Evidence that many of Fran's childhood memories are based around sugar

Well, this is all very strange, isn't it? I'm at home, in front of the fire, with no English students to teach because the government, aided and abetted by the Corona virus, has cancelled the GCSE examinations and where there is no examination there is no need for a private tutor.

Bye bye, bank balance! It was nice knowing you.

When news first broke about the Corona virus, the image that I had in my head was that of a man who drove a truck around the streets of Warwick when I was a child in the 1970s. He delivered bottles of fizzy pop made by Corona. He sold Dandelion and Burdock which tasted like a mixture of liquorice, aniseed and disinfectant, as well as a sickly-sweet concoction called Cream Soda which made your body 97% sugar for a while and corrupted all your decision-making processes.

Also for sale were lemonade, orangeade, cherryade and Band-Aid, although I may have remembered wrongly with that last one.

What I didn't know until ten minutes ago when I researched it…

Reasons why Fran never returns parcels

My husband wandered through the house to find me this morning. He often does this, leaning against the door jamb of the room as if about to make a life-shattering statement such as, 'I've come to say we have no money in the bank' or 'The landlord says we have to move house.' or 'We have rats in the kitchen the size of small dogs.'

These moments are, thankfully, rare. What he usually has to say is more trivial. But he adopts the same stance, and the same serious intonation, whatever the announcement: 'We could have carrots or peas - which do you prefer?' or 'I've replaced the bag in the vacuum cleaner.' Sometimes he's there to deliver the latest shock-horror headlines about his job as a gardener: 'I'm not sure I've grown the right variety of runner bean this year.' or 'My secateurs are blunt.'

This morning's intoned declaration was, 'There's something in the freezer that could be ready-made polenta …

Reasons why Lanzarote may not welcome Fran back

Did you miss me? Sorry! I was away in Lanzarote.


Here I am, wearing a cardigan and trying to avoid sunlight. Because that's why people go to Lanzarote, obvs.

My sister invited me on the holiday. It was a kind of arrangement and I had about a week's notice. Had I been still working as a schoolteacher, I'd have been forced to say no. But I'm working from home at the moment - tutoring and writing and pretending to clean the kitchen properly - so, I was free to go.

I wasn't sure she'd picked the right person for her companion. 'You do realise there are reasons I never go on holiday to hot countries?' I said to her. 'I don't do sun. I rarely do outside, frankly. That's why Paul and I head off to Whitby in Yorkshire each summer, where we know it will rain and we can safely wear anoraks with the hoods up.'

She promised Lanzarote would only be 21 degrees at the end of January and I was guaranteed cardigan wearage at leas…

Reasons why Fran steers clear of psychologists

You know how, in the middle of doing something else, you suddenly remember what you dreamed last night and it gives you a little shock?

I was considering, just now, how to start this blog post and my hand was hovering over the keyboard to write the first sentence. Then an image from last night's dreams tripped across my mind. My stomach clenched in panic because, for a nano-second, I thought that perhaps it hadn't been a dream, but a real happening.

Thank goodness. It wasn't.

In the dream, I was at an event - a concert or a film, I think - with my good friend and fellow-writer, Deborah Jenkins. (Hi, Deborah!) We had found seats. But things were going wrong. For a start, two really handsome men sat in front of us. Deborah and I nudged each other and then one of the men turned round and said to Deborah, 'What a beautiful woman you are' or some such compliment.

The same man then said to Deborah, while nodding in my direction, 'I see you've brought along your …

Reasons to check everyone in the classroom has a pen

Happy New Year to you all! Yes, I know it's the 8th already, but saying Happy New Year only at New Year is so Last Year. 

I thought I'd kick off 2020's blog posts with a story from the classroom about two boys called Scott and Randall. It's fictional but not fictional .... there are Scotts and Randalls in every school and I've taught many of them. People like Scott and Randall are what make teaching both extraordinarily joyful and extraordinarily maddening.   

Imagine yourself in a secondary school classroom on a rainy Thursday. 

The pupils are hard at work delighted when there's an 'incident'. 

Scott and Randall provide a welcome 'incident'

Within two minutes of entering the classroom, Scott had to be ejected.

'What d'you do that for?' Randall had swung round, clasping his shoulder, to face Scott.

I'd managed three words of my introduction to the lesson's activities. ('First, I'd like -) 

'Do what?' I asked Randall. …

Evidence that not all Santa's gifts are welcome

Dear Santa Claus

Thank you so much for the early Christmas present. Although a body covered in hives wasn't top of my wish list and neither did it substitute for the Sean Bean duvet cover I asked for, it made for an original gift.

You delivered the rash on 7 December, completely unexpectedly, and I'm still not sure of the cause. I can't say it was a particularly welcome gift. On the other hand, it did last an entire week, unlike most boxes of Milk Tray or bottles of pink gin would have.

Also, it was one of those gifts that just keeps surprising its recipient. One minute it was mild and pink, like a pair of soft ladies' pyjamas, say, and the next, it was furious and festering, like the inside of a volcano. But who wants Christmas gifts with only one facet to them?

It being an early gift, I hope you don't mind that I hid it from the general public as far as I could. When it crept up to my neck, for example, I swathed myself in a scarf I could have wrapped around the…

Evidence if it were needed that Fran will never be a naturalist

While we were having breakfast today, I looked out of the window at the garden. 'Quick! Look!' I said to my husband. 'There's a squirrel trying to ram raid the bird feeder.'

He ran to the window. 'Which one?' he said.


I said, 'I don't know. How am supposed to know all their names?'

'No, which bird feeder?' he said.

Ah. Of course. For a moment there, I thought he'd mistaken me for Francis of Assisi, not Fran of Leamington Spa.

We have two bird feeders. They are meant to be squirrel proof but that doesn't stop the rodents from attempting entry. They wrap themselves round the bird feeder, hanging on for grim death, while trying to access the contents. They try every which way: upside-down, downside-up, or suspending themselves from it by their claws, swinging the bird feeder from side to side wildly like someone on a theme park ride.

I wouldn't call myself a bird watcher at all but I do like sitting by the window, watching…