1. Music is so uplifting and empowering
  2. The impossible can come true
  3. Love breaks down barriers
  4. Dreaming is for grown ups too
  5. I don’t need to prove myself to anyone else
  6. Live a little, laugh a little
  7. Everyone deserves to be loved and accepted and respected
  8. Nothing has to stay the way that it is right now
  9. Family is not always blood
  10. Stepping out of the shadows takes courage
  11. I can be unapologetically me
  12. No one can say what we get to be
  13. We need more joy in our lives
  14. It’s much more fun to step away from the conventional into the crazy
  15. Shame is a killer
  16. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to impress the wrong people
  17. I’m not scared to be seen
  18. Life can be an adventure that comes with a breathtaking view
  19. I can play it safe or I can take risks – and probably make mistakes!
  20. Too many people take life far too seriously



As my daughter’s pregnancy progressed, there seemed to be an expectation that I would organise a baby shower for her. After all, I was good at organising things like this.

I’d never organised a baby shower before though. Only ever been to one before. So my first question was –

What exactly is a baby shower?

Traditionally, a baby shower is only held for the first child. Phew!

And it’s usually organised by the child’s grandmother. Yup, that’s me!

A baby shower is a way to celebrate the expected birth of a child by presenting gifts to the expectant mother at a party.


Choose a venue. Invite family and friends. They bring gifts. Sorted.

In fact, the term ‘shower’ refers to showering the pregnant woman with gifts. This tradition became popular after WWII to serve the economic function of providing the mother-to-be with the goods needed for the baby’s arrival.

We actually chose a theme. We created a library for the baby by each bringing a favourite book, either from our own childhood or one we’d enjoyed reading to our own children. Everyone seemed to love doing this – it made them remember all those books they hadn’t read in years. We chose ‘Six Dinner Sid’ and ‘The Bear Under The Stairs’. My friend made a pair of book ends with cross-stitch decoration. My new grandchild already has a library of over 50 books and she isn’t even born yet!

So how did I go about organising this baby shower?

  1. Keep it simple

I chose a venue close to home – a local cafe, Watergate Cafe, renowned for its fab baking, which catered for us. We ordered matching baby shower decorations and games from Party Delights. 

2. A couple of games

We played ‘Guess the baby food’ – which met with mixed reactions, especially when I got muddled up and fed a chicken meal to vegetarians. I was mortified!!

We also had a game of ‘Pin the dummy on the baby’.

During the event, we passed round a ball of string and some scissors and everyone guessed the current circumference of the baby bump. Most of us over-estimated by a long way – ‘How fat do you think I am?’

3. A couple of activities

There was a decorated box  – decorated with unicorns, obviously! – in which to put advice and best wishes for the new parents which is not to be opened until the baby is born,

We also had a sheet where everyone could guess the date, time, weight and length of the bay on arrival. That’s one we won’t know the winner of for a few weeks hopefully!


4. Lots of time to chat over a cup of tea

Family and friends had come together from quite a distance. Many hadn’t seen each other in quite a while. They didn’t want me organising too much. They wanted time to socialise.

5. Creating a library for the baby

I mentioned it before but that was a great idea. Those books will accompany the baby on the first few years of her life. If she develops a passion for books like her grandma, I’ll be happy.

So that was my first baby shower to organise. I’m so glad it went well. With five kids of my own, I have a feeling it may not be my last!


Last night, there were moments in time when I was fifteen again: not wishing I was fifteen again or remembering when I was fifteen, but actually fifteen again. So where was I? At the Get Down Rolladisco Newcastle! Before the event, I’d been unsure. I wasn’t certain I would remember how to skate again. But I guess it’s like riding a bike. After five minutes of tentative venturing out on the floor, I found my feet. The hired skates were better than any hired skates I remembered – they ran smoothly with no glitches – and the floor was pretty even too.

My friend Barbara went through the same process through the course of the evening, if her Facebook post is anything to go by!

Ok so I couldn’t manage roller boots when I was younger but a roller disco sounded like a great idea…. at first I could barely stand, my first pint 🍺 put me on my arse (literally) second pint 🍻 and I was getting my groove on – but definitely not chancing a third 😜
Fab night as always ladies 💗

I loved it. Absolutely loved it. That incredible feeling of sliding and gliding with minimal effort, the breeze blowing past my cheeks, my arms swaying naturally to the rhythm of my skating. There were people all around me – friends there too somewhere, but I felt all alone, in a bubble of happiness. I felt confident too. Able to dodge my way around less confident skaters. At one point, one lad bumped into me and nearly went down. He flashed me a smile as I firmly held his arm to keep him upright and moving.

It was one of those moments where you are transported out of the now into the then. It was such a cool venue – check out the Boiler Shop in Newcastle when you get the chance. The music helped too, as well as the lighting, the vibe, the outfits other people were wearing. I got completely caught up in admiring some of the costumes and planning what I would wear the next time. We were all there to have a good time, all together, regardless of age. It wasn’t all about ‘getting mortal’ as Geordie nights out are depicted in the media. Here, people were playing Giant Jenga and Connect Four and Draughts, eating retro sweets and stone-baked pizza and getting sprinkled with glitter.

If I had caught a glimpse of a reflection of myself, I don’t think I would have recognised it as me. When I put on those skates, I became that younger version of me – the one with the boyfriend who picked her up in his MG sports car and drove her to the skating rink in Felixstowe and taught her how to skate backwards. Skating was one thing I was pretty good at back then (even though my violin teacher forbid it because she was worried for my wrists!).

Here in Newcastle, I completely forgot that that young lad who I’d stopped falling over would be seeing me as I am now, not as I was back in the day. I couldn’t let myself dwell on what I might have looked like to others. If I had focused on that, I would not have stepped foot onto the rink in the first place. People my age don’t go to Rolladiscos. What was I thinking of? I should have been concerned about getting an injury or waking up stiff the next morning.

Sod that! If that’s what growing up is about, then count me out!

I guess I have my friends to thank for getting me there. We’re getting into a good groove of finding fun stuff to do and having the confidence to show up and give it a go. Without each other, no way would any of us have the nerve. By believing in each other, we are built up in our own self-belief.

This is a precious thing, something I never take for granted: to have a group of friends who know me and still like me; who allow me to look a fool and love me for it; who would defend my right to do whatever I wanted, regardless of my age.

I hope we’ll still be going along to the Rolladisco in ten years time. We plan to age disgracefully. Actually I hate that word ‘Disgracefully’. It makes it sound like something to be ashamed of. We will not be ashamed or embarrassed or held back by what anyone else may think.

As long as Joanne keep finding fun things on her Facebook feed for us to do, we will show up.

So who’s coming to the next Rolladisco on 2 December?

I’ve just come back from a really good holiday.

I hope you have too.

Nothing remarkable in that, you may be thinking. That’s what we all hope for, right? What makes the fact that I had a good holiday surprising is that that unfortunately is not normally the case. I am rubbish at holidays. Always have been, I don’t do holidays well. There are lots of reasons for this, the main one being that I have to take myself with me.

Yes, that.

It never ends well. The low point is usually some time on day two. I’ve come to expect that now: the only variable is how low that low point plummets down to.

I therefore did not have high expectations for this holiday. For a start, it was in this country. Which meant it would rain and be cold and we wouldn’t be able to entertain our kids and our dogs. I was bracing myself for staying in a self-catering cottage. Preparing meals away from home was always a nightmare in my experience. I was so busy the week leading up to the holiday I didn’t feel at all prepared.

Having said all that, this was a really good holiday.

And here are five reasons why:

  1. I took the best version of me

I don’t know how or why. I wish I did. I could then do it again next time. I have never felt so chilled so quickly. Even in the car on the way down the country, I was smiling to myself. Maybe it was because we were heading back to East Anglia. My roots. A familiar landscape. I found happiness on this holiday: a happy me overflowing with gratitude.

2. The cottage was perfect

As soon as I walked through the door of Little Turnpike Cottage, I felt at home. Everything had been thought of. The kitchen was more well-equipped than my kitchen at home. The vibe was stylish but homely. Lived in. If I was designing a holiday cottage, this is how it would be. We all relaxed into it straightaway.

3. There was something about Woodbridge

Having grown up in Ipswich, I’d never considered Woodbridge a tourist attraction. But it suited me and my family perfectly. Good walks for my man and his dogs. A great cafe Honey and Harvey with a fantastic flat white, a delicious cheese scone with chilli jam and cool vintage decor. And a warm welcome for the dogs. Bookshops and vintage shops and a sale in Fat Face.

4. I felt able to be unapologetically me

I stayed in bed until ten some days. I gazed at the gibbons at Colchester Zoo for as long as I wanted to. I read a lot. I challenged my husband to many games of LINKEE – or KINKEE as our friend insisted on calling it! I had a long bath with bubbles and candles and a glass of wine. I let myself relax and not feel guilty for doing so.

5. I took time out alone with my man

We went to Greenbelt Festival as day visitors on the Saturday. It took some organising. It would have been easier not to. But it mattered. We reconnected with each other and with the essence of who we are. He came alive listening to a debate about poverty; I shone with enthusiasm when I emerged from a session about the spiritual lessons of the zombie apocalypse.

So that was my holiday. Yes, the car broke down in the outside lane of the A12. Yes, getting us, two kids, two dogs and A LOT of luggage back home was a logistical nightmare. But these are not the things we will choose to remember.

We spent time reconnecting with each other, with the family, with friends we hadn’t seen for years. We spent time reconnecting with our past selves, our selves from nearly thirty years ago as we were starting out on this journey together. We reconciled who we were then with who we are now. We found peace in that process.

We stripped everything back and reconnected with ourselves.

That’s the essence of a good holiday.

A week ago, me and my crew descended onto the Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside ready for a great night out. We were all up for it. Getting together in the middle of the school holidays is always a treat when we’re not seeing each other as regularly as normal. We’d all been preparing: this was an 80s night and we were all representing the 80s in one way or another – plenty of George Michael CHOOSE LIFE T shirts, a couple of Madonna influences, even a Michael Jackson suit and hat combo…

We had no idea what to expect. We’d never attended a QFestival event before. We had no idea what a Spiegeltent was. And from the outside, this tent, this wooden structure, looked decidedly unimpressive. I couldn’t help wondering ‘What on earth have I brought everyone to here?’. It had been my idea and I felt some level of responsibility. Nestled between the imposing structures of the Sage and the Baltic, this plain wooden construction seemed small, uninviting, insignificant.

Let’s firstly take a step back and ask ‘What is a Spiegeltent?’ I’d asked myself this question before signing up to this event and was intrigued by what I found out. Spiegeltent is Dutch for ‘mirror tent’. A Spiegltent is a large travelling tent, constructed from wood and canvas, decorated within with mirrors and stained glass. Originally built as an entertainment venue in Belgium during the late 19th century, only a handful of these Spiegeltents remain in existence today – and we had the privilege of having one right here, on the Gateshead bank of the river Tyne! I felt inspired by the description of this venue, drawn to see what it was all about, and yet, as I stood by the Millennium Bridge looking at this dated, undecorative structure, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed and more than a little apprehensive.

And then we stepped inside. I left my doubts at the door and smiled. Oh yes, this was what we had come for. This was going to be a good night. I felt as if I was stepping into a TARDIS – something small and uninspiring on the outside became a whole new glorious world on the inside. I walked around in awe, taking in the beautiful wooden floor and the glittering mirrors on every column, the sumptuous burgundy silk ceiling drapes which rippled in the breeze. We were no longer in Gateshead, but were transported into a magical venue, many miles and years away from our daily lives.

This was a travelling tent. This tent had seen the world through the decades. This tent had a sense of history that was trapped within its circle of influence. And here we were, adding another tale to to this unique chapter of tales.


As we all squeezed into a wooden booth designed for a smaller group than we were(!), we slipped back into the 80s with glittery make-up, glow sticks, smiley face badges and the occasional pineapple (I know, right – who knew pineapples were a symbol of the 80s?). This entertainment/culture team had thought of everything. Other groups had turned up for a good night out too – complete with ra ra skirts, leg warmers and an inflatable boombox, no less. Everyone was there to dance – right from the start, people were giving it all on the dance floor, losing themselves in the experience, drifting back into being the person they had been more than thirty years before.

As Helen H commented on Facebook the next day –

There was a moment tonight , listening to Right on Time, where I was a teenager. Completely taken back in time , no kids, no responsibility. Just the singing and the dancing. I nearly cried ❤❤❤

Music can do that to a person. It’s powerful that way. The ten of us there that night hadn’t known each other way back then, but we were comfortable enough together to allow ourselves to revisit those times, each in our own bubble and yet supported and loved by each other.

For me, the tent itself contributed to the magic of the experience. In having such a history, it became timeless. The tent was firmly erected on familiar territory in the here and now, and yet the interior drew us away from that, back in time, back into memory, back to when we were just starting out on the journey that led us to where we are today.

And yet that past is not as you left it. You’re holding up a mirror to what was, to your younger self, and it’s filtered through all that you’ve been through along the way.

The present changes the past. Looking back, you do not find what you left behind.
― Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss

So thank you, Spiegeltent, for this glimpse of who I was and who I am now, what has been and what is to come.

I can’t wait to visit you again.