Archive for July, 2010


Are you embarrassed by your roots?  I know I like to keep mine covered when the grey starts to show through! But with the current series of  ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, I’m thinking more of historical ones.  It always seems that they find some glamorous character in the ‘victims’ family tree, or a famous or infamous  person, sometimes even royalty.

I have done a bit of digging up my roots, but so far nothing glamorous.  They all seem to have been weavers, or railway workers.  All working class people living in soot blackened terraces in the north of England. Nothing remarkable there.  Then I found the joining up papers of  Richard Bullough, my late father’s uncle, my great uncle.  I’d never heard of him before,  But here he was, signng up for the first World War.  He must have been desperate to join up – a way out of a humdrum future perhaps? He joined up on 25th  August 1914 aged  ’17years and 170 days’. 

For a standard form it made sad reading:  Height 5′ 5″ & a half inches – he must have been proud of that extra half inch!  Chest: 33″, Weight 107 lbs, Eyes: Blue.  He was only a child.!  Delving further, I found receipts signed by his mother for his pay, which was sent home,  a record of him being ‘absent without leave’ in town in France after a few drinks.   I could picture him dreading going back to the sights and smells of the trenches.  Blotting it out with beer.

Then on 25th September 1915, a year after joining up –  another note ‘killed in action’ it said bleakly. Even though Ihadn’t known of his existence before, it was like a blow to thee heart. Poor , poor lad, what had he seen and been through? How must his mother feel, her youngest son gone at only 18 ?  Richard Bullough

A little further on, I found a receipt signed by his mother, not for his wages this time but for a war medal and a victory medal.  I hope that gave her some comfort, though that ewasn’t until 1921.

So although there is no royallty or famous people in my familytree, there are people that made a difference, who worked hard for little reward.  Without them me and my family wouldn’t have what we do today and I wish they could know how grateful I am.   I will never hide my roots, it would be denying their contribution to history.


Running London

I had a ‘big birthday’ approaching and decided to mark it with a series of achievements.  I went to night classes to gain two extra GSCEs, one in maths which I’d failed miserably at school.  I went to a rock concert, I had never been to one having married and had children very young.  And I ran the London Marathon!

I applied and got in through the ballot first time – I didn’t appreciate at the time how “lucky” this was.   I decided I’d better have a bit of a go at running, so decided to run across the park to school  to pick up the children.   After less than a hundred yards I had to stop, breathless with stars in front of my eyes – how on earth could I do 26.2 miles in four months time?

Luckily, a  friend, who had been a football coach, offered to help me train.  The day I ran a whole circuit of the park was cause for celebration – it was all of 1600 metres.  After I had managed to complete 11 circuits of the park John decided I was ready to go on the roads.  He cycled beside me and chatted, telling me stories of his days in football.  Though I wasn’t really interested in football, I didn’t have the breath to tell him! Scouse John, who was quite a bit older than me would also tell me stories from his days in Liverpool, meeting the Beatles and working on cruise ships.  All this kept me going through the ever increasing mileage of the long runs.  In between, we had speed training , hill training and ‘fartleks’ – don’t ask!

Eventually marathon day arrived, John couldn’t come to watch, but my husband and all the children did.  We had to get up at 5.30am in order to get to London in time.  I was dropped off at Greenwich with my kitbag. Out of the early morning mist,  were  hundreds of other runners  coming from different directions all heading to the start.  It felt as if I was going into battle, I didn’t know how long it was going to be till I saw my family again and although I was with thousands of others, I was on my own.

The start area was pungent with the smell of liniment, people were stretching, applying Vaseline to delicate areas and adjusting their fancy dress costumes.  The queues for the portaloos were huge and some (men) obviously counldn’t wait and went behind the trees instead.  Helicopters were circling overhead and through the loudspeakers came the  ‘Chariots of Fire’ music,  my stomach filled with butterflies, this was it, I was in the marathon!

I was at the back of the start and from the time the gun went off till I crossed the start line, almost 15 minutes had passed, and we were still only shuffling along.  We all squashed through the narrow gate out of the park and  onto the roads of Blackheath, which were lined with people.  They were cheering and waving and clapping.  The pace started to get quicker until we were jogging quite comfortably. At three miles, the other start  joined us and there were good humoured ‘boos’ and hisses at the ‘rival’ group.   The atmosphere was fantastic, bands were playing, children handing out sweets and slices of orange to runners.  At about 7 miles we rounded a corner and there was Cutty Sark, I gasped with astonishment at her beauty, I haed only ever seen it on tv before, I had never been so close.  The adrenalin rush kept me going until  Tower Bridge, I had butterflies as I ran across – I was doing it – running London! I waved at all the cameras, I was overtaken by a rhino, a caterpillar and someone dressed as Elvis, but I didn’t care. Once over the bridge, my family were waiting at the side of the road and were cheering me on madly.  I needed that because pretty soon we headed out the the Isle of Dogs, which in those days was pretty grim.  There were buildings on Canary Wharf with windows blown out from an IRA attackl.  There were not as many spectators as the docklands light railway didn’t exist then.  It was bleak , but the runners made their own entertainment, we chatted to each other, sang songs and when were coming off , we knew it wasn’t far to the finish.

We went under Tower Bridge and there was my family again, of course they hadn’t had to cover 10 miles to get there .  This lifted me again,  I was starting to feel tired.  Then the Tower of London’s cobbles beckoned, though they were covered with mats, they were still punishng to already hot, swollen feet.   Now there was only about 4 miles to go.  “You’re nearly there” the spectators were shouting, “You can do it”.  I tried to smile, but it was turning into a grimace.  Big Ben showed the time at 2.45, I couldn’t believe I’d been running so long.The crowds  were now 10 or 12 deep lining the route, the spring sunshine lighting everything up,  Buckingham Palace and the gardens look glorious and as I turned into Birdcage Walk I felt a sense of elation, I knew I was going to finish.  The moment of crossing the line was as happily emotional as giving birth!  Each finisher was  given a medal and congratulated by one of the marshals, I felt as if I’d won an Olympic event.  And just like after having a baby, I said  “Never again!”

I’ve now just applied for my 10th London marathon – can’t wati to run London again.

The Inquisition

Oh no, not the cushions!  Or was it soft cushions?  All those old enough to remember the Monty Python sketch about the Spanish Inguisition will no doubt be quoting it word for word now!  Anyway,  I’ve been tagged ‘for the very first time’  (thanks ‘him up north!) so I’ll just get on with answering the questions.

1. Which (in)famous person (alive or dead) would you like to take out to dinner, where would you go and what would you like to talk about?
This is really difficult, but I think it would have to be Stephen Fry, I would take him to The Lavender House, in Norfolk, he’d love the food. Then I would talk about his love of the area, his passion for music and the experience of tracing his family tree so far back.

2. What is the best gift someone could give you (tangible please)
I would love a horse!  When I was young, I asked for a pony every Christmas and birthdayand every time was disappointed.  I was unaware of how every year my parents tried to think of possible ways of acheivng this, but it was completely out of their reach.  I had lessons, they bought me the kit, I read about ponies, drew ponies and wrote stories about them.  It is many years since I have been riding seriously, but it is still my ultimate dream to own a horse.

3. Where in the world would you most like to live?
I have always felt an affinity with the Yorkshire moors and Cornwall,  There is someting about the moors, the bleak yet romantic landscape ( though that could owe a lot to Wuthering Heights!)  Yet Cornwall, though it has Bodmin Moor, also has more beaches and coves and I would love to live by the sea, so I think Cornwall wins this one.

4. What do you most enjoy cooking?
I LOVE cooking anything and everything!  I even managed to get on Masterchef, but got knocked out in the first round as I was SO nervous.  I loved helping with cookery club at school and find it exciting getting childlren interested in ‘proper’ food.  Not organic, or fancy, just making sinple, straightforward stuff that they want to eat.

5. What is your favourite novel?
Well the first novel I read on my own was Black Beauty – I was about seven. Iit was borrowed from a neighbour and wrapped in paper as it was a prized possession.  There were no illustrations, but I loved it, perhaps this is where my love of horses began?!   My favourite novel that I have recently read has to be ‘Cloud Atlas’, it was not a book I would have chosen myself, but it was featured on a book club review and I’m so glad I tried it – it was fantastic.

6. You have your own personal Tardis, where do you go first?
I would llike to go back to my wedding day.  My dad was so nervous about doing his speech and  I wish that during it I’d reached out and held his hand. He died suddenly a few years later aged 48 .

7. How old is the inner you?
The inner me is about 14.  I never wanted to grow up and have to learn all those boring things that grown ups have to do, and I don’t like doing them now. I try and keep as physically young as I can through exercise and keeping in touch with the children.  However, I can feel myself turning into a ‘grumpy old woman’ and coming out with comments that make me cringe.  Still as they say it’s better than the alernative!

8. Theatre or Cinema?
Don’t go much to either. I think in the last 30 years I’ve been about a dozen times to each – and that includes pantomimes! It was difficult to get a babvsitter for four children, and expensive, then on top of the the cost of the thatre or cinema.  (They don’t have either where we live and it would entail a costly trip and possibly overnight stay in London). The last thing we went to was ‘We Will Rock You’ at the theatre and it was great, though that was over a year ago.  We WILL go more often!

9. Would you be famous, with all that means?
If I became famous because of some skill, or gift, that was helpful to others, then I might.  But the chances of that, especially at my age – are pretty dim! Although I did go on Masterchef, it wasn’t to ‘be famous’ I hated that it was on tv, I wanted the competition.  I would never want to be known for going on ‘reality tv’,  isn’t that a contradiction in terms?

10. You are able to learn anything at all, a skill, a language, whatever, what would it be and why?
I would love to be able to sing, or play a musical instrument really well, or even at all!  Or for painting or writing to just flow effortlessly out of me – I suppose I’d better get practising then.

And now for my five ‘victims’ if you’ve done this one before just ignore it!

Victoria at

Clare at

  Emily at

Rachael at

Viva Espana!

It was 1967 and Sandie Shaw had just won the Eurovision Song Contest with Pupper on a String.  The other big event for me that year was going ‘abroad’ for the first time.  My Dad had taken out a bank loan to pay for our family of five to go on a package holiday.  I can still remember that it cost £32 per person, all meals included!  My mum spent weeks saving up to buy holiday clothes for us, things that could only be tried on and then put away until the great event.  Passports were applied for and us children were added on to them – in those days you didn’t need your own.  Tickets were posted out the the travel agents (remember then?!) and duly had to be collected and kept safe.

Eventually the day of departure arrived, well actually the day before the flight!  My dad was wearing a suit my mum, sister and me all wore new summer dresses and cardigans and my little brother had short trousers and a shirt.  You didn’t travel casually in those days, it was a hugely important event and one to get dressed up for.  We were the first family in our cul-de-sac to take on such a daring,  or foolish, expedition.

We walked to our local raillway station, Dad carrying the heaviest case, Mum with a smaller one.  It was late afternoon and warm.  I remember my dad looking hot in his shirt and tie, waiting to catch the train to Crewe.  After the short journey to Crewe we found the train to London Euston, Dad catching his jacket on the door handle and ripping it in the process.   We then had to endure what seemed like hours of sitting on itchy seats, sucking barley sugars until we arrived. Then it was a taxi to Victoria coach station, from where we would travel to Manston in Kent to catch our flight.  This was the first time we had travelled by any of these means,  we had never even been to London before, it was all lnew and strange and the plane at the end was just the icing on the cake.

We boarded the plane and on looking out of the window, noticed, much to my mum’s consternation, that the wings were made up of lots of little square of metal riveted together.  She was convinced that the plane would have been moulded from one smooth piece of metal!  I thought it was magical, we landed at dawn, the sky still pink at the edges but already I could fee the promise of heat to come and it smelled foreign too.

I had enjoyed the meal on the plane, it felt so grown up to have a tray of little packets and dishes just for me and not to have to give any to my younger sister and brother.  The food in the small hotel in Blanes was interesting too. I can remember the first breakfast, there were huge brown glass cups of milky coffee, crusty rolls and  peach jam, no butter (I could see my mother making a mental note to pack tea and butter for next time)  I loved it, the jam soft and sweet and  tasted of musky sunshine, and even though you can now get it here, it ‘s not the same. My brother, being only 6, wanted what he was used to at home. Have you ever tried to mime ‘cornflakes’?!  Eventually a packet was produced, along with a jug of milk and a plate.  The staff gathered round to witness this breakfast phenomenon and gasped as they were sprinkled onto the plate and then had milk poured over them. They had obviously put some thought into the evening meal, each night was a dish  from a different cuisne, intending, I suppose to cater for the different nationalities there. I don’t recall every one, but one night we we re served with a plate of plain spaghetti and a separate bowl of thin, tomato flavoured water –  Italian evening! Paella was on the menu one night, yellow and garlicky and laced with oil. But the highlight of the week was when they did ‘English’ food.  As the plates were brought out, a buzz went round the dining room, what was it going to be?  Then the serving platters arrived  and a huge cheer went up from the British contingent – EGG & CHIPS!! It was the first time that week that most of them recognised what they were eating.  Though they  had been fried in olive oil and tasted completely different, it was still egg and chips!

Of course we didn’t speak a word of Spanish, no-one did in those days (well the Spaish people did obviously!)  so miming, accompanied by talking VERY LOUDLY, was the order of the day.  Fortunately for us children it didn’t matter much.  We just played  and taught each other how to count up to ten and everyone knew the words to ‘Puppet on a String’!

Other memories of that holiday for me, going to a bullfight and sitting baking in the afteroon heat, watching the gaudy, macbre procedure .The black bull becoming redder & stickier with blood, until, almost too weak to stand, was finally put out of his misery. Then, still twitching,  and minus its ears and tail was dragged round by horses, the dust and sand now coating the bloody wounds.  Drinking ice cold Coca Cola and Pepsi for the first time, its sharp, caramelly fizz tickling my tongue.  A Dutch couple throwing sweets into our balcony from theirs.  Going to a shop to  and buy some cotton to mend my dad’s suit jacket. The old lady, dressed  in traditional black, didn’t have any in that colour, so she took us through her shop and kitchen, across an alleyway to a neighbour who did.

And then there was the group of four ‘lads’  the leader nicknamed  Romeo. They never came on any of the organised day trips, preferring to sleep all day, having been out all night,  and went home as white as when they arrived – some things don’t changed do they?!