James’s Blog: The Stone & The Seed.

James’s Blog:  The Stone & The Seed.

(I had an idea, which became this little poem.  If I was an illustrator of any talent I would probably turn it into a children’s picture book.)


The paving stone,

set hard and set proud,

said, “I can’t be moved

from my home in the ground.”


“Beneath me the earth,

I crush all the life,

no root can take hold

with no hope and no light.”


But a small, humble seed

a challenge did make:

“Heavy you may be,

but you’ve made a mistake.”


The stone laughed out loud

at the tiny thing’s cheek,

“You can’t lift me up!

You’re too small and too weak!”


“It may take some time,”

the seed did reply,

“but I’m not stuck here,

for my goal is the sky!”


The years went on by

while the seed sought a gap,

the stone did not know

of the tiny thing’s trap.


And go visit now,

this is what you will see,

a humbled, broke stone

that’s been split by a tree.

James’s Blog: Based on a True Story.

James’s Blog:  Based on a True Story.

“Good morning sports fans, I’m Rex Steele…”

“…and I’m Chuck Chuckerson!”

“…and welcome to today’s event in the Parent Olympics! Who’s competing today, Chuck?”

“Well, Rex, today we have James from Canterbury! He’s a writer and stay-at-home dad with five children, though he’s only got a couple of years experience in today’s event. Remind the viewers at home what today’s event is, Rex!”

“Today’s event is the Post-School-Run Restoration, Chuck! The event begins when the parent returns from dropping his children off at school, and tidies up all the mess that has been made in the previous hour!”

“Sounds exciting, Rex! Now, am I right in thinking that James has already got the post-breakfast kitchen under control, so he’s going to concentrate on the upstairs?”

“That’s correct, Chuck! James has only been doing this event for the past couple of years, so he’s still something of a rookie, but I was talking to him yesterday and reminded him that he has potentially another thirteen years of this event ahead of him, and that he should be an expert by the end of his career!”

“I expect he found that encouraging, Rex!”

“He sure did, Chuck! You can see that the bruising around my eye looks a lot better today!”

“Ha ha! Good times! WHOA, I’m going to cut you off there, Rex! James has just arrived home from the school run, and we’re off!”

“He’s straight upstairs, and it looks like he’s heading for the bathroom! A good place to start, Chuck?”

“Good enough, Rex…And he’s stepped on a soaking wet flannel that’s been left in the middle of the floor! AMAZING! Can we get a slow mo replay, on that Rex?”

“No we can’t, Chuck! And WHAT A PRO! He’s picked up the flannel and placed it by the sink! Now, what is that in the sink, Chuck? Some kind of exploded insect?”

“No, Rex, that’s TOOTHPASTE!”

“And on the mirror and walls?”

“That’s toothpaste too!”

“WOW! Those children sure cover all their bases! And what’s James doing now, Chuck? Talk us through it!”

“Well, Rex, it looks like he’s using the children’s flannel to WIPE UP the toothpaste!”

“The flannel he just found on the floor? The one that they use to wipe their FACES?”

“That’s right, Rex!”

“Ha ha, FANTASTIC, Chuck! He’s really using his initiative there!”

“Now he’s on to the bedrooms…wait, hang on. He’s just noticed something, Rex!”

“Look at that, Chuck! The toilet roll holder is empty, I repeat, the toilet roll holder is EMPTY! Man down! MAN DOWN!”

“Thankfully, there’s a fresh roll right there on top of the toilet. It won’t take James long to change it, but one wonders why the child who used the last of the roll didn’t change it afterwards!”

“Not really, Chuck. It’s a well known fact that children believe that changing the toilet roll causes their eyeballs to EXPLODE!”

“Job done, Rex, and James is on to the bedrooms…WHOA! Did you see that! He just ignored the bedroom belong to the teenage boys and moved straight to the bedroom of the younger kids!”

“That’s right, Chuck. That’s his experience kicking in – he knows that there are some battles not worth fighting.”

“And he’s in the bedroom now and…LOOK AT THAT! What is all that stuff? I see Lego, Playmobil and Thomas the Tank Engine toys everywhere, Rex! EVERYWHERE!”

“That’s right – and don’t forget the Shopkins and Barbies, Chuck!”

“Wasn’t this room completely tidy when they went to bed the night before? Those are some seriously dedicated children, to have managed to get out so many toys in such a short space of time!”

“And he’s moving toys round, he’s tidying up, he’s…he’s dancing around the room? What’s he doing, Chuck? He’s got no time for this!”

“He just stood on some Lego, Rex!”

“Ah, OUCH…and now he’s on to the beds. Is that…yes…I can see that one of the beds has not been made! One of the beds has NOT BEEN MADE!”

“And that’s despite the child involved being told a MILLION times to make his bed, right, Rex?”

“That’s right, Chuck, but science has proved that the louder and more often you tell a child something, the less they hear!”

“How does that work, Rex?”

“I don’t know, Chuck, but it does! It’s science!”

“Now James is moving away from the beds…he’s not made the bed, Rex, he’s NOT made the bed!”

“Uhhh, no, I think you’ll find that he has, Chuck!”

“Ah. Bed making is clearly not his strong suit, then!”

“It looks like it, Chuck! Now he’s almost home free but…what’s that! My WORD! Have you ever seen anything like that, Chuck?”

“James has seen it, Rex, he’s seen it! It’s some pyjama bottoms HANGING from a bookcase! Look at his face, Rex! Look at it!”

“Ah, yes, it’s his signature expression, the ‘What the Dickens…?’!”

“He’s wasting time, Rex! He’s got to keep moving!”

“Yes, he’s got the pyjamas, Chuck, and what’s that? They’re COVERED in food from LAST NIGHT’S MEAL!”

“Straight to the washing basket with them, Rex! This is the last stretch! James is almost in the clear!”

“This is a good run, Chuck! He’s not had to deal with some of the more time-consuming challenges like Furniture That Has Been Mysteriously Moved!”

“Or Who’s Been Fiddling With The Thermostat, Rex!”

“Yes, he’s at the washing basket, and he’s putting the pyjamas in! This is going to be a good time…BUT WAIT! What’s that? Why’s he hesitating, Chuck?”

“Has he? Yes, he has! He’s seen some WHITE washing in the DARK washing basket! What a nail biting finish!”

“Yes, he’s pulling out the offending item, Chuck! And I can confirm that it’s some dirty underwear! I repeat, there is DIRTY WHITE UNDERWEAR in the dark washing! MY GOODNESS, Chuck! What a last minute twist!”

“And…he’s put the dirty underwear in the right basket, Rex! STOP THE CLOCK!”

“And that’s it! James has finished! What’s the time, Chuck?”

“Oh, it’s good, but it’s not his best, Rex! And look, you can see the disappointment on his face! It might have been a different story without the errant pyjamas and the careless underpants!”

“Never mind, Chuck, he’ll have another chance tomorrow, when he has to do it all over again!”

“That’s right, Rex! And don’t forget to tune in later for more exciting events from the Parent Olympics!”

“This is Rex Steele, signing off!”

“And this is Chuck Chuckerson, saying, have a fine day, sports fans!”

James’s Blog: Anyone for Seconds?

James’s Blog:  Anyone for Seconds?

Daisy wiped the tear from her cheek with a perfect white handkerchief.

“I know you all understand my struggle. It’s just so…so hard,” she said. “Oh, that sounds silly. To say it’s ‘hard’. I just don’t know any other word.”

“It’s a perfectly good word,” said Thomas, reaching out and patting her on the shoulder.

“And it’s perfectly accurate,” said Maureen, her lips stretched in a thin line. Daisy nodded glumly.

Maureen continued. “That’s why we’re here. To support and help one another. We all understand. We ‘re all in the same boat here at the Over Eighteens.”

The Over Eighteens had been meeting weekly at Thomas’s house for the past year. There were seven of them. Daisy, Maureen and, of course, Thomas were the founding members. Billy (no-one called him William) and his wife Trish joined soon after, shortly followed by George. Jayne (yes, that was how she spelled it) was new to the group. This was her first meeting.

Every Thursday morning they gathered around the coffee table in Thomas’s lounge, squeezed on sofas (and chairs brought in from the dining room) and encouraged one another. That was the purpose of the group, to share and encourage, and to share and encourage in one particular struggle. The name Over Eighteens referred not to age, but to weight. The only thing in the group that could be called thin was Maureen’s lips. Everyone bore the same burden, of struggling with their size.

Thomas glanced at his watch.

“I think that’s enough for today.” He looked over at Jayne. “It’s been excellent to have you here this morning, Jayne. We always finish with a…well, I guess you could call it a creed of sorts. We say it together, you know, to make us all feel like we’re united in this.”

Jayne nodded nervously.

“Just listen, and you’ll pick it up soon enough,” Thomas said, nodding at the rest of the group.

“We agree that we’re overweight,” the group said, in unison. “But we don’t want to be. We’d like to be thin. In the meantime, we will support each other, listen to each other’s struggles without judgement, encourage each other and look forward to the day when we are all our perfect weight.”

Silence settled on the thoughtful group.

“Now,” said Thomas, clapping his hands together, “who wants a cup of tea?”

There was a chorus of responses as Thomas stood up and moved through to the kitchen.

“You should come over for dinner sometime, love,” said Trish, smiling at Jayne.

“That would be nice, “ said Jayne, smiling back.

“Cor, yes, I love it when we have guests,” said Billy. “Trish always goes to town with the deserts!”

“I’m surprised you have any room left for desert,” interjected George. “After all, I saw how much you put away at the All You Can Eat Pizza Buffet yesterday!”

“You can talk!” said Billy, laughing.

Thomas returned from kitchen.

“Kettle’s on,” he said, placing a huge, heavy plate on the coffee table. On the plate was the biggest chocolate cake that Jayne had ever seen. “Who wants a slice?”

Hands shot up around the room. Jayne kept her hand down.

“Ummmmm,” she said, as though she wanted to say something but wasn’t sure how to begin.

“Go on,” said Maureen, smiling with those thin lips. “Have some. Thomas is a fantastic baker.”

“I’m sure he is, but…” Jayne stopped.

“But what?” said Daisy.

“Well, shouldn’t we…well, I’m trying to diet.” Jayne bowed her head, as though she’d confessed to some awful crime.

“Oh, of course you are,” said George. “We’re all trying to diet, aren’t we?”

Ernest nods and grunts of agreement.

“The thing is,” said Daisy. Jayne looked up to see her wiping a thick smear of chocolate icing from her cheek with that no-longer perfect white handkerchief. “The thing is, that it’s difficult, isn’t it?”

More nods and grunts.

“After all, that’s why we’re here. Because it’s hard, as Daisy said earlier,” said Thomas.

“We’re all in favour of diets. That’s what we’re all after – the ultimate goal is losing weight – but it’s not quite that simple, is it?” said Daisy.

“I don’t know what I’d do without this group,” said Trish, through a mouthful of smushed chocolate cake, “to lift my spirits and help me feel better about things.”

“That’s right,” said Thomas, nodding. “That’s absolutely right.”

Jayne looked around at the group, as they grinned at her, encouragingly. She knew that she would feel more encouraged if they didn’t all have chocolate-stained teeth. She made a decision.

“It’s been lovely to meet you all,” Jayne said, standing up. “But I have to go now. The truth is, I think I’m in the wrong group.”

The gathering sat in silence as she left the room. After a short moment they heard the front door slam.

“That’s a shame,” said Thomas. “Now, who’s for seconds?”

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