Evidence that even at her age Fran is still experiencing rites of passage

I guess you could call it a rite of passage, the first time you squeeze the toothpaste onto the plastic back of the toothbrush and not onto the brush at the front.

It's a very different teeth-cleaning experience - not unpleasant, but odd nonetheless - so I'm not recommending it and it'll teach me to wear my glasses in the bathroom.

Is 57 still middle-aged, or am I sliding inexorably towards the autumn of my life? How long until I experience the rite of passage that is washing my hair with body butter or trying to apply shampoo to the hard skin on my feet?

A more significant rite of passage recently was my trip to Northern Spain with my daughter and her partner. It's over 20 years since I've flown so I was nervous and, after listening to various horror stories about imploding ears, had 49 fruit-flavoured boiled sweets in my hand luggage. As the plane lifted off the runway at Gatwick, I sucked the sweet as though trying to extract its soul, my cheeks falling in like …

Reasons why Fran always carries a rolled-up newspaper

I watched a wasp die on the bus yesterday morning.

I know, as an opener, it's not the same as 'Hey, did you see the latest episode of Game of Thrones? but it's all I have to offer.

I'm nervous about wasps. I'm sure, if they could talk, they'd say they were nervous about me too. But all I have in my armoury is a rolled-up newspaper and a bad aim. They have a stinger. And, close up, they're pretty scary.

A wasp in a field, I can cope with. A wasp in the garden, just about.

But a wasp on the bus is a cross wasp. (Move along, Dr Seuss.)

I saw it progressing along a window two seats in front of me. It was crawling my way.

I don't mean, crawling in the way I'd crawl, as in 'Oof, oof, my knees, and how will I ever get up from this position?'  I mean, crawling towards me.

I expected a confrontation. I picked up the copy of the Metro I'd collected when I got on the bus and began rolling.

It crawled nearer. But it was slow.

Aha. A trick! A clever …

Reasons why Fran was glad to wake up this morning

It's not yet 7am and I'm sitting in bed looking out of the window at the graveyard behind our house.

That makes it sound as though it's our personal graveyard. You know, like people say, 'the garage behind our house' or 'the shed at the bottom of the garden'.

'Oh, yes, our personal graveyard. Yes, yes, we own it all - the stones, the coffins, the skeletons, the wilted flowers, the worms. One day we too will lie there. We are like wealthy aristocrats who have a sepulchre set aside for when they pass away, only ours is conveniently just behind our house. Our grieving relatives will be able to lob us over the garden wall when the time comes.'

No, it's nothing like that. It's an old Victorian graveyard our house happens to overlook. If you try to ignore the graves, you could imagine it as a lovely park with lawns and trees, but that's a hard ask, like saying, 'Here, have this chocolate cake covered in flies, but just ignore the flies.…

Evidence that Fran's bus - and joy - have been tooken away

They've taken away my bus.

Or, as my 5 year old granddaughter might put it, 'They've tooken away my bus.'

I'll get back to the bus in a moment.

You've got to love junior grammar. It's not until they're about 7 or 8 that they've fully grasped irregular verb endings. So, she's still saying things like 'I talkid to the man' or 'I rided my bike and wented to the park where I eated my icecream.'

Who can blame her? It's an unjust world of irregular verbs. You emerge from the womb. You learn the verb 'to eat'. You hear someone say, 'I wouldn't have minded. You think, 'Hey, so, mind becomes minded in the past tense. This means that, on the end of verbs, if you want the past tense, you use -ed. I'm going to have a go. Hey, Ma. I eated my dinner.'

'No, dear. It's not eated. It's ate.'


Okay, try this one, Ma. I heard someone say they walked in the garden. So, sometimes the 'ed…

Evidence that horses, bandstands and green folders all have a connection

This week, I have some pictures for you from my phone's camera. I am going to try to find links between them. 

Okay, so let's start this photo-blog with this beauty. I don't know his name. I'll call him Horse because I'm original like that.

I visit Horse regularly. He lives in a field 15 minutes' walk away from my house. When I say 15 minutes' walk, I'm the one who walks to Horse, not Horse to me. I plug in my earphones, select a radio programme, and say to my husband, 'Going up the road to see Horse.'

Horse listens to any problems you have and gives wise, merciful looks. He is cheaper than any other therapist. He does not judge. And you can trust him not to gossip. All he asks in payment is that you stroke him and feed him clumps of grass, which I call a bargain.

This is the bandstand in Leamington Spa's Pump Room Gardens, near my home, and it's currently being restored to its original loveliness by a company specialising in this kind …

Reasons why teachers might look forward to weekends and holidays ...

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 risked …

Reasons why Fran will make things clearer next time she's in Costa

I went to a writers' day recently and stopped in a nearby Costa at 9.30am as I was early arriving. I ordered a coffee, then spotted in the fridge some impressive chicken salad baguettes. That's when I remembered I was meant to be taking a packed lunch with me to the writers' day. Serendipitous!!

The assistant gave me the wrapped baguette on a plate, which I didn't need, but, hey, no worries. When I got to my table, I slid the baguette into my rucksack alongside my notebook and pens, and began to sip the coffee.

Barely 30 seconds later, the same assistant came past my table, looked down at my empty plate, back at my face, and said, 'Have you finished with this, Madam?'

I didn't realise the implication at first or I'd have said, 'Oh, the baguette was for lunch. It's in my bag.'

Instead, I realise, I let him think that I had necked that baguette in half a minute in the same way a sword-swallower appears to: all in one, and without it touching …