On the Hilltop.

Liverpool Sky

Go and look from the hilltop now.  Where we used to go.

Does it bring back thoughts of happier days?

Warmer summers and light-hearted ways?

Does it make you wish that those times had stayed?

I’d really love to know.


Go and sing all the songs we sang.  When we wanted the same.

Do they trip from your tongue like they used to do?

Like a secret language for me and for you?

Does it seem like the music is still playing through?

Like the changes never came.


Go and read from the books we shared.  When you needed me.

Do you turn all the pages like turning back years?

Laugh at the memories or choke back the tears?

If you sit there in silence, is it me that you hear?

Reading the words you see?


Go and look from the hilltop now.  And think of how we were.

Do you smile at the daft little ways that we had?

Remember the small things that made us so glad?

Do you wish we still sat here? Does it make you feel sad?

I’ll treasure the times we spent there..

This is about looking back at the times when my children were younger and we did more together. We almost never go anywhere as a whole family now and I miss that. The hilltop is Everton Brow, from where you get a fantastic view of Liverpool, the River Mersey and the Wirral Peninsula.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday is a very special day in the Christian calendar.  It’s a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, conquering death and sin and paving the way for his followers to be with him in the afterlife. So, naturally we celebrate by eating as much chocolate as humanly possible without (in most cases, at least) actually exploding and watching cheesy films from the food-induced discomfort of our cocoa  and brightly coloured tinfoil littered sofas.

Of course, we all have our own traditions. In my house we go to the Saturday night Easter vigil and this enables us to have a lie-in on Easter Sunday, which doesn’t happen on any other Sunday in the year and is much appreciated.  By those it applies to, at least, which doesn’t include me.  No. I get woken up early, by the youngest member of the family who, at 12, is pretty excited about the chocolate feast in store.  So excited that she then discharges bursts of nervous energy in my direction like North Korean missile attacks until I am forced to try and get the rest of the family out of bed.  On the day that they are trying to have their only lie-in.  Yes, as you would imagine, this makes me extremely popular.  Today, for instance, it took me an hour to get my 18-year-old to come downstairs.  I think he might have been trying to claim back the one we all lost last night.

One of the reasons that my youngest gets so excited is because of the egg-hunt.  It’s a bit different to the egg-hunts I hear of in other households. Now, this might concern some of you.  It may even give you the impression that I am somehow curtailing my brood’s childhood, but as I said, we all have our own traditions.  In my house we don’t believe in the Easter Bunny.  I’ll give you a moment to take that in.  That’s right.  I don’t tell, and have never told my children that a giant rabbit (whether visible or invisible) somehow produces chocolate eggs which it leaves lying around in hidden places.  My children are pretty interested in the environment and I’m sure this chocolate egg-laying giant rabbit would only further convince them that we need to look more carefully into GM produce.

No, our egg-hunt involves a set of clues, each one leading to the next, until eventually they lead to a stash of Easter eggs for the 4 ‘children’ (or more accurately named, ‘offspring’) of the house.  This has worked well for years.  I write 5 or 6 rhyming couplets for the purpose with varying degrees of difficulty and they decipher the clues and go on the hunt.  Well, that’s how it used to be, but one by one they have dropped out of the hunt part and now 3 of them sit on the sofa while the youngest finds their eggs.  They all help crack my code.  They’re getting a bit too good at it, to be honest.  I’m going to have to up my game: especially now that the youngest has downloaded a crossword app for her phone.  When I was her age I had to make do with the Guardian and a pencil and it didn’t do me any harm.  I digress.

I’m beginning to run out of places to hide the eggs.  They’ve been in the washing machine, the dryer, a laundry basket (when there are 6 people in the house, laundry can loom large in the psyche), under everybody’s bed, in the under-the-sink cupboard and in the oven.  That wasn’t a good idea, because it turns out that the bottom oven gets quite hot when you make toast, and apparently Easter lumps are just not as popular as you’d think.

This year saw the introduction of what may be a new tradition.   I got my chef-in-training son to be in charge of the chicken for our roast dinner.  As a confirmed veggie, that’s quite a relief.  I hate cooking food if I can’t taste a bit to test it and I’d rather not relive the food-poisoning extravaganza of 1997 (kidding).

Everything inside

In my head is everything I’ve ever owned.  And nothing.

I can touch the fur of loved, long-disintegrated bears,

Hear the rattle of a nut, stuck in a money-box that was really a plastic bottle.

My imaginary hands can stroke the dog I loved and will miss forever.

In my head is everything I’ve ever known.  And nothing.

All the words of all the books through all the hours,

Pictures that made me want to be an artist, or a princess.  Or Odysseus.

I can sing the songs that lulled me into sleep.

In my head is everyone I’ve ever known.  And no-one.

Here, my brother tells me how to tie my laces. 

He seems so grown-up but now I know he’s not.  He’s just a boy.

My friends come over for my birthday, bringing chocolates.

I realise that all along there really was no-one.  Just me.

A beautiful design



When I was little, my dad told me and my four sisters that mountain sheep were very different to the sheep that we’d see in the fields. “They have” he assured us, as we drove through hilly Wales, “short legs on one side of their body and longer legs on the other side.”  This made perfect sense.  We could see, as we hung out of the car window to watch the sheep walk on the steep inclines above us, that this would have to be true because (think about it) if all four of their legs were the same length then they would surely just topple sideways, roll down the slope in a baa-ing tangle of wool, legs and startled sheep-faces and be flattened by one of the cars driving along the winding road that hugged the foot of the hill. 

This explanation was mildly problematic. What, we all wondered, would happen if the sheep (singular or plural) were to turn around on the hill and FACE THE OTHER WAY!! Oh no! I hear you say.   Imagine you saying.  Alright then, I’m saying it but it’s still a valid point; if their short legs are on the lower part of the incline, won’t they definitely topple sideways, roll down the hillside in a baa-ing tangle of wool etc, etc? Aha! No!  As my wise father told us, the sheep have adapted so well that they never turn around; they simply walk all the way around the hill until they come back to where they need to be. A bit like when you have to set the time on the clock in your car and you go a bit too far and have to keep going.  Same principle.

We continued to believe this for several years, along with several other pieces of mischievously erroneous information (outrageous lies, if you will) about, for example, the purpose of derricks in the Liverpool dockyards (neck braces for giraffes), the original use of the masonry brush owned by our bricklayer neighbour (toothbrush for elephants) and that eating spinach was somehow good for you.  That last one might actually be true; I’ll have to check up on it.

So, erm, I can sense I’m losing you. I feel you’re probably now poring over the writing challenge photo, asking yourself, “What’s this got to do with sheep?” And the answer to that is, well, it hasn’t actually got anything to do with real sheep but it has a certain amount to do with imaginary sheep: those with the two short legs, described by my father who, funnily enough, also has two short legs.  Look at the picture … but look back here when you’ve done it.  What is going on with that tram?

The first thing I see when I look at that picture is the clean, shiny, obviously a-world-away-from-Blackpool tram going up the hill. Or down the hill. I can’t tell.  There’s no sign of a driver, which means it’s probably not a tram really but rather a streetcar (which I think is just American for ‘tram’, actually), a funicular or something more exotic I’ve never heard of, but I think we can all agree that it’s on a very steep slope. And this is where the imaginary sheep come into it.  Not as passengers because that would be weird, but as a comparative design notion.  The tram slash funicular (yes, I KNOW you’re supposed to actually write the slash but I’m trying to boost my word count, so shhh!) has obviously been designed specifically for steep places. Like the imaginary sheep, it appears to have the perfect form for getting up and down that specific gradient.  Slight curves aside, its front appears to align nicely with the doorway in the background, which we must assume has been acquainted with a plumb-line at some point. If you look at the windows you can see that they are at three different levels, corresponding beautifully to the harsh slope of the street.  It’s a wonderful example of ‘horses for courses’. 

I can see a passenger, boldly standing inside. He’s probably doing that thing where you don’t quite hold on so you can pretend you’re surfing but still have time to grab the bar if things get bumpy. No? Just me?  Okay then.  Let’s move on.  I think I can see what looks like seats.  I’m just going to pretend that I know there are seats so that my premise will make sense; if the vehicle fits the gradient it is safe to assume that the seats are accordingly positioned so that the passengers are upright as they travel up or down the hill.

 So the tram is designed to run perfectly parallel to a steep road. Lovely! What a wonderful thing to have vehicles that are designed for each specific part of town. BUT … if you look down the hill, you can see that there is a different gradient further back. Oh no! It’s all going horribly wrong.  What was the journey like then? Were the passengers suddenly flung forward into a potentially tooth-whacking, nose-breaking, life or death situation or slapped backwards into a terrifying, face-flapping, eye-ball bulging G-Force nightmare? Obviously neither of those things; it’s a picturesque hilly tram-ride, not ‘Black Hawk Down’, but you get my drift. What seems to be a really good design has, on closer inspection, some serious flaws.  Like the sheep my dad told us about.

If the hillside sheep really had those two short legs on one side, they’d be in big trouble if they had to chase a wayward lamb and it looped behind them and made a break for the road.  Similarly, the tram would have a big problem if it got to the top of that hill and there was a big slope downwards on the other side. You could really get some surfing practice in if that happened. Yet the answer to the design problem of the hill-tram is beautifully simple: take four giraffes with neck-braces …