Tuesday, 30 October 2012

New River Cottage Cafe

They say that nothing in life is guaranteed but death and taxes; as a Mum I disagree as you can add cooking (or feeding) and washing to that list. As a consequence it is a phenomenal treat to be taken out for Sunday lunch.

The River Cottage cafe seemed to tick all the boxes to qualify as a trendy bristro: local ethical produce - tick, loads of micro salad leaves - tick, a short daily changing menu - tick, a good balance of choices if meat, fish and vegetarian dishes - tick, celebrity chief - tick, artfully distressed decor in a newly decorated venue - tick, faux industrial detail - tick. Well, the first three tick my boxes too, provided the chiefs can deliver the goods and I can cope with the mildly pretentious interiors besides it was set in a glorious building in a historic dock yard.

I must add the additional proviso that a lunchtime restaurant must be child friendly, and in this it excelled. There is great menu for little people, a decent changing unit, colouring in sheets and crayons, totally charming staff and enough space so that we can work the room (you know, the endless wondering in circles essential to young toddlers).

I love mixed platters so we opted for the fish and the meat ones to share. There were notable highlights, the soused herring and cured mutton were great. At £12.50 they really needed to be - but they did not really live up to their pricing ambition. The ham croquettas were sloppy, the smoked mackerel pate wad merely so-so (mine matches up to or surpasses it) and the portions, for the price, were far from generous.

For mains my fish was so fresh it's Mum had not even had a chance to missed him and was served on a bed of impeccably spiced lentils. The butternut squash and chickpeas and memorable and the pork had that old fashioned taste of authenticity. The children faired a little less well, the home made hummus came with fairly second rate pitta rather than the advertised vegetable sticks but the pasta was very passable.

Fortunately the pudding was back up to scratch again, the worst problem was choosing so we ordered one of each. They were unctuous, calorific and with well balanced flavours. The fresh raspberries stopped the chocolate terrine from being cloying with the creme fraiche just married the two, and the rhubarb lifted panna cotta and the biscotti gave it the perfect bite.

It was the perfect Sunday lunch, but the perfect lunch is more than just food, it is company and ambiance too. If the day was judged purely on the food I would say that it was good, not excellent, and at £140 for four adults and two children it really did need to be at least that good.

This was in no way sponsored, paid for or subject to any commercial pressures. It was chosen by my step daughter - and I think she did a great job doing so.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Chocolate Muffins

I am starting to acknowledge the midwinter festival - I can almost mention that C word. The Ethical Superstore have just had a 25% off sale so I have bought advent calendars and chocolate coins. That brings me to the issue of the of finishing off the Easter Chocolate...honestly. I don't forbid anything (except incest and Morris Dancing as the old saying goes) so any chocolate that we get given goes into a large storage jar and we eat it a little at a time, hence the left over Easter chocolate that is probably best for cooking at this stage.

This is based on a Dan Leopard recipe, yes, my patron Saint if Elasticated Waists. It was originally meant to be made with Dark Chocolate so the more milk chocolate I put in the more I reduce the sugar and to a lesser extent oil.

Makes 12 (huge) or 18 more manageable

50g cornflower
3 tablespoons cocoa
100g dark soft brown sugar (I use whatever I have, which is often a mix of dark muscavado and other lighter sugars)
225g cold water
Up to 75g butter. If I have 1/2 and 1/2 dark and milk chocolate I reduce this to 65g
125g chocolate
75ml sunflower oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Up to 125g caster sugar. If I have 1/2 and 1/2 dark and milk chocolate I reduce this to 110g.
125g plain flour - sifted and well mixed with ....
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Heat oven to 180'c/160'c fan/350'F/gas mark 4

In a saucepan add the first batch of ingredients: corn flour, cocoa, brown sugar and water and whisk constantly over a medium heat until boiling, thick and smooth (a wrist work out).

Remove from the het and beat in the butter and chocolate until mixed in. Add the oil, vanilla and one egg and beat until combined, then add the other egg and caster sugar and beat until smooth.

Add the flour/ baking powder mixture and beat until smooth.

Put in the paper muffin cases in a muffin tray and bake for 25 mins.

Leave to cool as long as you can hold out then enjoy!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

reasons to be Cheerful 12

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

No not 1, 2, 3 but 12: that is the number of our bus. It used to go to Camberwell but has retired to our garden. Owning things is not a very good reason to be cheerful, but hey, it is hard not to crack a smile when you see a routemaster stuck in the Berkshire 'burbs.
I blame it on Radio 4. In the days before children, I seem to remember, we had long leisurely lie ins on Saturdays. We must have, as one week we were listening to the comedienne Linda Smith discuss the demise of the Routemaster bus. At the end of the programme she mentioned that they were selling them off for little more than we were planning to spend on a new garden shed....you can see it...the twisted logic? Of course, a bus is so much more sensible than a silly old garden shed and we started to giggle.
Back in those days us Brits were only just cutting our teeth on Internet shopping, but I managed to go on line to track down bus heaven (or was it purgatory as their final resting place had yet to be decided). The next week we took the long trip right around the M25 to deepest darkest Essex. Faced with a large hanger crammed with buses we did what any normal human would do: we found the one bus without an Andrew Lloyd Webber poster and bought it.
A week later reality entered the equation and we considered out small lane and modest garden and the scale of the bus and the giggles subsided. Too late, the bus was on its way and going top speed of 30mph it was taking a time.
It was meant to be a festival bus, taking us to Glastonbury and the like, but instead it is a party bus. For one party with had a children's area upstairs with Scaletrix and baby football and downstairs we cleared the seats to have a bar and dance area.

More recently it had been storage and a workshop. We can quickly revamp it to turn it into a bar for parties or even set it up with a table, it can seat 20 people at a push. Can you imagine a better ice braker than reaching up to pull the bell to ask for more wine to be passed?
It is, like the house, very much of a work in progress but we love it. Besides it is hard not to be cheerful with a number 12 in our garden.

it is not just changing colours this Autumn

I think that changing times and places are the twin themes for Older Mum's One Week project, and as much as I would love to ignore it, this autumn is the swan song for our solitude. We have been fighting for years but the diggers are moving in, and suburbia will take over my view.

For three hundred years our cottage stood in isolation, until fifty years ago it was surrounded by fields. About twenty years ago Reading started to knock at its door. when we moved in we were shaded from a housing estate (a lovely one, but just still full of houses) by a small road and high trees. From my bedroom window I could still look down at towards the River Loddon and see country.

When I came back from my walk today I saw traffic cones, and it just seemed to herald the end of solitude. the road that used to lead only to our home is being widened and a round about is being put in so that it can take the traffic for hundreds of new homes. New homes that will be rammed in cheek by jowell between me and the wonderful river.

I will never wake up and watch silently as the wisps of morning mist disappear across the fields, before any noise was ours (sorry for anyone who heard us play Elvis at 3am while we stood on surf boards in the garden pretending to be scared of sharks) now we will just be one more house in endless suburbia.

one week

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


Have you heard of the family who drowned in books? No? Good! that means I still have my reading habit under control. I do occasionally read books on my iPad but that tends to be only when pickle has forgotten to tell me about some school work and I urgently need to explain something before Amazon or Abe books can deliver. That is right, I make a point of finding books rather than letting Pickle think that Wikipedia is the fountain of all knowledge.

Here on the shelf by my desk I have a few important reference books. Two bird books, a wildlife book and an encyclopaedia.
I love reading books, I love the feel and smell of books and more than anything I love giving books away. When I lived in my flat in London every time a friend came around I insisted they picked a book to go away with. The best thing that you can do with a great book is pass it on. What greater gift is there than the discovery of an idea or the introduction of a new cherished author?

I end up by buying the same book time and time again. The exception being my Folio books that are mine for keeps.
Our lovely friend Rob made these book cases from reclaimed oak boards, they are lovingly made and filled with care. This is the fiction side of the window. I can see Murakami, Primo Levi (oops, the wrong side) and Jane Austen nestled in with a fluorescent Lenin and a decanter. I need to sort out the lower shelves and reclaim the dining rooms from the disarray it has fallen into.

On the far side is the non fiction. My beloved dictionaries and encyclopaedia as well as the first of my art books to make it here. The rest of my books are still in boxes at my Mum's house. Perched on top is a book containing the architectural plans of the Eiffel Tower that Pickle and I gaze in awe as her Lego aspirations go stratospheric.
Am I the only person who is transfixed by other people's book shelves? I remember my respect for an ex-boss evaporated when I saw her artfully designed shelves had nothing more than a handful of thumbed holiday fiction. Book collections can reveal interests and passions; a depth of understanding or a butterfly intellect. I wonder what my shelves say about me?

A Blossoming communicator

Twitter is a wonderful thing, it brings you into contact with all kinds of ideas and information. One month to go and I came across @VivienSabel and The Blossom Method. This is the storey of what happened next.

Vivien was already an expert in non-verbal communication as her mother was deaf, so it seemed natural to chatter to daughter Blossom before she could use words. The Blossom Method was her story, and she shares the lessons so that we could learn too.

With Pickle I was a standard first time Mum, stumbling around, reading all books (mainly as someone told me that I was too much of a hippy to do so) but feeling certain that my child was in individual not prefabricated schedule fodder. I was uncertain of her needs so my answer to most things was to feed her. She spent her first six months happy every day until indigestion set in as she should have been ready for bed.

This time I had no time for books, but Vivien had very kindly sent me a taster of what the Blossom Method could offer, and armed with this and a few chats I ready to give it a try.

First off I was stunned how easily it came to us. It was as if it just unlocked the door to communication. The first few days in hospital were a bit traumatised, and I was not overjoyed at having to have another blimin caesarean so at least I had something to restore my enthusiasm for motherhood.

Soon DB was telling me everything I wanted to know. With a baby there are three many issues: food, nappies and sleep. For food he licked his lips, for sleep his eyes darkened and the nappies - well it was absense of the other two indicators if I did not smell it first. Pretty soon he set himself into his own ideal routine: sleeping until 11 when I went to bed, then waking me once at 4pm - then often I awoke to the sound of him licking his lips not his cries and my throbbing breasts, I could be sat up phone in hand by before he let out his first yells of hunger.

Why the phone? I monitored his schedule out of interest initially and the #3amfc (twitter 3am feed club) was the most amazing source of good humour and mutual support.

Let me be honest, the blossom method is only as good as the amount of effort you put in. We were fairly crap. I am sure that if DB was a first child we we have put in exponential effort - but after the early promise we let it slip. Somehow the early interest must have paid off subliminally - as aged 14 months we are still being surprised by the benefits.

The way that he expects to be understood. From about six months he has burbled and gesticulated and fixed me has gaze while he expects to be understood. Hs eyes just yell, 'for goodness sake, Mum, get it right'.

He had also taken to sign language with total ease. We started with a few basics to help communications such as 'more' and 'all done'. I suddenly remembered that Pickle's first sign at around a year was 'please'. With a gulp I anticipated the weeks of repetition to help him learn his first step towards manners, but blow me down with a kiss, after showing him the sign once he had learnt it.

He is so easy going and knows just how to communicate his needs. I am certain this comes down to been always accustomed to being listened to and seeing that he could make himself understood.

Much of the book is not really rocket science, it is simple stuff - but it works. That is the joy of it, it is ground breaking stuff made simple by a genius.

Was this sponsored? Vivien did send me info and followed up with the book - I was asked to give early feed back, some of which appears I'm the book but other than that I have not been asked to review if, I chose to do so as I am converted :)

Monday, 22 October 2012

a girls adventure

A year after DB has been around and I am still besotted by him. At the back of my mind I am, however, missing my girls adventures with Pickle. We have been out many times, but DB manages to seize the agenda by nature of his age and needs. On Saturday the Hubster took control of DB and I won a day's freedom with the Pickle.

We have ended up by living in Reading by default - an office relocation - and I had never really rated the place. It does not appear to have the charm of other places I have visuted and it could not match up to the places I left behind in London. On Thursday I wrote about some of my favourite places to eat in Reading and now I find myself waxing lyrical again.

Alas most of Reading seems to be focused on the Oracle centre, which is rammed with your standard chain stores. As we skipped through to get to the town I was stopped in my tracks. The sight of bunting and colourful knits and a long table looked so tempting, we had to investigate.

This is how we found Jelly. A place in a shopping centre where you can sit with your own coffee and learn craft, make necklaces, and chat all for free? Was I dreaming? We wondered over tentatively and were soon getting stuck in. the Pickle was drawing a post card when she noticed a truck full of beautiful beads. She filled her skirt with beads and was given some thread to make her won jewellery. Of course we got totally carried away: she made a bracelet, necklace and headband - and even got given beads to come home with. Meanwhile I found myself being taught to crotchet - something I had wanted to go for ages. It was so relaxed and so friendly. Every shopping centre should have a place like Jelly!
All that craft had given us a hunger, and we needed something special. We are not really a McDonalds family so we headed for the China Garden for Dim Sum. We love Dim Sum, we can try so many small portions of different things and it gives us a chance to chat. We set the world to rights! I love it, as a Mum you are always talking but it tends to be more immediate - what we are about to do, hurrying her along to get ready for school or bed, what she would like to eat - but we don't often get to forget time and logistics and enjoy each others' company.
A little shopping: I do have a sad failing for TK Maxx - even if it does not got a very impressive ethiscore (the ethical score as awarded by the exhaustive research by the Ethical Consumer magazine). We found DB some adorable Koala style sheepskin boots and Pickle some Moshi trainers. The Husbter had given Pickle £5 and she was going to spend it.
We had been heading for The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) and their apple day. I was sad not to get there as it sounded interesting and their events are always really cool, but I was adamant that we were not going to be ruled by time we were just going to enjoy each other. Rather than racing on we decided to have a coffee.
Naively I had not realised that Patisserie Valerie had mushroomed into a chain, having frequented the Soho branch and ambled by the Knightsbridge outpost. Now, we even have one in Reading. It was not Soho but the menu was good, the service excellent, the cakes delicious and even the most delicious Croquet Monsieur for the Pickle who was now late for supper.
I almost crawled home, on my knees with exhaustion, the Pickle was bouncing off the ceiling. It was the best day ever - let the honeymoon go on: not just with the Pickle, I think I may finally have fallen for Reading!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

The highlight of the week, in many ways, has been reading the posts from Mich, of Mummy from the Heart, from her epic One journey to Ethiopia. What an amazing and inspirational trip. So I felt that I should do a trip around my home town of Reading for my reasons to be cheerful,
starting with an Ethiopean flavour (literally).

Tutu  credit: http://www.tutus-ethiopian-table.com/gallery11.html

Tutu runs the appropriately named 'Tutu's table' at RISC, a local development eduction centre of national repute. It is fantastic! Delicious, affordable and ethical food in a place where children are welcome and within limits can toddle around safely. It is also great to be celebrating award winning Ethiopian food rather than famine.

Continuing the theme, I am always heartened by Truefood Coop. The most amazing source of organic, ethical and mainly affordable food. We often toddle off to their shop for coffee mornings and I volunteer every other week at their market in the Silverdale Centre in Earley.

Finally I love the Reading Play Cafesin Palmer Park. This is a grass roots community interest company. It has reclaimed a Victorian gatehouse near a great outdoor play area. Inside there is a tiny cafe and soft play area with affordable ethical food (toasties from £1.50) and a range of fun events; bilingual Italian toddler time for anyone?
It is amazing how dedicated people can make such a difference to the community. A great reason to be cheerful!
What makes you cheerful? It is a blog hop


What a range of options I considered for Tara's gallery this week. It could be my expanding range of lotions as potions to try to keep aging at bay (this is not huge, i made it to 40 with Simple moisturiser as my entire beauty regime). It could have been the pic of my Mum with her blond plaits as a school girl that i find strangely disturbing. Then I realised the obvious:

This is a pic of our cottage from when we had just bought the cottage. It was an emotional purchase - it fluttered puppy dog eyes at us (if you can imagine a building doing that). It was us or dereliction and we had to save it from that fate. We left our comfortable West London flat for our place in the burbs, complete (or should I say incomplete) with no heating, hot water or inside loo. A generous word for it would be grim. Over the years we striped back generations of dubious shades of paint, lovingly restored beams, reroofed using original clay peg tiles but not before we sorted out inside facilities. It is a labour of love, but it is far from over.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Baby steps

I put the cushions on the bed today. This was a big step! Really, it was worthy of comment. I have been doing a massive spring clean, the clean of a lifetime. I have not just done a little paper shuffling, nor even dusting, I have cleared the furniture and checked to see that nothing wobbles before slowly reassembling. It has got to the messy part where there are remnants of the shake down loitering. The really big thing is that this was not a physical spring clean - it was emotional and mental.

I had got to the stage where my depression was taking over and, as I mentioned, I decided to take control. I did some tough work, then decided to take time off from reality to assimilate my lessons and be kind to myself.

I feel as if I have come back from the most massive holiday and now is the time to effect the physical changes. The year off from worry has stretch but I can postpone reality no longer. This time has been great, I have found contentment as well as happiness. It is slightly scary, the prospect of coming out from my cocoon, but I can do it.

To maintain the change I never bit off more than I could chew. I did basic housework so we could function as a family: floors were mopped, bathroom cleaned and clothes were washed - but I focused on the easily achievable.

I am now ready for more, I am ready to stop hiding. The cliche says that every journey starts with a single step and mine started with putting my cushions back on my made up bed.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

One Mums

I have been humbled and inspired by Mummy from the Heart Michelle's posts from Ethiopia and the work of One. I really recommend her blog!
We are being encouraged to get informed and show support. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on motherhood in an acrostic style, spelling out One Mums, which is what it is all about. The 'orit cook' comes from the pickle's
Mother's Day gift

On duty at all times (or as my daughter eulogised be an 'oritcook')
Never will life be the same again
Endearing, engaging and entertaining
Many sleepless nights but even more cuddles
Unlimited and unconditional love
Music taste on hold as tinybop cheerfully cauterises taste
Snot on your collar, mush down your back

Find out more from Seasider in the City and join the Meme. As she says:
Pass it on!
One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
One life
But we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

Happy Chats - a reason to be cheerful

So far I have linked up with Mummy from the Heart's Reason to be Cheerful #R2BC focused on my children, it is time that I appreciate that there is life beyond my children. Well as if; wherever I am I am always a Mum, but not all conversations involve animal noises or songs with actions as much as I enjoy it.

There is no secret that I have had a rocky road with my Mum. It has never been a blame issue, as who cares. It is however healing to know that she does now have some past regrets but that she adores being a Grandmother. A decade ago conversations with her were stilted and dutiful, now they are fun! Over the past few months she has been particularly generous, helping out when our car failed and, more importantly, particularly thoughtful bringing us veg from her garden.
Secondly, we have just had our tenth wedding anniversary and it is still great to be married. Since then we have been around the Monopoly board a few times: my father died, I have done a masters, had jobs, run an organisation, set up a company and now I am, give or take, a stay at home Mum. Throughout this the Hubster has been constant and now that he is the primary earner he never makes me feel a junior partner or expects me to take the full burden of domesticity.
Finally, three cheers for my friends. Most of my good friends live many miles and sometimes continents away - we are not from these parts and I have never worked in this area since we moved in. This weekend I had Aunty Bat to stay (name changed to protect the guilty). It was great to see my little pink princess in the thrall of a statuesque, gothic, platinum bombshell. If I was worried that my brain had turned to baby mush Aunty B was generous as we giggled, discussed and set the world to rights.
My reason to be cheerful is that I am so lucky with my family and friends. I am looking forward to reading some of the other reasons. This blog hop is becoming the highlight of my blogging week.

This week Mama Owl is hosting the log hop because Mich is off doing inspirational things in Ethiopia - Mama Owl with her great post has given a little insight into what is going on. I feel really quite humbled by her post, it really highlights how lucky we are and so much of what we take for-granted is a luxury.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


Tara from Sticky Fingers is particularly prescient with her theme this week: yellow. Did you read about the desecration of a Rothko this in the name, ironically, of art? A new movement called Yellowism as instigated by two rather deluded individuals.
So to be topical in my celebration of yellow.

It looks a bit crap doesn't it? It is the work of the amazing Linda Sgoluppi and let me tell you she is more an impossible name to spell. The picture hangs in my room and gives me such pleasure, it seems to change colour as the light changes throughout the day, at certain times the base coat of yellow shimmers.

That is better! Yellowism and it pseudo art is indicative of much crap that it dumped in the name of art. (No, the Duchamp urinal is not in the category). I am thinking about things like the artistic temperament or diva tendencies, a tenuous excuse for bad manners - or for that matter the moron who defaced Rothko.

Looking through my pics I came across this pic - it is defying Tara's rule that she wanted the yellow to be bright, but then I am going way off piste for this theme. It is a chance to name check another talented person. This was taken at niece's christening in the crypt at the Houses of Parliament (had to drop that name, I tell you I was impressed). A mellow yellow of a lovely memory thanks to my sister in law's friend the amazing photographer Mel Wilde

Monday, 8 October 2012

Vomiting hiatus

I had plans for a creative Monday again but there must be a hiatus while I am vomited upon. He started retching last night and has continued all day, cheerful up to the point at which he erupts.
He has the Hubster's comic timing. After a simple lunch bounced he regained composure, then he looked at me with utter disgust and slowly and deliberately pulled some potato skin from his mouth and flung it to the floor.
That done he turned away and looked again for something to destroy play with!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Reasons to Be Cheerful

Week 2 of the loveliest blog hop on the web - thanks to Mummy From the Heart: I give you my Resasons to be Cheerful.

The best things in life are the simplest, and this reason to be cheerful is as simple as it gets and in these recessionary times it is totally free. They say that simple things please simple minds, and yes, that makes me a simpleton. I am content to be dumb and happy.

My reason to be cheerful is the feeling of a little hand in mine, looking down at DB and Pickle. It is also that last kiss before I go so bed - kissing the forehead of a child, at rest, content and asleep.

I love walking to school with Pickle, she is the perfect height that she fits comfortably beside me, my hand resting on our shoulder so that we seem to move as one. Sometimes we chat, and other times we just seem to listen to each over breath.

DB has now been walking for many months, he can run and scale a ladder. He understands so much, and sees the world in his own by special way. Often I will say to him that unless he comes hold my hand I will put him into his pushchair so he toddles over hand held high. I take his hand and smile!

I have run organisations, had accolades and successes but being hand in hand with my children gives me the purest sense of joy. That feeling that the world is spinning on the right axis and despite any chaos my life is good.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


I put my fitness down to one running fanatic. He is most assertive and he never lets me have a day off, come rain or shine. He is eager, he is energetic, he has stamina and when he runs you can see the muscles rippling.
When my last pregnancy went to term and I avoided pre-eclampsia I put it down to him; despite my fatigue and all weather conditions he has me out there stomping along paths and panting up hills. I have a few issues with him: his breath is a little rancid and his table manners aren't up to much, but I love him and the Hubster is not jealous.
He just fixes me with his large brown eyes and I know that I will be out again, my hour and a half walk that keeps pudding status at bay. Isn't he handsome? My own personal fitness coach. xx

Mr Woof

Catch up Mum!

This is a post for the StickyFingers #gallery - you can see more my clicking on the badge to the right. Enjoy :)

Monday, 1 October 2012

The tense moment

I'm in a strange room, with strange people; furtive smiles, self conscious shuffling, some random chatter and embarrassed silences. It is the start of my new course 'An introduction to counselling'. There is no tribal coherence, a wide range of ages and styles. The teacher arrives early and apologises for being late, I feel like a school girl again as we rearrange the furniture in some bazaar table Tetris. Everything is in hushed tones.

I have no idea what to expect, but it is a departure. It could be another dog leg, a dead end or the start of a new career. My only aim is to come away knowing the questions that I need to ask so that I can further research my quest of what I want to do when I grow up.

Heavy irony, I may still be asking that question when I retire as my so called career has had more false starts that a sprint race at a shooting range.

Avoiding eye contact smile and look down at the shoes. Shoes are no mirror to the soul only sole, so here is the tally.
Trainers 6 pairs - one pop art they're
Mary Janes 2 pairs
Sensible lace ups 1 pair
Court shoes 5 Paris, from navy mid heal to red now ballerina style
Healed leather boots 4 prs
Leather clogs (soft sole) 1 pair
Lecturer - sensible black, soft flat Mary Janes

I start the session full of certainty. Asking questions, certain of answers, voicing opinions. My only internal dialogue at this stage is querying the talking: listening ratio; comparing myself in this verses previous social settings.

We do some listening, answering, observing in groups of three. My confidence never falters. I enjoy drilling down into the answers, not offering opinions but delving for more information. I am never stuck for what to say next, enjoying the dance.

The final plenary and my certainty dissolves into the abyss of my soul. I ask about the logistics of our quest to become counsellors, the viability of jobs, the cost of training, details, details WILL YOU PLEASE GIVE ME DETAILS!

A voice pipes up, saying that there is no certainty, no guarantees that any course will give you jobs "people who do masters and PHDs end up working in clothes shops". The pervasive question is 'how does it make you feel' and that comment about uncertainty made me feel threatened and insecure, I attributed aggression to the speaker. 'Yes', I counter 'but within any decision making process you have some parameters based on the odds or the risks involved'. The Lecturer skilfully returns me to my safe zone by a comment that we never know where we will end up. She seems to be using the skills for her day job so well, but is does NOT ANSWER THE BLIMIN QUESTION of what are the odds of this being another dead end, desperado leap of faith.

Suddenly my world comes to rest again, I see the genesis of my emotions. Every ten years I have jumped out of one career into another, all enthusiasm with initial success only to be find myself out on a limb again, emotionally and financially as I find that is is another great meander. I appreciate my career as tangentially building on experience, making me who I am with a range of highly valuable skills just waiting to be harnessed.

I feel embarrassed and isolated by speaking up, having hoped that I was asking generic questions of use to the whole group I now feel isolated. I left feeling unsteady, hollow and misunderstood. I reanalyse my group contributions, was I trying too hard always to speak up but then mitigate the individuality of my questions. My rational soul appreciated that I am doing this course for my career and livelihood not as a popularity test. Instead I have just hurled myself into an emotional maelstrom.

I come back home and chat about the experience. the Hubster applauds my rationale and the line of my enquiry, I smile as appreciate how he influences my actions - not an entirely bad thing. I can also appreciate and understand my range of emotions. I expect tonight will be a little restless, but in the interests of this potential career I think appreciating my emotions and the reasons behind them can only be worthwhile. I do need to answer the logistical questions, but whatever the outcome it will be an interesting journey and that should offer its own reward.