Monday, 28 July 2014

And now for something completely different

Since we are moving to Wales we are going to have a bit of a lifestyle change. No more popping into London for us. We used to do that an awful lot and it was a blast.

 But it was expensive.

 Terrifically expensive.

 We are so very lucky that where we are going is a university town and so many of our favourite comedians often tour the college circuit. Marcus Brigstocke was there just a month or two ago. Carmarthen also boasts a cinema (for when Joe Hill’s film Horns based on his incredible book is finally released) as well as a playhouse for the theatre. The university theatre department is also there and I am sure we will see some great student productions as well.

But mostly we are going to walk.

 And hike.

 And be in the green wide open spaces.

 And look for wildlife.

 We’re armed with a bat detector and a set of cool Nordic walking poles from some amazing friends of mine.

 But we wanted one last thing. One last special day out. One last glorious hoorah.

 And we did it. There could have been *nothing* better than this.

 As our last hoorah in London we went to see

Monty Python’s Flying Circus Live!!!!!!

I know! I know! It was the last night of their One Down, Five to Go tour.

It was bloody brilliant (but I don’t need to tell you that, do I?)

Man, they were old. Really old. But still as funny as ever.

And Carol Cleveland? Oh yeah. She was still a babe.

 It was an all singing, all dancing extravaganza (with young, fit dancers doing the silly walk as John Cleese has had two hip replacements and obviously can’t do it anymore) with old favourite songs like Sit On My Face and The Penis Song (with additional new verses)

Listen to the Penis Song here:

 It was a very good mix of the show and the films.

 For example…

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!!!!

If you do not know this from the show then watch it here:


1. Turn the rack (yes, ha ha…it is a kitchen rack)

2. Put her in the comfy chair. (oh yes…)

3. Go to the fridge and get her a glass of cold milk (what??? That’s not in the original)

 And then of course it hits me.

 BOOM. What’s in the fridge? Why only my favourite Python Eric Idle--who comes out of the fridge in the film The Meaning of Life to sing the Galaxy song!


This was followed by an *ingenious* video clip of dishy Professor Brian Cox explaining how the song was scientifically inaccurate and being run down by the actual Stephen Hawking in his motorised wheelchair after which “The Hawk” sang the Galaxy song with his robot voice manipulator.

 Utter fantastic. I nearly peed my pants when Stephen Hawking came zooming down the path and bumped off Brian Cox.

There were Poofy Judges and Llamas in Spanish

There was a good ole sing song to the Bruce’s Philosopher’s song (which I can play on the ukulele) Join in singing here:

 Albatross  (it’s bloody sea bird flavour!) turned into Nudge Nudge (Know what I mean…say no more!) Watch it here:

Pet shop turned into Cheese shop (they are both shops after all) and there was an enormous dead blue parrot outside. Watch here:

 Mr Anchovy wants to be a lion tamer segued beautifully into the Lumberjack song. There was this brilliant moment where the conversation went like this:

Mr Anchovy: I never wanted to be a lion tamer…I wanted to be a---
HUGE anticipatory laugh from audience. We all know what is coming next.
At least we thought we did.
Mr Anchovy: I wanted to be…a systems analyst.

 Wild applause from the audience. Which then turned into the song we all love. Incidentally, I can also play this on the ukulele.

 There were so many old favourites…My theory about brontosaurus’ by Anne Elk, Blackmail, Spam and Finland, Crunchy frog, argument clinic, the penguin on your telly is about to explode, Gumby flower arranging, Every Sperm is Sacred from Meaning of Life and so much more. There were animations (old and new), film footage from the show featuring Graham Chapman (the dead one who sadly couldn’t make it on account of being dead)  and my all time favourite clip from the show was featured--the Batley Townswomen's Guild re-enacting the battle of Pearl Harbour. Watch it here and be ready to cry with laughter.

But the end (which came all too soon) was the cleverly titled spontaneous encore-- a big sing along to Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from Life of Brian.

After rapturous applause and standing ovations and much cheering, a sign appeared on the screens on the stage.



So we did. With 15,000 other people who also wanted to take the tube home.


It was a long wait.

When we finally did get to the Tube station, the train driver made a very funny announcement.

 Ladies and gentlemen, those with a keen sense of smell will be able to smell the stink of jealousy coming from the cabin. I really wanted to go and see my heroes Monty Python on their last night of the tour, but instead I’m here just driving you all home. Sigh……

Which is why, when we got home at nearly 2am I could say:




Tuesday, 22 July 2014

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight

School is out.

The year has ended.

I have said my goodbyes and now it is time to clean house, sort through all our belongings and pack for the move.

 It was a very bittersweet ending for me at school because I was saying goodbye to so many people that I have come to love and care for. I was overwhelmed by the love and support of my colleagues and children.

I had a lovely leaving do at a local Curry House with all my teaching assistant friends. It was planned for me while we were away in Wales scouting for a place to live and so when I returned I was presented with a plan for a wonderful evening out. We went out on the cheap night--£9.95 for poppadoms and chutney, a starter (that’s an appetiser to my American peeps), a main dish and rice or naan bread. One of the other T.A.s has vegan friends and so she could advise me what were the vegan curries on the menu. The food was delicious and plentiful--I took some home for Spiderman. It was a spectacular evening out with good food and good friends and I am grateful to all the teaching assistants who have made my time at school so good. We are the lifeblood of that school. When everyone else is only in it for themselves or stabbing each other in the back--we are looking out for one another and providing a safety net in case one of us falls. I will miss you all.


I had a lovely leaving assembly as well. I have been at WD School for ten years and it was wonderful to think back over all the things I have tried to do to make it better. They showed the film of me when I was the finalist in the Teaching Assistant’s With Talent competition four years ago (you can watch it here: and it reminded me how much I love doing historical drama for the school. There’s an evacuee called Rose Peppercorn for year three (topic: Britain since 1940), Boudicca for year four (topic: the Romans and the Celts), Anne Boleyn for year five (topic: the Tudors) and a young housemaid called Flora Spencer for year six (topic: the Victorians) plus countless other small story tellings I have done. I have been lucky that my school has been up for anything I want to do. If I ask, they let me. Maybe this is the time to take my “stories on the road” and become a travelling storyteller in schools?    


In the assembly Mrs Smith asked children to say some things that they associate with me. There were many that I expected such as:

She loves spiders.

She is obsessed with the Wizard of Oz.

She likes drama.

 There were a few I didn’t expect, but really touched me.

She remembers when I was born. This is true. Her brother was in year 5 and was in my drama club.

When she puts a plaster on your knee she calls herself Dr Tisdale. This is true. It is part of “bedside manner” routine that I use to put children at ease during first aid. That and offering to chop their leg off and replace it with a wooden leg, an eye patch and a parrot. This inevitably ends with lots of “Arrrrgh Mateys” and “Yo ho ho and bottle of rum” which makes children laugh and stop crying over their minuscule injury.


She plays the ukulele. This is true. I bring Tallulah to school every December and go from class to class having a good ole Christmas carol sing-a-long. I also went to year six last year and talked about my experiences growing up in the segregated South and we sang Pete Seeger’s Where have all the flowers gone and We shall overcome together. 


She tells us stories on the playground. This is true. I have a group of followers when I am out on Thursday lunch duty who follow me around on the playground. They asked me for a story one time and so I told them a Greek Myth because they were studying that for their topic in class and the rest, as they say, was history. Every Thursday became story telling day. The last story I told was Persephone in the underworld. 


She knows a lot about moths. This is true. Recently there was a beautiful brown moth that was camouflaged and trying to hide itself on the wooden climbing frame on the playground. I spoke at length to a group of children about caring for it--watching and observing was fine, but not poking it with a stick to make it open its wings or trying to touch it as the oil from our fingers could disrupt the powdery coating on its wings and prevent it from flying.


She calls you Chick-a-dee. This is true. It is my go-to affectionate word for children. I sometimes use Sweetie or Darling, but mostly say Chick-a-dee.


She is really happy and full of joy. I try to be. I want to be that person who radiates love and kindness. I had a very nice card from a colleague which read,

I have never known someone quite as genuinely helpful, determined, generous, enthusiastic, unashamed, heartfelt and FABULOUS as you. 

This is what I want for my life and so I’m glad that it comes across. May it continue as we embark on our new adventure in Wales.

There were lots of amazing card and gifts. I had a beautifully wrapped copy of Dr Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go! As many times as I have given this book to graduates and the like, I have never had a copy for myself. I am a big fan of Dr Seuss--I do have the entirety of Horton Hears a Who memorised, after all.  Plus the handmade paper with rose petals in it will surely work its way into a craft project soon.

I got a cool handbag with a tarantula on it as well. When I walk down the street I can hear people gasping and trying to discretely point it out to the person they are with.

I had a very sweet pair of tiny spider earrings from a little girl in my class who wrote in her card that I was her creative role model. That pleased me enormously.

Lastly, I wanted to show you, my dearest readers, two of my favourite handmade cards.

I love this card because it has a treadle sewing machine drawn on it because “you make all your own clothes” There is also a little car drawn on it to remind me of the giver.


I love the message inside which must have taken him ages as he is a very reluctant writer:

Dear Mrs Tidstale

I wish you wernt leaving

Love from


OOO (hugs)

Lastly, a card that points me toward the future.


I am glad that I have had such a good time in England, in Hitchin, at WD school and I’m pleased to have been able to help and show so much love for ten years. May it continue for the next step of the journey.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Change is the way Life Lives Itself

Quaker Advices and Queries 28 says:

 Every stage of our lives offers fresh opportunities. Responding to divine guidance, try to discern the right time to undertake or relinquish responsibilities without undue pride or guilt. Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.

I have always struggled with change. I like to know what is going to happen, down to the last detail. For many years if things altered from my perceived plan, I was thrown completely into chaos and could not recover without major panic and tears. We call it the Blair family gene as so many of us on my mother’s side of the family struggle with this. Thankfully, with love and help from Spiderman I have mostly overcome this and am able handle change with a bit more grace.

Sharon Connors writes in her inspirational book Adventures in Prayer:

Change is actually the way life lives itself. Whether joyous or terrifying, change is an opportunity to satisfy the yearnings of our soul, to know more of what is possible for us. It is an opportunity to expand our mind and grow in wisdom and power. If we will prayerfully swim in the current of change rather than against it, we will find ourselves in the flow of Spirit that is directing our lives to safe shores. 

I spent a great deal of my early life fighting against the flow of change. Any experience outside my comfort zone was met with suspicion and was firmly ignored. The problem is, change happens whether we like it or not. Life is so much easier when you can go with the flow rather than against it.

Sue Sikking, minister and author writes:

We cannot stay in one place and say: “This is where I want to be. I don’t want anything else to happen to me. I want to be away from the fret and the worry.” This is not the way to happiness and contentment. And yet it is so human to want life and change on our own terms. We don’t want to have to change ourselves or have changes come upon us unless we have guarantees, unless we are “ready,”  unless it is going to be relatively painless. We cannot grow or discover our true potential, though, without allowing ourselves to change and be changed for the better.

Meeting Spiderman helped me perceive change differently. He showed me that change did not have to be bad, that the world outside my rigid way of thinking was a wonderful one. I would never have been brave enough to sell all my belongings and move half way across the world if it wasn’t for him. He made it seem like we would have a grand adventure, despite the hardships we might face.  He helped me understand that my fear of change had to do with not trusting God completely. If I really believed God had a plan for my life, then it would be wonderful and anything that was hard (like losing my father) would give me strength and resources I needed to grow. The change of my father’s death gave me the courage to quit my depleting teaching job where I was working 12-15 hours a day and have the adventure of opening a bookshop.  The flexibility of owning our own business meant that we could spent a month in Cardiff for our 10th wedding anniversary. This is when we decided we needed to move out of Louisiana  This led to us selling our large three bedroom house, two vehicles and most of our possessions and moving into a grotty studio flat in order to be ready for when the call for change summoned us. Two years later we were in England.

We have such mixed feelings about moving away to Wales. On one hand, we are so excited to be on our way to our next adventure. There are a lot of unknown changes about to come our way, but I feel calm facing them.   On the other hand, we feel the loss of what we have had here in Hitchin. We have lived in a beautiful town for ten years, we have had jobs that despite their ups and downs have brought us satisfaction and we have friends that we love as dearly as we do family.

Sharon Connors writes in Adventures in Prayer:

Even when we know that change is for the best, making it can be difficult. Even when the change is something we look forward to--a promotion at work, a marriage, a new home--there is a loss, a letting go of some kind. When we move on to a more promising  job, we must still get through letting go of a job in which we may have found great fulfilment and companionship.

 And so as Quaker Advices and Queries 27 says:

   Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak. When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join in with others in seeking clearness, asking for Gods guidance and offering counsel to one another?

We have chosen to have the adventure and not play it safe. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us next.