencies here.
  • Do still on occasion stumble over my words when speaking and when having to read aloud.

My Dyslexia has most likely been in the background all my life, quietly driving me on. I successfully studied for three degrees because I needed to prove to myself that I wasn’t stupid. Each time I embarked on any form of major study I followed the same pattern, started out ‘sh*t and got better’.

Almost as though my brain needed a bit of time to warm up.

Though what I’m learning as I start to come to terms with my Dyslexia is that it’s not so much about the outcome, it’s more about the mental processes and effort it requires to achieve the outcome you want.

So, there you have it, until next time.

Janice Taylor


Word count: 937


O’ Level exam results in the Summer of 1980………

It’s been a tense time in the Taylor household waiting for and finally receiving our daughters GCSE exam results and it all worked out well in the end, but it has made me think back to the time I received my O’ Level results, in August 1980. They were not stellar, they didn’t set the world alight, but they were enough to get me into college, so I could study for three A’ Levels.

Perhaps it’s not so much the grades themselves that matter but what you choose to do with them and how you choose to move forward with what you have.

Pittabread Sept 2 2018

So, in no particular order, here is what I managed to achieve in the Summer of 1980:

Maths grade B, thank you Mr H, you were a brilliant maths teacher who knew exactly when to move me up and down through the sets.  I also remember with your tall frame and square shoulders we all thought you looked a little like Frankenstein and you were okay with me being the first to laugh when you suddenly slipped and fell in one of our final year classes. I did genuinely try to stop myself from being the first to laugh aloud, after the initial hush from the rest of the class.

Pittabread Sept 3 2018

English Language, grade B this was one of my favourite subjects and the one where I was hoping for an A.  Though my mark might have been related to my habit of writing over complicated plots and then once I became bored with my own story, I’d kill off my characters in quick succession. Still I got over this and it was all good.

English literature, grade C, I remember long hot, tedious afternoons in the school library listening to someone read from Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. Sorry 😐, but to this day I still couldn’t give a sh*t about Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba Everdene. I was too busy messing around with my two mates Sarah and Nuala, doodling in our exercise books as we attempted to draw each other’s hairstyles.  Or I was busy trying to locate and extract various pencils and pens from my Afro.

Chemistry, grade C had more fun with this subject at A level, especially when our fume cupboard broke down one day and chlorine gas was being released into the chemistry lab. Made me laugh 😂 when a PhD student attempted to analyse the atmosphere as we were being led out.  He would have stood there a little longer if someone hadn’t pointed out that the green gas billowing out into the lab was poisonous, Chlorine.

Physics, grade D, I might have soft pedalled a little on this a bit after being told by my prospective college that a grade D would be good enough to get me onto the A level course. I very much doubt this would happen today.

Who remembers CSEs, certificates of secondary education? A grade one CSE was equivalent to a grade C at O’Level.

Geography, CSE 1 enjoyed the subject but can’t remember much more than that.

German, CSE 1, found this far easier than French and it was an easy choice for me to make. Loved the fact that I was able to continue learning it at Poly as part of my degree. Also ended up staying and working in Switzerland for three months during my four years as an undergraduate. An amazing experience and opportunity.

Food and nutrition, grade C, I remember various culinary disasters with this subject and how we had to present our dishes at the end of each lesson. The funniest and best part of the lesson as far as I was concerned. I also managed to burn the apples for my Apple Charlotte in the practical exam. Luckily my teacher was able to nip out and grab a jar of cherries, which looked far better. This might be why cooking has never been a favourite pastime of mine.

Pittabread Sept 4 2018

And what did I end up doing with these?

Well, for some bizarre reason which I still do not quite understand I simply opted to do Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics without really thinking too deeply about it. This would not happen today. I just plucked them out of the air and thought I’d give them a go.

May well have had Biggles running through my head along with dreams of becoming a fighter pilot. But there was no notion in my head of not being able to do it because I was a girl. I finally let go of this ambition when someone told me that I wouldn’t get in with my flat feet.

Luckily, my wise and observant head Mrs G took one look at my options and intervened, suggesting I would be better off leaving school and applying to the local college. I need to thank her for pulling a few strings and helping to get me an interview.

My interview with the college chemistry teacher Mr G didn’t start well, especially as he explained to me ‘we don’t normally consider pupils from your school. 😝’ That was a real confidence booster I can tell you. Though he did relent and offer me a place if I achieved a grade D in Physics and a pass in everything else.

Today as I look back I am deeply thankful for the choices I made then and the support of my school head in getting me a place at college. Especially as no one, including me would have been aware of my Dyslexia.

Sometimes you just need someone to give you a break.

So, there you have it, until next time.

Janice Taylor


PS after two great years at College, some great teaching, great support from the other students and a lot of bloody hard work I passed all three of my A’ Levels.


Word Count: 973

Who let the parrot out?…..

It was me and after almost forty-five years it is probably time to ‘fess up’ to the disappearance of our family’s African Grey parrot. Time to admit to my role in liberating it from the living room of our South London flat.

Over the six months (I think) it was with us this bird became the bane of my life.

It was a battle of wits, between bird and human each time I had to clean out its cage, top up its feed or refill its water bowl. It was all about speed and dexterity. Was I always able to withdraw my hand quick enough to avoid being bitten? Not always. I really had to keep an eye on it else I’d end up with bloody fingers from its razor-sharp beak.

Pittabread June 2 2018

I quietly grew to hate that bird and started to dream up ways of getting rid of it.

Standing at eleven inches tall, I can see it now tracking my every move with its watchful eyes. It was intelligent I could tell, and I relied on this when planning and executing its liberation.

So, I bided my time and took the opportunity presented to me by a hot summers day and an open sash window.

It was one of those hot, sticky days during the long school holidays; me and my sister and a few others were playing outside by the bomb shelters around the back of the flats. We were probably messing around jumping off each shelter or deciding whether to head round to the front of the flats for a quick round of ‘Cannon’. In any case I needed the loo, so leaving my sister behind I ran around to the front to let myself into our empty flat.

I can’t remember what prompted me to go into the living room possibly a squawk from the parrot but as I poked my head in to look I noticed the sash window opposite the bird cage had been left slightly ajar. The important thing to note here, is that it wasn’t me.  I was already framing how I would present myself if questioned. At the tender age of eleven I had decided which lie I might just get away with.

This was it, the opportunity I’d been waiting for, it was mid-afternoon and no one else was due home for at least an hour. This would give me plenty of time to set everything up and allow the bird enough time to make its escape.

All I needed to do was help the parrot along whilst covering my tracks. If I was clever enough it would look like the bird had escaped of its own accord through a series of ‘unfortunate events’😉.

Though I couldn’t be too long setting things up as I’d left my younger sister outside playing with friends.

The first thing I did was hitch up the sash window a little more to make sure the eleven-inch parrot could fit through the gap. True to form I could see it was watching me very closely. This was important for the next stage which was to loosen the clasp on its cage door, with the bird’s eyes on me I wanted it to see that it’s cage door wasn’t quite as it should have been.

Pittabread June 1 2018

I felt, this bird was more than capable of undoing the cage door if given a bit of help and encouragement and that was precisely what I intended to do. Once I’d taken care of the cage door and the window, all I needed to do was withdraw, making sure to close the living room door tightly behind me. I didn’t want an irritated African Grey flying around the rest of the flat.

And I certainly didn’t relish the thought of trying to recapture it. My sincere hope was that the intelligence I read in its gaze would be enough for it to realise how to fully open the cage door and make its way to freedom through the open window. All I was doing was smoothing the way.

The whole operation took no more than five minutes or so and I am pleased to say that it’s disappearance was discovered a few hours later, once we’d all gathered together in the evening. As I recall there was some discussion about the window being left open, but no one ever connected its disappearance with me.

Though I do sometimes wonder if mum had her suspicions and chose to keep them to herself. 😉

Until next time

Janice Taylor



Word count 755

Me and my piano…………..

This month’s post, adapted from a piece of homework from my writing course, is all about my regular piano practice and how it helps me to stay calm and focused in times of stress and challenge.

Me and my piano

Heart rate slows, breath steadies and time stills as my fingers touch the keys and I start to play.

Every practice starts with the same three pieces:

  • Melody in C, by Felix Le Couppey, the first piece I learnt to play properly with both hands.
  • German Dance in A, by Franz Schubert, my only solo performance piece, played at the Springboard music festival, some three years ago, now.
  • Jest in D Major, by Bela Bartok, the last piece taught to me, by my piano teacher.

Each played through quickly and efficiently to warm up my fingers and my brain.

These are my comfort pieces, the ones I can play straight through from memory. I need this regular reminder, the reassurance that I can still play a tune, that I haven’t yet started to lose memory and focus. Satisfying some vague fear, that I’m not losing my faculties.

Pittabread May 1 2018

And all this after pressing the on button, to my Yamaha P90, electronic piano. It takes only a second or two for the green light to appear and I can settle in my chair, plant my feet on the floor and then….

It seems I need to run through a few more checks😉

Where’s my cushion? The one that supports the small of my back and stops it from moaning and groaning throughout.

Are my glasses clean and firmly in place? These days, the notes on the sheet are just a blur without them.

What time does it say on the mantelpiece, clock? I’ve usually got thirty minutes or so before I need to check on dinner.

Am I warm enough or am I too hot? In the winter months, my hands rasp and catch as I rub them together for warmth. In the summer, I need to feel a breeze.

Where are my elbows? Oh yes, they are here resting comfortably on the cool metal handles of my chair.

Is that dust? I should have bought a cover for the keyboard, when I had the chance.

In any case once I finally get down to play, I run through my comfort pieces, add in a few major and minor scales, throw in one or two arpeggios and then, and only then do I get to the new piece:

The Policemen’s Song, from the Pirates of Penzance, by Gilbert and Sullivan.

This will be a wonderful addition to my somewhat limited repertoire and once I have fully mastered it I plan to move onto; Mozart’s, Romanze from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525, second movement.

So, as I play, I listen carefully to the music I am making, at times confident smooth and without error or hesitation. At others bumpy with small pauses.  If I find I’m starting to stumble too much, it helps to close my eyes and allow the muscle memory in my fingers to take over. Let them dance across the keys with no direction or guidance from me.  Though there are times, when I have no option but to go back to the music on the sheet and focus on a single problematic bar.

However, the real reason for sharing this, is that I find I cannot play and be stressed at the same time. It really doesn’t take long for even my playing to still the chatter in my head, slow my heart rate and drain the cortisol from my body as everything slows and comes into focus.

Even the occasional gurgling of the radiator behind me, seems a fitting accompaniment when I’m playing.

So, until next time

Janice Taylor


Word count: 622


Learning to earn as a teenager……………….

It all started with a paper round when I was twelve years old and I really wasn’t that interested in doing it. However, mum had heard a whisper about an opening and she was determined that I was not going to miss out on this opportunity, despite my lack of enthusiasm.  Luckily, for me this was a job share position, one week on and one week off and this is how I ended up sharing a paper round with Paul my co-worker for almost four years.

Pittabread April 5 2018

I wasn’t thrilled, but I did enjoy having a wage, which in those days was around £3.00 per week, excluding tips. My most vivid memories from this time are of tramping around with a heavy bag of papers in the cold evenings.  It used to take me just over an hour to complete the two/three mile circuit and I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the actual paper I delivered. But I do remember the cold winter evenings and the struggle to retrieve pennies from my money bag with numb fingers and the very few people who would stand waiting for their change as I did this.

Though to be fair Christmas time was good for tips and in time I grew used to earning my own money and deciding how it was going to be spent. So much so, that as I was about to start studying for my A ‘Levels I decided to get myself a Saturday job, after four years both Paul and I had grown tired of the paper round.

As I initially wanted to avoid the hour-long bus trip into town, I decided to try my luck at the  local holiday camp, Allhallows-on-Sea, to see if they had any openings there. Things didn’t sound too promising to begin with and as I had already given up my paper round I reluctantly decided to try for something in town.

Armed with my one-page CV, I caught the bus into town and visited Boots, British Home Stores and a few others to see if they needed any Saturday staff. Some stores were potentially interested, and others had no current openings, so after a few hours I decided to call it a day and get the bus home. It was whilst walking to the bus stop that I noticed John Farmer Ltd, the Clark’s shoe shop and on a whim decided to pop in and ask. The manager wasn’t available at the time, so I left my CV and just managed to catch my bus.

Pittabread April 6 2018

I was really pleasantly surprised and relieved when I received a call from the manager at John Farmer asking me to come along for an interview. I have no memory of the interview itself, but whatever was asked my answers must have impressed as a week later I had a Saturday job.

And then very quickly a Sunday job as the owner, Terry from Allhallows-on-Sea had after some thought decided to give me a trial run. I ended up working at the camp on Sundays and during school holidays, sometimes in the restaurant and other times in the grocery shop next door. Which incidentally was where I discovered a young lad attempting to leave the shop without paying for a bottle of coke.

I can still picture Terry, dealing with this situation. He was calm, firm and measured giving the young man a severe telling off and then sending him on his way.

So, within the space of a month I went from no weekend job to two, alongside studying for three A-Levels. I managed both jobs for the time it took to complete my studies and I am still truly grateful to both Mr Hyner from John Farmer Ltd and Terry and his wonderful family, at Allhallows-on-Sea holiday camp.

Isobel on beach 2016

Both jobs gave me much needed work and life experience, enough to get me started. Now as I observe our fifteen-year-old daughter starting to show some interest in earning her own money, I’m looking forward to seeing how she manages it.

So, there you have it until next time