Category Archives: Family life

A journey home………………….

Today’s story is from my days as an engineering student in the early 80s, long before social media, email or mobile phones. Our channels of communication were limited to talking face to face, writing letters or making calls from a public call box or using the phone at home, the one with a dial 😉.

As I write this I’m reminded that all the parenting in the world won’t necessarily shield you from your own ill-thought out and potentially dangerous impulses. And I was at the time considered by my mum to be a sensible and level-headed teen, it just goes to show.

Pittabread 2 Feb 2018

Anyway, to my tale, it was the end of my first term at Poly and as an 18-year-old undergraduate I was packed and ready to travel home and had already rung mum at one o’clock to say I was on my way. She would have reasonably expected me home at around four o’clock the same afternoon. Well, I did eventually roll in at 11pm, though today as the mother of a fifteen-year old I cannot quite believe that I put my mum through this as I was effectively missing for six/seven hours.

So, as I was about to leave campus, I happened to meet one of the older male students on my course. He was a year or so ahead of me, so when he asked, ‘where are going?’ I simply replied, ‘home.’ When he suggested that we travel to London together, which was where I needed to go for the first leg of my journey, I wasn’t too fazed. I knew him slightly and was quite flattered. This would have been around one-thirty in the afternoon.

The journey to London was uneventful and when, let’s call him Tony, suggested going for a drink, I was not perturbed it was still early. Making a call to mum passed fleetingly through my head, but that’s all it did, somehow it seemed too much trouble to find a call box and dial some numbers.

Pittabread 3 Feb 2018

We ended up in a wine bar, had a few glasses of wine, a nice chat, a nice time. We also spent some time walking around taking in the sights. As it was getting dark, I realised I was no longer in a part of London that I was as familiar with and beginning to think it was time to make a move for home. Sharing my concern with Tony, he suggested we take a taxi to the station I needed for the next part of my journey.

So, now we are both in the back of a black cab on the way to Victoria, when Tony stretches out an arm and leans in. In an instant, my happy haze clears completely, and I ask to get out of the cab. Realising that I am not interested in his overtures, Tony immediately backs off and insists on taking me to Victoria station where I can get my train home.

Which is what I did, still not thinking to call mum.

Pittabread 4 Feb 2018

Looking back, I was naive and a bit too trusting, but fortunate, that Tony understood and respected my ‘no.’ It could have been a whole different story with somebody else.

As I remember it, mum was remarkably, or at least appeared remarkably calm and composed when I breezed in around 11pm and brushed off her questions with ‘Oh, out with friends.’

I didn’t feel it necessary to fill in the details. Sorry, mum.

I could have been, at the very least stuck in London late at night with no money and no clue as to where I was and had placed myself in a vulnerable position.

The lesson was well learned.

So, there you have it, until next time

Janice Taylor

Our GCSE Manifesto………………….

I’m sure like many thousands of other parents, my husband and I are counting down the days until the end of June 2018, when our teenage daughter will have completed her GCSE examinations.

Have been astounded by how stressful we’ve both found this two-year period and can’t wait for it to be over.  Back in the late 70s, I genuinely do not remember my parents or me for that matter being this involved or anxious about my O’ Levels. At that time, they were just a set of exams to take before moving onto either work or some form of further study.

So, what’s changed? Quite a lot I should imagine, but this months’ post isn’t going to be an in-depth treatise on the pros and cons of the current education system. Life is too short. 😉

But what I would like to do, so me and my husband can support our daughter through the next six months and retain our sanity is to lay out our GCSE Manifesto.

Isobel on beach 2016

So, to our daughter we’d like to say:

We don’t need you to finish with nine, 9***********, or however the hell the top marks are described these days. A smattering of reasonable grades is absolutely fine with us, thank you very much.

Get yourself through this but look after yourself too, your physical and mental health is our top priority. We want you to be resilient and that might mean sacrificing a few marks, here and there.

We do need you, to put in the ‘effort’, this is probably the biggest and most important predictor of success in these exams. So, if you can look us both in the eye and tell us, you have tried your hardest and your best. We will be proud.

These exams are a gateway, a set of stepping stones to a future we cannot fully predict or control. They may lead you to where you want to go, but they may also lead to unexpected or unanticipated opportunities. So, as such they don’t have to determine the rest of your life, that is for you to do.

Real learning is a joy and is for life, so don’t allow this small part of your education to put you off. If you can keep your mind open to learning and your heart open to friendship, compassion and kindness, your dad and I will have done our job.

And remember, whatever happens on the 23rd August when the results come out, there is always, always a plan B and we will be with you, come what may.

Life will go on, all you need to do is make the best choices from wherever you happen to be.


Mum and Dad

Janice Taylor

This year I’m disrupting my own Christmas….

By which I mean, the changes I will be making to our usual Christmas routines and preparations.

It’s going to be all about rest and relaxation this year, that is our theme for Christmas 2017.

It doesn’t have to be the same every year…

For 2017, the manic, rushing about for presents, food and general Christmas ‘tat’ is out. I am refusing to engage with the madness of the last-minute, supermarket dash and paid my last visit to our newly refurbished Sainsburys on Wednesday 20th December.

Pittabread Dec 2017 1

I will not be back until after Christmas.

So, what else am I changing?

For a start not, a single sprout will grace our table this Christmas, life is too short. We don’t eat them at any other time of the year, why bother now?

Our panto tickets are ordered, we are going to see Cinderella and the Beanstalk, at The Old Market, Hove. Something with a bit of a twist, and I’m looking forward to seeing how a relatively small cast, will play a whole host of different fairy tale characters.

We might just spend the whole day in our pyjamas, if we need to go out we can simply pull our clothes over the top. It’s Christmas 😉

Enjoyed my first ever Christmas meal of the year, on Friday 15th December, with ‘Off the Fence’, a local charity supporting the homeless and vulnerably housed. It was a real privilege to be there and I hope this becomes a regular event.

On a similar note, I also spent a bit of time on outreach for the same charity, delivering hot drinks and sandwiches to the people we found on the streets. Nothing like it for putting Christmas into perspective.

We’ll be heading out to catch a couple of films at the cinema, based on our choices as a family, Star Wars, The Last Jedi for me and Wonder for our daughter. We’re still not quite sure about my husband’s choice.

Not everyone is going to get a card this year, (this is probably not too different from previous years), but either way I’d like to speak to people on the phone 😉. Enough of the Facebook likes and shares.

Pittabread Dec 2017 22

We will be tucking into our Aldi’s hamper full of Christmas treats, enough for us and whoever pitches up during the holiday, ordered almost a month ago now.

All our presents are bought, wrapped and under the tree ready to be delivered as required. Well that was the plan, not quite there yet.

Our bathroom needs a fresh coat of paint, not necessarily on Christmas Day but at some point, and as it’s over the holiday season I’m hoping to get some help from my daughter and husband.  A different kind of ‘family activity’ 😉.

So, there you have it, wishing you all a happy, restful and peaceful Christmas.

Janice Taylor


Travels around Italy with the best coach driver ever…

This story goes back to a time when I was in my late twenties and an advert for a coach trip to Italy, caught my eye.

I remember feeling a bit down and in need of a ‘pick me up’ so after a quick call to my sister two places were booked for the week-long coach trip.

Along with our ‘girlie’ holiday to Fuengirola this Italian coach trip turned out to be one of the funniest trips I have ever taken. From the pristine coach and it’s ‘caring’ driver through to the toilet that not one of us was ever allowed to use.

I cannot imagine putting up with this now.

Pittabread June 2017

But at the time we took this to be part of the trip and it became a ‘running’ joke amongst us holiday makers.

Certainly, remember the Venezuelan couple and their expression ‘Prego’ – which we adopted and used whenever the driver said no to someone using the loo, eating food, stopping to use facilities, just about anything really.

Though it was not so amusing when due to our late arrival at our first ‘official’ stop we were then not allowed to use the available facilities. We ended up having to go and use a nearby field in the dark. Still can’t quite believe we just went along with this as a group, especially as we had such a mix of ages amongst us.

It was a miracle that we didn’t leave anyone behind in the dark and even luckier we didn’t step in anything and bring it back onto the ‘blessed’ coach.  This was our first clue about the character of our driver who appeared to me to be doing everything for own his comfort and ease, with little or no  care for his passengers.

He clearly didn’t want to clean the toilets, didn’t want to clean the bus so no food was ever allowed on the coach. The coach radio only came on at the times he wanted. I’m sure extra stops were added in, to places where he got a cut of the takings.  Which might explain why we were so late for our first ‘official’ stop. He then had the almighty cheek to expect a sizeable tip at the end of the trip. It wasn’t happening.

But despite all this it was still a fantastic trip.  We travelled, to Florence, Venice and Rome for me the first time ever. This one trip made me determined to return to Rome (which is another story) helped by a great host who knew her stuff and could bring the history to life.

Pittabread 2 May 2017

We also met up with another group of women similar in age to us along with the Venezuelan couple. People with humour and fun and who shared our love for the coach driver.

And the trip did the trick it picked me up and gave me a new sense of optimism and perspective.

I notice this is something I have tended to do over my life, if feeling a bit ‘stuck’ for right or wrong I like to take action, either in the form of new study, travel or a hobby.

I find I like ‘shaking things up and getting a fresh perspective.

So, there you have it, until next time.


Janice Taylor

Here’s to you Mr T…………………

“Would anyone like to borrow for a couple of weeks, a highly sexed randy tortoise to mate with their female/s. Hutch provided, he goes to bed at 4ish! Very hearty appetite and is about 60 or 70 years old. “

This came up as a request on Streetlife, about a month or so ago. The original request and the ensuing conversation made me laugh so much, that I wanted to share it in this month’s post.

Pittabread tortoise

Couple of things to note about Mr T, (not his real name) I was particularly impressed by his age, even if there was a ten year margin of error. I was also struck by his ‘hearty appetite’ and the fact that he needed to be in bed by 4ish. Presumably to ensure he was up and ready for action the next day.

People weren’t slow in responding….……….

“Favourite Streetlife post of all time”, “Thanks you sooo much for the laugh” to “He sounds absolutely great! I’ll ask around…….”

There was a bit more ‘banter’ around Mr T and his needs and then the owner offered one more vital piece of information:

“I wish someone had a female too, as he is driving me and my dog around the bend, chasing and I mean chasing us around the garden!”

So now my respect for Mr T has increased even more, a 60/70 year old tortoise, who clearly invests in himself  in terms of his nutrition and sleep, so he has the energy and focus he needs to pursue his ‘interests’.

Unfortunately the discussion was closed without us finding out if Mr T did indeed find a ‘mate’, I hope he did. But this whole story does remind me of the tortoises we had as children. As potential pets they are often underestimated in their abilities and ‘personality’. But I remember regularly coming home from school to find Fred (one of our tortoises) happily pottering off down the lane whenever he got the chance. No mean feat when you can only travel at about 0.5 miles per hour.

So there you have it, here’s to Mr T and all the other tortoises out there.

Until next time ………..


PS for those not in the ‘know’ Streetlife is a local social network designed to help people make the most of where they live.

“Am just thankful, you have hair on your head” ………

The concluding remark to a conversation with my aunt about the current ‘state’ or style of my hair.

It was indeed said after one of her ‘pauses’- where I could feel that she was carefully and lovingly choosing her words.

Dolphin Cove, Jamaica

Dolphin Cove, Jamaica


I had posted a picture of myself and my sister from the ‘Funk the family festival’ in Hove and from that picture, my aunt was curious to know what I had been doing to maintain my hair.

Was I twisting it? – Hmmm, no

What products was I using? – Shampoo and conditioner

Had I had it redone properly, since having it plaited in Jamaica, almost two years? – Hmmm not really

Though to be fair I have now found someone to re-twist and relock my hair, and that was only because I had taken my daughter along to get some advice on her hair and Cecile had given me her best advice and then immediately turned her attention to my head. When I say attention I mean her full attention, she had already twisted a couple of my braids by the time my daughter had stood up and was  happily routing around my hair and organising a time for me to return and get it ‘tidied’ up.

It seems that there is a small but select group of women, relatives and non-relatives alike determined to help ‘fix my hair’ and this is exactly what happened in Jamaica, where our housekeeper at the villa ‘offered’ to braid my hair. There was something in her ‘steely’ look and it has to be said, ‘pause’ as I responded to her questions that compelled me to submit and get my hair, ‘sorted’.

So in truth, even though my hair is considerable longer than the number one/ one and a half it was about four years ago it has to be said my interest in it has not kept up with its growth.

My days of spending a whole day and a small fortune on hair appointments and hair products (I did this in my twenties and through my thirties) are long gone. These days my main concern is largely around having something on my head that keeps me warm in the winter, keeps the sun of in the summer and looks reasonable with the rest of me.  With my longer ‘style’ I no longer need to have a hat permanently glued to my head.

In the meantime I am enjoying the comments and advice which I am happy to listen to and will more than likely take on board at the point, when even I get to the stage of thinking this needs a bit of ‘tidying’ up.

My earlier post ‘ Hair like an unloved hedge’, is available via this link.

So there you have it, until next time


Janice Taylor

It’s ‘Panto’ Jim, but not quite as we know it………..

London Bubble, ‘Panto’ Unplugged: – A performed reading, of Mother Goose and the wolf

It is part of our family tradition is to go and see a pantomime during the Christmas period, in years past when we lived in London we used to regularly go and see the London Bubble company pantomimes in Deptford and Greenwich. They were local to us and the productions were always fantastic, silly, clever and lots of fun. Something that we all enjoyed.

Panto unplugged

As we moved away from the Deptford area, we lost touch with London Bubble and their pantomimes so I was really excited last year when their ‘Panto Unplugged’ popped up as part of a Google search.

So what is ‘Panto Unplugged’?

Well after speaking with the very nice receptionist and hearing phrases like it involves a ‘performed reading’ with actors but not a full production and speaking with one of the directors who assured me, ‘we’ll return your ticket price if you don’t enjoy the show’ I thought and so did the rest of my party let’s give it a go, at £8 per ticket it was worth a punt. We were still not entirely sure quite what we were going to see, but knowing that it was at least Pantomime related, involved actors, a stage area and an audience and most importantly London Bubble we booked.

So on Sunday 28th December, eight of us, five adults and three teenagers (practically) set of to see London Bubble, Panto Unplugged.  Still not sure what to expect but it was a good excuse to meet up and spend some time together.

So what is a ‘Panto unplugged’?

Well after seeing it on the 28th I would say it is a stripped back version of their original productions, Mother Goose was last performed as a full blown pantomime in 2003. Over the years we have seen a number of London Bubble pantomimes and have enjoyed them for the funny and slightly edgy writing, the silliness, the props, the fun, the actors, the sets the whole caboodle.

Unplugged means that we the audience had to use our imaginations, there was no fancy stage, no curtains, no scenery as such, no full blown band or fancy backing track.

However there was a staging area, actors with scripts, a few hats, someone on a keyboard, and a few props that I remember from past productions. It was a bit like watching a radio play.

But ……

The writing was still there, some of the original actors, in particular we were excited to see Simon Thomson playing the role of Mother Goose. He is still the best pantomime dame I have ever seen.

And it worked.

It was still a pantomime with boos, hisses, a pantomime song, jokes, and audience participation especially from a small boy called Ruben. Ruben was very enthusiastic about getting involved and very happy to share his joke to help Sandra the goose to lay a golden egg. The traditional cake/biscuit/mess making scene was still there along with a menagerie of pantomime animals, Gertrude the cow and the two red squirrels, Bushytail and Nutkin.

From our party the five adults, four of us London Bubble veterans loved it, the three teenagers not quite so much. Well you can’t win them all, we certainly won’t be asking for our money back and if this is going to help bring back the full London Bubble productions I am certainly happy to attend a few more unplugged performances.

Cast of Characters:

Mother Goose:                                              Simon Thomson

Millie:                                                               Marva Alexander

Sandra the goose:                                          Fiona Creese

Jack:                                                                  Tommy Pullen

Crone:                                                               Sophie Russell

Bruno the wolf:                                              Eric MacLennan

Brutus the wolf:                                             Eric MacLennan

The woodman:                                                Andy Whitfield

Gertrude the pantomime cow:                    Katy Annand and Fran Levin.

Katy and Fran also played the two squirrels Bushytail and Nutkin who founded the Red Squirrel Brigade with the infamous line ‘a bushy tail is a state of mind’.

If you too would like to find out more and sign up for the London bubble newsletter, then follow this link.

So there you have it, until next time…………

Janice Taylor