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The first question I am always asked is ‘How long have you lived up North?”

As someone who has spent more of my life in the North of England than time elsewhere I am always disappointed to be classed as an ‘oftcumden’ (as they say in Lancashire).

By accident of birth I am an Essex girl. And there I leave the stereotype. I don’t possess white stilettoes and am rarely to be seen dancing around my handbag. I do like jewellery shops and ‘bling’ however but that might just be genetic.

I refuse to believe that destiny is always determined by origin or accent. Mine incidentally is now much softer and full of borrowed war of the roses intonation, living as I have in both Yorkshire and Lancashire for the past forty plus years.

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No means No!

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When my eldest son was two years old he was a consummate actor. Hurling himself face first onto the ground, red with rage, he would wail loud enough to be heard in Blackpool.

Andrew wasn’t too fussy about his audience and would think nothing of lying down in dramatic fashion, middle of the supermarket, to shamelessly exploit the embarrassment of his mum. Not getting his own way was a complete travesty of justice in his view and the world should hear about it! (I will be reminding him of this when he has children of his own!)

There can be few more public places to run the gauntlet of disapproving onlookers than Tesco. Every one of them secretly felt relieved that curly haired bundle of fury wasn’t with their child, every one of them a silent, disapproving witness to my parenting ability- or lack of it!

Happily, the defiant phase didn’t last very long- but at the time it seemed endless. Every well-planned shopping trip became, in my minds eye, a potential battle field and I would plan for it like a well trained commando.

His brother was much more placid. Sam did however perfect the art of becoming rigid, like a cardboard cut out every time we tried to put him into his car seat and he would object very strongly to being put down if I needed to do any housework. I wouldn’t swap either of them however for all the tea in China.

Of course it would be so much easier if we were all given user manuals when first handed our babies. Instead like most parents, I made it up as I went along.

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Are you dancing?

dancers

I love ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and so, as a Christmas gift this year my husband brought me some dance lessons. Not any old dance lessons oh no, Mr D has decided that 2015 is the year that we learn how to dance the Argentine Tango.

If you are a fan of strictly then you’ll know all too well that it’s that dance with all the leg flicks and complicated twirling.

I suspect that you can picture the scene. In my head Ian and I twirl around in perfect synchronicity to a gorgeous melody from Buenos Aires. In reality a few toes are routinely trampled and we try very hard not to giggle as we mess up yet another routine. Carnage! Some of the other dancers take it so seriously- you just have to laugh! I don’t think I will ever score a ten from Len.

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You’ve got a friend…

twins

As a twin I have never really been alone. I was born with a partner in crime and shared mum and dad right from the start.

My sister and I are fraternal twins- non-identical, we barely look related these days, I also claim to be taller and wiser. Funnily enough our teachers really struggled to tell us apart, a challenge made even harder because mum chose to dress us in identical clothing. Our junior teacher had great idea however and made us wear different coloured ribbons.

My sister was good at maths and hated writing, I loved writing and struggled with maths. You can probably already guess what we conspired to do. Yes, we swapped our coloured ribbons regularly and conveniently throughout the day, to capitalise on individual talents. We delighted in confusing ‘Miss’ but had to become adept at answering to each other’s name. (Sorry mum.)

Looking back through my highly refined teacher lens I have one question:

How on earth did we get away with it?

Was she myopic or did she simply never look up from her desk?

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The Best in Everyone

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Mrs Hicks was my favourite primary school teacher. To a seven-year-old she seemed to be the oldest, wisest and funniest lady in school. She was also very, very scary. My goodness you would never want to make her cross! She could make you cry with a single click of her false teeth, drawing a deep breath she would say your name slowly and deliberately:

‘Lesley Ann,’ she would shout, ‘stand beneath the school clock for the whole of playtime!’

Oh the shame of it! Every teacher would tut at you as they entered the acrid, smoke-filled staffroom. You were ‘well done’ as they say. But not in a shiny gold star way. In my case doubly ‘done’ because my twin sister would delight in making sure mum found out too!

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How do you spend family time?

bonfire night

As a child I hated fireworks. I think this aversion came from my mum. Anyway on bonfire night every year our family would eschew the traditional firework display and go instead on a pilgrimage to the cinema. My brother and sister would see some adventure film or other with dad, and mum and I would choose something more cultural – Anne of a Thousand Days was one such gem.

On really exciting years there would be a new James Bond released and we would queue for ages in the inclement British weather in order to secure a seat. These were special family times and became over the years part of our rich tapestry of family tradition.

Family time is really important for young children. Some of my nicest memories of growing up revolved around the dinner table and dinner time conversations. Some evenings we would still be at the table late into the evening – my dad played his piano and we would make up silly songs and dances. I hope my own children recall our daily tea-time laughter and debates with such fondness – they were definitely as noisy!

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