The Teaching Mum

A light-hearted look at parenting through the eyes of a very busy English Teacher.


Jack’s Story, Part Five – Romeo, Juliet, Jack and the Stranger.

This is part five of a fictional story I am attempting to write.  I am not 100% happy with this as I wrote this from scratch last night.  Everything else that has been published on here has been sitting on my computer for the last six years or so.

If you are interested in catching up on the story, you can click on the links below:

This is part one.  This is part two.  This is part three and this is part four

Unsurprisingly, Jack barely slept a wink that night.  His mother, true to her word, stayed with him until the morning and woke him with a gentle squeeze of his hand.  He had dozed, but his dreams were fitful and in them he was surrounded by familiar faces all asking him the same question about his Dad.  Was he going to die?  Jack, in his dreams, had stared at everyone blankly while listening intently to a rhythmic tapping that was sounding out in the distance somewhere.  A rhythmic tapping that only he could hear.

Light seeped in through his eyelids as Jack reluctantly let the new day in.  The first thing he saw was the smiling face of his mother.  It took a minute to comprehend that she was actually speaking to him.

“…so you don’t have to go to school today if you don’t want to.”

Jack shook his head at this suggestion and explained that he wanted to go to school.  He didn’t want anyone knowing his family’s news – not yet.  He couldn’t bear to think of the looks on his teachers’ faces or the inevitable uncomfortable silence as he revealed his father’s illness to his friends.

“As you wish,” she mother said.  “I understand.”

She left him then and returned to his father, who, as far as Jack was aware was still sleeping soundly in their bedroom.  Ordinarily, Jack’s father would have been at work today.  He worked as a civil engineer for the local council and had done for over twenty years.  Jack recalled his father telling him last week that he was owed some holiday and was taking a few days off.  Knowing what he knew now, Jack wasn’t sure that his father would be going back to work at all.  As it would turn out, Jack was correct in his assumption because Carl was too ill to be at work and once the chemotherapy began, he would be introduced to a weakness like no other.

Carl was still asleep when Jack dashed out of the house just in time for the school bus.  Waiting for him upstairs on the double decker was Michael, Jake and Aaron.  Jack could tell that Michael was angry at him over something, but he could not, for the life in him, remember what he had done wrong.

“Where were you last night?” Michael asked.

“At home,” was Jack’s reply.

“I was online for hours waiting to play.  You know, like we had agreed just before you left my house,” Michael said.

“My mum made me finish my History project.  She wouldn’t let me near the bloody X-Box, let alone talk to you on it all night.”

You alright this morning?” Aaron asked Jack. “You look knackered, mate.”

“Just tired, that’s all.”

The rest of the journey was subdued.  Michael continuously checked his phone to see if Chloe Peterson from English had text.  She hadn’t.  Jack didn’t care.  He merely stared out of the window and thought about who he had seen last night in his garden.  He was about to ask his friends whether they had been out late the previous evening, but it had been the small hours of the morning when he had heard the tapping.  Michael was afraid of his own shadow and always appeared to panic whenever they were out past 9o’clock.  No, the leg didn’t belong to any of his friends.  Pushing his thoughts aside with some force, Jack continued to look silently out of his window until he was nudged in the arm by Jake telling him to get his arse downstairs because they had arrived at the school gates.

English was first.  By 9.05am, a bright, but crisp sunshine had begun to light up the school.  The cold was still bitter and there was a dampness in the air, but as Jack turned towards the classroom window, he could feel the sun on his face and the heat emitting from it.  This signalled the start of spring.  It was coming; there was still a way to go before bike rides in the long summer evenings, tree climbing by twilight and hideouts and dens in the woods behind the park.  Momentarily, Jack wondered how his Dad’s illness might impact on these activities that meant the world to him, but in the grand scheme of things, they were unimportant and unnecessary.  He could already hear his dad telling him not to think like that, yet when it’s your own family in danger then the little things, no matter how significant you think they are, get pushed to the back of the queue.  Cogs and wheels began to churn and turn in Jack’s mind as his attention moved away from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and onto the classroom window that looked out onto the playing fields.

He stared out of the window for a long time and when he turned his attention briefly back to the class, Jack noticed his teacher, Mr Watson, give him the slightest of nods.  It was the ‘knowing’ nod.  The nod that told Jack that Mr Watson knew and he was not going to punish Jack for being off task and staring out of the window because Mr Watson had learnt earlier that morning that ‘there were issues at home’.  Sadie had been quick off the mark.  Yes, she agreed that she wanted Jack’s life to continue as normal, but she also knew her son inside out and no matter how much he wanted to continue as normal, he just wouldn’t be able to do it.  That’s the beginnings of distress and grief: the mind wanders lost and lonely and sometimes it is only the slightest of nods from your English Teacher that is needed to bring you back into the real world that you want to escape from.

The familiar monotonous tone of the Bard’s words filled the stuffy classroom as Mr Watson recited the familiar monologue:

“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief,

That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.

Be not her maid since she is envious.

Her vestal livery is but sick and green,

And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off!”

Mr Watson broke off from his lines to pose a series of familiar questions.

“ ‘Juliet is the sun’ is an example of what?” Mr Watson asked.

“A metaphor, Sir,” a voice shouted out.

“Yes, thank you Jordan, but let’s not shout out.”

“Sorry!” Jordan shouted out.

“What does the metaphor tell us about Juliet?” Mr Watson asked, once again.

“She’s bright, Sir.”

“She’s yellow, Sir.”

“She’s hot, Sir!” came the barrage of replies.

Rolling his eyes, Mr Watson dared to move on and a flicker of panic crossed his face as he posed the next question:

“Anyone recall what we said Juliet’s ‘vestal livery’ is?

The unfamiliarity of the phrase meant that, this time, no one shouted out.

“It was the uniform worn by, erm, virgins,” Mr Watson finished quickly.

“What’s a virgin, Sir?” Jordan asked with a mischievous glint in his eyes.

Mr Watson raised a knowing eyebrow and yet suddenly a bombardment of comments began to flow through the room as the pupils saw their opportunity.

“Eww, Sir!  You told us she was only thirteen, Sir.  That’s gross.”

“Did Romeo go to jail, Sir?”

“No Kieran, you know this!  You’ve watched the film twice.” said Mr Watson incredulously

“He should have been arrested, she’s a teenager,”

“So is Romeo, Jimmy,” Mr Watson sighed.

“Sir! Why do the characters speak English if the play was set in Verona?” another person shouted up.  “They should speak Veronian.”

“That’s not a even a word, Elise.” Mr Watson said.

“Sir!  Sir!  Can we watch the petrol station scene again with the guns?”

“Please remember, Joe that in the exam you won’t mention guns,”

By this time, Mr Watson was almost swimming in his own despair.

“Stop!”  He shouted.  “Just stop.  Year ten, we have read this scene before, we have watched the scene in the film, you know the play is set in Italy and you know what Juliet being only thirteen was, well, it was normal, in the 1500s.

“What was?” Jordan shouted.

It was nothing more than a whisper and yet it felt like a thousand decibels: “Get out.”

Suddenly, the class was silent.  Standing up quietly, Jordan made his way to the front of the class.  As he passed his teacher, he raised his hand to his mouth and bit hit thumb.

“Jordan, what the hell are you doing?” Mr Watson asked.

“I’m biting my thumb at you, Sir.  You know what that means don’t you?”

There was a slight snigger from the rest of the class.

Mr Watson couldn’t help but smile as he pointed to the door.  At least something of what he was teaching was lingering in their brains somewhere.  He turned back to the remaining pupils in the classroom.

“I’ll let you watch the petrol station scene again if you agree to watch the balcony one again too,” said Mr Watson. “You lot are going to be the death of me.”

He paused then and looked over to Jack because he realised he has said something that might upset one of his pupils.  Jack, however, remained oblivious to the whole conversation.  He didn’t know what a ‘vestal livery’ was and nor did he care; he wasn’t bothered that the Shakespearian characters would have fought with swords and not Smith and Wessons and he didn’t know that when Jordan was biting his thumb at his English teacher, he was actually swearing at him.  Jack was oblivious to the classroom antics because Jack was staring at a boy standing alone in the field outside.  And the boy?  Well, he was staring right back at Jack, and waving.


No relevance to the story at all, but who doesn’t like to see a boy with a toilet seat on his head?



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The Girl Who Didn’t Want to be Brave.

Today I made a mistake; a boundary was crossed – if only for a second.

I did something that teachers aren’t supposed to do.

In my defence, I had to do it because she was inconsolable; I had to do it because I have walked a mile in her footsteps; I had to do it because I understood how she felt, but most of all, I had to do it because she was scared.

I hugged a pupil.

For the briefest of seconds – all done in front of CCTV cameras – I offered some solace to a fourteen year old girl, who was crying over her mother being ill.

During English lessons, my pupils and I often discuss the difference between sympathy and empathy.  It’s a key factor that comes in to play when discussing how flamboyant words, intricate sentences structures and enduring characters can influence a readers’ thoughts and emotions.  ‘Sympathy is something we feel’, I tell them, while ’empathy is something we understand.’  The ability to empathsise with somebody is incredibly powerful because with just the slightest of nods and a look deep into their eyes, you know you’re not alone in feeling the way you do.  But, with some of the texts we read and in some of the poems we analyse, empathy is the one feeling I do not want my pupils to identify with.

Whenever I discuss empathy in class, a glimmer of light always ignites somewhere deep in my sub-conscious and I am instantly taken back to when I first read about the Thestrals in ‘Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix’.  Harry could see the skeletal horse-like creatures that pulled the Hogwarts carriages when, in previous books, they had appeared to move of their own accord.  He could see the Thestrals because he had seen death.

I would be able to see the Thestrals.

Fourteen year old children shouldn’t have to see the Thestrals.

She walked into my classroom late.  We were reading silently.  She looked at me as she came in through the door and I asked her if she was okay.  There was a flicker of acknowledgement in her eyes because she knew my story and I hers; she began to crumble.  Instantly, before the class could see her facade break, I ushered her outside and left my class.  In a heartbeat my colleague saw us – gave me the slightest of nods because he too understood – and went to sit with my class.

We’re taught not to ask leading questions when it comes to speaking with pupils in distress.  Therefore I didn’t.  I didn’t need to.  Her emotions overflowed as words she had been keeping to herself were finally out in the open.  Then, when it was my turn to respond, I found that when I tried to speak, I couldn’t because my own understanding of her situation had got the better of me; when I opened my mouth to talk, my voice cracked and I too cried.  I cried because I felt completely helpless.  I lost one of my parents to Cancer so how could I offer her any comfort when my story ended with such a defeating blow? How could I offer her any comfort when I didn’t know the full extent of her own inner turmoil?  How could I offer her comfort when I wasn’t the one person she really needed right now?

So we sat.

And she cried.

I told her that there were people in school who were fully trained to give her the advice she needed.  She told me that – amongst many other things I am sure – that their advice was to be brave.

“I don’t want to be brave,” she cried. “I just want my mum!”

And that was when I hugged her. We were seated next to each other and I put my arm around her for a matter of seconds because my roles blurred for a moment and I was no longer just an English Teacher; my parenting instinct kicked in as I saw a child in distress. Yes, it’s a maternal instinct to comfort a child in need, but it’s also a human one.

We were both handed tissues by another amazing colleague who too, unfortunately, could empathise completely with us.

“You are going to have to be brave,” I started. “This journey (yes, I really did use the clichéd ‘journey’) you’re about to embark upon is going to be tough.” I explained that chemotherapy was hard and that her mum might have to get sick in order for her to get better again.

I don’t know whether the truth helped, but telling her to be brave wasn’t what she needed to hear.

“But she will get better,” I said. “And that’s what you have to believe. It’s all you have, but it’s enough and your mum will see that.”

The corridor started to fill up with pupils moving onto new lessons and we were ushered into an office where we were both greeted by other members of staff who looked at us as if we were a pair of Thestrals.

I left her then with my colleagues and under their mindful eyes, she composed herself and calmed down.  I too composed myself and re-entered my class where I was greeted by pupils concerned for their friend’s well being.

There was half an hour of my lesson left and I decided to abandon it.

“Let’s play a game,” I suggested.

A quiet ‘yes!’ resounded in the room.

“Bookworm,” I said. “It’s a word game.”

A unified groan now reverberated around the four walls.

Within minutes though, a fierce competition had begun and pupils were trying to beat my high score. My classroom was loud as my pupil reentered the room and quietly took a seat near the back to be with some friends.

Because it was normality she craved.

And it was normality she got while seated at the back of my room with friends as I had an argument with a fourteen year old boy as to whether ‘flobbering’ was a verb or not. (It’s not, for those wondering…) She had told me outside that she didn’t want to be brave and yet here she was, and probably without realising it, being the bravest girl in the classroom because she dared to be honest, not only to herself, but to trained staff, to me and, perhaps most importantly, to her friends.

No, she wasn’t going to be seeing the Thestrals – not today. Not for a long, long, long time, I hope.

I may have crossed a boundary.

I don’t even know if I helped or if I was a hindrance. But, what I do know is that I am a teacher and I am a mum, and for the briefest of seconds, I was both.

Parenting, like teaching, is a balancing act, but the end goal is the same: a child’s best interest is always at heart.

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Parenting. Can’t Beat the Feeling?

To be sung loudly to Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ – try it, it works!

I get this feeling on my way home,
I get excited right down into my bones.
Driving through my city and past my home,
Work has finished let’s go pick up our children.

I’ve got some chocolate in my pocket,
Got a Fruitshoot at my feet.
That Friday feeling in my body, nothing can top.
Can’t take my eyes up off the road, I’m driving so enthusiastically,
The car unlocks when I stop it and out I rock.

Out near the bikes where you’re not supposed to go,
I spot you hiding and you’re picking your nose.
The teacher wants you to move and I know,
She just wants gin, just wants gin, just wants gin…

Picking my kids up from school makes me dance, dance, dance,
It feels so good, I’ve missed you so let’s dance, dance, dance,
There’s many things you shouldn’t do,
So no time to dance, dance, dance,
Ain’t no daddy home anytime soon, he’s teaching dancing.
You want a third apple peeling?
There’s no chance, chance, chance. Come on!

Ooh, hot tea is magical,
It’s hard to drink when it’s my head he’s sitting on.
He needs no reason, I’ve no control,
Is it too much to ask to have a wee all alone?

He’s got a remote control rocket,
That’s always dropped on my feet,
I feel my blood boil in my body, but then it stops
I can’t take my eyes up off them; they’ve changed my life so drastically,
Their rooms need a lock; some peace would rock, but they’ll strop.

And as the night begins to draw to a close,
We start to wonder if the alcohol will flow,
But, then one kid moves and as parents we know,
There’ll be no gin, be no gin, be no gin.

Nothing that some gin can’t fix; there’s no chance, chance, chance,
Exhaustion’s creeping up on you,
Sleep? No chance, chance, chance
Follow your rules, they should do,
But there’s no chance, chance, chance
Shouldn’t daddy be home soon for some romancing?
There’s food on the ceiling,
No time for romance, mance, mance.
On poo, I’m kneeling,
Yes, there’s a good chance, chance, chance,
Sometimes I’m left reeling,
From just one glance, glance, glance
Parenting is the best feeling,
So we’ll keep dancing.

That Friday feeling in my body;
Even when I’m feeling shoddy,
Wouldn’t swap it with no body
Parenting’s the best hobby.

Can’t beat the feeling!


Jack’s Story – Finding a New Fear. Part 4!

I won’t babble on nervously – I am going to keep doing this as it’s making me write. However, any comments and thoughts will be much appreciated.

Part one is here.  Part two is here.  Here is part three. 

And here is part four – beware, this part is a little tense. Well, at least I hope it is!

Jack must have slept because it was a tapping sound that woke him.  Ominous shadows loomed over him in the darkness as he reached quickly for the lamp switch.  Light flooded the room instantly distinguishing the shadows and vanquishing any fears that had begun to creep up around him.  Now, only the sound of his heart beating in his ears could be heard; he had obviously dreamed the tapping.  Until…there is was again: tap, tap, tap.  Jack turned his ear toward the sound; it was coming from his window.  Slowly, he moved up from the bed and felt the chill of the night air race up his pyjama bottoms.  The curtains lay still against the window oblivious to the sound that was coming from behind them.  Jack crossed the room in one swift movement and ripped the curtains apart.  The glass was untouched and the windows were locked.  The noise wasn’t coming from the window; it was coming from behind it.  The tapping was outside.  Jack cupped his head to the glass and squinted against the light to see if there was anything moving in the garden.  It was no use.  All that stared back at him was his own confused reflection.  He crossed the room again and switched off the lamp.  Still the persistent tapping continued.  Nothing was deterring whatever was out there.  Jack sat on his bed for a moment trying to pin point the sound.  He strained his ears and closed his eyes.  It wasn’t the wind pushing against branches and it wasn’t an animal trapped among the plants – no this was something different.  Panic started to set in.  Now more aware and more awake, he moved slowly back towards the open curtains.  With is heart thundering in his chest, his fear slowed down his actions as he steadily raised his hands to the glass and cupped his face against the window once again.  His eyes adjusting to the dark, Jack could finally see not what was out there, but who?

It was hard to spot at first.  The garden shed stood alone in the blackness with nothing near it and certainly nothing tapping against it.  Moving his eyes over the grass, Michael searched for any sudden movements from a night animal, but there was nothing.  The grass was still as if it had ceased breathing, like it too was trying to determine where the noise was coming from.  The tapping continued.  Jack’s eyes moved towards the gate at the bottom of the garden, but it wasn’t swinging open.  He almost wished it was as that would have solved the mystery.  No, the gate was locked shut.  Jack started to move on with his search when something caught his attention.  The gate wasn’t moving, but something on the gate was.  A long thin object was being hit against the top of it and was making a rhythmic tapping sound.  But, what was holding onto the object?  He continued to stare and his brain made out the shape of a stick or long branch that was being whacked against the top of the wooden gate.  He followed the length of it, but it disappeared into the tree that stood tall behind the gate.  Well that explained it, thought Jack, his heart starting to slow down a little.  It was an over-hanging branch knocking against the wood of the gate.  As he was about to turn away from the window and return to the warmth of his bed, Jack stopped.  It’s too loud he thought.  It has too much rhythm to it.  Jack turned back to the window.  As he did so, he thought he saw movement up in the tree just a little above the gate.  Suddenly, he saw it.  A human foot.  It was attached to a long human leg that was dangling down and swinging freely in the air.  Jack gulped and swallowed a scream.

He shoved himself away from the glass and fell backwards over his school bag and landed on the floor with a bump.  Some kids were trying to break into the house; he had to tell his dad.  A plummeting feeling hit him in the stomach.  What could his dad do?  Was he too ill now?  Had the disease weakened him already despite him not having any treatment yet?  The young boy fought to hold back the tears; he hated the thought that his father would eventually grow weaker than him – a fourteen year old boy.  Carl could no longer protect the family, not in his current state.  The thoughts angered Jack and he pushed his fear aside.  Who knew about his Dad?  Had his Mum told her friends who had then passed it onto Jack’s friends?  Who was trying to take advantage of their dire situation?  His blood began to boil.  He wasn’t going to allow some dodgy kids from the estate break into his house.  No, this was going to be Jack’s fight; he was going to look after the family now; he was going to be the man who would protect his house.  Nobody was going to break in tonight.

The tapping had stopped.  It was a few moments before Jack realised this.  He remained on the floor in silence, but started to pull himself up using the window sill.  The leg was still there, still swinging.  Jack knew that it was time to go outside.

With his legs like jelly, Jack forced himself to stand.  Little steps he told himself.  Stand up.  Move away from the window.  Leave the bedroom.  Sneak downstairs.  Open the door to go outside.  Just little steps were all that were needed.  And yet, Jack was barely standing.  Fear had started to take hold again and the blood that was boiling in his ears only moments earlier was now simmering down in his stomach, somewhere beyond his reach.  What had he been thinking?  He wasn’t brave.  He had to think.  Jack knew that his father kept a cricket bat under his bed and he knew he had to get it.  There was no way he could creep into his parent’s room without waking one of them – the creaky floor boards would give him away for sure.  There was only one thing left to do.  He was going to play his ‘child card’.  He had considered ‘adulting’ for the briefest of moments, but now it was time to admit that he just was not ready to take on the role of his father just yet – he was just a scared kid.  Fear had gripped him and there was only one person in the whole world who could take that fear away from him.

“MUM!” he shouted.

Literally a second passed and she was in the room.  Sadie had even got her dressing gown on and was pulling it around her body as she forcibly pushed her son’s bedroom door open.

“What?  What’s the matter?” she demanded.

“Outside, Mum.  There’s someone outside.” Jack said in a voice that was suddenly a whisper.

Sadie hesitated for the briefest of seconds and Jack could tell she was contemplating waking his father.  However, she too realised that protecting the family was no longer his domain and she had to step up and face whatever threat was out there.  Jack’s admiration for his mother doubled in an instant.  If she was scared, she never showed it. If her legs were like jelly, they stood firm underneath her, which was much more than he could say about his own legs that had basically just turned to mush.  He noticed his Incredible Hulk slippers mocking him over by his wardrobe.  By this time, his mother was at the window staring out into the dark garden.  Jack could see her squinting and it was clear that she couldn’t see anything.  Not one to be deterred, she marched downstairs and Jack could hear her take the house keys out of the drawer in the kitchen and unlock the back door.  Suddenly, a bright light washed over the entire garden as his mother walked onto the lawn.  She glanced up at her son in the window and he gestured towards the garden gate.  Again, without faltering, she walked over to it, pulled it and made certain it was locked.  She walked around the garden shed, but it was clear that the garden was deserted.  Jack could feel his heart beat start to slow in his chest as he heard his mother close the door downstairs.  He heard the keys turn, the latch being dropped and her returning up the stairs.  When she re-entered Jack’s room, he expected a telling off, but she only smiled.


“There’s no one out there, dear.  It’s too bloody cold for anyone to be out there,” she said, shivering.

“I thought I saw a leg dangling from the tree behind the gate,” Jack said.

Sadie could see that her only son was petrified; not only by this, but by the whole evening he had just endured.

“Listen,” she said.  “I am just going to go and check on your Dad, then I will get the cover from spare room and I will sleep on your floor tonight.  I’ll be right next to you.  How does that sound?”

Jack nodded.  It sounded perfect.

She turned and briefly left his bedroom.  Jack’s found that his legs could stand again and he made a move to return to his bed.  However, the window caught his eye again because there was a break in his curtains where they hadn’t been drawn properly.  Before he knew it, he was glancing outside again just to, you know, make sure that the garden was empty.  And it was.  Nothing stirred on the lawn, nothing was by the shed and, more importantly, nothing was dangling its leg over the garden gate.  Maybe Jack had been dreaming it after all.  Perhaps the stress of the evening had just taken its toll on his emotions.  But, if that were to be the case, then why could he see a long, thick stick standing alone up against the garden gate?

There’s nobody hiding in this tree!


A Tale to Tell (Jack’s Story) – Part Three

Part one can be found here.  If you like that, then part two is here.

If this were a book, this would be the start of the second chapter.  As with the previous installments, I welcome your thoughts.

The world in which Jack existed had been obliterated in an instant.  At this moment, he was seated on his bed in his bedroom and he was alone.  He never returned to Michael, who had long since vanished off line, and as far as Jack was concerned, he never wanted to see anyone again because he was afraid that if he did, then he would utter the truth to them.  The truth was: he was scared.  If he thought being almost knocked over by a car was true terror then he was very wrong.  Right now he was staring down the barrel of a gun and fate was holding the trigger.

Only an hour ago, his mother had wanted a talk – he couldn’t believe that he was eating his dinner only an hour ago!  It may have well as been a million years ago, in a different life and on a different planet.  He had never felt so devoid of anything before and he didn’t know what his next move was going to be.  This was the test you see.  His parents were waiting downstairs for him.  Fight of flight mode was kicking in.  Was he going to stick around and fight or was he going to flee?  His parents had made their decision; they needed to see what his was going to be.

“You and I need to have a little talk,” was all his mother had said.

It was nothing.  Or, so he thought.

After dinner had been cleared away, his father vanished into the kitchen to wash up.  Despite the news concerning his father, it was to be his mother who would send Jack’s world crashing down.

Jack followed his mother into the living room and she gestured for him to sit down on the settee.  He complied.  Once he was seated, she too took a seat right next to him.  He could see the creases in her forehead and the lines around her eyes.  His mother was beautiful, but today she appeared to be worn out.

“Your father and I have been to the hospital today,” she began to explain.

Immediately, Jack’s stomach plummeted.

“He has been struggling to eat recently and I don’t know if you have noticed, but he frequently suffers from hiccups.  We didn’t think it was anything serious, but his hiccups were painful and often resulted in terrible heartburn.  Your dad finally agreed to go and see a doctor after I had been asking him for weeks.  When he finally saw someone, Jack, your father was referred to the hospital straightaway and that’s where we have been today.

Jack nodded, but didn’t speak.

“Your father has a tumour, Jack.  Do you understand what that is?

Once again, Jack nodded, and couldn’t speak.

“It’s a tricky tumour, Jack.  That’s going to be the real problem.  We can fight it and we will fight it, but it’s going to be a tricky little bugger and it’s going to be a struggle.”

“Where?” Jack asked.

“It’s in his oesophagus,” she paused, waiting for a response from Jack.

He searched in his head for something to say.  He thought back to biology lessons when he had learnt about Cancer and mutated cells, but nothing of any significance came flooding back – only the memories of the rat they dissected a few months earlier – the rat that had made three girls shriek and caused Michael to lose all colour in his face.  The memory fizzled away as he noticed that his mother was waiting for him to speak.

“Osof…osofa…ohwhatagus?” was all he could say.

Sadie smiled at this.

“I know; that’s what I thought too.  The tumour is in his gullet, dear – she placed her hand in the centre of a chest and traced her fingers up to her throat.

Just then, his father walked in the living room and was drying his hands on a towel to signal that the washing up was complete.  He looked over at his son and smiled.  Jack looked at his father then – really looked at him.  He took in his size, his weight and the way in which he held himself.  He’d lost weight.  In fact, he had lost quite a bit.  How had Jack not noticed that?  Carl was quite a big man.  In his younger years, he had been a keen sportsman; he played football and rugby and regularly frequented the gym.  He was tall too.  Only now, as Jack was staring at his father, he didn’t appear to be quite as tall.  He was stooped over slightly and Jack wondered whether this was an attempt to hide the weight loss or whether it was because he was ill.  A pang of guilt shot through him then.  How had he not noticed these changes?

“Son,” his father spoke then.  “Your mother thought it would be better to speak to you about this tonight before we start any treatment.  Do you understand what we mean by treatment?”

“It means chemotherapy,” Jack said quietly.  “It’s what you need to help you get better.”

“Yes, son.  To help me get better,”

Carl glanced over at his family then and paused.  Silence swept over the living room like that small wave that catches you unaware at the beach and knocks you off your feet.  Jack waited for someone to say something.  Anything.  But neither parent spoke.  No longer looking at him, both parents stared at one another and Jack noticed him mother give his father the slightest of nods.  It was her signal to say that she would do the rest; she was relieving Carl of his duties because he had said all he had needed to say.  Realising that he was still holding the wet towel, Carl, without speaking, gestured towards the kitchen and left his son and his wife alone.

“Is there anything you want to ask?” Sadie finally spoke once Carl was out of earshot.

Jack thought, but he couldn’t think of anything intelligent to say.  He couldn’t think of anything comforting or soothing to say, so he just said:

“Can I go to my room?”

Again, Sadie gave the slightest of nods as her eyes dropped to her hands that were twisting and turning in her lap like she was solving an invisible Rubik’s Cube puzzle.

So, that was where he was now: his bedroom.  An hour had passed and Jack couldn’t hear anything from downstairs.  He knew that he would not see his parents again that night; he needed time alone and they accepted that.  Watching Michael kiss Chloe Peterson from English was a million years ago now.  The sneeze that Jack thought was going to be tomorrow’s talking point and tomorrow’s ‘roasting’ was no longer of any importance.  Hell, it didn’t even register on his radar anymore.

The fact was: Jack’s dad was ill.  Not just poorly ill, but seriously ill.  A tumour had been growing on his gullet for God knows how long and now, as a family, they had to fight it.  In fact, they had to annihilate it, just like it had done to his family.  He couldn’t even contemplate living in a world that didn’t have his father in it.  Who would he sledge with in winter or play football with in the summer?  Who would he speak to about girls when the time came?  Above all though, who would teach him how virtuous in adversity?  Who would show him how to be the pillar of his own family and who prepare him, when the time came, for fatherhood?   Jack’s instincts were screaming at him to run and hide.  And that, just for now, is what he did.  He folded back his bedding and climbed, fully clothed, into his bed pulling the covers up over his head.

I thought, perhaps, a picture of Batman might persuade you to read! 😉

This story isn’t going to be sad.  The plan is for it to be uplifting, but sometimes describing terrible events is essential before the magic can begin.  And by magic, I mean literal magic.  Stick with it and see.  

Any comments would be greatly appreciated again.


A re-imagining of Peppa Pig – Paper Aeroplanes

Remember Baz Luhman’s re-imagining of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’? Well, I like to think this is on a par with that…’ 

Narrator: Daddy Pig is getting ready to go to work.

Daddy Pig: Why are the papers I need buried under another sodding soggy nappy? *Throws nappy across the office, waking up a dozing Mr Skinny Legs.* Why I can’t be like Mummy Pig getting to stay at home all day, playing with the kids and watching ‘Homes Under the Hammer?’ *Leaves house muttering expletives under his breath.*

Peppa and George: Bye Daddy!

Narrator: Peppa and George head into the kitchen where Mummy Pig is standing over the kitchen sink eating the left overs from Peppa Pig’s discarded Rice Krispies.

Peppa Pig: Mummy, can we make something?

Mummy Pig: *Begins to rock back and forth* Not arts and crafts, not arts and crafts, not arts and crafts…

Peppa Pig: Mummy? Are you okay?

Mummy Pig: Are you sure, Peppa?  Your tablet is upstairs charging.

Peppa Pig: Yes I am sure, Mummy.

Mummy Pig: *Sighs and eyes up the bottle of gin on the top shelf of the pantry before realising that it is 9.30am and drinking before 11am is often frowned upon.* What would you like to make, Peppa?

George Pig: Dinosaur.

Peppa Pig: Oh George, you always say dinosaur.  If I am being honest, George I am slightly concerned at your lack of vocabulary at two years old.  According to NHS guidelines, you should be starting to piece small sentences together by now.

Mummy Pig: I’m not making a dinosaur.  Who do you think I am?  Mr Maker?  Let’s make an…erm…wait a sec…an aeroplane.  They only take a minute to make.

Peppa Pig: Can we make an aeroplane that flies?

Mummy Pig: Well, we can try.  All we need is some paper.

Peppa Pig: We know where there’s paper.

Narrator: There is lots of old paper strewn all over the floor and desk in the work-room because Daddy Pig never bloody tidies up after himself.

Peppa Pig: Here’s some paper.

Mummy Pig: Oh, brilliant. *Rolls eyes.*

Narrator: Mummy Pig is going to make a ‘pig’s ear’ out of making a paper aeroplane.

Mummy Pig: Fold the paper down the middle.  Now fold the corners in at one end.  Fold those corners in again to make a point.  Then fold the sides back like this.

Narrator: Mummy Pig glances over to see that George has made a right royal mess of his plane and grabs it from him.

Pepper Pig: That’s doesn’t look like an aeroplane, Mummy.

Mummy Pig: It’s a budget airline. *She does her best to fix George’s aeroplane.*

Peppa Pig: Paper aeroplanes!

Mummy Pig: Let’s see if they can fly.  Although, I very much doubt George’s will.  He has the attention of a gnat that boy does; I’ll be having words with Madame Gazelle next time I bloody see her.

Narrator: They go out into the garden.  It’s cold because it’s always bloody cold when Mummy Pig has a day off with the kids.

Mummy Pig: Ready, steady go!

Narrator: Mummy Pig’s aeroplane has flown into a tree.

Peppa Pig: My turn!

Narrator: Peppa’s aeroplane has landed in a flowerpot.

Peppa Pig: Your turn George.

Narrator: George’s aeroplane is doing the loop the loop while Peppa looks on fuming. She breathes a sigh of relief as she sees it heading for the duck pond.

Peppa Pig: I want to make a big aeroplane now because I am just never satisfied.

Mummy Pig: Why?  It will just do the same thing. *Rolls eyes knowing that she is fighting a losing battle.* Okay, we will need a really big piece of paper.

Narrator: Peppa and George run back into Daddy Pig’s office.

Peppa Pig: Here’s a big piece of blue paper.  It has a picture of a house on it and looks rather important, but I just don’t give a shit.

Narrator: Peppa and George have made a big blue aeroplane.  Mummy Pig notices that it is made out of some official looking blue paper, but she doesn’t give a shit either because Daddy Pig shouldn’t have just left it laying around the house like he does with everything he owns.

*Beep Beep*

All: Daddy Pig!

Daddy Pig: Hello everyone!

Mummy Pig: Why the hell are you not at work?  You better not have been bloody caught photocopying your tail again?

Daddy Pig: No, Mummy Pig. *Smirking at the memory.* I have actually forgotten some important papers.

Peppa Pig: Daddy, we are making paper aeroplanes. *Shoves important blue document literally under his snout.* We made a really big one.

Daddy Pig: Wow! Fantastic.  Well, seeing as it’s the middle of the day and I don’t have anywhere to be apart from work, I may as well throw it for you because you need someone big to throw this important looking blue paper aeroplane.  Go!

Narrator: The big blue aeroplane is flying very high and very far.

Mummy Pig: Bloody show off.

Peppa Pig: Erm, how are we going to get that back? FFS, Dad. We were having fun before you came along.

Narrator: Mummy Pig stifles a giggle because at this moment in time, she is the fun parent. She will cling onto this accolade for as long as possible.

Daddy Pig: Ho ho.  Bye bye aeroplane.  Right, now I need to find my important pieces of work paper.  Has anyone seen any pieces in paper bearing in mind that you have been making paper planes all morning.

Peppa Pig: Erm.

Mummy Pig: Maybe you should follow me.

Peppa Pig: Is this one of your important papers Daddy?

Daddy Pig: Yes, that’s one of them.

Peppa Pig: Is this one of your important papers Daddy?

Daddy Pig: Yes, thank you Peppa. Why are we at the duck pond?

Narrator: Daddy Pig stands dumbstruck as a duck stands up, walks out of the pond and hands the piece of paper to him – a walking talking pig.

Daddy Pig: The only paper I am missing now is the big blue print.

Mummy Pig: Is it big and blue?

Peppa Pig: Like the aeroplane you threw a long way away Daddy?

Daddy Pig: Sh*t.

Peppa Pig: The one we said bye bye to?

Daddy Pig: Sh*t.  Maybe I should ring the office.

Narrator: This is daddy pig’s office.

Mr Rabbit: Daddy Pig! Where the f*ck are you? You do know it’s not common practice to just get up and leave the office don’t you? You had better had found those papers, you know.

Daddy Pig: Erm.

Mr Rabbit: I have a list as long as my paw of snotty nosed apprentices desperate for your job.  Do you know that?

Daddy Pig: Erm. I found some of them.

Mr Rabbit: You better have that blue paper print or you’re sacked.

Daddy Pig: That might be a problem.

Peppa Pig: *Shouting down the phone.* Daddy threw it away.

Daddy Pig: Shut up, Mouth!

Mr Rabbit: Threw it away!

Peppa Pig: And it flew and flew forever. *This pig just doesn’t know when to stop.*

Daddy Pig: Christmas is cancelled for you.

Mr Rabbit: Argh! it’s here. It has landed on my desk, you lucky son of bitch.

Daddy Pig: Ah, good. I can take the rest of the day off then, can’t I?

Mr Rabbit: Get that curly tailed ass of yours back in the office now or Colin Caterpiller from the photocopying room is getting your job.

Narrator: With that, Daddy Pig hangs up the phone, jumps in his car and drives off. Mummy Pig, Peppa Pig and George Pig go back inside. Mummy Pig settles herself down to watch ‘Loose Sows’ whilst muttering something under her breath about her ‘not sodding tidying up Daddy’s pig sty of an office’. Peppa and George sit, glassy eyed, next to Mummy Pig playing the CBeebies app on their tablets.  No one ever says the words ‘paper aeroplane’ again.

Peppa Pig and a lesser known character, who can often be seen wondering aimlessly up and down the alcohol aisle at Miss Rabit’s supermarket.


A Tale to Tell – the second 1000 (well, 1341, but who’s counting?)

If you missed part one yesterday, just click on these words!

Part Two

The back door was locked and Jack fumbled for his keys in his trouser pockets.  His numb fingers grasped at the metal, but they were too cold to clutch onto anything.  The security light suddenly lit up the whole garden as his mother opened the door.

“There you are!” she exclaimed, looking him up and down.  “The storm got you then.”

“Humph, can you tell?”

She smiled at him, but it was the kind of smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.  Jack began to recite the dramatic events that had unfolded only moments earlier, but his mother hurried away muttering something under her breath about potatoes boiling over.  Sighing to himself, Jack decided not to tell her about the incident that never was as there was no need for her to worry over something that didn’t happen, not when she had potatoes that were spoiling.

Passing his father watching television in the living room, Jack muttered a quick ‘hello’ and gestured a wave before dashing upstairs and into his bedroom.  Ah, his room: his base camp; his escape hatch; his chamber of secrets, or, as his mum sometimes called it when she was cleaning the house in a bad mood: ‘his shit tip’, but that only happened on a few occasions – it was rare to hear his mum swear.  Mostly, she would just open his door, roll her eyes, tut and then close the door again.  Over dramatic, that summed his mum up perfectly.  Jack’s room was without fault.  He pushed the door open and immediately it stuck on a lone sock thrown on the floor.  Oh.  Perhaps it was not entirely without fault then.  He pushed harder and the door crashed open and smashed into his desk chair that was lying like a defeated soldier in the middle of the floor having succumbed to the pile of clothes that had been balancing on it for more than a week now.  Frowning, Jack jumped over the mine field that was his carpet and landed firmly on his bed, which, he was proud say he made perfectly before he left for school that morning.  Before he was almost hit by a car and before Michael had been unceremoniously dumped by Chloe Peterson from English.  Yes, a lot could happen in a day and a lot could change.

Jack glanced around his room.  His walls were strewn with his latest crazes: the new hot girl from the Disney Channel, (Jack didn’t think that Disney would condone the fact that their newest teen offering was deemed hot by numerous testosterone filled teenagers, but what did he care?  She was hot); the latest warfare game on the Xbox and sickest new rock band out right now.  His dad didn’t understand how a rock band could be touring and putting albums out if they were ‘so sick’.  ‘They should be tucked up in bed with a Lemsip,’ he would say before wondering off and chuckling to himself.  In and among the posters, however, was something that his dad certainly approved of: a framed and signed AC/DC Back in Black tour poster from 1980.  He had given it to Jack on his thirteenth birthday.  It was an obsession passed down from father to son and Jack loved their music.  He recalled the day that his father had given him the poster and he had said that he was impressed that his son had decided not to follow the crowd and like the ‘crap the charts are spewing out these days’.  No, his son rocked to the beat of his own drum and that, he said, was ‘sick’.  Jack recalled cringing at his dad’s lame attempt at teenage slang, but secretly he loved having his father’s approval.  Smiling at the memory, Jack stepped from his bed, picked up his desk chair, put his pile of clothes into the washing basket (which he knew his mum would thank him for later) and paired up a few odd socks that had been discarded on the carpet.  Once he was satisfied with his tidying, he switched on his X-Box and saw that Michael was online trying to connect with him.  Just then, he heard his mother calling him for dinner and he decided to leave Michael waiting which was – he decided – the lesser of the two evils.  He would deal with Michael’s wrath after he had eaten and feigned enjoyment of his mum’s ‘spoiled’ potatoes.

Evening dinner was a subdued affair with Jack’s parents barely speaking.  They usually asked him how his day had been and if anything exciting had happened at school.  But, today, things were different.  A dense atmosphere hung over them like a spider closing in on its prey.  They hadn’t been arguing though, that Jack could tell, because mum didn’t have her stern face on and dad wasn’t scowling over his cup of tea.  No, this was unusual.  Mum had a far away look in her eye as if she was trying to see into a future that didn’t exist yet.  Dad, well dad, just looked exhausted.  Seeing the look on her only son’s face Sadie, Jack’s mother, made an attempt to lighten the atmosphere.  Her voice cracked when she spoke.

“Come on then.  Anything good happen at school today?” she asked.

Jack glanced down at his spaghetti hoops and concentrated.  He could barely recall what happened half an hour ago, never mind period one this morning.

“Well, we had English this morning, which was mint because the whole class had to leave the room when Adam Ward threw a pen at Mr Harris and called Shakespeare a boring git,” Jack chuckled.

“Why did you have to leave the room?” his mother inquired.

“Because Adam wouldn’t.  He just sat there and refused to be moved by anyone.

“That’s not mint, though is it Jack?  That’s reckless behaviour.  His poor mother.  I bet she doesn’t know what to do with him when he is at home.”

“I don’t think Adam has a mother at home,” Jack answered.

Sadie looked utterly heartbroken then.

“Poor lad,” she said.

Jack was surprised by her comment because his mother, a teacher herself, did not condone bad behaviour from anyone.  Ever.

“What happened after you moved into the other class?” Sadie asked.

“Mr Harris confirmed Adam’s assertions: Shakespeare was indeed a boring git.”

“Jack!”  She almost spat out her potato.

At the top of the table, Jack’s father, who had remained silent all this time, let out an almighty laugh at his son’s comment.  He noticed too that his mother’s eyes softened and she too smiled at her son.

“What play are you studying, son?” his father asked.

“Romeo and Juliet – Romeo has just seen Juliet through the fish tank.”

“Ah yes,” he agreed.  “That bit is boring.”

Jack knew that his father had absolutely no idea what he was talking about and he loved the fact that he appeared to have gotten off scot-free for swearing at the dinner table, but he couldn’t help but ponder why.

They continued to eat their food in silence for a few more minutes.

“Love, we need to have a little talk after you’ve done eating.” his mother said as she was finishing with the food on her own plate.

He didn’t know why, but Jack had sensed that there was something to be discussed and yet he couldn’t think what it could be.  He had to stall.  He slowed his eating and poured a new dollop of ketchup next to his steak pie and he searched through his brain for any reason why his mum might want a ‘little talk’.  His grades were fine and he had received no detentions so far this year.  He only got a detention last year because his Maths teacher didn’t like him; it had nothing to do with him throwing Michael’s trainer out of the window onto the astro-turf below.  Forking up a chunk of pie and chewing it at least thirty seven times, Jack chuckled as the memory of that day ignited once again in his head.


Your comments, yesterday, were lovely – thank you.  I would love to hear your thoughts and what you think may happen next.  Because, if I am being honest, I am not quite sure myself!