Twixtmas magic

Today I have been to Harry Potter Studios as part of my 50th birthday year celebrations. It was just brilliant and well worth a second visit after we had been previously three years ago.
Back then I wrote this. It was no less magical today.

Colours, light, sound, texture, energy, creativity, passion, intelligence, detail, commitment, cooperation, imagination, magic.

All of these and more.

Face after face after face of wonder, excitement, emotion, curiosity.

Amongst them those of my two. She, happier than I have seen her in a long time. Moved to tears.

Beyond expectation. Way beyond.

A step into another world. A world of fiction and illusion but a world that has become part of our psyche, culture, history, archetypes.

I wanted it to go on for ever. I reconnected with my imaginative, creative self and remembered the person that I used to be; the dramatist, the one addicted to make-up, wigs, costumes, gels and gobos. And most of all addicted to telling stories, to using creativity and imagination to solve problems, fight monsters and invent a better world based on hope and dreams.

JK Rowling is nothing less than a genius.

But the studios show the power of a team of spirited and passionate individuals in making the arts all they can be.

Yes, a money-spinner. But for us, worth every penny.

For me, a reminder of what matters.

The Arts.






Have a Happy but not Perfect Christmas.

As we approach another Christmas, here are some thoughts, from me, as I approach my 51st festive season. I’ve written much of it before but I think it still holds true.
This morning I saw a post by Action for Happiness which said “stop waiting for everything to be perfect to be happy.”

Life is complex. 

We are both animal and human.

We are both conscious and unconscious. 

We both love and hate.

We both live and die.

We both marry and divorce.

We both do wrong and right.

And in our modern world, we are bombarded with so much conflicting advice from the ‘experts’:

We are told: diet, don’t diet

We are told: work hard, don’t work hard

We are told: love, don’t love

We are told: be yourself, don’t be yourself

We are told: drink red wine, don’t drink red wine

We are told: eat red meat, don’t eat red meat.

And so on.

But of course ultimately, the only expert in your life is you.

Life is complex. But that is its simplicity. If we understand that, we can own life.


Don’t aim for a perfect Christmas. Don’t try and follow the advice of the faceless experts. Look around you at the ones you love and look inside to know what will make you happy this Christmas. And do that. Have a Christmas that is happy for you.


#recycledwriting I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I have been feeling bad recently about my failure to write much in the way of  new blog posts. This has made me read back over some of my old ones and I have realised that many of them are still as relevant today as when I wrote them. So rather than beat myself up about producing constantly new ideas, I am going to re-share a selection of my posts in the lead up  to Christmas.

This is a post that a wrote a couple of years back in the run up to a holiday.

I was going to start this post by saying that I am at the end of probably the most challenging term of my career. That I am exhausted, that I feel almost overwhelmed by the dramas and demands of my job.

But the joy of blogging is that evidence shows that I have been here before. I have felt that sense of being beyond tired, over-challenged, over-stretched…… And the reality is that I have survived before and I will survive again.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with being tired after working hard; it is a bit like the tiredness you feel at the end of a long walk or run. The ache in your legs shows that you have put effort in and need a rest before the next exertion.

We are in a difficult place in schools just now. But has it ever been different? I don’t think so.

The reality is that there are always challenges but there are also always positives, however small. It is hard if the things that we judge to be positives are not viewed as such by others who are looking for hard evidence and hard data. It is hard when we are surrounded by those who want to weigh the pig instead of looking at it to see if it is thriving. And it is hard when others take more perverse pleasure in being critical and apportioning blame than in celebrating small successes and seeing a glass half full.

Small things to celebrate include:

*The hello in the corridor from the pupil who never says hello.

*The pupil who is there every day for a week after not having been.

*The class which produces the most sublime anti-bullying drama after a short year of studying the subject.

(Now don’t get me wrong. My learnt (not natural) tendency is to ALWAYS see the negative first….. But I know now to fight against that because it is not a helpful way of being and if I can’t look for solutions to problems, I am part of the problem.)

Life is amazing and it is awful. It is sunshine and rain. Every life has its ups and downs. As teachers in a school community, we will be touched by the ups and downs of the lives of every member of that community: the pupils, staff members and their family members beyond. In a large school that can equate to thousands of lives.

Being a teacher will never be without challenge and drama. We have chosen a vocation that makes us engage with lives in all their wonderful and terrible reality. But we have also chosen a vocation that allows us the privilege of helping children to navigate the opportunities and challenges of life.

Personally, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The keys within the key

677D1AC8-99E6-442B-93D8-3C600DC0890DAnd twelve hours on, the things that have helped me to undo the padlock and step out of the armour:

1. Time at home with the three humans who make everything feel ok.

2. Coffee and chat with two beautiful friends.

3. The astonishing beauty of the sunset.

4. Time to cook a meal for the family.

5. The excitement of advent eve.

6. Re-connecting with my physical self through yoga.

7. Properly seeing the frosty world in daylight and taking some deep breaths of cold air.

8. Cold white wine.

9. Clean washing.

10. Singing along to Bublé.

11. The smell of fresh thyme.

12. Allowing some happy-sad tears to flow.





677D1AC8-99E6-442B-93D8-3C600DC0890D‪This morning I am my anxiety.

After a too busy week with time away from home, I should have expected it; not enough of the routines and rituals things that keep it at bay.

It is like a protective armour which has served its purpose in past times to protect me as a catalyst to fight, flight or freeze.

Today it is uninvited, like a guest who has turned up on the wrong day for a party but now won’t leave.

Today, I am temporarily locked inside the armour and cannot find the key.

But the acknowledgment of temporary means that at least I will look for the key, instead of marching on regardless into a battle against myself that I won’t win.



How do you see me?

Below is a re-post of something I wrote on my other site a while back.
I was reminded of it as last night I sang in a concert and had a terrible crisis of confidence before I went on about what image I would portray and how people might judge me. I got through it in one piece and the feedback was ok but it has made me wonder whether to leave performing to the younger ones from now on.

This is a very early rehearsal version of what we performed. The song is one of the most heart-breakingly beautiful I have heard:

From July 2017:

Last night I played a game at the train station.
As we sat on the bench and watched people pass, I tried to work out which passer-by was most like me. Not in the sense of complete physical resemblance but in the sense of type, aura, energy.

Am I the together business woman with perfect sleek bob and immaculate suit, free of creases and dog hair?
Of course not. That is how I always hoped I might be one day but have never managed.

Am I the confident, alternative but cool DM wearing, striding bohemian type?
No. That would be another aspiration never achieved.

Am I the woman with hunched shoulders, badly dyed hair and a world-weary look? A bit scruffy. Lacking in togetherness? Out of kilter?

That is how I feel. That is how I have always felt, I think.
Different. An outsider. Uneasy. Disconnected from my physical self.

But I wonder how all of those women who fall under my scrutiny actually feel on the inside?

Maybe not together?
Maybe not confident?
Maybe not world-weary?

I have a sneaking suspicion that lots of us feel different on the inside than our external appearance and image might indicate. And that if we could encourage each other to be a bit more honest about this, we’d all find the world a bit more accepting, kinder and compassionate.






The sky hasn’t fallen in….

On Friday, I took a very big risk.

I am involved in an authority wide project to make our children’s services workforce trauma informed and trauma reactive, based on the type of excellent work that has been done in Brighton and Hove and Greater Manchester.

We have the support of Scottish Government to roll out training and ensure that anyone working with children has an understanding of trauma, the impact of trauma and, most importantly, what can be done to mitigate the effects of trauma through positive relationships, love and Bruce Perry’s safe and predictable experiences and environments.

I quoted several other greats in trauma research and education: Dr Karen Treisman, Lisa Cherry, Dr Bessel Van der Kolk, Carol Craig, Jaz Ampaw Farr, Judy Furnivall and Edwina Grant. And I made use links to the presentation at the Early Years Conference that many of us had attended that day before where Dr Ferre Laevers had spoken about the need for us to value wellbeing as highly as other aspects of attainment and use observations and relationships to ensure that all children thrive.

And then I explained why this work, perhaps more than any other in my professional repertoire, is important to me.

When I was 7 years old (and yes, I both love and hate that Luke’s Graham song), I was abused by someone whom my parents had entrusted to look after me.

I told no one. I did not have the words.

I lived for years with the absolute sense that it had been my fault and that I was bad. I embodied shame.

I went to bed every night and prayed that my family would not be punished because of my badness…even though I did not believe in a god.

And I developed coping strategies and behaviours to help me survive in a world that I saw as unsafe, scary and sad.

I made myself the best at everything. Exam results, rôles in school plays, singing and viola exams, Head girl. I was out-standing.

But it was never enough. I was never enough. Inside, nothing was ever enough because I was bad. The song from “The Greatest Showman” tells my truth as it was back then….and still is, if I am not very careful, today.

And at that time, none of the adults in my life looked at those behaviours and saw them for what they were. No one was curious because we didn’t have the science, the knowledge and the language that we have today to see that the behaviours of some children are telling us things about which we need to be curious. I don’t blame them because I know that they were doing the best with the knowledge they had at the time.

At the early years conference, Professor Kate Wall spoke about attunement and the idea that as, adults working with children we need to take time to read the things that people and children can’t or don’t verbalise but show in other ways. I can say without doubt that if the adults in my life had had the science and knowledge to read my behaviours better and to help me understand my feelings, then I wouldn’t have gone on to develop anorexia or to spend years trying to unlearn my unhelpful defence mechanisms. Without being overdramatic,  I’m lucky to be alive, as anorexia is the mental health condition in which death is most prevalent, either due to starvation or to suicide.

I have written about these experiences in my book, where I go into more detail about why having adults who understand trauma in children’s lives is so crucial. I first wrote that book three years ago under a pen name but have gradually been sharing it as me over the last year because I have a strong belief that my authenticity is what might help change things for others.

And on Friday, I brought that story to the people who know me professionally. My bosses and my colleagues will never see me in the same way again. Maybe that will have negative consequences for my career but I felt that it was necessary for me to take that risk. I know that, on the whole, people are “either” an “education professional” or an “inspirational speaker on trauma with lived experience”. But on Friday I tried to show that it is possible to be a hybrid, a professional human and a simultaneously outstanding and flawed.

48 hours on and the sky hasn’t fallen in, so I’m hoping it might have been a risk worth taking……..