An Ode to Tilly Bud: the worst birthday poem ever

1 Oct

The Laughing Housewife:

I’ll blog details about yesterday tomorrow; but today, here’s the best poem I’ve ever read :)

Originally posted on Janie's Place:

happy birthday banner

Thinking of you today, dear Tilly, and sending sincerest wishes:

May your day be filled with good friends, loving family and slobbery dog kisses,

May your box of Maltesers over floweth,

And may the sun shine where ever you go-eth!

May your tea kettle freely flow,

May the pile of crumpled wrapping paper grow.

May you grow old and wise,

(Though I feel a need to clearly emphasize,

That’s not to imply that you are still young),

And have travels far-flung.

For ever and always, I hope life treats you well,

In short, have a birthday that’s totally swell.

View original

The Tree Of More

19 Sep


It’s been quite a week.  We spent all of Saturday afternoon at The Tree of War rehearsal, filming and photographing background stuff.   Monday evening we were at the press preview; the show opened on Tuesday.  It is phenomenal.  

I can’t tell you how good this new piece of theatre is: the music, the lyrics, the story.  And to see it acted and sung with such passion and enthusiasm; to hear the wonderful music from the live band; to come out crying after every single performance…there is no one involved in this production who doesn’t believe that it is something special, something above the ordinary.

One of the most consistent comments – though you heard it here first, last year – is that it belongs on a West End stage.  As I stand behind my camera each night and listen to the audience as they file out, many sobbing into their snotty tissues – men and women – I hear them saying it over and over.  People with no connection to the show rave about it; and they are right to do so.


Some reviews, personal and professional:

Ollie Mills’ and Rachel Mann’s masterpiece is beautifully poignant, thought-provoking and utterly authentic.

Chris Oatway, North West End

Scottish hard man Dougie (Jamie Rahman) gives a sweet rendition of ‘Being A Lad,’ and it’s a stony individual indeed who won’t be moved to tears (as I was) by the heartbreaking climax.    4 *

  Philip Caveney, Bouquets & Brickbats

I thought Alex really brought out the personal, but also universal, pain and intensity of the WWI horrors. As the show progressed, he displayed real pathos – having been excellent too in the earlier, happier, scenes. I thought both he and Sam made very strong leads. But then I felt the whole cast was strikingly good – having, I judge, been brilliantly prepared by [Ollie].   

A personal email to Paul from Roderic Dunnett, a professional reviewer, whose official review will be out shortly

Comments left on the official The Tree of War Facebook page:

Went to see one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen today! Well done to all the Cast and Crew of The Tree of War you were AMAZING! You completely reduced me to tears.

Amazing piece of theatre! Really powerful.

Just got back from watching The Tree of War what a fantastic play each and every cast member played a brilliant part, it should go on TV or all around the country, well done to all of you, it was just brilliant.

It was, quite simply, one of the most powerful pieces of theatre I’ve seen. Oliver Mills’ score is brilliant and if he and Rachel Mann don’t make a cd I shall be really disappointed. The cast were all fantastic. Sam Gilliatt and Alex Cosgriff in particular. Remember Alex’s name. He’ll be winning Olivier awards one day. I don’t know if they have any tickets left, but if they do and you’re free, go!

Ollie Mills’ music was quite amazing.

If you live in the area, today is your last chance to see it.  There are a few tickets left for the matinée and evening and they are on special offer at £5 each on the door.  But booking online will guarantee you a seat.

Trust me: go if you can.  If you don’t, you will always regret missing the start of something big.

The Tree Of Bore

5 Sep

Performance Week is almost upon us!

I suspect my Facebook friends are sick to death of all The Tree of War posts I’ve been sharing – but I don’t care: it’s an amazing show and needs to be seen by everyone.  So there.

Blog readers have probably forgotten all about it, so here’s a recap: it’s a musical about life in the trenches, written by a vicar and a (then) university student. Here’s last year’s review of the preview show.  The show has been extended, with more songs added – including a solo for Bert.  It’s bigger, better and I’m bursting with excitement!  

Tree of War BertFor your interest, there are some cast interview links on the Facebook page (you don’t need to be on Facebook to watch them).  Excuse Alex, who – as his mother, I’m sad to report – sounds supremely unintelligent with his ums and ahs.  He’s saving everything for the performance.  No, really.  

Or you can listen to three of the songs. The cast sang at Manchester Cathedral two weeks ago and they sounded phenomenal.  

If you live anywhere near Burnage, do yourself a favour and go see the show (September 15-19).  You won’t regret it.  You’ll be calling it The Tree of Awe.

I Went To France And It Was Closed

29 Aug

Some things I learned on holiday

Six Word Saturday


French People Take Holidays, Too

A Jock-in-the-bush

A Jock-in-the-bush

I went to visit VivinFrance and her lovely Jock – as in Jock, her delightful Scots husband, not jock, her meathead athlete; though he could have been a meathead athlete in his day, I suppose: he did once play ice hockey in Canada.  

The trip was organised fairly last minute but Viv had some ideas to entertain me: a poetry workshop with two of her writer friends; a meal at the excellent restaurant in the village; shopping on Saturday.  

Unfortunately (for me, not them; I have nothing against the South of England, honest), her friends went to Cornwall as I arrived in Europe; the restaurant closed so the owners could take a holiday (at the height of the summer season: the French have their priorities right); and Saturday was a public holiday, therefore many shops were closed.


My hosts are lovely people

I didn’t really learn this on holiday but I need to shoehorn in the fact that when I went to bed, I found a box of fudge under my pillow, called Mrs Tilly’s.  

I was too tired from the drama of flying alone to take a photo of my delight that night, but here’s a dramatic re-enactment from the next morning:



I like to go with the flow

France being closed didn’t bother me – I was with my dear Viv and we read poetry (some), talked poetry (more), critiqued poetry (a lot), wrote poetry (a little).  We managed visits to a supermarket and a hardware store that I thought was a supermarket (schoolgirl French never covering le tool shop), as well as the fulfillment of a childhood dream when I entered a pretty boulangerie-patisserie straight out of a French text book drawing.  I bought elephant ears, a French biscuit.  First introduced to me by blogger Laurie, who sent her home made version from the States, I have long wanted another go at them.



Nostalgia is weird

On our daily walk into the village – There was fighting on this street during the war, Viv casually threw out; as if the French also have lots of history.  I thought it was only us Brits – we popped into a corner shop and I spotted and had to purchase a box of Maizena!

If you don’t know, I lived in South Africa for fourteen years and learned to make gravy with cornflour – Maizena, a popular brand.  If there was any other brand of cornflour, I never saw it nor bought it.  Even now, nineteen years later and back in the UK, the grocery list often says ‘Maizena’ instead of ‘Corn Flour’.  Of course I had to buy a box.  Probably the oddest souvenir I’ve ever had.  But I don’t care – Maizena!


French folk are funny

DSCN3782Viv, her lovely friend Annette and I rested during a trip to the seaside (I don’t think France wanted to meet me – even the tide was out).  A man on a bike shouted as he passed, A kebab of old people!  It was funny once translated, until I realised that I was part of the kebab.

I wouldn’t mind, but I don’t think he was really French: he was on a bike but he had no garlic, onions, beret, baguettes or striped shirt.


Goats and lemurs get me going

DSCN3828We had a trip to the zoo: Zoo Champrepus.  Say it aloud; it’s fun, especially with the French rising inflection.  I haven’t stopped saying it since I got back. It’s up there with ‘giggle’ and ‘hitch’ as one of my favourite words.

Our first stop was to feed popcorn to the goats and I was chuffed when a goat stood up against me to make sure he got his fair share i.e. all of it.  It was the highlight of my day until we visited the lemur enclosure at feeding time.  The animals wander around amongst the visitors, who are not allowed to touch them. However, they are allowed to touch us.  One cutie pie, deciding he hadn’t been given enough, stood up against my leg, wrapping his adorable little paws around me and giving me his best Puss in Boots from Shrek impression (previous post refers).  I’m in love.  I haven’t felt that aglow since my wedding day.  In the zoo shop afterwards I bought a lemur cuddly toy, lemur keyring and whatever lemur else I could find to remind me of my new favourite animal.


The little fellow who won my heart

The little fellow who won my heart

French food is the best

Viv and Jock fed me well, including Jock’s homemade Waldorf salad and Viv’s (drool) garlic lamb; but the culinary highlight had to be a trip to their favourite restaurant with some old friends and a bottle or three of good French wine.  

Viv translated the menu (which had no prices listed; need I say more?) but I had no clear idea of what I was ordering; I just trusted it would be good and it was, more than good, viz. photos below:


DSCN3800DSCN3806Talking of wine, I couldn’t drink when I first arrived in France (surely a crime against nature?) because I was on antibiotics for an abscess, but I made up for it come Saturday-Wednesday and spent a lot of my time tipsier than the hour before a flight.  I don’t think my hosts noticed, apart from the night I sprawled across their couch, giggling uncontrollably at re-runs of M*A*S*H.


Flying ain’t so bad if you know the pilot

I’m terrified of flying.  Mostly, I’m afraid of take-off; once I’m up there, I’m committed and, as a pragmatist, I relax enough to loosen my seat belt to Victorian corset strength.  Due to the aforementioned antibiotics, I was unable to have a fortifying beverage on either of my outward flights (to Exeter and then Deauville).   I compensated for my unusual sobriety by taking deep breaths, praying really hard, and singing hymns quietly (don’t want people to think I’m nuts; terrified is enough) in the spirit of Whistle a Happy Tune and I Have Confidence.  Musicals are good for more than Saturday nights in bed, you know.  I could have sung Nearer My God To Thee but I opted for Lord I Lift Your Name On High; it seemed appropriate.

It wasn’t so bad coming back because I still had my pickle on thanks to Jock’s single malt; and on the Exeter-Manchester flight I was delighted to find myself sitting next to a FlyBe pilot (one of six dotted about) who had been on a course, and who flew the route regularly.  I bombarded him with questions – How can this thing even take off?  What happens if one engine fails? Why don’t we crash?  When you’re a passenger, do you judge the actual pilot on his technique? – and he gently slapped me about the head with facts, figures and common sense.  He added to his goodness by pointing out landmarks I’d never have spotted, such as Blackpool Tower (you know, that great big pointy thing with delusions of Frenchness) and allowed me to enjoy the first flight I’ve ever almost enjoyed.  And I was sat by the window – not a matter of choice; I always ask for an aisle seat so I can be one of the first off the plane when we inevitably go down.


Families suck

TB: Did you miss me?

Hub: No, not really.

TB: Why not?!?

Spud: We didn’t have one cross word while you were away; and everything got done.

Hub: Yeah.  We came to the conclusion that you’re a stress head.


I was going to tell you about the romantic thing the Hub wrote to me while I was away, but I don’t think I’ll bother now.  Suffice it to say, I’ll pay my own way to the moon, thank you very much.  When it opens.


25 Aug

Judyt54 made a shocking comment on my previous post – it’s been two months since I wrote it.

I’m sorry folks; I honestly didn’t know it had been that long.  In mitigation, I’ve been working on my second poetry collection; been to see VivinFrance; became a school governor; and faffed about reading free downloads from BookBub.

I’ve been wanting to tell you about France (I got back last Thursday) but I was out Saturday (Spud sang with The Tree of War cast at Manchester Cathedral) and Sunday; had a visitor yesterday; and I’m out this afternoon and tomorrow.

I’m holding up two fingers to you now – no, sorry: three fingers – and swearing on my previous career as a daily blogger that you’ll hear from me again in your lifetime.

Catch Me On The Radio Today

19 Jun


Here it is!

I received an email out of the blue, inviting me to read a poem of mine on BBC Radio Merseyside.  It’s going out at 13:55 GMT today.  You will hear me calm and steady.  I hope.  Because what I really am is trembling and nauseated.

Roger Phillips has the lunchtime show and he contacted me on Wednesday, to say that all of today’s programmes are being broadcast from alongside the Mersey under the banner heading, Turning The Tide.  They found my poem about living near the Mersey on The Healthy Waterways Trust website, and asked if I’d be willing to read it for the show.  Did Shake have a speare?  Of course I agreed!

Once I told everyone I knew that video didn’t actually kill the radio star, reality – i.e. absolute gut-wrenching terror – set in.  As many of you know, I am a member of Write Out Loud, the country’s largest poetry organisation, dedicated to getting us all reading our poetry in company.  That means I read out a minimum of two poems once a month to a tolerant audience.  I also give regular poetry readings at Walthew House, Stockport’s charity for the blind and hard of hearing (the latter seem to be my best audience, if I’m honest).  I read to other community groups and last year I did a grand tour of two Stockport churches, sharing the War Poetry Canon to commemorate 1914.  I even read the lesson in church from time to time.  So no biggie, right?


A follow-up email from Roger about calling me this morning at nine ‘after the news’ had me reaching for the (carefully lined with a plastic bag and toilet paper to stop splashback) sick bucket.  Did that mean I’d be live on the BBC?  To thousands of Scousers who might find my accent wanting (I’ve moved a lot).  What if I messed up?  What if I threw up?  What if the dogs barked and yapped and yelped and yipped while we were on the phone?  Would Mr Phillips pass the recording of me bludgeoning them with a bucket to the police?  What was I thinking?!

That’s when I gave thanks for Hairy Boy, my first-born child, my clever son, my current favourite offspring, because he had the good sense to fall in love with Hairy Girl.  If Hairy Boy is Mountain Man, Hairy Girl is Mountain Dew: beautiful and smart and – the best thing ever about her; I can’t believe I never saw it before – she works for another BBC local radio station

I sent off a frantic email: Help!  I’m going to be on the radio!  I’m going to snatch my three minutes from Andy Warhol (we have just come out of a recession) and I might make a fool of myself because I only have eight years’ experience of performing poetry! and followed it up with a frantic text: Sent you an email!  Read it!  Today!  Now!  Are you well?  We haven’t seen you in ages xx

She talked me down off the ledge with sensible advice and an admonishment to have fun.  Has she met me?  Fun is my middle name, as in Tilly Illhavefunifitkillsmelikethistensionangstanxietyprobablywillbeforelong Bud.

So Rog phoned this morning (having spent four minutes in conversation, I think we’re close enough friends now for me to give him a diminutive) just after the news (a man of his word) and I recorded my poem, (feeling like Marilyn Monroe, in a breathy, high-on-drugs way; not a breathy, sexy-in-white way, unless you count the zero colour in my face), holding on to my breakfast, grateful to be unlive, and then dancing a jig around the living room when we were done.

Radio – I think I’ve found my medium.  I can sit in my pyjamas, cuddle my sick bucket, and read poetry to the world who, because my poems are for the most part short, won’t have time to reach for the off button before I’m done. 

Next stop: hospital radio; a mostly unconscious audience.  They’re going to love me. 

30 Reasons To Stay Married

1 Jun



  • The dogs wouldn’t like it if we split up.
  • The kids wouldn’t like it if we split up.
  • The record collection wouldn’t like it if we split up.  Apart from Meat Loaf (mine) and The Sex Pistols (his), they’ve been one big, happy family for too long for a separation to work.
  • The Hub wouldn’t like it if we split up.  He thinks thirty years of fights, kids, pets, fights, moving, troubles, fights, problems, woes and fights should mean something.  What a nitpicker.
  • He strokes my hair when I can’t sleep.
  • I pull his hair when he annoys me.  Whose hair would I pull if I didn’t have the Hub?
  • He still thinks I’m beautiful.
  • Poor, misguided fools are my thing.
  • He doesn’t mind that I spend all of our money on books.  Well, he does; but he doesn’t complain about it.
  • He found it perfectly reasonably that I wanted our wedding song to be one written by a country singer about leaving her famous married lover which I discovered in a movie about a whorehouse.

  • He buys the most thoughtful gifts: Presidential balls; trips to the Globe, the ballet, the theatre; long socks; Maltesers.
  • He knows me inside out – watching a group on last week’s Britain’s Got Talent, he said he knew which one I found the most attractive.  He was right.  Then he said he knew which one I found next-most attractive.  He did.  And so on, through all five of them.  The man’s a freak.
  • He can fix anything.  He can take an appliance apart, put it back together, throw the leftover screws (there are always leftover screws when he repairs something) in the recycling box and the machine works like new.  It’s scary.  And saves us a fortune (next point refers).
  • He only sighs when my techneptitudinal brain breaks appliances by mere confused glances.
  • He makes me laugh.
  • He lets me make fun of him on my blog; which means he makes you lot laugh, too.
  • He’s a know-it-all but, what’s worse, is that he’s not often wrong.  It’s annoying.  I include it as a reason to stay married, however, because I need the challenge of pointing out his errors.  It’s what gets me through the day since I gave up Sudoku.
  • He’s as hard as nails on the outside but a big, soppy mare over animals.  Which is why we have, in the course of thirty years, owned seven gerbils, three cockatiels, three budgies, five cats, four dogs and several thousand fish.  Why do you think I read so much?  I can’t find him in the zoo and I need to pass the time somehow.
  • He gave me two beautiful children.  And seven gerbils, three cockatiels, three budgies, five cats, four dogs and several thousand fish.
  • He sews up a storm.  Our kids always had the best costumes at school events. 

  • He accepts that I am not romantic and all of my love poems to him tend to poke fun at his own wild romanticism.
  • He cooks like a Michelin-starred chef.  He gathers together interesting ingredients and voilà! a three course meal for brunch.  It does my head in that he’s not well enough to cook anymore.  How selfish of him to get ill like that.
  • He can really drive.  I mean really.  His parallel parking is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen.
  • He’s the boss.  He says we have to stay married.  You know I’m an obedient wife who never disagrees with him, so staying married it is.
  • He doesn’t like poetry and complains that I should be writing a runaway bestseller to support us.  He totally believes I’m capable of it.  To shut him up, I had a go at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – the aim of which is to write 50,000 words in a month).  I managed 12,000 words of a dull romance in which my hero was a traffic warden.  Need I say more?
  • Back to the not liking poetry – he complains that it won’t make us any money and then ferries me around from one free/unpaid gig/workshop/event to another, leaving me with a kiss and collecting me later with another kiss.
  • He has no patience and a short fuse.  This might not seem like a reason to stay married to him; and you’re right: it’s not.  But I have to remind myself as I’m writing this list that he’s not perfect by any means, despite his great husbandness; otherwise, I might start appreciating him.
  • He’ll read this list and write thirty reasons why he should stay married to me, and I guarantee it’ll be all soppy and nice and make me all gooey inside.  He’s really annoying sometimes.
  • To prove the scoffers wrong.  Lots of people predicted that we would break up within a year when we got married.  I don’t know why; it’s not like I broke off our engagement three times or anything…oh, wait…
  • Love.

Happy 30th anniversary, darling.  Love you. x




Vivinfrance's Blog

mainly poetry, also quilts, pictures, life-writing and the occasional short story.


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The Jog

notices and reflections in ministry

The Cvillean

The adventures of little read writing Hood

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An Overlooked British Evacuation


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