World Book Day

Yesterday, 6th March 2014, was World Book Day, my daughter’s last at primary school. As usual, the school invited the children to dress up as book characters. In the past she has dressed as Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggywinkle, Mary Poppins and the Mad Hatter, amongst others while my son has been Noddy and Robin Hood. As a book lover, I love watching all the creations and trying to guess who people are.

At the grand old age of 10 years and 50 weeks, my daughter had decided at the beginning of the week that she was too old for this. By Tuesday, she was weakening and thinking about which character she could go as (when she moved into year 3, she announced “I don’t want to go as an animal character any more, Mummy. It’s too babyish.”) On Wednesday, she pronounced that she wanted to be a character from a book she had read herself. (Good thinking, I thought, but wasn’t sure we would be able to find a character that was obvious to everyone. Charlie Bucket, Matilda, The Suitcase Kid, The Famous Five all sprang to mind, but they are just children with no identifying costumes.)

So, on Wednesday afternoon, at the last minute as usual, we tried listing all the books she has read.
Jokingly, I said, “What about The Hungry Caterpillar?”
“Yes, Mum, I want to go as that.”
“But it’s an animal and you didn’t want to look silly when you were in year 3,” I exclaimed.
“But it’ll be funny,” came the reply. “I don’t mind if everyone laughs at me.”
Really? My shy little girl who is a bit of a wallfower?

So we spent most of Wednesday afternoon trying to fashion a costume from the only green material we could think of: two bathroom towels. We broke several safety pins as the towels were too heavy. As we were wondering how to go about this, my son said he wanted to be Fantastic Mr Fox (oh help!) He then realised he had his knight’s costume crocheted by Grandma, complete with left-handed shield, fashioned by Damps, and could go as King Arthur. Phew!

Back to the caterpillar: we joined the towels at the shoulders to form a tunic and then folded the towels in on themselves, stuffing them with pillows. It wasn’t the best costume but she didn’t mind – it was all for a laugh. Madam made some antennae using a headband and on Thursday morning, she walked into school, swaying as though she was 9 months pregnant and then paraded around the back field with Mrs Pepperpot, several Harry Potters, a few Where’s Wallys and a very brave year 6 boy as the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood, wearing the granny’s nightie! Needless to say, the staff had gone to town too (I saw a dalek, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Noddy and two of the seven dwarfs, who looked like they’d eaten Snow White!)

The upshot of this is that my daughter, thanks to her wonderful school, the teaching staff who have built up her confidence over the last seven years and a lovely group of classmates, is not scared of looking silly and was prepared to do this primarily to make people laugh at her. I didn’t know she had it in her and I’m very proud. It feels as though she has come out of her cocoon and is ready to spread her butterfly wings into secondary school.

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The bare bones of language: use the right word!

The Independent reported yesterday that Chris Packham, of Springwatch fame (and for those of us old enough to remember The Really Wild Show when it began), is often expected to turn up naked to events as people think he is a naturist not a naturalist.

He said, “I do a series of talks and someone told me the other day that there had been a misprint. It was in Jersey. I didn’t see it but a few people tweeted me about the show and told me that I was expected to turn up naked. It’s not that they were disappointed. They would have been disappointed if I had.”

This is why spelling is important!

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A happy ending

I want to tell you a story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Once upon a time there was a primary school. In general the children were very happy but there were pockets of behaviour issues and it had a bad reputation that went back decades. Results were not as good as they could have been. People in the town looked down on the school.

A year ago, a handsome prince (sorry, headteacher) came to the school. He said, “We will make this a very good school. Parents will soon be wanting to send their children here.”

He made changes to the management and brought in chickens and rabbits and iPads which made the children happy. He filled his office with Addictaballs and games. He got them singing pop songs in assembly. He took them to sing at the O2 Arena and the Primary Proms at the Albert Hall. He took them on wonderful educational school trips, including an overnight stay at Cheddar Gorge for Year 5. He took every single class to London on the train. He encouraged them to play in the snow in the winter. He improved the children’s behaviour. He set boundaries. He instilled the children with respect for themselves, their friends, their teachers and their school. He gave them a sense of pride in their work and their school. He encouraged them to do their best work, independently. He raised standards in reading, writing, spelling, comprehension and maths. He encouraged the teachers to work as a better team and gave them hope. He gave them a lot of extra work to do but he also gave them the encouragement and support they needed. He showed them how to create incredible displays and use themes, such as storytelling, in all their lessons.

The scary Ofsted inspectors came to visit. They were very impressed. The children proudly showed off their work. The inspectors said they “thoroughly enjoyed listening to the African drumming” which the children wanted them to see. The children told them lots about their time in school. One of the inspectors was asked to sign a child’s card to his mummy so she did. The inspectors said they would be happy to send their children and grandchildren to the school. They wrote that “the school no longer requires significant improvement”. They said that “a good proportion [of EYFS children] is already starting to write full sentences, which is better than expected for this stage of the year”. They said that “progress in Key Stages 1 and 2 has accelerated rapidly since the last inspection…It is getting faster each term because of better teaching and an exciting curriculum. Pupils are readily engaging in learning. They are filling gaps in their learning and developing new knowledge quickly.” They wrote that teachers “are consistently challenging pupils to achieve their best at all times so expectations and aspirations are rising continuously”. They declared that “The new themed approach to teaching subjects has brought a ‘buzz’ to learning. Teachers plan a comprehensive range of activities that help pupils learn the National Curriculum subjects in an exciting and interesting way. It is fostering their curiosity, enthusiasm and motivation because teaching is imaginative.”

Ofsted said that “Pupils’ behaviour has improved significantly, in a very short period of time, because of the firm stance taken by senior leaders and other staff… Equally they are motivated by the broad range of rewards and praise systems that have been introduced. They are polite, courteous and take good care of each other.”

Ofsted said, “This is a good school.” They saw what we see and they said what we’ve been saying.

And they all lived happily ever after.

The end.

But it’s not the end; it’s just the beginning of an incredible journey for a once put-upon school. And I’m so glad to be there for the ride.

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New Year’s “revolutions”

What a year 2012 was.

It was quite patriotic. Every single class at my children’s school went to London at least once – ON THE TRAIN. Even the EYFS Reception children.

We had a barbecue to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the barbecue blew up.

2012 Diamond Jubilee apos abuse

Shame about the missing apostrophes (Thanks to

We had a ninth birthday pyjama party and a sixth birthday Olympics party. We didn’t have any of these though:

Olympic medal


Our hearts swelled with British pride during the opening and closing ceremonies of London 2012. I watched more sport than I have ever watched (usually only the rugby will do) and cheered on our Olympic heroes. I learnt that medal and podium are now used as verbs.

The Oxford English Dictionary announced its word of the year: omnishambles, meaning a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterised by a string of blunders and miscalculations. I’m not sure that the word summed up the events of the year though.

I also did a lot of second screening: the practice or activity of watching television while simultaneously using a smartphone, tablet computer, laptop, or other screen device, typically in order to read about the programme being watched or post about it on a social media site.

We went to Legoland as a family and had a really lovely day out. I was shocked, however, to find several proofreading errors. Considering the extortionate amount of money this attraction charges to enter, you’d think they could spend some of it on proofreading.

DSC01780 - CopyDSC01786 - Copy 

Shame about this – all that hard work building it and the apostrophe becomes a comma!

We’ve done the Mobot and Gangnam Style. We’ve even danced in the pouring rain. My son’s dance routines to Strictly have ended in nudity as usual (his, you’ll be pleased to know!) His version of I’m Sexy and I Know It is very energetic and amusing. And since he was given a shirt (complete with tie) for Christmas, which I swear is impregnated with E-numbers, we’ve seen that quite a lot…

We went to Bournemouth for the first time ever and took the children to Nottingham for a trip down memory lane as I went to university there. We also had a trip to Newcastle for my brother’s birthday and a wonderful summer holiday in France where the children did a lot of Extreme Reading. My daughter also discovered the joy of reading for pleasure. Yippee!

We had a fantastic Christmas with family and a superb New Year’s Eve with good friends. That seems so long ago now.

As for 2013, what does it have in store?

We discussed plans for the new year as a family and my six-year-old son has made a couple of “revolutions”: one is to work harder in school and the other is to “not do anything ‘hurtable’ to the rest of the family”.

We have decided to create a list of things we want to do or achieve in 2013. This includes flying kites; family bike rides; going to an ice hockey match; family swimming sessions (rather than just swimming lessons for the children); going to Cambridge; wet felting; going to see Les Misérables (for me and a friend this week – that will be one ticked off already!); more board games; camping in the garden in the summer; and more sewing for the children and me (Monster was desperate to have a go so we’ve started a lion and Madam is doing a peregrine to fit in with her school topic of King Arthur and the Middle Ages).

We’d better get a move on as the first month of the year is nearly finished!

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Bring on the festive spirit!

I’m beginning to feel a bit festive. The tree is up; most of the presents are wrapped; we’ve had a fantastic school production; we’ve been to a Christingle service and a carol concert; we had Mary and Joseph to stay for the night; we’ve also had a mischievous elf visiting for the whole of December; we’ve been to see Father Christmas; we’ve had the school Christmas fair and the children break up from school tomorrow. We’ve got a very busy weekend ahead and this time next week it will all be over!

So to try to get me more into the festive spirit, here are some Christmassy typos:

Sleigh Bells -apos abuse Thanks to Apostrophe Abuse.

Christmas dec  Thanks to Failblog.

merry  Such hard work! Thanks to englishfailblog.

Christmas socks  And again.

Wishing all followers to this blog a happy Christmas.

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Attention to detail

There is a new way of working at my children’s school. My son, aged six, is given a set of tasks at the beginning of the week and is expected to complete them, on his own and without being nagged, by the end of the week. If he doesn’t, he has to finish the work at home. Last Friday was the first week he managed this and he was very proud of himself (as was I) and he was rewarded with the promise (bribe) of going to the shop to choose some chocolate. This system has worked well for him in the past, for example when he didn’t want to get in the pool at his swimming lesson.

I am pleased with the school’s stance as I believe it will help him in later life. I do not want him to be unable to self-start or show initiative when he is writing essays or in his first job. I am also hoping this will help with home life—he has already been threatened that he will go to school in whatever state of undress we find him in at 8.30 am as we’ve become fed up of reminding him to get ready for school.

My daughter, aged nine, is better at doing things independently. She is in the process of embroidering a butterfly for a Brownie competition and I’ve had to remind her to hurry up so she meets the deadline (I’m always finishing things at the eleventh hour, so I understand) but she is now remembering to do it of her own accord. She is being encouraged to edit her work at school and rewrite it if it contains spelling mistakes or is not neat enough. She says she gets cross with herself when she sees mistakes in her work. Madam doesn’t make too many mistakes and has been known to spot mistakes in books and magazines. She is lucky because, like me, she looks at a word once and can then spell it.

Earlier in the year, Andrew Selous, the MP for Leighton Buzzard criticised schools for correcting a maximum of three spelling mistakes in a pupil’s work, claiming that teachers are worried about damaging children’s self-esteem. According to ITV News, he believes that this is “an act of false kindness” and will damage children’s prospects once they leave school.

The article states: “Mr Selous said he believed the coalition Government had not issued guidance stipulating children should be marked leniently but thought it was an old policy which schools had been too slow to drop.” I certainly agree that children need to be able to recognise mistakes—I refused to do geography O-level as my teacher never corrected our mistakes so we only had incorrect work to learn from for tests. Attention to detail is important in all  subjects, and all walks of life.

Mistakes in adult working life could be life-threatening, for example mistakes on prescriptions—there is a big difference between hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia, and hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. False ID cards for members of the resistance during World War II had to be accurate because of the danger the carriers were in and errors would give the game away. Mistakes on CVs give a bad impression and CVs go in the bin because the applicants appear to be careless. In this digital age, we must remember that spellcheck is not infallible.

There is an old joke about a single spelling mistake that caused a divorce. A man went to Goa and sent the following SMS to his wife:

Having the most wonderful time of my life. Wish you were her (here).

Punctuation is just as important. There is a world of difference between the following two sentences:

Let’s eat Grandma

Let’s eat, Grandma.

I’m off to double-check and triple-check that I haven’t made mistakes in this post!

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In 1984 I was lucky enough to spend a year at school in South Africa and we studied Romeo and Juliet inside out and backwards. I was lucky again when, upon my return, I discovered that we were to study it for O-level English literature. I wasn’t very good at analysing great works of literature and had a lot of revision across all subjects to catch up on the first term of O-level work which I had missed, including Pride and Prejudice which I struggled with, so it was a huge relief to know that I would be able to cope with this text.

The most famous quote, from act II scene II, has to be:

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

A supplier for Top Shop has put the first line of this onto a T-shirt, according to the Daily Mail. The store has been criticised for spelling the author’s name incorrectly as Shakespere. This is a shame because it has been documented that the great man often spelt it differently but the spelling of his name was standardised in the late 19th century, according to Shakespeare scholar Helen Hackett, Professor of English at University College London.

However, the T-shirt has some punctuation missing too. There are opening inverted commas for the quote but the end ones have been omitted. There should also be a comma after the first Romeo and the w in Wherefore does not need to be in upper case if there is a comma after the second Romeo – I can’t quite see in the image. Some versions of the quotation give an exclamation mark instead and in this case the capital w would be correct.

I probably haven’t been in Top Shop since I last studied Shakespeare and to be honest as my daughter grows older, I probably will venture back in. I’m not that much of a pedant that it would put me off!

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Giraffe bread (no giraffes were harmed in the writing of this post)

Do not underestimate children!

I loved a news story that I read this week on the Daily Telegraph’s website.

Eight months ago, three-year-old Lily Robinson wrote to Sainsbury’s to point out that the company’s tiger bread actually looks more like a giraffe than a tiger. A fantastic response from the company arrived from a customer manager who agreed with Lily and wrote a very child-friendly letter, enclosing a gift token, and signing off “Chris King (age 27 & 1/3)”. Lily’s mother uploaded the letter to Facebook and started a campaign which went viral. Sainsbury’s has now sensibly changed the name of the bread and deserves a lot of praise for this shrewd marketing move.

According to the BBC, Mr King has now left Sainsbury’s to return to university to train as a primary school teacher. Good for him. I think he’ll be a great teacher.

My daughter’s class is looking at persuasive writing at the moment. I wonder if they’ve heard this story.

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100 years of Nana

I wrote this post about 10 months ago before I actually found the courage to start the blog. It seemed appropriate to post it today because yesterday was Nana’s 101st birthday and nothing has changed.

My paternal grandmother had her 100th birthday a couple of months ago. We always said she would get there as her mother died the week before her 100th birthday, but sadly, Nana doesn’t really know what’s going on.

I am incredibly proud of her. She has always described herself as a simple country girl and her life has been a lot more difficult than mine (so far). She didn’t have the type of education which we take for granted now and went into service at the age of 14, eventually becoming a cook. When my grandad died 25 years ago, she had to learn to do things she never thought she’d have to: write cheques, look after the house, pay bills etc. In fact she only moved out of her house five years ago. I have fond memories of nature walks and her asking me questions about subjects which for her would have been hitherto taboo, such as living with someone before marriage and childminding. My parents gave my brother and me a book when we were children called How a Baby is Made and Nana read it afterwards, announcing, “I learnt a lot from that book”!

For her 90th birthday, I compiled a book of things that had happened in those 90 years and updated it for her 100th birthday, mainly for her great-grandchildren to see the magnitude of what has happened during Nana’s lifetime. It includes family events and also world events. Women didn’t have the vote 100 years ago and her century has witnessed the sinking of the Titanic, 23 prime ministers, 4 monarchs, 2 world wars, the break-up of the British Empire and the arrival of numerous inventions, including television, computers and many of the home appliances we take for granted. In fact when I looked back at developments of the last decade, it was dominated by advances in technology which is odd when you think that in 1910, electricity wasn’t really commonplace in homes. When you realise that Nana’s lifetime has witnessed the use of the gramophone, record players playing vinyl records at 331⁄3, 45 and 78 rpm, cassette decks, CDs and now MP3 players and iPods, it really is incredible.

Clothing was incredibly different; not even the zip had been invented when she was born (it was invented in 1913). Do children even know what petticoats are these days? I’m sure that most of them haven’t heard of corsets or liberty bodices. My daughter has been fascinated by the recent TV programme Downton Abbey and so have I, because my grandmother would have worn the clothes and done the work of the girls downstairs. My daughter also started Brownies last year, just in time to celebrate Girl Guiding’s centenary which also puts things into perspective.

In the year that Nana was born, Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If, was first published in Rewards and Fairies. It made me realise how much our language has changed too. Words, such as gay, have taken on completely different connotations and no doubt some words have become obsolete, just as new words have been coined. Susie Dent, probably best known as the lexicographer from Channel 4’s Countdown, put together The Language Report, a list of words which define the spirit of each year between 1904 and 2004. Lists of these words can be found here. They really define the eras: the list gives entries for 1923 as Charleston, 1934 as Gestapo, 1949 as Big Brother, 1972 as Watergate and 1998 gave us the verb to Google while another list contains entries such as teddy bear for 1906, racism for 1935, psychedelic for 1957, toy-boy for 1981 and text message for 1998.

Nana will never get to read this but I am in awe of her achievement in light of all the things that have happened in a century and also slightly scared at the speed with which things move these days. Congratulations, Nana.

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Celebrity names

I didn’t like my name when I was at school as it is quite old-fashioned for my generation and I was surrounded by Karens, Lisas and Joannes and wanted to fit in. Plus as a Francophile, it is a difficult name for my French friends to say and I have been called all sorts of things with a French accent! But I am very old-fashioned when it comes to children’s names. My children’s names are traditional names which can be found in most generations. I would struggle as a childminder if I had to call out some of the weird and wonderful names given to children these days (or Countdown names, as a friend used to call them: “Four consonants and five vowels please, Carol.”)

Like Harper Seven. I loved this cartoon from the Paul Thomas of the Daily Express. It’s so clever.

In February 2009, came up with a list of the most unfortunate names in the UK:

Stan Still, Helen Back, Doug Hole, Terry Bull, Tim Burr, Rose Bush, Pearl Button, Will Power, Barry Cade, Mary Christmas, Chris Cross, Teresa Green, Ray Gunn, Jo King, Sonny Day, Justin Case, Lee King and Max Power.

Apparently a list of names in the USA came up with some more: Bill Board, Anna Prentice, Annette Curtain and Carrie Oakey.

Some countries are strict about children’s names. In July 2008, the BBC reported that a New Zealand judge had made a nine-year-old girl a ward of court so that she could change the name which embarrassed her: Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii. Apparently other names which were not permitted were 4Real; Yeah Detroit; Stallion; Twisty Poi; Keenan Got Lucy; Sex Fruit; Fat Boy; Cinderella Beauty Blossom and Fish and Chips (twins).

These abominations were allowed: Violence; Number 16 Bus Shelter; Midnight Chardonnay; and Benson and Hedges (twins). And only this week it has been reported that the country’s Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages has been cracking down again, ruling out punctuation marks such as . (Full Stop), * (Asterisk) and / (presumably “Slash”), as well as Bishop, Duke, General, Judge, Justice, King, Knight and Mr, which were all deemed too similar to titles. Messiah was also turned down, as was 89, the single letters, C, D, I and T, although q and J were accepted after being queried.

According to Yahoo! Lifestyle, the following countries are very strict:

Sweden is very tough on unusual names, banning Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116, as well as IKEA, and Veranda and Q. But the authorities allowed Google!

A Chinese couple tried to call their baby @ because it seems that in Chinese characters it looks a bit like ‘love him’.

Germany has rejected Miatt because it is difficult to determine the child’s gender and Stompie, Woodstock and Grammophon, while allowing Speedy, Lafayette and Jazz.

Denmark is really picky. It gives parents a list of approximately 7,000 names to choose from and changes in spelling, ethnic names and compound names need special permission. Luckily for one child, Anus was denied.

Portugal also has a list of banned names and refused permission for Ovnis which means UFO.

And finally, apparently the Pope also weighed in on this debate in January of this year.

There’s a very appropriate blog post at which gives advice on what not to name your kids. I particularly like points 4 and 5 which say exactly what I would say, but better:

4 – The Misspelled Foreign Name
A girl I know named her daughter “Channelle”. Yes, that’s right. Like Chanel, but with some extra letters thrown in so that the child can feel individual despite her obvious namesake. (In fact – this one breaks the surname rule as well – but I guess it’s preferable to calling a child Coco. Are you reading this, Courtney Cox and David Arquette?). Another friend of mine, apparently shying away from all the boring normality implied by Chantelle introduced me to her daughter Shontel. I weep for the future.

5 – The Name You Invent Yourself
Mnemonics are bad enough (think “Taome” – The Apple Of My Eye), but the worst of the worst must be the laughable attempt of those bastions of elegance and understatement, Peter Andre and Katie Price (AKA Jordan) to create a name for their daughter. Princess Tiaamii, the poor brat’s name, is a merging of the names of Andre’s mother (Thea) and Price’s mother (Amy), with “Princess” whacked in front for good measure. In the words of Price herself; “we added some extra letters to make it unique, and some accents to make it look interesting”. A class act all the way.
Apologies – My computer does not seem to have the functional capacity to include the various accents over vowels in Tiaamii.

 I think I’ll stick to my old-fashioned names.

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We have just returned from a wonderfully relaxing holiday in a gîte near Vire in Calvados, Normandy with my parents. I have spoken French every day and we have laughed so much. Going on a French bank holiday weekend is not a great idea as there were lots of traffic jams or “confiture de voitures” as some bright spark translated the term! We chose the bank holiday itself to go to Mont St Michel which was like being on a conveyor belt. We also went to see the Bayeux tapestry which was on my list of things to do during my lifetime. I swam in the cold Channel seawater for the first time since I was a child. And we saw cows being milked and lots of birds of prey, one in particular which was out hunting every evening when we returned.

France is a lot more expensive than it used to be; we really noticed it in the supermarket. But some things were free, which was refreshingly unlike rip-off Britain: children under 10 went in to see the Bayeux tapestry for free, a lot of car parks were free and we only paid for parking, not entrance fees, at Mont St Michel.

We had some linguistic treats too. We were invited for an apéritif of Calvados by our landlord who showed us his amazing collection of antiques. The children were very well behaved and had a go at speaking French. Monster had us in stitches as his pronunciation of pain au chocolat came out as pain au choco-ah and morphed into pain au choco-oo-ah!

It was a good job we didn't see similar signs...

But the pièce de résistance has to be that on the penultimate evening, my daughter made friends with a French eight-year-old who was holidaying in the gîte next door (we didn’t even know there was anyone living there!) They were able to communicate despite neither knowing any of the other’s language thanks to the joys of childhood. Madam somehow managed to explain to her new friend how to play a Nintendo DS game which was in English (amazing as she doesn’t have a console herself). I have tried many times to teach her French but she has a burst of short-lived energy and loses interest, despite having a fantastic accent. When she was small she used to shake her head if I spoke to her in French but when we stayed with a French friend, her toddler-speak turned from “la la la” to a French-style guttural rrr!

Maybe, now that she has exchanged email addresses with someone of her own age, this might change. Watch this space…

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Half a decade

Well, this month has brought another few landmarks in our household. At the beginning of July, my son turned five. He was convinced he was going to grow overnight and be taller when he woke up on his birthday, but unsurprisingly, it was not to be. We had a ‘pirates and princesses’ party with all his friends which involved my children and my husband walking down the street in full pirate regalia and getting some very strange looks. It also gave birth to a few pirate jokes, e.g. what does a pirate have up his sleeves? Altogether now: his arrrms!

Five seems very important: it is after all, half a decade and a real unit of measurement as lots of things come in fives, such as toes, the Famous Five (my favourite books from childhood), five Olympic rings etc. We even have a terrestrial TV Channel 5, not to be confused with Chanel No. 5. And of course, I’ve found a couple of bloopers (which seem appropriate as we’ve had toys similar to this) on

And then came the end of the school year. My son has come on in leaps and bounds in reception. He was late to start talking, preferring to sign, and had speech therapy which has most definitely paid off. (Where’s the off switch?) We thought we had bypassed nursery rhymes (the week after the speech therapist saw him for his penultimate appointment when she asked if he was singing nursery rhymes, he came out with Queen’s We Will Rock You). His wonderful teachers have helped to extend this development and we even had “Rain in a Manger at Christmas. He struggles with words like competition and says “comtepition” but comes out with “interactive whiteboard” and “independent learners”. I was so surprised to hear the latter that I thought he’d said “in the pink pyjamas”! What a difference a year makes and in a few short weeks he will progress to year 1 and his sister to year 4.

Oh my goodness, where has the time gone?

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Pulped Fiction

According to the 2003 Literary Pocket Companion, books can have alternative uses. The following is an extract:

When engineers started searching for a suitably absorbent pulp to lay on the M6 toll motorway in 2003, they found it at an unexpectedly slushy publishing company. The pulp was needed to strengthen the tarmac and create a long-lasting soundproof layer, and the books they found most suitable were Mills and Boon romantic novels.

About 2,500,000 old copies were pulped and mixed into the road’s top layer – that’s about 45,000 books for every mile of Britain’s first pay-as-you-go motorway. Mills and Boon were chosen because of the books’ super-absorbent qualities. “They may be slushy to many people, but it’s their ‘no-slushiness’ that is their attraction as far as we are concerned,” Brian Kent from Tarmac told the BBC.

The BBC account is told here: It points out that books used are usually end of line or damaged novels. I’m all for recycling, but I do feel sad at the prospect of only having electronic books in the future. There’s something nice about curling up in bed with a good paperback (thank you for the great idea, Penguin books!) and the feeling of luxury if the book is hardback or a notebook is leatherbound.

According to, the Department of Transport used to issue booklets to mark the opening ceremonies of new roads.

And here’s a classic from English Fail

American democrcy

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Some of the things that proofreaders check for are: 

  • Spelling

 Doesn’t a big company such as Victoria’s Secret use proofreaders? From Red Pen, Inc.

  • Grammar
  •  Punctuation
Obviously for only one girl… From Apostrophe Abuse
  • Sense

From Failblog

  • Consistency
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Red, white and blue

Just in case anyone has been living in a cave recently, we’ve had a royal wedding.

My children and I watched it and my daughter and I celebrated by painting our toenails red, white and blue with some friends, including an 8-year-old boy who when they were 3, wanted to marry my daughter and have 5 children (my daughter was totally in agreement with this). He had it all worked out: they were going to live near Legoland and he was going to go out to work so that she could stay at home and look after the children (until his mum pointed out that might not be what his wife wants out of life).

Patriotic toes

I was glad the children wanted to watch the ceremony as there was a royal wedding when I was just a little bit older than my daughter which we watched, followed by a street party, and my grandad collected all the newspapers and books — he was a staunch monarchist who stood up for the national anthem even when he was 80 and made us wait for Christmas presents until after the Queen’s speech on Christmas Day.

I loved all the pageantry, which is something we are very good at in Blighty and I was proud that my children had been learning the national anthem at school, even Monster. I loved seeing all those flags waving in London and the party atmosphere. I concur with the rest of the world in thinking that the dress was beautiful, most of the outfits were spectacular and some of the hats were a bit odd. I’m delighted that the rain held off (especially as we had a barbecue in the afternoon with all the participants of our sweepstake-style quiz about the morning’s events). The best bit for my children was the kiss (believe it or not) but there is a lot of talk around here at the moment that if you kiss someone on the lips, you have to marry them. Watch out, 8-year-old boy from paragraph 1!

I was also very proud that in my capacity of professional nitpicker, I didn’t see any grammatical howlers. The only mistake I have seen in the run-up to the wedding was this one on a commemorative mug:

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