Teenage Dirtbag?

Next month our youngest turns thirteen and we will be parents to three teenagers. It’s a tough ride with some fun times inbetween but the weird thing is it takes us back ten years to when they were little kids.

We were a little slapdash and had three children within four years. It’s a bit of a blur looking back … the  extreme sleep deprivation (and I mean extreme), the tantrums, the temperatures, the toing-and-froing from ball parks to swimming pools to the dreaded swings-and-slides of Peckham Rye. The late nights, the early starts. The tears at bedtime, shouting at requests to tidy-up, the hump when asked to hurry up or pick socks off the floor…

One of the main differences between these groups of self-obsessed non-adults is advice and shared experience. You have it coming at you from every direction when they are little – health visitors, NCT, a network of stay-at-home parents to drink tea with, Tumble Tots and music classes …

But where’s the manual when they hit teenagehood?

You’re kept at arms’ length from their teachers, there’s no health visitors, no more play-dates, just grumpy young people slouching round your kitchen and eating the contents of your fridge and raiding the drinks cabinet.

I have no answers, just observations. Here’s my top five list of what separates/unites toddlers from/to teenagers:

1. Wine: when they are toddlers you can’t wait for Bedtime so you can have a glass of wine. When they are teenageers you have to hide the wine from them before they drink it when you have gone to bed.

2. Bed: when you have a toddler you have to get up at the crack of dawn and watch ridiculous television. When they are teenagers you have to drag them out of bed while it is still daylight.

3. Self-obsession: toddlers think the world revolves around them. Teenagers think the world revolves around them.

4. Boundaries: toddlers need to know there are boundaries so they can push them. Teenagers: what are the boundaries?

5. Hugs: toddlers like to wrap their legs and arms around you, even when you are busy and otherwise occupied e.g. at the checkout or on the loo. You have to hunt down your teenager to get a hug off them (but it’s worth the effort – especially in front of their friends).

So my conclusion? Supply secondary schools with play equipment. Let every classroom have a sand and water tray and a box of dressing up clothes. Teenagers need to have fun and play and act like toddlers every now and then … and give them a hug whether they want one or not…

And will someone please write that elusive manual for me.


Oh, Betty

Coronation Street is one of the best written, funniest, most poignant, outrageous programmes on British telly. And the acting is of the highest quality. With her withering looks, cutting sarcasm, and dirty laugh, Betty Driver is one of the greatest. She has sadly passed away, aged 91, and will be sorely missed. But never forgotten.


Arise Sir Bruce…

Great excitement in the Duffy household as Sir Brucie is finally knighted. For those of you out there who don’t know, my debut novel The Generation Game was published this summer and is in part homage to Sir Bruce and the other TV stars of my childhood. So I was thrilled to see that Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden are made OBEs – which makes a full set of Goodies as Bill Oddie got his a few years ago.

And Bernard Cribbins got an OBE too. I remember him clearly from the 70s … The Railway Children …. Jackanory ... The Wombles … what a voice. So glad he’s been honoured and good to know that her Majesty likes a bit of nostalgia too!

And from the world of literature there’s an MBE for novelist Kate Atkinson and for children’s laureate Julia Donaldson. Both very popular in our house. Congratulations.


Check out the BBC link for more details…


Go Brucie, go…




Mental Health Awareness Week

As Mental Health Awareness Week begins, I’m wondering how I only just found out that this event is happening. Why is it not a well-known fact? Maybe because we still don’t like to talk about mental health in this country? We might flippantly throw around comments like ‘you’re so OCD’ and ‘she’s schizo’ and ‘I wanted to slit my wrists’ but would we do this about cancer? Don’t we approach cancer and other life-threatening conditions with more openness and gravity and respect?

As a sufferer of depression I would like to speak up now for anyone with mental health issues – we get sick like anyone else with a physical illness. We should talk about it. Not get embarrassed and hide it. Even if you yourself have not been diagnosed with this kind of illness then you most probably know someone who has – even if you are unaware of it.

And if  you are suffering and haven’t yet got help, then look for it – it is out there. Start with the Mental Health Foundation or Mind. http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/mhaw/   http://www.mind.org.uk/

“People’s lack of understanding and unfounded fears can be just as destructive as the mental health problem itself.”

It’s time to talk, it’s Time to Change.

Back to the Future

There were some classic Hollywood blockbuster films back in the eighties: Top Gun, Ghostbusters, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Beverly Hills Cop, Gremlins, Flashdance, Fame, An Officer and a Gentleman, Big, Tootsie… a whole load  of movies that cashed in on merchandise and music and videos and the cult of the film star… But one has stayed with me for some reason and that is Back to the Future …

I first saw it on its release in Canada with a good friend in 1985. It blew me away – one of those films which you have to keep on playing inside your head to make sense of it all:  the way it plays with time and destiny and the decisions we make – it is a much deeper film than the slick production, special effects and fab actors suggest.

It was great to see it again on telly tonight, watching it for the hundredth time but now with my daughter who was equally blown away. It’s hardly aged – except that the ‘present’ of the film – 1985 – is now very much in the past – 26 years ago! Though for us teenagers of the eighties it seems like yesterday…

For anyone who has read my novel The Generation Game, you will see that I am slightly obsessed with the seventies and eighties – my childhood and teenage years. I love nostalgia and anything vintage or retro – you should see the junk I’ve collected in our house. It’s not just looking back with rose-tinted glasses – I remember Mrs Thatch all too clearly – the miners, the unemployment, the negative equity, the end of society and the worship of money and the individual (I went on the marches…Smash the Tories!!!). But I also remember a happy childhood with only three TV channels and a pogo stick.

So Back to the Future offered excitement and deep existential questions, a type of science fiction that has never grabbed me since, as it is founded in the possible. OK, so time travel isn’t necessarily possible but it is something that we as humans are drawn to. ‘Space the final frontier’? – actually, no it is quite possibly ‘time’. What would you do if you could go back and change one thing? I know what I would do … but you out there will never know that…. Each of us has our own regrets and it is what we do with those regrets that matters.

To Infinity and Beyond


‘You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle. ‘ Steve Jobs 2005