They’ve failed us

Four hours of my christmas holidays were spent watching Barracuda, a box-set beauty I stumbled across on BBC iPlayer. The four-part drama is based on a book about Australian wannabe Olympic swimmers. It is set in the late 1990s, appropriately prior to the Sydney games.The story follows the rise of Danny from a working-class family and his subsequent fall. We can’t all be Olympians and Danny doesn’t end up being one of the lucky ones.

I loved the mini series so much that I begged my mum and sister to watch it; I couldn’t possibly contain my excitement alone! When they had complied to my plead, I asked for feedback. My mum responded with her disappointment in the ending; Danny didn’t make it. He screwed up and took it badly. And I could empathise with her deflation. But isn’t that what happens in real life? Daily disappointments haul us downwards. Dead ends threaten every path. And for every winner there is at least one loser. But no one tells their story.

I’m sure we all remember the motivational ‘Thought of the Day’s preached incessantly by teachers as if they were devout nuns reciting the Apostle’s Creed. We hear the heroic stories of Mo Farah, Maggie Thatcher, Nelson Mandela and even Lance Armstrong (before he was denounced an ungodly liar and cheat). We are told to aspire to their achievements and, if not, at least make it to university, for goodness sake! We are forced to the limits and made numb to physical and emotional pain as we reach for that final goal.

But it doesn’t always work. And then you’re left without a map to guide the way. Without an authoritative shove in the right direction. Without a flickering light in the distance. You’re left on your knees picking up the pieces whilst the rest of the world walk passed chasing towards their own flickering lights that they might never reach. No doubt you’ve been the passerby before too; we all have but have been too oblivious to notice anything but our flickering light.

In Danny’s case, he was an excellent swimmer but less excellent than the three other boys who took bronze, silver and gold in the qualifiers. He finished fourth. Albeit its fictitious storyline, reality certainly dishes the same dirt. My own school does it to the kids they’ve nurtured for 5 years. Results day determines whether you’re safe for another year or off to Southgate College. How many boys will be dropped by the Arsenal youth team this year? How distraught will they be and how many of them will cope with the failure and actually carry on to their full potential? And how many people will be rejected from their dream university by the fault of an A rather than the necessary A*? Will anyone be there to aid the bruises and fatalities of the ‘failures’? Mum and Dad maybe.

I don’t think it’s fair. This is not a ‘gap’ in the system; it’s a cliff at the end of the system waiting to devour you. We are taught how to succeed. The flaw is that we are not taught how to succeed when we fail.  You can’t prepare for that.

BBC’s Barracuda


The Lie – C.L.Taylor

In need of a real gripper to trial my new kindle with, C.L.Taylor’s The Lie was a strong contender. I read the Accident a few years back and remember really enjoying it and The Lie had positive reviews so I decided to take the plunge. And, boy, did it not disappoint!

Flicking between past and present, the reader follows Emma/Jane from her previous life to the new one she has fabricated. Five years ago, Emma went on an ‘adventure of a lifetime’ with three friends. The hippy of the pack planned a retreat to Ekanta Yatra in the Nepalese mountains. Fooled by the paradisiacal description, their friendships and lives are slowly strained and wrecked before us. Five years on tells the tale of animal-lover ‘Jane’ and how she has pieced back a life for herself. But someone is starting to rip in apart again. The less you know the better…

I felt both aggravated and attached to the characters. The hatred I felt towards Leanne was softened by her mental difficulties and bumpy upbringing; the same for my irritation towards whiny Daisy. Emma was relatable and Al was loveable. The characters felt real and I unpicked their layers as the novel progressed; they were far more complex than first apparent.

Other reviewers have criticised the unrealistic storyline. I second that, although the excitement and unpredictability would be non-existent if it were set in a generic city with simplistic characters. The unfamiliarity of a cult and its ritualistic nature is necessary to take the reader beyond their depth. My only drawback would be the slightly rushed ending. Nothing was left open, so whilst satisfying, Taylor seemed to face quite a challenge hastily tying up loose ends in the space of a few pages.

Poignant and purposefully written, The Lie had me eagerly awaiting bedtime reading. I would recommend this book to suspense-hungry readers because the cliffhangers in this book will keep you reading far too late in the night!

I’ve fallen in love…

I planned to open this blog post with ‘A sigh of relief’, but decided that connotes negativity. So I’ve settled with:

A sigh of satisfaction. After a fleeting visit to Oxford, I am home. In the space of 26 hours, I had four interviews; two with Worcester College and two with St Anne’s College. Despite its intensity, I can’t deny that I had an awesome time. Living the life of an Oxford student, with my own room, the quaint city at my doorstep and the opportunity to discuss what I love best with experts in their field, I probably enjoyed myself more than I ought!

After enduring the Piccadilly line with very ‘severe delays’, the Victoria line, Bakerloo Line and a national rail train all the time with a broken-handled suitcase trailing awkwardly behind me, my welcome was warm. I was promptly shown to my room by a student helper at Worcester. Throughout my stay friendliness oozed from every student helper and fellow interviewee I spoke to, debunking the myth that all those who go to Oxford are ‘toffs’. Yes, I’m sure there are some pompous kids amongst the cohort who need their shoe shoved up their bottom, but the majority were and are great people. Fellow candidates and I even set up a Facebook group!

I was slightly dreading the interviews, with peers’ horror stories at the forefront of my mind…

“They asked me why the sea is blue,” Vivien told me.

“They gave me a molecule and asked me what it was,” my own doctor told me.

Rumour had it they ask how you can measure the weight of your head… is it even possible?!!

Surprisingly my wonky expectations were set straight. The questions were tricky, yes, but not impossible. I wasn’t grilled by petrifying professors- they were all incredibly welcoming! And so were the plump, velvet armchairs! Forget the flimsy plastic seats you get in MMIs…

For those unfamiliar with medical school interviews, MMIs (multiple mini interviews) are the newer, more popular style of interviews. Think speed-dating, but rather than circulating through potential partners, you circulate through a series of interviewers, who ask different questions or propose tasks for you. Each station lasts about 7 minutes.

With traditional interviews you have roughly 20 minutes with a panel of one or more interviewers. This is the preferred style by Oxford (and me too!). 20 minutes gives you time to build a rapport with the interviewer; both parties can assess each other. Quite frankly, I feel MMIs are a bit rude; once your seven minutes are up, you are practically told to shut up and move on!! Speed-dating or speedy break-up?

Sorry, I digressed. Back to Oxford…

The city was beautiful. Dotted with ancient architecture, retro cinemas and playhouses, modern restaurants and funky pop-up shops, you can wander to one’s heart’s content. Carol singers entertained at the corner of the street to collect money for the homeless. Their christmas joy was contagious and so was passersby’s generosity.

Part of me hates the fact I got an interview. Rejection is highly likely, given the competition and my disastrous first interview. I fell in love with Oxford and was on cloud ninety-nine, but keep reminding myself that the higher I get, the further I have to fall. I suppose the experience was good enough in itself. I met inspiring people, tasted independence and ultimately had the best time ever! I might not get an offer, but no one can take away my interview experience!

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Time for Pumpkin Pie and Ice Scream!

Hallow all!

Zoe’s black and orange stripy socks failed to escape my notice. Scary movies are creeping up on the TV Guide. Multipack sweet bags are on special offer.

The 31st October is most certainly looming closer.

It is the one night of the year that kids are allowed to drag their reluctant parents out on the dark streets lit only by street lamps that flicker eerily. Draped in ebony capes, they squeal in excitement as they skip down driveways, hands wrapped around a broomstick and cauldron to hold the sweeties. They impatiently rap the front door and yell ‘TRICK OR TREEEAAT!’ impatiently. Hands swarm into the bowl of sweets. Satisfied, they return to the pavement and onto the next house.

Bit of a weird tradition, don’t you think?

My mum certainly thought so when we were younger. Despite the extravagant festivities on our street, she described the Halloween ritual as ‘begging’ and begrudged taking us out. Luckily her prejudice softened over the years and trick or treating soon became accepted in the Nugent household.

The excitement begun when the first trick or treaters came knocking at about 5:00pm. Given their lack of height and sheer excitement, this was probably their first ever trick or treating trip. At the end of the driveway, the doting Mummies would be waiting, admiring their little devils diving into the sweet bowl. Not all trick or treaters were as adorable, though. I’m sure we all know those ghastly 11 year old boys who would hammer the door boisterously. Then they would proceed by snatching a fistful of Haribos and Drumsticks, not even voicing the words ‘Trick or Treat’. Nor would they say ‘Thanks’.

Unlike them, I would like to think I was quite a polite trick or treater. My mum routinely gave us the ‘No pumpkin, no knocking lesson’ each year. I would watch in disdain as my friends carelessly knocked on every door, regardless of the pumpkin’s invitation. They may have accumulated more sweets than me, much to my disappointment, but at least I could sleep with the thought that I had not terrified any unwitting pensioners. And I would never forget the essential lines, ‘Trick or Treat’ and ‘Thank you’, even when the only offerings were those gross boiled sweets…

Halloween is the one night of the year that anyone of any age can dress up and not stick out like a bat during daytime. That is, unless, you get the wrong day. And that is exactly what I did a good 10 years ago… Delighted to be invited to boy’s 7th Halloween party, I eagerly dressed up as a witch. I went all out, with lime-green face paint, plastic witch fingers and an oversized witch hat. I could hardly contain my excitement as my dad drove down the road to the restaurant. I flew out of the car and shot towards the venue. However upon entering the restaurant, confused faces turned towards me. None of my friends were there. My dad optimistically told the waiter I was here for James’ 7th party. The waiter replied that we were a week late…

Despite my desperation to join in the Halloween euphoria, I could never understand why Halloween costumes had no insulation. Was I the only witch/cat freezing my paws off as I knocked on every front door with a pumpkin in the window? Scantily dressed in thin polyester, it was hardly appropriate considering it was the night before November… And my indecisiveness forced me to prolong the exposure to the icy winds; I practically had to play Ip-Dip-Do at every house to decide between the Freddo, Rocky and Crunchie. It would be audacious to take all three…

Missing out on Halloween, however, was a blow. The year we had an extension on our house, we moved out for six months to live with my grandparents. This, unfortunately, coincided with 31st October and their neighbourhood wasn’t particularly Halloween-friendly. Not one trick or treater came knocking… well… that is not quite true…

10 years earlier…

Exasperated, I sat sulking in my temporary bedroom. Why had no one noticed our enticing pumpkin glowing in the window? The sweet bowl was waiting idly by the front door, but it was full to the brim. When suddenly…

“DING DONG!” I jumped up from my hunched crossed-legged position, bolted down the stairs and skidded to the front door. I yanked it open and to my initial delight it was a trick-or-treater. But my face fell after a few seconds. Wrapped in colourful scarves with a pair of sunglasses and a rake for a broomstick was my Grandad. My earlier disappointment had evidently been noted by him and he had gallantly dressed up in the most ridiculous costume he could make out of my Granny’s wardrobe. Alas his best efforts backfired by aggravating me more and making me feel foolish for letting myself believe we actually had a real trick or treater. Rather than bearing sweet offerings, I hastily spun round and retreated back to my room, feeling hard-done-by. How ungrateful.

Present day again

I’m nearly 18 and my lust for Halloween has diminished with age. Trick or treating ended 4 years ago; now a new meaning of Halloween is blossoming. Think Mean Girls…

Just kidding. I’m not really into all that palaver… yet. Give it a year.

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Beelieve in Miracles!

I almost collapsed with excitement.

Browsing Barnet’s programme on Saturday, my eyes stumbled across the manager’s kind offer for his players to make visits to birthday parties, schools and, to my delight, hospitals! Having been admitted to hospital myself 4 days previously, the offer was beyond a miraculous coincidence. Without hesitation, my mum immediately composed an email, explaining the situation and listing a few of my favourite players. Their speedy reply arrived on Bank Holiday Monday-only keeping us waiting for a matter of hours. It certainly didn’t disappoint: Jamie Stephens, Barnet’s No. 1 (literally) was coming to see me!

I would like to consider myself a true Barnet fan. The fact I cannot kick a football to save my life only resonates my dedication to the team, in my opinion. I have held a season ticket for years, accompanying them on the controversial journey from Underhill to the Hive; I have been a member of the supporters’ association since my mum went into labour (thanks Grandad); I have braved the sniggering glances when I have worn orange and black face paint to matches and dragged reluctant friends with me. Given my fan profile, excited doesn’t quite cut it. But when the day arrived, I was equally as nervous…

“What if it’s awkward?” I fretted at 8:00AM.

“What if we sit in silence?” 9:30AM

“Maybe I should get scrabble ready in case he gets bored of me…” 11:15AM

As noon passed, I made a list of 21 questions to ask so I was prepped to quiz Jamie about himself and his fellow footballers.

Before I could say Jamie Stephens, it was 1:15PM. Time to meet the infamous goalie.

Waiting for me in the reception was Jamie, my mum, and two Barnet media guys. Jamie was MUCH taller in real life. I was presented with a new Barnet scarf, with orange stripes more brightly coloured than my old one, and a pair of goalie gloves worn by Jamie himself! I was feeling incredibly lucky.


I led us all to the garden and we slumped down on the grass in the sun. Jamie chatted and chatted about his football career, education, injuries, fellow players, girlfriend, family… pretty much anything! Between himself and my mum, I could hardly get a word in! But that’s what I wanted. He was confident, warm and a truly humble person. There was no need for scrabble and no opportunity to ask my 21 questions! We ended the visit with a smiley picture in the sunshine. He signed the gloves and gave me well-wishes that seemed genuine and meaningful, not just obligatory words.

Acts of generosity like this are invaluable. Confined to hospital for a week, utterly bored and feeling a bit sorry for myself, it lifted my spirits more than I could have wished for.

A huge thank you to Barnet FC for facilitating this and to Jamie Stephens for giving up time to come and see me. I am truly grateful.



So THAT’S what a skip is for!


What does ‘King’s Cross’ mean to you?

Harry Potter fans will squeal ‘PLATFORM 9 3/4!’.

Avid globetrotters will call it their door to Europe.

And for me, Kings Cross is where Skip Garden lies.

‘Skip Garden?’ I hear you ask. Well, it is exactly what the namIMG_0301e says: it is a garden with lots of skips! Offering respite to the office workers, builders, tourists and busybodies like me, it hides amongst building sites and looming architecture just a 10 minute walk from the infamous Kings Cross.

Rusty skips are brimming with petals of rich reds, valiant blues, dreamy violets and glowing yellows. Apple trees wind around fencing and hang languidly over the skips, shading them. Dotted between the skIMG_0277ips are sheds, small and large, lined exhaustively with potted plants. And two little sheds are converted into the most dazzling toilets; a handy addition for needy visitors. Skip Garden is also the home of two very lucky chickens. Probably the only live ones in Central London.

If the awe of the skips, sheds and chickens is not enough to distract you from a rumbly tummy, never fear. Skip Garden have their own café. This is no greasy spoon ‘caff’, though, hence my use of the accent above the ‘e’. You would have no luck ordering a bacon bap or even a can of cola. Instead they use fresh produce grown in their own garden. With chocolate and courgette cake on the menu, they definitely don’t cater for the fussy eater. That, I must say, is a shame; visiting families and their picky kids will probably snub the home-grown goodness in favour of a nearby fast-food eatery. Which is exactly what we did…

IMG_0282Global Generation are the charity behind the garden. The space is small but resourcefulness has grown it into something truly remarkable. Entirely built and maintained by the hands of volunteers, the goal is to connect people with each other and the natural world. Admittedly, the name ‘Global Generation’ slightly exaggerates the more localised nature of this charity. They won’t save the planet, but what they can do is inspire. Inspire people to care a bit more.

So if you do one thing this summer, pop in and say hi to the chickens and let your wild side explore the skips and sheds. It won’t take long but will germinate a seed of curiosity and appreciation within you.

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The ‘Healthy’ Dilemma

Meet Esme. Esme turns her nose up to anything resembling a vegetable. She also goes to McDonalds much more often than she ought. She is constantly told by her mum that she is not healthy. And she knows it.

On a bid to become healthier, Esme taps the Instagram icon on her phone and types in ‘#cleaneating’ . Instagram is the mother of this popular movement and Esme has high-hopes it could work for her. Scrolling through posts by clean-eating instagrammers, she drools over flawless bowls of chia, goji and coconut porridge; stacks of Matcha green tea protein pancakes; gorgeous displays of vegan cacoa-nib-chip cookies and bright green glasses of spirulina, coconut and hemp smoothie… Transfixed by what she sees, Esme decides to become a ‘clean-eater’!

But the problem emerges when Esme tries to recreate one of the aforementioned recipes. To afford the ingredients, she would need to delve deeper into her jean pockets that humanly possible to reach the cash needed to buy the ingredients. And this is a lifestyle she has tried to adopt. She can’t afford one spirulina, coconut and hemp smoothie, let alone one-a-day, 365 days of the year!

Luckily Esme is sensible enough to ditch clean-eating approach and turn for help elsewhere: Holland and Barrett. They are the self-proclaimed ‘leading UK health retailer’ so it seems an appropriate choice, right? But browsing the brimming shelves of bottles, jars, bars and bags is like learning a foreign language…

“G-ginko bil-oo-ba?” Esme attempts to pronounce her new vocabulary. “And what sort of capsules are these? Ac-id-o-phil-us capsules… but do I get Ultra Maximum acidophilus capsules or Mega-potency acidophilus capsules?” She opts for neither in the end after looking at the price tag. That’s a common problem in Holland and Barrett like most health shops: something snatches your attention but the extortionate price sends you packing…

“Oh, a chocolate bar! Something I recognise!” Esme exclaims with a sigh of relief. “Oh. Hang on. £1.09 for 35g of chocolate can’t be right.” Puzzled, she notices the Nakd bars her mum buys from Asda for 59.3p each. Here they are priced as 99p. Horrified, Esme makes a dramatic exit and crosses the road, heading to McDonalds instead.

Whilst queuing for her Happy Meal Esme decides to have one final attempt at this whole ‘healthy lifestyle’ thing. A youtuber springs to her mind: ‘Freelee the Banana Girl’. Typing her name into the search bar, it quickly appears as a Google suggestion. She clicks and, after a little reading, starts to get the picture…

Freelee promotes ‘raw till four’ meaning no cooking till after four. So definitely no Full English. Ever.

Freelee promotes ‘mono-meals’- meals of one ingredient. So Fish and Chips is a no-no.

Freelee also eats up to 51 bananas a day. But Esme doesn’t like bananas.

“What would you like?” Esme is interrupted by the smiley McDonald’s cashier.

Without hesitation, Esme blurts, “Big Mac, with large fries and no gherkins please.”

 * *

Esme is not real. But I reckon many will relate to her story. And I believe blame can be placed on greedy health food retailers and irresponsible clean-eating bloggers; they are privatising a healthy lifestyle. Their obscure ingredients, myths and magical remedies overcomplicate health, pretending that health is only attainable to those who follow strict regimes and have bottomless bank accounts.

It is not the green smoothies I snub. And I don’t even have an issue with chia seeds, flaxseeds or linseeds. Admittedly I whip up courgetti as a snack and ‘banana nice cream’ for pudding sometimes, both popular with clean-eaters. But what I do disagree with is basing your lifestyle on a trend.

So here are my three handy tips:

1) Don’t follow the restrictive rules defined by instagrammers; the self-proclaimed experts on nutrition. Your only lifestyle rule should be that it works for you. 

2) Don’t compare yourself to ‘Deliciously Ella’, Madeleine Shaw or Freelee. Their flaws are conveniently hidden from their millions of followers.

3) Don’t let health food shops bust your bank account with their totally unnecessary remedies and capsules that they say will ‘boost your brain power’. They won’t, trust me.

Whether you agree with my stance on this or remain unconvinced of an issue, I highly recommend the 30 minute documentary by the BBC: Clean-Eating’s Dirty Secrets. Both an entertaining and eye-opening watch!

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Part 2: How I was nearly kidnapped. Twice

RECAP: If you haven’t read Part 1 and would like to, click here

If you’re 11 or above, I’m sure you’ll remember your transition to big school. No longer homed by your protective primary school, you were plunged prematurely into the depths of an alien planet. Bemused, you faced the inevitable task of making new friends. So it was almost convenient for Mini Me when my classmate, Lily, fell victim of a nosebleed just as the school day ended.

“What an opportunity!” I thought. Still new and relatively low on the popularity scale, I played Good Samaritan and stayed a while to offer moral support to my new friend, Lily.

Twenty minutes later I was ready to head home. But twenty minutes was long enough for dusk to start drawing the covers. The mad rush had ended. No cars. No people. The birds seemed to have retreated to their nests, too. The only sound was the eerie scratching of leaves against the pavement. But being alone didn’t bother me. Strapped to a humungous rucksack, I marched down the road towards the High Street.

It wasn’t long, however, until I noticed two young lads a short distance behind me. Surely it was nothing sinister though, just two young lads. After all I was at the High Street now with cars and people and street lamps. But to err on the side of caution, I crossed the road. And as I did so, one of the lads ran ahead of me, leaving his mate on the other side. Weird.

I was now walking behind one and parallel with the other. Why would two guys who were 30 seconds ago laughing together now be walking in the same direction on opposite sides of the street? With a quickening pulse, I decided to cross back and take refuge in the library.

Pretending to be confused I awkwardly entered the library, waited a few seconds, turned around and exited. But they were still there. Lingering. Both of them. Together. Waiting against the wall on the other side of the road. That was it. I returned to the library and started to ball my eyes out.

“P-p-please can I… use the phone… to call my m-mum” I sniffled to the librarian. Taken aback, she looked at me and nodded, pushing the phone towards me. I dialled home and was greeted by my mum’s cheery voice. Crying , I demanded that she come to pick me up from the library.

“What? The school library?” I could hear the confusion in her voice.

“No, Southgate Library.”

“Why are you there? Start walking towards the station and I’ll drive up to meet you, okay?”

“NO! Come in and get me!” There was no way I was leaving this library alone. But I could hardly explain the situation over the phone; I could barely comprehend it myself…

Mum sighed, telling me she would have to pay for a parking ticket and that it would come out of my pocket money. Still crying, I hung up the phone and hid amongst the bookshelves until my mum’s arrival. I dared a peak out of the window and, to my terror, the two men had crept nearer. Now at the gates of the library, their presence made me feel faint. It was like a scene from the Weeping Angels episode of Doctor Who; turning away had only made them come ever-closer.

Two minutes passed. Three, four, five minutes. That agonising wait in the library felt like one hundred life times but eventually my mum swooped in. Upon seeing my hysterical crying, Mum’s face turned pitiful and she embraced me in one of those curative hugs only a mother can give. I was even treated to a Waggon Wheel (the marshmallowy, chocolatey, biscuity delicacy).  I still got my £5 pocket money that week, so I assume the threat to deduct the car park toll was forgotten.

Joking aside, this experience really hurt me. Maybe they were mucking around and thought it would be funny to terrify a twelve year old. Maybe they really were planning to kidnap me, murder me and chuck my body in a skip. Or maybe they weren’t targeting me at all. But I doubt it: all my instincts told me I was a victim of whatever game they were playing. In the following months, I fretted about it everyday. It took at least a year, I would say, for the return of my confidence to walk alone. 

Year 7 should have been care free but for me it was filled with anxiety. I hated school and struggled profoundly to leave the house every morning. I wonder if my scary ordeal was the cause… I don’t know and I never will. I just hope that one day the perpetrators have families and settle down. And when they look at their kids, maybe they will remember me.

Part 1: How I was nearly kidnapped. Twice.

If any of you’ve had an inordinate amount of time and found yourselves mindlessly scrolling through my ‘About Me’ page of the blog, you may be a bit confused that I was apparently ‘nearly kidnapped twice’. Yup, it’s true. But I endeavour to both apprise you and make light of my misfortune!

If you were to predict my family’s whereabouts on a sticky-hot summer Sunday afternoon back in 2004, you’d be correct to say at Grovelands, the local park. It was a ritualistic trip two minutes down the road to ‘walk off the Sunday roast’ Mum had spent the morning preparing. And upon such a Sunday was when my first encounter with a kidnapper took place.

Imaginary reins kept me and my little sister Amy within range of the supposedly watchful eyes of my parents, but being speedy little girls whizzing ahead on our pink Barbie bikes, we enjoyed to maximise our distance. So when my parents bumped into Caroline and Tim and obviously stopped to immerse in deep conversation, youthful oblivion powered our pedalling anyway. And that’s when he stopped us.

“Hello,” he greeted, grinning gaudily to show off his yellow teeth. “Would you like to come and feed the ducks with me? I have plenty of bread”. He nodded towards the white carrier bag in his hand.

“No.” My firm rejection cued him to turn back to the gates and exit. Before I could scream ‘KIDNAPPER’, I steered myself and three-year old Amy back around and we cycled back to my parents who were still at a halt with Caroline and Tim.

“Oh! Haven’t the kids grown!” I had not grown since you saw me last week, Caroline.

“Isn’t it such beautiful weather!” I was starting to grow impatient.

“I heard it’s going to rain tomorrow though. How awful.” I was about to climb past my impatience threshold.

It was an agonising wait for the convo to cease. Eventually I commenced to confide in Mummy, detailing the slimy black hair stuck to his head and those nightmarish gnashers. But her response didn’t seem to resonate my avid fear, suggesting Mummy’s attention was planted elsewhere (probably on the parakeets that she hasn’t bored of to this day!). It wasn’t until bath time three hours later that I managed – with hair covered in shampoo – to successfully explain.

Maybe he genuinely did want to feed the ducks with Amy and I. And he would subsequently let us return home when the mallard and moorhens’ tummies were full. Regardless, I am still happy – very happy – with my hasty decision of no. I hope the lonely man someone else of his own size to accompany him to feed the ducks. And only to feed the ducks.

Evidently since this incident I have continued to dodge the lurking clutches of child catchers and their enticing sweeties or, in my case, bread. But only just about.

To be continued…

Camp Dad

The time of the year has arrived again. The coolest dads and their eager kids loaded the boots with an excessive number of clothes-filled bags; cool boxes brimming with sugary treats and neatly-cut sarnies lovingly prepped my mum; DVD players, PSPs and iPads to tide over the wearily dull journey and, if there’s any room, a tent. You’ve guessed it. ‘Camp Dad’ has begun again.

Except, this year, and similarly for the last two years, I have out-grown this ritualistic trip. I watched in vain as Dad and Conor rolled down the road, disappearing as they head for the North Circular and onwards to Kent.

As far as I know, Camp Dad was founded by some genius belonging to the Roberts family, who revolutionised camping by dispelling the mothers -much to their delight- and sending the fathers to an isolated indentation of the UK for the weekend. With 10/20 families packed tent-by-tent in a field, we sure made a lot of noise, although it is still unclear to this day who made the most noise; the screaming kids or the drinking dads. In the early days, there was a failed attempt to rename Camp Dad to ‘Dad’s Camp’ to emphasise that ‘camp’ was a noun and not an adjective to describe the dads. But ‘Camp Dad’ had stuck. I partook in the rave every year, bar uno, so have been left to reminisce on 10 year of sweet, absurd memories…

Since 2003, only two children have been lost to Camp Dad.

Just kidding, no one’s died… yet.

But we do have stories of dead animals: on one occasion, our tents were conveniently pitched beside a pigeon shooting forest and, like the rebels we were, we entered the restricted area, a bit like the forbidden forest from Harry Potter. And what greeted us was the skull of a deer, which Sam brought back on a stick and planted outside his tent. I think it was a status sign. We also came across its legs hanging from the pelvis, but those were too heavy for us to carry back.

That was not the only terror event. Undoubtedly, Imogen’s brief moment of imminent death will never be forgotten. Running through a forest, a sharp scream caused the group to halt and revolve to see the poor girl slowly descending into the depths of swamp. But luckily our heroic Sam came to the rescue, but not before my little sister Amy was balling her eyes out in fear of her best buddy’s life. Sam kindly put a comforting arm round her shoulder after he diffused the situation but this caused Amy to cry even more hysterically.

But Camp Dad was not all doom and gloom. Romance was much closer than on the horizon for Naomi and Lorcan. At the unblemished age of 8, they both dispelled such innocence by embracing in an intimate smooch. If you don’t believe me, picture evidence can be provided. And there was never a dull moment when Josh was around to keep us entertained. With his ukulele en garde, that was enough to occupy the 20 plus kids for the whole weekend.

Bickering was definitely the inevitable result, however, of a weekend cooped up in a camp site together. For the kids, I mean, although I highly expect some bickering took place between the dads too. When Marnie’s guest (who will remain nameless as I am a kind person) had a hissy fit and threatened to abscond, I recall consoling Marnie whilst she fretted her Dad would go to prison as he was guardian to the nameless guest. Of course nameless guest did not run off and subsequently Marnie’s dad avoided prison… And there were always ‘heated discussions’ over who would sleep in who’s tent. It would have been much simpler to have just stuck to our own tents, but the novelty of being with friends for 48 hours never ran dry, so we were always determined to wangle a sleepover, much to the Dad’s reluctance.

The dads, including my own, really were (and still are!) good sports to spend the weekend camping every year, but I haven’t always shown such appreciation. Being the highly-strung six year old I was, my dad’s snoring seriously embarrassed me…

‘What if the other kids hear Daddy’s snoring?’ I fretted beforehand. ‘What if I am associated with Daddy’s monstrous roaring?’ At least that was my biggest fear of Camp Dad…

The final memory is in fact is a contribution from my dad. His most memorable moments seem to be when the kids had supposedly been tucked up in their sleeping bags for the night. All the dads would unload the remaining beers from the cool boxes, although the majority had been consumed during the day. Finally they can flop into the camping chairs -as if they hadn’t been their all day- without being disturbed by their screeching kids or shot at with nerf guns. But then…

“Daaddddyyyyyyyy!” And they all respond.

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