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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.

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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


John’s garden shed…….

Have been meaning to share this story for some time now, it still makes me laugh and I like to celebrate and remember colleagues from my past working life, particularly from my days in Engineering and this happened almost thirty years ago, now.

John, was the senior Estimator at the company we both worked for in East London, when I a recent engineering graduate was assigned to work with him as a trainee.

As I remember him, John was a cheerful individual who laughed easily and had an optimistic view on life and he taught me, his rather serious and reserved graduate trainee the art and craft of Estimating.

That is, he taught me how to work from a photograph, a sketch or a model of a shop display unit and turn it into a list of materials, manufacturing processes and packaging that could be priced up and presented to the sales team – with a flourish:

This is how much we think it will cost to produce this item.

Pittabread Nov 2017 1

If we were lucky our ‘estimate’ would fall within the price range offered to the customer, by our sales team.

So, this was how John and I spent our working day and if you had asked us, we could have given you the price of a tonne of steel, a bag of screws and a kilo of acrylic moulding powder almost of the top of our heads.

Anyhow, one morning I arrived at work to find John, already seated at his desk with what looked to me like a small house made from Greyboard modelling card and the first thing he asked me was:

 “What do you think Janice?”

As he removed the small house’s roof and turned it this way and that on top of its four walls.

“What’s it for John?” I asked, as he continued re-orienting the small roof.

“My shed, can’t quite decide which way to place the roof.”

“Okay, John is there anything else we need to work on today?”

“Yeah, probably.” he replied, “but I want to get the cement and sand for the concrete sorted. And it would be good to order the felting for the roof.”

Pittabread Nov 1 2017

At which point, he drew what looked to be a rectangular box on a piece of paper, which I assumed to be the base of his shed and quickly worked out the overall volume. Then he turned towards me and asked;

“Can you check this, need to make sure I order the correct amount of sand and cement for the concrete?”

“Of course.”  I replied

I knew from experience what could happen, if you muddled your dimensions or simply put a decimal point in the wrong place. John didn’t need or want 30 tonnes of concrete for a small garden shed.

So, while I checked his figures, John reached across for the phone dialled a number and placed his order for the felting.

Finishing up with,

“That’s great, so delivery on Saturday? Thank you.”

He finished the call with a sigh and said:

“Well that’s one less thing to worry about.”

Having checked, that all was well with John’s calculations for the concrete mix, I turned to him and laughed.

“After all this John, I want to see this bloody shed, when it’s finished.”

“Yep, I’ll take a picture, Janice. Now let me place a couple, more orders, do me a favour and just keep an eye out.”

I did indeed keep an eye out, it would have been a bit tricky if one of the senior managers had happened by, whilst their crack Estimating team, ‘Johnice’ as we were known then, were hot on the trail of some non-work related, concrete and felt.

I can’t remember if I ever saw the picture, but I know I never saw the shed.

So, there you have it, until next time

Janice Taylor

My daring adventure………….

This month’s post has been inspired by Helen Keller’s quote, ” Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.’ So, what is my daring adventure?

Well, I finally took the plunge and signed up to join a weekly writing group.  It’s all very new and we are still in the process of getting to know each other as individuals and as writers.

But what has been in the back of my mind for a few years now, is that I have three stories to tell and without some ‘structured’ and ongoing guidance and support, nothing will happen.

Helen Keller

Signing up and committing to this on a weekly basis, also means that I am taking myself a bit more seriously as a writer. This programme is going to be quite a challenge.

So, it was a bit unfortunate that at the end of week one, I left thinking, WTF! Seriously! Already questioning my decision to join and I had to spend quite some time talking myself down.  I was not a happy bunny and as I was seriously contemplating stopping there and then, I had to remind myself that:

I chose to do this for me, the whole point is to bring my writing up to another level. This is my journey, no one else’s, so to a very large extent what others say or think is none of my business and largely irrelevant. I can choose what to take on board and learn from and what to simply discard.  The only person who I need compare myself with, is me.

So, I returned for week two and this time left thinking okay this might not be quite so bad. Maybe I can do this, it’s going to challenge me in many ways, but it will be worth it.

Certainly, felt quite a bit happier after week two, and was glad I’d decided to return ;).

By the start of week three, to my genuine amazement I’d already started to feel a lot more settled and at home. And I wasn’t the only one as I noticed that by week three, we’d already started bickering amongst ourselves like family.

It looks like the next two years are going to be quite a journey, learning with a group of people from all walks of life, differing ages, experiences and attitudes.

What I will need to remember is that each one of us comes with our own baggage, strengths and insecurities, no exceptions. It will be interesting to see how these emerge for each of us as we progress through the programme.

So, I can remove the bag of chips from my shoulder and decide to relax and go with this and see where it takes me.  Who knows I may even learn something.

Until next time

Janice Taylor

Well hello Dolly…………………………..

Those of you who know me personally, will also know that cooking and housework are not my favourite pastimes. So, this month’s post is a bit more ‘tongue in cheek’ as it’s all about my recently acquired, ‘Dolly’ Dyson, cordless vacuum cleaner. It’s been quite a revelation, 😉.

So now I firmly believe…………

Pittabread Sept 2017

This is also what I imagine mum, would have been saying to me as I contemplated replacing our trusty and long serving Henry Hoover with a light-weight, cordless Dyson.

In fact, I can hear her quiet chuckle each time I grab our newly acquired Dolly Dyson and whiz around a room without a care in the world.

So, it was that a few months ago, I took the plunge and bought one.

We’d had our Henry Hoover for many years, but I’d reached the point where for the sake of my back and my sanity, I needed an appliance that would just make my life easier, pure and simple.

However, though Dolly is cordless and light-weight ‘she’ only has a battery life of 20 mins, so now I find myself planning my hoovering 😉 and being far more strategic in my approach. If you only have 20 minutes, you need to prioritise.

No more aimless meandering around the house for ‘hours on end’ with a ‘Hoover’ for me, thank you very much.

The arrival of Dolly has completely changed my  behaviour around hoovering, old habits have gone and been replaced with a new focus and almost, but maybe not quite ‘enjoyment’.

Can’t quite believe it took me so long to make the decision, and so in honour of mum, I’d like to say again:
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Surprising what you can get done in 20mins, and I’m sure it’s helping to keep me sane.

So there you have it, until next time

Janice Taylor

What soundtrack would you put together for your life?………..Part One

If for some inexplicable reason Hollywood were to come knocking on your door, 😉?

For this part, mine would start with, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, the first record we were given after receiving a record player. And it was played simply because our record collection was so small, though curiously it did grow on us.

Though we then moved on to a succession of ‘Top of the Pops’ albums, which seemed such good value for money in the late seventies.

Pittabread 1 August 2017

Then from my school days I would include:

Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen I remember it coming out as a mega record when I was at school. Something so completely different and memorable.

Something from Grease – we all wanted those tight black trousers, despite our Head’s warning about the dangers of ‘ changing ourselves to fit in‘ – she may just as well of ‘whistled in the wind’. We just wanted those trousers.

Master Blaster Jamming, from Stevie Wonder’s Hotter than July album, takes me straight back to messing about and jumping around in the common room at the college where I was doing my A Levels.  I loved the joy and excitement of not being at school.

Walk under Ladders and Me, Myself I, by Joan Armatrading – reminds me of the two people who introduced me to her music, at college. One of which offered me the most forthright and insightful piece of career advice I have ever received when I revealed that I was considering a career in forensic science.

Oh, you don’t want to be bothering with all that Janice, all you are going to do is end up dealing with sh** and stuff.”  And that was enough to put me off.

Madonna, to this day my sister B, struggles with Madonna as I rocked up home for the Summer holidays from Hatfield Polytechnic as it was then and literally played Madonna, morning, noon and night. By the time I left, B had had more than enough.

Pittabread 2 August 2017

Skipping forward a little to my late twenties, early thirties

Show Me Love, by Robin S. – takes me back to my clubbing days, there was a time I could go out clubbing in the middle of the week and still get up for work the next morning. Absolutely no chance of this happening now, but still reminds me that you can take the girl out of the club, but not quite get the club out of the girl or woman.

And for the moment, I’m going to finish with, Waves by Mr Probz, the song my daughter picked out as the soundtrack to the family video, she put together, which brilliantly captures the two weeks the six of us spent in Runaway Bay, Jamaica in 2016.

Should Hollywood ever come knocking, I’ll let you know 😉

Until next time

Janice Taylor

Mum, ‘stop filling in the blanks!’……..

I first wrote about being a mum in September 2014 and again in July 2016, this is going to be an ongoing theme as I am the parent of a ‘teenager’.

We are entering new territory and it must be said, my parenting style varies from having ‘Rapunzel’ like moments when I want to keep her locked up in a tower until she ‘comes of age’ to ‘you’re getting older now, why can’t you just get on with this.’

Neither stances are particularly helpful, but honestly, I don’t always manage to maintain a calm, consistent and graceful approach to parenting. Sometimes I’m shouty, illogical and inconsistent, largely through anxiety and fear for the future.

Isobel on beach 2016

Like many others I don’t always achieve the right balance….

So, my clever and resourceful daughter has found a way to help me with this, by using the following phrase:

‘Mum, stop filling in the blanks!’………..

Much as it pains me to say this, but this apt response from my daughter, is enough to stop me ‘dead in my tracks’.

It stops me each time I rush to give my reaction – before she has even had a chance to think about and respond to a question, a request, an observation just about anything really.

Ironic as I coach for a living, but hey ho 😉

Am sometimes, just a bit too quick to jump in with what I imagine or think she is going to say. This would not be acceptable in coaching, so certainly don’t need to be doing this as a parent.

It is quite shocking how much I can do this as a parent- I’ve already created a scenario in my head and voiced my irritation, frustration, or conclusions to it before she has even said anything.

In other words, I’ve already filled in the blanks………

Pittabread 2 July 2017

But since my daughter started using this phrase, I have been reminded to stop, as it so beautifully describes what I have been in the habit of doing.

I’m not alone in this, I’m sure but it seems to me that it is often our habitual responses that can cause problems in our interactions with our children.

Now I need to learn to take a breath, count to ten and listen to what is being said, before I go rushing in.

And I certainly, need to go back and revise my sessions in mindful parenting.

So, there you have it, until next time.


PS, before anyone asks, my husband might well say the same too, but less worried about that 😉