Now, some of you may remember my good friend, Skirt. He hung around with me for quite a few years and for one month he went everywhere with me every single day and got up to all kind of adventures. Do you remember One Dress October? Katie Graham wore the same dress each day for a month and I wore Skirt each day. We did wash them, of course. Here is Skirt enjoying himself on a swing on one of our days together during One Dress October.


It was the daily washing, rather than the daily wearing, that did for Skirt. For at the end of that month of October 2009 poor Skirt had become so threadbare that on the last day he sadly passed away. Cremation seemed more appropriate than burial (it involved no strenuous digging for one thing) and it was a very sad occasion indeed when we all stood by and watched him burning on our little stove.


But Skirt was not my first love. Oh no, there was a skirtly predecessor who I loved even more fervently. In fact the October Skirt was an attempt to replace Spotty Skirt but he never really did – not truly, not in my heart.

The weird thing was that Spotty Skirt (original Skirt we are talking about here) was not an expensive designer piece. He cost me £8 in Primark (why, oh why did I not buy 10 of them when I had the opportunity – by the time I had realised how much I loved him, they had disappeared from stock). Sadly, unlike replacement Skirt, of whom I have a huge array of photos and even a video of him doing wild skiing tricks as part of One Dress October, I have only two photos of Spotty Skirt and in only one of those is he actually with me (and even in this one photo he is a little twizzled. He had a habit of twizzling around as I walked along – I guess he liked to look around in all directions to eye up the skirtly competition).

So this is Spotty Skirt.CIMG3578

And I have never found another that I love as much as this one. Several other people had the same Spotty Skirt as I recall but in green. I wonder if they still have theirs? He was such a simple soul – just cotton but I think he was lined (isn’t that bad that I have forgotten his little details? Perhaps I did not love and treasure him as much as I think. Perhaps that is why he fell to pieces and left me?)

I have searched high and low for a replacement Spotty Skirt but have never found one. The spots are always either too big or too small or the style is too 50s and flouncy with petticoats and other unnecessary fuss.

So if there is anyone out there who bought one of these £8 items from Primark and consigned it unloved to the back of their wardrobe, then please do send it my way. Or if you see one, even if someone is walking around in it, please trot up to them and ask if they would be prepared to donate it to me.

Poo Sticks

The children have been very busy of late in their rooms and also seem to have developed a surprising new interest in outside walks. They ventured forth every afternoon during the holidays, trudging down the road to the park and back many times over. I should have been suspicious I suppose, given my own predilection for practical jokes, since they always set out armed with a large carrier bag and pens. But I was pleased they were getting out in the fresh air, fondly imagining them producing little sketches of the local flora and fauna.

We live within easy walking distance of the city but it is a surprisingly quiet place, surrounded by pleasant parks and woods, with an almost rural feel to it. It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? And in most respects it is. We do, however, have one problem. And that problem is with dog turds.

Our road is a veritable obstacle course of dog poo – big sludgy ones strangely green in hue, little pelletty things, squished ones, smeared ones imprinted with the mark of a shoe, ball-like things, sausage ones – picture any colour or shape and you will find it lurking beneath a tree or on the path or even in our front garden. Making your way along our road is like completing some kind of trim-track – you dodge from one side to the next and then back again, but then there’s a bank of poo and oooh you have to jump, quick step to the side again, and just when you think you’ve made it, one leaps out and accosts you on your very own drive. We all moan about this, we all slip and slide in them and tread them into the house, some of us write to the City Council about them but none of us have ever done anything about them. Until now.

Yesterday when I arrived home there was a strange little flag at the end of our drive. I got out of the car and stooped to inspect the little blue flag. I recoiled in horror when I saw what the little flag was stuck into – a well-formed dog turd with a fine pungent aroma.

“Fido, No.7 Madeleine Road” the little flag proclaimed bravely in a handwriting that looked worryingly familiar.

I didn’t like to remove the flag from its little base but I hastened into the house, in search of my three sons.

“What’s that thing at the end of our drive?” I asked keenly.
“Dog poo,” my eldest said innocently.
“Well, yes but the flag?” I perservered impatiently.
“Come for a walk and we’ll show you,” my youngest son said , grabbing my hand and positively dragging me towards the door.

So out we went for a lovely stroll down the road in the early evening mist. All along the road and around the trees there were little flags, each embedded in poo in various stages of decay. Each flag was carefully labelled, with the name of the doggy and the address at which it lived!

I was impressed and intrigued as to how they had managed this feat.

“How did you know which dogs had done which?” I asked in admiration.
“We’ve been following them for weeks,” the eldest said a little uncertainly, probably wondering if I might be cross. “If we see them do one and we don’t know the name of the dog, one of us goes up to the owner and makes a fuss of the dog and asks, then we follow them home later to see the address.”

“We can recognise them now,” the middle son continued with enthusiasm. “The poos, I mean. It’s funny because the big dogs don’t always do big ones, there’s this little terrier and he does these whopping ones and . . .”
I stopped him before he could continue with any further details as I was beginning to feel a little queasy.

And that evening we all sat in the lounge, suppers on the window sill and watched as people walked along the road and stopped to look at the little flags. Those with dogs behaved very strangely, looking furtively from side to side, some of them grabbing the flags up from their bases and stuffing them into their pockets (urghh!). Others just hurried on their way.

Will they be shamed into using the pooper scoopers and bins do you think? I doubt it. But I’m proud of the boys and their ingenuity. Three cheers for Poo Sticks!

A Kind of Magic

What is the strangest coincidence that has ever happened to you?

There are all sorts that have happened to me – like the time I stepped out of a lift in Hong Kong to come face to face with a neighbour from up the street and we both just said hi and walked past as we would normally do in the street at home and then stopped and laughed and realised we weren’t at home at all.

Coincidences are a kind of magic thrown into life to brighten up the boring predictability of things.  It would be very dull indeed if events only happened that we expected or that other people had planned.

I think, in terms of statistical improbability,  that the weirdest one that happened to me was about 12 years ago, not long after we moved here.

When the boys were little we lived in Aberystwyth, about 300 miles to the west of here.  During University term time we had a student who we employed for babysitting for several hours a week.  Her name was Sarah and she was lovely.  She came originally from Durham and at the end of her course she went back there and we lost touch with her.

Fast forward five years or so and we had deserted Aberystwyth for Norwich.  Harry and Jack were at the little first school which is about two minutes walk from our house.  One day Harry came home to say they had a trainee teacher in the classroom who said that she knew him when he was a baby.  I thought this was a case of mistaken identity as we hadn’t lived in Norwich when Harry was a baby.  Imagine my surprise when I went to school the next day and found out that it was our old babysitter, Sarah, last seen in Aberystwyth, native to Durham who was the trainee in the classroom in Norwich.

So strange!  She had no idea we had moved here so had been equally surprised to recognise the children’s names the previous day.  How can this have happened?  What are the chances?  She had no connections with Norwich, had just chosen it because it was a course that appealed to her and a city in which she fancied studying, but there are so many other towns and cities where she could have done teacher training.  And even in Norwich there are a large number of primary schools where she could have done her placement.

It was so good to see her again.  It felt like a little bit of Aberystwyth had followed us and sprung out at us when we least expected it.  We have since lost touch with her again but I do wonder if, in another 10 years, I’ll be walking along a street somewhere on the other side of the world and see her coming towards me.