Welcome! You have found the home of 'Being Me', Fran Hill's blog. Please browse my posts and if you like what you read, you'll enjoy my book 'Being Miss' which you can order from my website or on Amazon. My next book 'Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean?' will be published by SPCK Publishing in 2020. My website is at www.franhill.co.uk. Come and visit for more Fran info!
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Reasons why I loved being in Colin the Harsh's classes
You bump into someone in the street. ‘Sorry,’ you say.
‘No, I’m sorry,’ says your bumpee.
‘No, my fault,’ you insist.
‘My fault,’ they say. ‘I’m so sorry.’
‘No, really …’
And it could go on for ever, this quest to be the one in the
wrong, if you didn’t both have shopping to do, letters to post, and other
people to apologise to.
They say it’s a British thing. Whatever it is, my creative
writing tutor, Colin, was determined to stamp it out.
I joined his class in 1995 when my third child had started
school. During that first lesson, he asked a woman to share her work. She
opened her notebook, announced, ‘I’m sorry – it’s not very good,’ and began to
He interrupted her. ‘Rule Number One,’ he said. ‘We will
never apologise for what we’ve written.’
It took us weeks to learn that he meant it. If we launched
into a bumbling, self-effacing, ever so ‘umble apology, he’d put up his hand,
like a police officer stopping traffic, and say, ‘Start again.’
He wouldn’t accept any of the following:
‘Sorry – it’s not quite finished.’
‘I do apologise – I think it’s a bit rambly.’
‘I’m sorry – I had to rush this before I came out tonight.’
‘I’m sorry – it’s not my best work.’
‘Apologies for this – it’s a bit depressing.’
‘Sorry about this one – it’s not the funny stuff I usually
‘Sorry, guys – I didn’t have time to do the usual edit.’
‘Gosh, how can I follow Simon’s? It was brilliant. Well, I
guess I’ll read it anyway.’
‘I really struggled with this. I’m sorry if it doesn’t come
‘Oh dear, I’ve lost my place. Sorry, sorry. Let me just find
it. I knew this was going to read
The need to apologise beforehand – or during - was as strong
as a Delhi-belly urge: verbal diarrhoea in its purest form.
Sometimes, we’d apologise all over again for apologising.
‘I’m losing the will to live,’ Colin would say.
One day, he brought in a pineapple. Don’t ask me why he
chose a pineapple. ‘Every time I sense an apology-fest coming,’ he said, ‘I
will shout “Pineapple!” at which point you must stop explaining, justifying and
second-guessing our reactions, and just read
the damn piece!’
That was a turning point.
‘This is a piece I wrote last night about my grandmother’s
funeral,’ we learned to begin, or ‘I wrote the start of a short story. Here it
We could request particular critique, but only in positive
terms. These were fine: “Could you listen out for sections you think are
confusing?” or “I’d like to get the girl’s childish voice exactly right. Could
you comment on that?” As Colin put it, ‘Self-aware is fine. Self-deprecating
He also pointed out that, sometimes, when we heralded a
piece with ‘This is a bit rubbish,’ it wasn’t lack of confidence at all. It was
over-confidence. We thought we were the new Stephen King or J K Rowling.
‘So, I’m not allowing false modesty either,’ he’d say. ‘It’s
not sincere. And if you come to class thinking you’re Booker Prize material,
you won’t listen to anyone’s critique. Go and join Embroidery or Spanish
Cookery: something you think you need help with.’
Colin the Harsh, he was, but also Colin the Wise.
Anyway, I’m sorry if you found this blog post a bit …..
Apologise one more time and I'll just throw the tin at you
I picked up my new glasses this morning. Here's a Before and After comparison for you, whether you wanted it or not.
You have no idea how long that's taken me, to post those Before and After pictures. Every time I posted the After one, it hopped up the page and decided to appear before the Before. 'No,' I told it. 'I need you after the Before. If you go before the Before, people will think the Before is the After and the After is the Before.'
'And who will care?' the After photo said to me. 'Why do you think anyone's bothered about your new glasses anyway?'
I ignored its cheek and dragged it back down again. This time, it stayed.
It's true. Maybe no one is bothered. But it seems a dramatic change to me, and I felt very self-conscious, stepping out of the opticians into Leamington's main high street. What if I saw someone I knew? Would they do that is-it-isn't-it thing and decide not to speak to me? What if they hate the new loo…
Well, Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you for following me during 2018 - your forbearance and long-suffering are much appreciated, as are all your comments. This year I'm meant to be writing and delivering to the publishers my diary-memoir 'Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean?' Watch out for news.
I thought I'd write about fish pie as it's the start of the new year and there are many, many reasons I am not the right person to write a blog about new year resolutions ...
I made a fish pie last night for dinner because there was a packet of supermarket pastry in the fridge that never got converted into mince pies over Christmas.
Why didn't I make the mince pies? Mainly because I knew that no one would eat them over Christmas because they'd all be stuffed to perdition with other goodies. So, if I'd made 48, I would eat 47 of them and then my husband, who's not a major fan (of mince PIES, you at the back!!) would wander into the kitchen in mid-January …
This is a scene from a novel I hoped to get published. But I've moved on now and am writing another book which will be published in 2020. Watch this space!
I really like the scene, though. So I thought I'd let you read it, rather than having it fester on my laptop.
Enjoy! It's very much based on my personal experience, and it's a scene that's played out in real life in many, many classrooms across the country. And perhaps the world.
Setting: a secondary school classroom, England. Friday afternoon. Characters: an English teacher and her class
The pupils, as they did every
week at this time, drifted from all corners of the school, in spits and spots
like a gradual, hesitant build-up of rain. They
seemed weary, as did their end-of-the-week uniforms, which drooped and slouched
on their bodies as if drained of life.Indeed, some of their blazers had died and slidden off their bodies like
thin corpses, hanging now from the ends of their fingers. Several pupils had