#atinylife Fire by Di Hervey

Uyeasound Up Helly Aa


Dark nights and secrets,

Words cut short,

Explosions of laughter;

Bright, half sewn garments

Whisked out of sight.

Beards bristle, half grown.

Charity shops raided,

Those size 12 winkle pickers

Find a buyer; red bloomers too.

Beards bushy, wild in the wind.



Galley shed packed tight with guizers –

Space men, Salmon, Clangers, Nuns.

Generous tots poured by bearded Jarls,

Resplendent heroes, smiling now,

Yet fierce with shield and axe and raven helm.

Out into black night, torches held high,

Flames stream in the wind.

Upright in dragon galley,

Circled by torch bearing monster slaves,

A smile on his face,

Guizer Jarl, focus of fierce joy.

Arcs of fire as

Torches are tossed.

Deep roar of flame

Sparks brighter than stars

Gut wrenching awe

Recalls the nights those raiders came,

Those nights of fire and terror long ago.

#atinylife Skiving

Today I have been thinking about…skiving

A Scottish word, this, skiving is slacking off when you should be working. As a Scot, but also of Eastern European heritage, I pride myself on a double cultural work ethic. Normally when I feel guilty about skiving it’s because I’ve only written a thousand words and redrafted a chapter and a blog post.

But yesterday for some reason I couldn’t get down to it. Hours were frittered away on social media, which is meant to be only one part of my work. I was skiving and I knew it. Skiving Pic

Then something else happened. The house, which has been going into a steep cleanliness decline since I got a contract, became of interest. I wanted, needed to clean it.


The door was shut tight, but the window was banging on the outside wall.

#atinylife Trapeze by Becky Cunningham


Parenthood is a juggling act, they say.

But I don’t like that image at all:


The parent as a clown.

An audience giggling.

Ready to be amused.

Counting how many eggs you keep in the air. Speculating what you might drop: the career egg, the marriage egg, a child perhaps?
I choose another circus metaphor:


The parent as a trapeze artist.

An audience gaping. Ready to be amazed.

You climb up determinedly, swing wildly, throw yourself into the unknown. Sometimes caught, wrist tight, by another trapeze artist. Sometimes grasping the bar alone, clinging by fingertips, sailing onwards. Sometimes free-falling into unplanned empty space.

But always there is a safety net below – and your audience does not laugh, for you’re not a clown. Instead, hear them applaud your grace and your bravery even as you climb the ladder to try again.

#atinylife Signing

Today I have been thinking about…big life.

What happens when someone or something steps into your tiny life and offers you a glimpse at a big life?

Several Sundays ago, I got a life-changing email.

It was a good, life-changing email, but nevertheless, when you like your life pretty much how it is, thanks, the idea of going out into the big wide world again can be unsettling.

Here’s a quick seven ideas on how to maintain a tinylife in your big life.Signing

  1. It’s OK to not know what you’re doing,
  2. It’s OK to be scared,
  3. It’s OK to ask for help,
  4. Try to stay grounded,
  5. Nature can soothe,
  6. Keep coming home, and…probably most importantly…
  7. Work out, and then remember who is in your circle. They’ll be the people that hold you through the craziness of big life.

#atinylife Mess

Today I have been thinking about…Mess

Mess. Constant, self-perpetuating, frustrating mess. What’s so tiny or cheerful about mess?

Mess means that you own things. If you have a messy floor, it’s because you have a floor.

If you have stuff strewn all over a table, you own a table, and stuff, strewn all over it.

If you have toys underfoot, then you probably also have children. Yes, some adults own toys, but this is not a blog about that. Mess

If you are tidying a mess, it’s because you have time to do it.

I know you don’t feel like you have the time, but you are doing it, so you must have the time, somehow.

And maybe you’re tidying so you can Hoover™: it’s the only reason I tidy mess. Which means you have electricity.

Mess. A good thing.

#atinylife Eternalhopelist² by Nicola Royan

At the top of my list of eternal hope is a tidy house. I’m not a naturally tidy person, so as a practical hope it is fairly pointless, but interesting as a symbolic one.

Sometimes, I read that hope as symbolic of the failures of a working mother: the inability to lay hands on the most recent bank statement or the vital leotard is proof that I am missing my maternal (and uxorious) Key Performance Indicators. This makes me cross.

At other points, domestic untidiness seems to mirror the complexities of work and the multiplicity of these current academic KPIs, many of which seem out of my reach. That makes me melancholy. Both make me mutinous.eternalhopelist squared

What to do? Reject the completely-internalised cultural hegemonies of domestic space and professional achievement? It would probably be easier to just tidy the house.

#atinylife Self-Raising

Ingredients: Self Raising Flour 450g, Butter 110g, salt, enough milk to bind.

Method: Rub the butter into the flour and salt, add the milk, and stir the minimum amount to bind. Handle the mixture sparingly, stamping out shapes with your cutter of choice, wash with milk, and bake on a sheet at 200◦C for 12 minutes.


I’ve got everything I need.

I can’t manage with plain flour, oil won’t work instead of butter.

But others can.

Other people have to make do.Raising

Working the mixture between my hands, I bring happy thoughts to mind:

music in the kitchen helps.

Distracted, unhappy stirring makes your cakes sink in the middle,

your scones will crouch, flattened by your attention.

I pull the mixture together,

catching crumbs clinging to the side of the bowl,


trying not to mould too much, hold too much.


#atinylife Mill by R L McKinney

There used to be two paper mills in the glen below my house, but it takes an archaeologist’s eye to see them now.

You’ll find traces if you know where to look: the bit of railway track in the Esk, the broken concrete blocks under the birch roots, the knobbled trunk of a fallen monkey puzzle tree that once stood in the mill owner’s garden. Mill

With a little help, the dereliction of industry returns to earth.

Now we walk there and mark the seasons by snow drops and crocuses, savoury shoots of wild garlic, gorse blossom, the progression of greens, yellows, reds and browns as summer turns the corner.

We make campfires and dens, search out frog spawn and blackberries.

This place gives me hope: that wildness will creep between the cracks and that nature will win, in the end.