Kate's Blog

Follow me if you will as I try to navigate through the ups and downs of my world.

I'm writing this blog to help me make sense of all that has happened - from my diagnosis with non-Hodgkins lymphoma while pregnant with my third child in May 2008
, through to my reflections on chaotic family life as I try to pick up the pieces of my life again.

The kids are so small, and I'm working hard to keep us all safe and to stay in remission.

Stay with me - it won't be all doom and gloom I promise!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Writing... at 6am!!!?

I'm following Julia Cameron's 12 week programme to find myself as a writer! So now, in the quest to unblock myself and find all the creativity which is carefully hidden underneath everything else (I'm told it's there, I just have to believe) I'm setting the alarm clock for a seriously ungodly hour when even Ed is still asleep, and I'm writing. I'm writing anything which comes into my head - they're called the morning pages, and all I have to do is write until three of the pages in my (un-necessarily large) notebook are filled. I'm trying to do this every morning, come what may, and it's very tiring. But I'm going to bed earlier in preparation for it - which has to be a good thing - and so far I'm managing.

I'm also trying to inject more silence into my life.


Well, I've realised that I'm very attached to words. All day long, I'm talking, reading, writing, listening to the radio and watching TV. However exhausted I am at the end of the day, I take a cup of tea to bed, and I read. And I wonder if all these words are interfering with me finding my own? They are filling a need in me which I would need to fill myself if they weren't there. Maybe I could write if I'd spent part of the day in silence and with silence? Noise is distracting me from myself, I think. And it's taken me a long time to realise that. I have considered a complete TV ban for six months - and I'm still considering it, although I'm finding the idea of managing without Coronation Street rather a challenge.

So with all three kids in school, and my teaching very sporadic indeed due to a childcare crisis, I've decided that this is the time to take action. Wish me luck?

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Back Home

Back home now! Not sure where the beauty lies.... It's been hard to spot among the crowds buying back-to-school shoes, uniforms and PE kits. Still, we've a few days left to enjoy before the alarm clock rings on a new term. Quick..... sleep.....

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Cycling with Dolphins

We're still up here in the Western Highlands - going home on Tuesday, more's the pity.

The weather has pretty much been fantastic, consequently we're going home tanned and somewhat fitter after a few weeks of walking and cycling. And today, as we were cycling along a beautiful coastal road in the soft sunshine, the sea slowly heaving in swathes of movement - the fins of two dolphins broke the surface as they swam alongside us. They were perfectly synchronised; the arcs they traced made beautiful shapes in the air, before they slid back again under water.

We were all utterly entranced - the kids shouting, "there they are!" after every silvery glimpse. I felt quite emotional at the unexpected beauty of the moment.

It'll be hard to match that back home in the city - I guess there's beauty there too; it's just harder to spot.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012


My writing course was amazing. It was a real retreat - five days staying with new and interesting people in Ted Hughes' old house in North Yorkshire. There was no internet, no TV, not even a radio. The tutors were brilliant, but scary: Tim Pears who has written seven novels to high acclaim, and Patience Abgabi, an incredibly talented and terrifyingly frank poet who gave unstinting and critical feedback on any work one dared to give her. But unstinting and critical was what (I told myself) I wanted - once I'd picked myself up from the floor! Every morning we had a workshop taught by both tutors, an hour and a half each. Sitting around the long wooden table (where surely Ted Hughes worked on his poems) we'd write and read out and try to develop good practice and discipline.

We took it in turns to cook, which was companionable and fun, with new people to be with. We drank wine in the evenings and talked in the unfettered way that you can with people whom you don't know very well.

I felt strange when I arrived and then very strange and disorientated when I left. I wrote lots of stuff -some good, some needing work and some needing the bin - but the point is that I wrote. I'm determined to continue to do so, every day if I can manage although that's proving difficult already.

What the course showed me was the extent of the gap between where I am now as a writer and where I'd need to be if I wanted to publish anything. I'm planning to use this year to work on closing that gap just a little.

And now we're back up in the Highlands of Scotland staying for a few weeks again in my mum's lovely house. The sun is shining and the kids are shouting- as usual. Will I get inspiration? I hope so. But we've been for a lovely bike-ride this morning - I'm achy and feel as if I've woken up muscles which haven't been used in the daily grind. So that's good. I need more of that. Oh - and I've just started Hilary Mantel's sequel to 'Wolf Hall', 'Bring up the Bodies'. And I'm already heavily immersed in the Tudor world, which can prove problematic at breakfast time! I'm definitely more interested in Thomas Cromwell than is good for me.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


Yes - I'm still here.

I've been rubbish at keeping up with my blog - I blame the job. There's just too much to do.

But changes are afoot. I'm cutting back from September. I'm doing supply teaching, exam marking and tuition - trying to work more flexibly and from home. I'm starting my psychotherapy training next September, and in the meantime I'm going to try to write more seriously.

To that end, once the summer holidays start I'm off to do a residential writing course for a week. No kids, no distractions, no washing, shopping, cooking.... or teaching. Frankly I'm terrified. I'm tired and worn out after a long, hard year and inspiration feels a long way distant. How embarrassing will it be when I'm the only one in the group who discovers they actually CAN'T write after all. I have some plans, some ideas and ambitions -but heaven knows if I can achieve them.

And - come September, Hattie is starting school! For those who have been reading my blog since the start (and I don't suppose there are many readers left since my shocking blog-neglect) you will know what an important milestone this is for the whole family. When Hattie was born I had three weeks to live and my prognois was very uncertain. After a year of horrendous cancer treatment, I went into remission. And I knew that if I managed to stay alive to see Hattie turn four and start school, I would be a good way down the road to survival.

Things aren't bad, then. We're off to Scotland after my writing course. I need to update my blog with all the books I've recently read ..... and I'm planning to read a whole lot more over the summer. And Hilary Mantel's sequel to Wolf Hall is top of the list. Watch this space.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Here and Now, and Next Year

My poor blog has been so neglected.

Work is too crazy to give me enough time to do anything extra. That said, we have just come home from our lovely time in Scotland - and it was really lovely just to be far away, physically and psychologically, from all the various stresses and strains of the everyday.

There's a cafe and a bookshop up in Ullapool, in the Highlands of Scotland - and it's not exaggerating things to say that when I set foot in there, things seem much better. Things can't be too wrong in my world if I'm in The Ceilidlh Place, drinking coffee and starting a book. I've been there so much - from before I met Roger, during my first pregnancy, with small toddlers and while I was going through my cancer treatment, and out the other side - with work concerns filling my mind. It feels like a true refuge. You can stay there - they have lovely rooms. And if I ever go missing, that's where you'll find me.

And - I've booked myself a place on a week-long writing course, for the first week on the summer holidays. Rog (how lucky I am) has agreed to look after the kids while I'm away. This coming year is going to be a special one for me - I'm going to give myself some time to write. I'm postponing my psychotherapy training until next year, taking some time for myself and cutting back on the work. I think the stress I've felt this year hasn't been good for me. I worry about my health and want to take some more care of myself. And I want to focus on the kids too - we've all felt a bit stretched this year. Hattie is starting school in September and I want to be there for her as much as is possible. We'll be skint, but what the hell. After the struggle of surviving cancer, and living with some of the long-term legacies of that, I figure I can take time if I want. And I want.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Hurry Up, Easter....

Being a parent can be such a struggle sometimes! Ed is really pushing the boundaries, really being cheeky. He answers back - and I can't stand the rudeness. I get cross, and ..... yes, I shout. I know I shouldn't but even he admitted that he would try the patience of a saint his afternoon, when I'd lost my temper and he was sorry and I was sorry for shouting. There has to be an easier way. He has such fabulous parts to his personality - and those are the sides I want to nurture.

It doesn't help that I'm finding my work stressful at the moment - and am feeling pulled in too many directions. The patience, tolerance and energy levels are all pretty low by 6pm.

We're off to Scotland in a couple of weeks for Easter. I can't wait. I really feel that we can all do with some sea air, some exercise and some rest. And some reading - I'm not doing enough reading, and I'm doing too much marking and all that stuff.

I'm having a bit of a re-think about what I do next year. Whatever else - I know that life is too short to be spending any part of it as out of sorts and exhausted as I am now. I think I've earned a bit of peace - at least some of the time.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

New Plans

I've got a first interview on Friday for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy training- a career change if I can manage it! - and then another next Friday. If I can get a place, it will start in September, full time in September! But Hattie starts school then, and if I can juggle all the elements of work and family, it will mean good things for the future.

Frankly, I can't see myself still in the classroom, teaching as I approach retirement. Something has to change. And until I win the Booker prize....

P.S. New fitness plan approaching....watch out!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Does the day move you? It doesn't really move me..... but Rog did present me with a beautiful heart shaped tea-light holder, which was extremely unexpected to say the least!

And 9 years ago today, I found out that I was pregnant with Ed. And that's got to be good.

I'm lucky.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

I'm trying not to moan but...

I feel so exhausted - all the time.

I'm working flat out - it's a busy time of year in the teaching world: lots of pressure to achieve those exam results and hit targets.

And at home, things keep rolling on - the kids need clean uniform, packed lunches, (not to mention attention and love) and I just feel pulled in all directions. Somewhere,in another life I'm wanting to write, read and sleep if at all possible. Maybe even go to the gym once in a while.

I'm working every evening, after the kids are in bed, on marking and preparation before I tidy the kitchen, make the lunches for the next day and fall into bed so tired that I never seem to have enough sleep before the alarm clock goes off at 5.55am. I leave for work at 7.10 in the morning - still dark and cold and horrible.

Things feel a bit joyless I suppose. I suppose it's the time of year, partly at least. But it's other things too. Our financial situation is not great - I can't even comfort myself with retail therapy. And that on-going worry about making ends meet is a bit of a grind. I'm considering trying to find a weekend job, but quite honestly I'm too tired to contemplate it. Rog works full time and late into the night, every night - there's no space and time anywhere, or that's what it feels.

I need to write that novel... I need that fabulous money-making scheme which I can do from home so I don't need to pay for any childcare. Any ideas? (Ha ha!!)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Thank You

Thank you all so much for the wonderful, supportive and oh so generous comments which have come my way since my article was published in The Guardian yesterday.

I am so very touched by everyone's care and concern. xxx

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Guardian piece

So! The piece is in today's Family Guardian

I have to confess to feeling a bit worried about it beforehand, especially about the photograph! But it's not too bad, and generally I'm pleased with the piece. It is just possible that I was one of the first customers to visit our local newsagent this morning!

Thanks so much to everyone for your lovely, supportive comments.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Trying Times

Sometimes my children make me feel so angry. I'm not alone.... am I?

I won't describe the particular incident which triggered my meltdown (not too strong a term for it, I assure you!)last night, apart from mentioning the constant struggle involved in getting a certain son to do as he's told. Not all the time - that would just be unreasonable - but just some of the time. Just some of the time, after a long day at work, I would appreciate a bit of consideration and a bit of peace and quiet. The problem is that when I'm tired, Ed has more energy and determination to resist me than I have energy and determination to deal with him like a perfect parent.

Sometimes our whole household seems full of strife and noise - despite us all loving each other and despite my resolutions to deal with the kids with more calm, more patience and more consistency.

Maybe I'm just too old to be a parent. I wish I'd had them in my twenties. Would that have made a difference?

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Guardian Piece? What Guardian Piece?

Ok - so it was a false alarm. It's coming out in the next few weeks apparently! Not that I went rushing down to the newsagents at 8am or anything.......

Monday, 9 January 2012

Happy New Year and all that stuff

Happy New Year to you all. As usual things have conspired to keep me away from the old blog - so I'm making new resolutions to remedy that. The problem is that after I've worked all day and marked and prepared lessons for the next; in between sorting the kids out, making packed lunches, going to swimming lessons (kids, not me), writing and reading and shopping, cooking and cleaning (phew!) there's not time for much else.

I don't mean to relegate my beloved blog and any readers who may still be out there, to the bottom of the very big teetering pile but the problem is that you're all so quiet compared to the clamour which echoes through the rest of my life.

So.... a catch-up. Christmas came and went in a blur. The kids were hyper - Ed at the age of 8 still waking up at the crack of dawn whenever there's a sniff of excitement and Martha and Hattie swirling through the days filled with everything Christmassy. For me, I guess it was the first Christmas since my cancer diagnosis (3 years ago I was going through radiotherapy)that I didn't wonder with quite such a heavy feeling inside whether that Christmas wouldn't be my last. I suppose I'm beginning to have just a little faith that I may stay alive for a few more years yet. I have an oncolgy appointment on Wednesday - just a check-up, but just walking through the doors of the hospital can make me feel shaky and less than sure about anything.

I read bit over Christmas - Look at Me, by Jennifer Egan which I thought was really interesting and dark, and I've just started Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler to cheer me up about returning to work. I love Anne Tyler for her easy readability and explorations of family relationships. I've read most of her books but gloriously I've missed this one. The problem is that I'm so tired when I get into bed that I fall asleep almost instantly. A least it spins out the pleasure for longer!

I'm also in the middle of applying for child psychotherapy clinical training for next year. Yup - finally I've decided on a career change. The course is scary in it's demands: I have to start regular analysis before I start. That is scary - I'm a little wary of meeting whatever might be lurking in my subconscious. And it's a doctorate which is another scary thing - if I ever had any brain power I think it's disintegrating fast. But it's worth a try. I completed the pre-clinical training while I was pregnant with Ed, and had intended to continue straight on to the clinical training however life (in the shape of two more kids, and cancer) kind of temporarily got in the way. Hattie starts school next year - and now is as good a time as ever to start the training seeing as I have to earn for a long time to come -I'm still hoping to become a full-time person of leisure, but it's not really looking likely any time soon!

Excitingly (although I'm shrinking with horrified anticipation at the same time) I have an article coming out in the Family Guardian this coming Saturday - yes, the 14th January. Read it if you haven't anything more interesting to do which I'm sure that you have. But I did write it which is pleasing. Bit worried (understatement of the decade) about the photo. Hope the beautiful kids eclipse the frazzled and 'seen better days' mother.