Back in the carefree days of my later teenage years, I recall a conversation with an elder member of society that caused me concern, but subsequently dismissed the notion with the bravado of youth. I was told that when you are older that you could count your true friends on one hand! WHAT? How ridiculous thought I, with a core of wonderful friends and a fantastic social life.

Who knew – they were indeed correct. Happiness is….my friends.
My friends have been my family through some major life events over the past few years. There are a few key players in my life who will always be with me until we end our days. These friends are the ones that you may not see daily or even weekly, but you know they have your back and will be there like a shot if needed. These are the friends who can pick up exactly where you left off when you next meet up – no questions asked. These are your soulmate friendships. For me, the most important relationships I will ever have in my lifetime.
There are the transient friends, who come into life for a reason, at a certain time, who provide support and guidance for that period in your life when it is relevant, but may drift away at a later date. Never underestimate the power of a transient friend.
There are also friendships of the opposite sex. I do not agree with the old adage that you can never just be mates with someone, that there must be some form of sexual frisson. One of my longest-serving mates is a chap. Met when I was 18 and he hasn’t been able to get rid of me since. We have survived him travelling the world, working together and he is now in Africa for two years, but the bond remains. There are times when the viewpoint of a male is most welcome, there can be less rivalry and more stupidity. But… when it comes to confidentiality and opening up the real me…it has to be the ladies. I am ambivalent about being born a female, but I do thank my stars and the babymaking dynamics of my parents that I am me! The ability to be open about life’s issues, talk through events that cause angst; all these things allow me the freedom to have learnt who I am and not let things eat away inside of me.
As we get older, making new friends can become increasingly harder. Job changes and common interests herald one or two key additions. The power of social media can also have an impact. The shared joy of Twitter and love of my football team fostered one new friendship (yep…you!). So, back to the young me, panicked at the thought of a small clique of support, I would say – it will happen. What you don’t realise is the power, nurturing and unconditional love and support that those handful of friends give and receive is worth far more than the masses of air-kissing disingenuous.
“ Friends should be like books, few, but hand-selected.” C.J Langenhoven
Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Teachers – A Breed Apart



Life events heralded the momentous decision to leave the secure, closeted world of full-time teaching and venture onto new pathways. I always knew, however that teaching would still be a backup plan.  I think I always knew that the lure of the small people would keep me attached to a profession that cannot be learnt; you are either a natural teacher or you are not.

Thinking back to the huge amount of children who have had the misfortune to have passed through my care, and it really was care… I wonder how many of them, the eldest in their later 20’s would remember anything from our time together.  It is true what they say – you recall the best and worst teachers you encounter. I have never had a wish to be the bland middle-ground.

My love of teaching and my philosophy stemmed from the sheer hatred of my own experiences at infant school. Nothing was nurtured, in fact the one time I was really happy, there was an obvious influx of children mid-year and I was bright, booted out of my contented world to the top year where I stayed for a year and a half, with the most horrid of individuals.  So when my vocation called, I was adamant that any child would enjoy their time with me, not be afraid to be who they were, learn to love learning and above all, laugh! Unfortunately for most, unequivocal and shameless indoctrination into the ways of Brighton and Hove Albion was the ultimate price for a year of me!  

Any fellow teachers reading this will understand what I mean when I say that there were year groups you said goodbye to in July and felt tears of sadness. Other times, the champagne corked was popped as soon as the bell for end of year rang and you gave a supportive slap on the back to the next poor soul who now inherited that cohort!

Working with the sponge-age children gave me such pleasure. The joy and positivity that emanates from the most bizarre thing created such happiness. I loved seeing the class ignore all the monetary toys and be enthralled by a large cardboard box! Hours spent getting in it, under it and climbing over it, making it into a den and letting their imaginations run free with exuberance. Or allowing small people to garden…watching ants or digging a hole to Australia was such fun (very Mirandaesque).  

Alongside the learning was the very important social responsibility. You were their ‘day mummy’ and boy, that could often be a huge burden. Regardless of their own feelings about the individual, teachers have the underrated skill of making everyone feel equally wanted, cared for and championed. It probably is the ultimate acting. A classroom lovey.

As a supply, not having your own class to develop has a plus side. You can walk away, you can sleep at night without worry, but it also detaches you from the best moments in the profession – those where you make a difference. Never underestimate the power of a compliment, of a light-bulb moment, of listening.

Teachers are a breed apart. No one goes into teaching for a) the money or b) an easy ride.  We probably laugh the most and share such happiness in asides and snapshots of our classes.  Working with children does keep you young, it gives you bonkers moments and can wipe away all the stresses of the adult world.

And the thing we all treasure the most? I am sure I am not alone in having a memory box of cards. It is those who trouble to write their thanks. That is what makes the whole job worthwhile.


“They may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel.” Carl Buechner

(very true Mrs Weatherly, Year 2, Flora McDonald Junior School)
Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Dying to Talk


It has been a week of departure for many around me I care about. Deaths in the elderly, middle-aged and much loved pets. It has made me reflect once again about how we view death and how much the subject is still a taboo for so many.  Death is a given. Life cycles are ruthless, to be human is to witness this cycle in its many forms on a daily basis in Mother Nature; the dead fox in the road, the squashed snail on the path, the exhausted fly on the window ledge. Yet when it comes to the ones we love, there is a shroud of secrecy, an unwritten rule of not sharing how we feel, of being unable to cope, of burying the head in the proverbial sand.  

Once you have experienced the death of a close loved one, you are changed. It shapes who you are forever more.  My first encounter with the end of life was a school friend, aged 18. He was wishing everyone a ‘Merry Christmas’ from the window of his mate’s car when he fell out and hit his head. From joy to nothing in such a finite moment of time. His life lives on in another person due to the kindness and compassion shown by his family.  

My most desolate time was when my father died on 5th November 2014.  Ravaged by a fast-acting leukaemia, he went from being a tall, imposing figure of a man, to a whisper, a shadow of who he was on the outside, but the same stubborn old bugger on the inside.  We talked about death when we knew that his prognosis was terminal. I could not imagine the vast, emptiness I would feel once he had gone, even being prepared for it.  Death itself for dad, was peaceful, and I am grateful for that. I am also pleased I was with him every step of his illness until the last breath.  I found an inner strength that kept me going when many around me could not. I sought comfort in the small things in life, the glorious sunshine that summer, the outings to the pub, the humour from the transfusion nurses, the witty comments from my father.  Tiny, minuscule memories that created happiness in such a dark time.  I thank my wonderful friends who did not give me platitudes, but told me things straight.  No rose-tinted glasses were worn, this was a time to speak the truth, to be able to say all the things I needed to and a time to listen.  

After dad had died, I went to meet a wonderful lady, a friend of a friend, who, in her 70’s herself has spent many hours offering bereavement counselling to those in need. Many hours also spent sitting with those who were ready to go. She said to me that people were too scared of death to really talk about what was important.  Wise words.

What was important to me was that dad knew he had permission to go, that he was loved, that he knew we would be OK.  On seeing two friends go through the pain of losing loved ones this week, I was reminded that kind words are so special.  But any words are better than none at all.  To hide from those in pain is living in your own awkwardness.  Happiness is captured in the most bizarre ways when your world has turned upside down.  Say something…..

I champion discussing death, old and young, it is the ultimate event.  Let us embrace and celebrate a life lived, rather than hide from what cannot be changed.

To those who are grieving now, hold onto the memories, be thankful for what you have shared and don’t forget to talk …. Oh, and look out for the white feather. If you see it, it is yours, from them. No one else will notice that special white message falling for you.  Open your heart, open your eyes and open dialogue.

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY


Unity in the Beautiful Game


Human nature, particularly the southern-residing Brit’s nature, is to avoid talking to strangers, to avoid eye contact with anyone who looks like they may possibly want to engage you in conversation, to pretend to be in a highbrow discussion on one’s mobile…all to be allowed to get on with life unhindered.

Yesterday was different. Yesterday I spoke with many people whom I had never met and would be unlikely to do so again. It was a day of unity, a day of family, the Brighton and Hove Albion football family.   I immersed myself amongst the 6000 people who watched the most momentous monetary match ( love a bit of alliteration!) in our history at the gorgeous AMEX stadium.  People talked, had the classic ‘banter’ and togetherness that only something special can bring. I saw no nastiness, I witnessed no harsh words towards the fellow fan. It was the collective consciousness at play – the wartime spirit, the united front.

Post-match, deflated and in need of food, I stopped off at a local supermarket, only to come across other adults in BHA tops. We rolled our eyes and shared a few words. Even a small child in his top saw mine and did a sad face, thumbs down.  I accosted a lady unloading her shopping into her car, a total stranger. We stood discussing the match and our respective history of Albion support five to ten minutes. Unity.  Today when I eventually venture out into the later afternoon sun, to walk along the beachfront, once the daytrippers have returned home, I will again speak to no one. Back to normal in a very unnormal time.  The private southerner in her private world. And as for the team and the fans…As a former manager always said, “Keep the faith!”  


Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY …. Win the PLAY OFFS!! SEAGULLS!

Anticipation and BHAFC!



I awoke with those pesky butterflies in my stomach this morning.  The causation wasn’t a dodgy curry; it was anticipation. Anticipation is the mother of all foreplay, alas, this kind of foreplay has more riding on it than a pleasant time with a partner. This partner has been with me for the past 33 years, through thick and thin, through births and deaths and still attaches itself to my psyche like a proverbial leech.  Today is one of two make or break days for my beloved Brighton and Hove Albion and their crusade to reach the promised Mecca of the Premiership. This afternoon I shall be in my church with 30,000 other fanatics, all wearing our collective blue and white, hoping amongst hope that today we can beat Derby County, giving us advantage against the BIG match Saturday against our promotion rivals, Middlesbrough.

My mantra is happiness, I preach about how important it is to stay in the zone of coherence, to allow yourself to be calm and controlled.  Mindfulness! I shall be completing three minutes of deep and rhythmic breathing before any build-up of tension kicks in.  I will try my damndest not to use expletives at any moment, due to children in my locality.  This control will not occur if we score! The collective consciousness and tribalism of the masses brings a huge wave of euphoria that takes you somewhere wonderful. The adrenalin rush, the endorphin boost blast any coherence out of the water. I dare not imagine my bp readings over the course of the match.

For 90 minutes, I will abandon my control to truly be in the moment. To experience all the wealth of emotion that is sent my way. I will embrace each and every change in my brain, thought-pattern, physiology and……once it is over, I shall return to coherence.  If we lose, my happiness will not desert me. I will be appreciative for all that we have achieved and try to breathe, breathe, breathe throughout the week to maintain the equilibrium until Saturday.  

And so the pre-match rituals begin (of course they will make all the difference!) for thousands. It is currently raining, but in our heads and hearts, anticipation is the winner.

We are Brighton and Hove Albion, we will..

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY