Thought for the Week

"A hug is a perfect gift - one size fits all and nobody minds if you give it back."

Letter to a young girl

Laney chanllenged me, assuming it was possible to send letters back in time, to write a letter to myself - aged 13, so here goes.

Dear Stupid,

No scratch that, I haven't been stupid yet, that is still to come.

Maybe I should warn myself about my first BIG mistake I was to make in my life 3 years later.

As I sit here, debating how the hell to tell a strong headed teenager what she shouldn't do at the age of sixteen, I am wondering if I would even listen. What teenager likes to be told what to do?

Dear Ali,

I have to warn you what a waste of space the guy you are going to get mixed up with is. He is one of the biggest a**holes anyone could have the misfortune to meet. Sure, he'll sweet talk you, til he's got you hooked, then he'll show his true, selfish colours. He has no clue as to the meaning of love, despite what he will tell you, and ......

Now see, here's my problem. This was the first guy that I had a physical relationship with. After only a short period of time I was pregnant and he was gone. He came back, which was never great and lasted for about a year, but he mistreated me and was physically violent to my baby in that short time.

You might be asking where my problem is in warning myself to steer clear of him. Without him, I wouldn't have my son, and I wouldn't change him for all the tea in China, and believe me, I have a real tea addiction!

So, I can't write to myself and warn me off him can I? So what would I write to myself.

Dear Ali,

The world is a huge place. It is filled with people from all walks of life. Some you will not care to be around and some will pretend to care and stab you in the back. Some will touch your life for a short period but leave a lasting memory. Others, although few and far between, will be true friends. These are the people you should treasure.

Take time. Don't be in a hurry to greet the next day, you may not like what it has to offer. Instead, make the most of today, of every minute. Be sure to tell those you love how you feel, and do it often. They won't all be around for as long as you might think they will.

Always look forward, it is the only road to be travelled. The past is just that, and no amount of pondering and regret can change it, but you can shape the future by your actions and deeds.

Learn quickly to forgive those closest to you and remember their actions, although painful sometimes, will not have been done to hurt you.

I'll leave you with the only advice you need and wish you Good Luck.

Live. Love. Laugh.


My eyes opened, it was 07:45. For the first time in I can't remember how long, I slept right through the night. Not once did I get up to use the bathroom. Not once did I awake and wander in the half light down the stairs to the kitchen in search of a drink of some description to quell the humungous thirst I had.

As I lay there, eyes wide open, I listened intently. Trying to force myself to summons the will to get out of my warm, cosy, safe bed, I continued to listen. I heard nothing. I wondered if anyone else was up, but guessed as it was Bank Holiday they would still be asleep, G certainly was, his body moving rhythmically to the tune of restful sleep.

I listened some more.

I coaxed myself into a sitting position. Legs dangling over the edge of the bed, not wanting to put them on the floor in case I made a noise, I listened. Eventually I stood up and made my way ever so quietly to the door. I paused. I listened. I looked at G fast asleep. Slowly, quietly, I pushed down on the handle of the bedroom door and gently, silently, opened it. Still listening I stepped onto the landing. Floor boards creaking, frozen in that moment of time, I held my breath so I could hear better. I don't know how many seconds I stood frozen to that spot, it seemed like such a long time.

When I finally exhaled, I crossed the landing into the bathroom to answer mornings call of nature, as quietly as I could. If only I had the pelvic floor muscles of a 20 year old I might have been even more successful!! Knowing my next task once I had left the bathroom was to go downstairs and put the kettle on, I paused once more, ears straining, but detecting nothing.

Deep breath. There was nothing for it, I had to go down there, so I stood up, flushed the toilet and dropped the lid very loudly. Having washed my hands, with the hot tap having caused the boiler in the kitchen to kick in, I noisely opened the bathroom door, stomped heavily across the landing and stopped at the top of the stairs. I listened.

Looking back down the landing, I realised my younger daughters door was slightly open, and daylight was visible inside, meaning the curtains were open. Then I remembered she was at work, even on a Bank Holiday, she had gone in for 7am. I breathed. I relaxed. I stopped listening and went downstairs.

Pausing momentarily at the bottom, I stopped outside the kitchens closed door. I didn't want to open it. I was afraid of what was on the other side. I changed my mind and went into the dining room first, making my way to the patio doors and peering very gingerly between the join in the curtains. Everything looked normal. The day seemed unperturbed by the night which had preceeded it.

Satisfied with this, I returned to the kitchen door, passing the dining room table which was strewn with piles of paperwork on my way. I took a deep breath and opened it. Normality.

I have never in my life been so friggin pleased to see normality. You see, this is Monday morning, and it's normal. Yesterday morning however was another story.

I had awoken several times during Saturday night and at 03:30 I had sleepily wandered downstairs, with nothing but the streetlights and my bare feet to guide the way, in need of liquid refreshment. I had done this again at 05:30. My sleep patterns are pretty much like this nowadays, but a drink and back to bed usually sees me off to sleep again. A 05:30 I wandered down the stairs, although it was daylight by now, I was still half asleep. As I had passed the dining room I noticed a small pile of paperwork sitting on my chair which had been in front of the computer. Wondering what G had been searching for when he came in at 01:30 that morning, I dismissed it. As I turned back towards the kitchen, I also noticed that the filiing trays in my desk were empty. Completely bare. One tray held the last 2-3 years worth of family history, one held all my bank statements, direct debit info, and other financial information and the third tray had various paperwork which I couldn't begin to remember.

Still confused, and slightly puzzled as to why he would move it all, I decided after a lads night out there is no telling. As I walked to the kitchen door, there was a lovely fresh breeze blowing through. Temporarily I was again confused. I knew I had locked up last thing before going to bed and I couldn't begin to imagine who was up so early and needing to go outside. As I walked to the back door to have a look I noticed through the walk in cupboards slightly ajar door that the window was open. We never, ever open this window. It's old, wired glass and crittle framed and wasn't replaced when we did the double glazing due to the extension plans.

Suddenly the penny dropped. We'd had a break in. I went stone cold and froze to the spot. What the???? Shit???? I went back to the dining room and the only possession that had been taken was my handbag. Everything else appeared to be paperwork. That felt very personal. Like we had been specifically targeted.

From then on the day was hectic. Police crime reports and SOCO dusting for fingerprints. Banks to call to cancel credit cards and debit cards. Store cards to cancel. Other numbers to cancel the cheque book. Yet another department to attempt to get our online log-in details altered for the banks. A visit to friends to beg a cash loan, as we now had no means of purchasing a thing and no means of drawing cash until our cards are replaced. It was just non-stop. By the time I allowed myself to rest in the late afternoon, the days effects had already taken a serious toll on my ME, and I still had the night to face.

Husband Meme

I stole this from Laney, who in turned took it from Akelamalu

How long did you date? We dated for 16 months and had a baby before we moved in together, and we married 6 months later.
How old is he? He's 46, 5 years older than me, which I always thought would have been great as we would retire in the same month of the same year... then the government said women had to work til 65 and that put paid to that! Bloody politics.
Who eats more? err... if I had to pick one it would be him, but I would be a very close second
Who said “I love you” first? I really can't remember, but I think it was him
Who is taller? He is, by about 5", which is just right.
Who sings better? He does. My singing is best reserved for the car when I'm on my own, and even then the radio has to be loud enough to drown me out!
Who is smarter? He is, without a doubt
Whose temper is worse? Mine. Neither of us are particularly short tempered, but he is far more easy going than I am.
Who does the laundry? I used to, but since becoming ill, he does ours and the girls do their own.
Who does the dishes? He does, always has. I used to cook and he would clear away.
Who sleeps on the right side of the bed? Now see, I'm not sure if this is the right side as you stand at the foot looking at the bed or the right side from a laying in bed position, if it's the latter, then I do.
Who pays the bills? Everything concerned with money in our house is paid from the only account we have, we've never gone in for 'his' and 'hers' when it comes to the finances.
Who cooks dinner? As before, I used to, but now he does that too.
Who drives when you are together? This one's easy. Not only have we always shared finances, we have ALWAYS shared the driving 50/50. He drives there, and I drive home!!!
Who is more stubborn? Me, definitely.
Who asked who out first? He asked me, but we had known each other for some time, and those of you who have visited for a long time will have read about us getting together in two of my Memory Monday posts. If you missed them you can see them here and here
Who kissed who first? He kissed me.
Who is the first to admit when they are wrong? I am. My stubborness doesn't stretch to not admitting when I'm wrong.
Whose parents do you see the most? We have only mothers living, and we each see our own the most.
Who proposed? He did
Who is more sensitive? I am. I always go out of my way to make sure everyone around me is happy.
Who has more friends? He does.
Who has more siblings? He was an only child, I have a brother and 2 sisters.
Who wears the pants in the family? He does, but only cos I let him!!!! lol

College Exam

Well, we have reached the last stage of the AS Photography course, the exam question.

I have decided to do the question on portrait, god only knows why, it is probably my weakest area in photography. Actually, I do know why. Prior to seeing the exam question, I had booked the studio and arranged with my neice to shoot her in several of her dance outfits as a 'padding' to the first unit of work we completed.

Having discussed ideas with her, and worked out a time scale for costume changes etc, I knew there would be enough to enter as a whole unit, so when the portrait question came up on the exam paper I was chuffed.

At college, the tutor will always help you set up the studio, lights, backdrop etc and make sure you take the light meter reading correctly and accurately transfer it to your camera.

On the night in question my tutor put on one softbox, and took a light reading.

"Do I not need a second softbox on a lower setting on the other side of the model"? I asked.

"No, one will be fine, we've taken the light reading and the aperture will control how much light enters the camera" he said.

Me, thinking this was strange, but heck, he's the tutor asked,

"Should I use a reflector on the other side to bounce some light back in then"?

"You can do if you like" was his reply.

My brain is working overtime, how the hell will light from one side only be enough? Sure, you can do it with a model who sits and poses, but for a dancer, moving, jumping, twirling???

I decided not to go with my instincts and trust the tutor. I shot for almost 3 hours, with my neice doing costume changes quicker than superman in his telephone box, and we managed to use 6 different ones. The poses, leaps, twirls and smiles were awesome, and on the back of the camera they looked great. 284 photos later, I set off home. It was nearly 10pm by the time I got in, and the nights shoot had taken it's toll, but I was desperate to see the images on screen so I shoved my card in the slot and downloaded them all.


Should have gone with my own instincts.

The shots were all really dark on one side, well when I say dark, I mean just about black. The only shots that really worked were the last costume she wore, which goes by the name of 'zombie'. For this outfit, I had decided that I would turn the modelling light down low and use a really bright torch stood on the floor to illuminate her face in a ghostly glow. The ones I took without the torch and with the studio light turned up worked quite well too because the lighting was what I had planned.

Downhearted, but not yet beaten, I booked the studio for two days later and we went back on the Thursday afternoon and did it all again. Because this was not my tutorage time, I had to set the studio up on my own, but for that I was actually grateful. One softbox on full power to the left, one softbox on half power to the right and another light with barn doors to illuminate the background. Perfect.

200 shots, and almost everyone totally adorable.

This is one of the zombie photos from the first shoot.

It is so hard to pick a favourite from the second shoot as there are so many really lovely shots, but I think this is right up there. It captures the movement I was striving for beautifully and I took it at exactly the right moment to catch her arms and her leg in the perfect position. The fact that she is so photogenic helps of course.

OK, so if you all club together, you could buy me a studio for christmas, and I could do this for a living!! What do you reckon?


Another part of my environment unit. I wanted to do some woodland photography and decided to visit a large wood quite near me.

As a child, I lived opposite this wood and spent hour after hour roaming, romping, playing and generally hanging out in this wood. I always loved to be there. Carpets of bluebells in the spring, with nearly as many primrose. Hills and hollows to explore and a myriad of interconnecting, winding mud paths, not that we always stuck to those, not even the smaller ones. There were a few areas that weren't open to the public, retained for MoD training, but on the whole, we were free to wander. Many a weekend and holiday Mum would pack us up a lunch and me and my sister would go on an adventure, usually ending up in our favourite picnic spot, a large open hollow, with real grass to sit on, and trees and wildlife encircling all around.

There were a scattering of old buildings amongst the trees too. When I say buildings, they were mostly about the size of a small caravan, but brick built, and they were used by the MoD in the last war I believe. One of these was a little larger, but all were damp, and pitch black past the first foot or so inside the entrance. The larger one was well known to most of the younger generation as 'The Old Iron'. Not sure where it got its name, but it was in this very unromantic, dark, dank, cold space that I had my very first kiss ... at the tender age of 9!

Back to the present, I grabbed my camera and tripod and off I went, really looking forward to traversing the paths I used as a child. Parking in the entrance, it was immediately obvious how much it had changed. A very informative board gave you a little of the history of the woodland and pointed out that you were not permitted to leave the set paths.

OK, I thought, I can handle that. I'm not a teenager any more, I don't need to be hacking my way through tough undergrowth, I'm not looking for adventure, just some photographs.

Reading the rest of the sentence, it appeared that there was only ONE path. It started and finished here, and provided a convenient circular walk.

ONE path! What's that all about? Still, fired up to produce some photos here, I set off. What they didn't mention on the board was that this ONE circular path led you around the edge of the woodland. Most of the walk had woodland on one side and open fields on the other. Fine if you're walking the dog I guess, and every single person I passed had one, but not what I really had in mind! Still, I had my camera, tripod, walking boots and enthusiasm, so here are a couple of the photo's I took.

This is a shot I took across the fields. The single tree, outlined against the sky and the red growth underneath caught my eye.

Another shot, facing into the wood. The sunlight was streaming through the sparse winter canopy and I liked the way it lit the tree trunk.