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Blind Faith

I had assembled a rattle, a teddy, a pencil sharpener and a Duracell battery to flourish at a circle of three-year-olds in Sunday school. With these I hoped, by some divine miracle, to explain the mystery of the Trinity. Why, if things went well, I might even end up understanding it myself.

As the introit hymn began, my optimism was fading. How do you teach the infinite and the unknowable? How, armed with my household plunder, do I foster faith in the unseen?

I had underestimated the quiet certainty of children.

Has anyone, I asked, seen God? The Duracell battery, concealed in a rummage bag, was waiting to show how one can believe without seeing.  But…

"I have!" piped a three-year-old.
"Where?" I asked, disconcerted.
"In the jungle."
"What did He look like?"
"He had a long trunk".

A pause. I held my props ready to enlighten the doubters.

"Has anyone else seen God?" I asked.
"I have!" replied a four-year-old.
"W…

Driving Parents Round the Bend

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'Bucker!' cursed my then two-year old when she got behind the wheel of her Little Tike car. 'Bucker, bucker, bucker!' I admonished her for swearing. 'I have to,' she said. 'I'm driving.'

Now her language has become more decorous as she steers a Skoda across the roof of a car park and topples a bollard. And she keeps a cool that would elude me as she dodges an oncoming car and brakes just before the wall that separates us from a five-storey drop onto the Brent Cross retail park.

Multi-storey car parks do not bring out the best in my character, but my 13-year-old shows signs of being superior in temperament and skill. Behind, her 11-year-old brother reverses tidily into a free parking space. Unlike me he collects no strangers' wing mirrors in the manoeuvre. I, meanwhile, am still recuperating from wrestling my own Skoda through the perils of the North Circular to get here. I had to get the Vicar to park it.

The children are having their first driv…

When your child goes missing...

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It was 8am when the 13-year-old left for school. As usual I had forgotten to pack the 11-year-old's lunch, so as usual I was distracted by Hovis crusts when she called out a goodbye.

It was 11am when the school texted to say that she had not turned up. They asked me to ring but my calls landed in a voicemail box. I crouched over my phone and decided to think things through rationally.

I thought of how I had berated her for her messy room when I'd bidden her goodnight and how I'd complained of her rolled up skirt instead of a morning greeting. I thought of a man in a van snatching her off the street and of a secret tryst with a Facebook imposter. I recalled headlines of body parts in bin liners, of teenage runaways and hit-and-run drivers. I imagined all the empty Christmases of the future without my little girl in.

It was an hour before the school returned my message and told me that she had been in class all along. In that hour, the world shifted infinitesimally.

I spend …

The Change

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They say it happens to all of us sooner or later. It's just that you can never quite believe it will really happen to you.

You try to ignore the early signs. The disconcerting weight gain that means old favourites no longer fit and old styles no longer suit. The loss of interest in cherished pastimes; the hours of wakefulness while the household sleeps.

Then come the secret stashes of comfort food, exhausted afternoons behind closed curtains. There's the apathy, the anger, the addiction to soaps in the need for escapism.

What keeps you going are the highs. The sudden flaming enthusiasms, companionable shopping trips, heart-to-hearts in the bedroom and, always underlying, that intoxicating sense of possibility.

The change of life is a frightening thing. It requires total adjustment of everything you took for granted. You have to rethink the way you communicate, the way you think, where and when and how you go. You know the future depends on how you cope with it. It's a bala…

Wild Life

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Lately I've been counting the days till Tuesdays. Tuesday is usually the only night in the week that I get to go out. To put the bins out. Those three minutes inhaling the darkness and feeling the damp pavement through my slippers remind me of the nocturnal life that exists beyond my sofa rug.

Yes, Tuesday nights have tided me over pretty effectively these last ten years. But last week, when I realised my bedtime had inched forward to 9.30pm, I wondered whether I should Get Out More.

It's not that I don't live a life of vigour and adventure:





It's just that my fast living usually involves waterproofing and never takes place under cover of darkness. After 16 years of marriage I feel I deserve more.

It was surprisingly easy to arrange the assignation and the church hall seemed to the most convenient place to do it. Unsure of the dress code for untamed nightlife, I borrowed the school shoes my son has grown out of and some sinuous lycra from my daughter.

'Big booty!'…

Summer Style

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I am not a great fan of summer. I prefer to remain resolutely in my thermal vest, hoping that the weather will take a turn for the worse. But there comes that point, earlier and earlier it seems to me, when the forecasters threaten Mediterranean heat and I am obliged to excavate my summer wear from under the spare room bed.

That necessitates the annual hunt for the iron to tame cottons after months in cramped hibernation. And the iron, which has also spent months in hibernation, short circuits the kitchen while the Vicar has the roast in the oven.  The only way to avoid risking the Sunday lunch is to donate the crumpliest clothes to the local cat charity. The rest I hang in place of my winter woollens where I contemplate them with misgivings.

In winter you know where you are with a pair of wellies and a swaddling of corduroy. But it's a struggle to know how to dress suitably for the essential routines of summer:



Shorn of that vest, hidden attributes are liable to sag publicly as y…

A Life Sentence

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This was my mother two years ago:



This was the newspaper where she had been features editor for 40 years:




This was the zebra she crossed on her way home from work on the night of November 26th 2013:




This was the consultant from the adjacent hospital who failed to stop in time:



This is the hospital where my mother spent five months recovering from her injuries:




This is how many times the court hearing was delayed to accommodate the driver's defence team:




This is the magistrates court where the trial took place 18 months later:



This was the sentence, along with costs and a £15 victim surcharge, when the driver was found guilty of driving without due care and attention:




This is the sentence my mother, brain-damaged, disabled and dependent, is serving:




A stiffer sentence would not change anything. The driver was not speeding or phoning or drunken. He made a fleeting mistake. A mistake anyone of us could make when we drive a familiar route home. A mistake that cost my mother her job, h…