Happy Families


A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with Chioma on her blog, which is appropriately entitled lifehomeandaway. As someone who has quite recently arrived in the UK, Chioma’s focus is on creating a comfortable and caring home for her family – not an easy thing to do in a strange country where everything is different to what you were used to, and everyone you knew – including the family you grew up in – is many miles away.

One of Chioma’s main interests is in making sure her children will grow up in a happy home, so that in future years they have a store of happy memories to look back on. Having learned that I had six children, she asked me if I’d do a post to explain how I dealt will this as my children were growing up, so that is what this post is about. Of course I can only talk about the way things were in my family, and air my own opinions.

I have many happy memories from the years when my own children were young during the 1970s and 80s. How I tried to ensure they were happy is difficult to analyse but I do believe that one of the key things children need is a feeling of security. They all need to know they are loved and wanted.

Me and Tom

Me and Neil

Perhaps the best way to ensure that is by simply spending some time with them and talking to them. Yes, by all means tell them how much you love them now and then. It’s easy to assume that children know that, when perhaps they don’t. Hugs are good, too. Young children also love to be included in daily activities. Mine always loved to help me bake, perhaps roll out their own little portions of pastry or help to put the cake mixture into cases, perhaps decorate them later, too. Most of them loved to be given a duster, or – when they were a little older – iron some of the simple items, perhaps weed or hoe the garden. There are many jobs they just loved to do. I do realise how difficult this can be sometimes, especially mowadays, with both parents often out at work all day. But it doesn’t have to be for long and can often be incorporated into daily tasks.

Play is always a vital pat of any child’s life. In the 1970s and 80s kids played outdoors a lot more than they do today. There were no computer games or even DVDs to keep them glued to the spot.  They used their imaginations, invented situations or played out stories they’d read. And they ran about, enjoying the fresh air! Children’s imaginative play is a delight to watch. I’ve seen mine pretend to be all kinds of things, from strange, fantasy creatures to different characters they’ve come across. Dressing up is a great part of this, so a box of any old or cast off clothes and hats is great. (These old photos are rather blurred, but are just to illustrate my point.)

My two youngest playing in our back garden, 1988
My second daughter (afairymind) in a oicture which displays her love of making up stories from a very early age.
Playing at hobby horses in the garden

 As they got a little older and played away from the garden, I was always careful to know where they would be, and would never let them wander a long way off, or be out for hours at a time. Traffic danger was never an issue in our village. I would always go for walks with them, go blackberry picking, feed the ducks in the park or have snowball fights in winter. I’ve ‘ve always been an outdoorsy person, so enjoyed whatever we did.

A picnic in the park in 1980
A picnic in the park in 1980


Days out and holidays often leave children with happy memories. But this is sensitive territory, as many families can’t afford such luxuries. I know, because we were in that position during the years when I didn’t teach. Later on, when we had two cars, we started to do holidays, just around Britain to start with., then abroad later on. Seaside holidays, or just days’ out, were always a hit.


Family holiday in Norfolk in 1989. Dad with the four younger kids. The two eldest were watching the silly antics with me.
On a Norfolk beach in 1989

I have lots of photos to help us recall family times from years ago, but they would be on no interest to anyone else but us. Many are in albums, others just kept in a big box. They are old and not expertly taken, so look very poor compared to modern photos. But to me and my family, they are very precious.

One of the things Chioma stresses is that there are always compromises to be made in the process of making a home and bringing up children. In our case that was certainly true. There were a few years when I couldn’t go back to teaching, especially when the last two children were still small. So the biggest compromises were financial ones. But we chose to have six children and that was that. We also needed a rather large house, and had many years in a big, three storey Victorian house with six bedrooms. We all loved that house.

I’m really not sure whether this is what Chioma wanted but, as I said, I can only speak from my own experiences. Just being together worked really well for us.

all of us

Beginnings, Middles and Endings


All stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Most fiction authors write their books with that in mind, although there are probably exceptions. The idea of a beginning, a middle and an end mirrors life itself. We are born, we live our lives, and we die: fulfilment.

I’ve been thinking a lot about life today. And death. Yes, I’m having a ‘down’ day. I’m fortunate in not having too many of those. I’ve always been a cheerful person. I smile a lot, laugh a lot and sing a lot – which probably irritates some people immensely. My parents were cheerful people, who sang constantly (not only in the bath!) so I’ll blame them for that.

But today is not a good one for me. For a start, who could feel happy in the face of so much tragedy in the world at present? The shootings in Paris have left people around the globe feeling both outraged and deeply saddened, and it’s hard to put such violence out of mind.

The weather is foul today. It’s a wonder I stayed on my feet during my morning walk, the wind was so strong. It had been howling all night and to make matters worse, it started to pour down just as I stepped outside. Yet I can’t survive the day without my walks, bad weather or not. When I got home I had a phone call to tell me that my uncle had died. He was eighty nine and had been frail for some time, but when death actually comes, it still hits hard. So I’ve been thinking about him – Uncle Bob – for most of the day, too.


This old photo was taken in 1954, outside our old prefab. (About page).  Bobby is third from the left at the back. It was his wedding day, in fact. I was to be a bridesmaid, aged seven, along with my five-year-old sister and twelve-year-old aunt. When the photo was taken we were getting ‘dressed up’ inside the house with my mum.

Bobby was my mum’s brother, six years her junior. I haven’t seen much of him these past few years because he’s lived all his adult life in Southport (Merseyside) – which is my home town. Originally from Liverpool, like my mum, he never lost his Scouse accent. He had a happy life though, and died peacefully in his sleep. I’m trying hard to dwell on the good things in my uncle’s life and I know that my depression today is natural on receipt of such news. My main thoughts are with Bobby’s four children, my cousins.

Beginnings, middles and endings . . .

Birth is a most wonderful thing; a new life to start on its journey – whether it is a human child, a terrestrial animal or marine, or a member of the vast plant kingdom – the journey through life will take its course.

Many parts of the world are now experiencing hot, summer days, whilst more northerly latitudes are in mid-winter. In Britain we are fortunate in having what are classed as mild winters and warm summers, i.e. with a few exceptional years, we have no extremes. Apart from the few cold days just after Christmas we’ve had a mild winter this year, so far. Even though today is quite wild, it isn’t too cold.

But it’s always heartening to welcome the first signs of new life in our gardens. It gives us the feeling (often erroneously!) that spring is on its way. Here are a few photos, taken today, of our first lovely snowdrops and hellebores. There are also some daffodils already in bud – which is very early!

So our garden will soon have some colour other than the green grass and evergreens. Soon we’ll have the purple crocuses and yellow daffodils opening, followed by the bright red tulips and a whole array of blossoms on the trees – lilac, cherry, willow, hawthorn, maple, and many different fruit trees and bushes. In summer we’ll have a riot of colour from so many flowers and shrubs. Then by autumn the garden will again fade and winter will follow. The earth’s cycle never ceases.

Beginnings, middles and endings.

The phrase also has my mind racing about my third book. I’m already enjoying the challenge of a new beginning and have spent a lot of time on it this last week. The book is planned out fairly well, although I still need to do some more research for one particular part. I love doing research and have to take care not to let it lead me in all directions.

But today my mind’s on other things.

A Penny For The Guy . . .

Spectators gather around a bonfire at Himley Hall near Dudley, on 6 November 2010. SJNikon - Sam Roberts Wikimedia Commons
Spectators gather around a bonfire at Himley Hall near Dudley, on 6 November 2010.
SJNikon – Sam Roberts Wikimedia Commons

Remember, remember, the fifth of November,

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.

This well known rhyme has been sung in Britain by generations of children as November 5th approached. It is still sung in primary schools as children are taught the historical significance of Guy Fawkes Night / Bonfire Night and why it is celebrated with bonfires and fireworks. Literacy, drama and art work of all types also stem from this colourful spectacle.

There’s more than enough online about Guido Fawkes and his co-conspirators, and why they wanted to blow up King James I and the Houses of Parliament, so I won’t elaborate on that. Guido suffered one of the most horrible deaths imaginable for his part in the plot – and being the one caught with the barrels of gunpowder. Execution by being hung, drawn and quartered seems beyond belief to us today, although in 16th and 17th century England, treason was seen as the highest offence. And executions of all types were common.

Of course, on Bonfire Night we burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire, with fireworks a further fiery spectacle of celebration.


Nowadays there are many laws and restrictions regarding the sale and use of fireworks, the many horrendous accidents, particularly to children, being the reason. Now only adults (18+) can actually buy them. And the cost of fireworks has risen dramatically – so much so that most people tend to go to the organised displays, where they can see many, really expensive fireworks and a bonfire, for their entry fee.

Free firework display in Thornes Park, Wakefield, UK. Author: Stephen Bowler. Wikimedia Commons
Free firework display in Thornes Park, Wakefield, UK. Author: Stephen Bowler. Wikimedia Commons

How different this all is to years ago, when I was a child (way back in the Dark Ages) almost every household had its bonfire and fireworks in the back garden. Sometimes families grouped together for a communal bonfire and to share each other’s fireworks. Even when my children were young in the 70’s and early 80’s this was the case, although by then the big displays were finding favour too. But in my youth . . .

For weeks before the day we’d be getting ready. Tree branches and any bits of old wood would be grabbed by rampaging groups of kids and hawked back to gardens, to be defended to the death from other thieving kids!

Guy Fawkes Night at Chirk (North Wales) November 5th 1954. Author: Geoff Charles.  Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

At the same time, old clothes came out from chests and drawers to be stuffed full of old rags, newspaper and autumn leaves to make the Guy’s body. A bag stuffed with newspaper – or simply a big, tightly wrapped ball of it – formed the head, with a painted mask at the front.

Guy Fawkes Night in Caernarfon, November 3rd 1960. Author: Geoff Charles. Creative Commons. Public Domain.
Guy Fawkes Night in Caernarfon, November 3rd 1960. Author: Geoff Charles.
Creative Commons. Public Domain.

How we treasured our guys! Over the week before November 5th, guys would be displayed around the streets in wheelbarrows and carts, with a sign, PENNY FOR THE GUY. And many people freely gave. The money would buy more fireworks. Nowadays this practice has died out. I suppose most modern parents would strongly object to this ‘begging’ tactic. But it was seen in a different light in the 50’s and 60’s.

Ah well . . . I still have my memories, and I still make parkin, though not always on Bonfire Night. Treacle toffee was never for me, but I loved the chestnuts and potatoes roasted around the fire.


At the modern, sophisticated displays we may see the impressive great mortars, but the little fireworks are what I remember:  Roman Candles and Catherine Wheels, Mount Etnas and Rockets, Golden Rains and Rainbow Fountains and my favourites, the simple, hand-held Sparklers. I really hated bangers, but most lads thought they were great fun.

Image by stuartsclipart

Sparklers are as popular now as they were in my day. Who doesn’t love to make fiery squiggles and circles in the air on a dark night?

Having fun with sparklers on Bonfire Night in Battersea Park, London. Author: Gaetan Lee. Creative Commons
Having fun with sparklers on Bonfire Night in Battersea Park, London. Author: Gaetan Lee. Wikimedia Commons

We can also still buy boxes of mixed fireworks today, but I’m afraid that the community feel for the night has gone and will continue to fizzle away . . .

Just like a dying firework.

Image from Teacher’s Pet Classroom Resources