June Journals #18 ~ Exam Day


Karate Kids

Today it’s my children’s karate exam. I said back on day 5 of my June Journals that I didn’t know how I was going to get my daughter to do the exam when she was adamant she wasn’t.

In the comments I suggested a cunning plan of inviting Granddad to watch. It worked. Eventually.

To begin with, she cried and wailed when I said she had to do the exam because Granddad was coming. It felt like walking a tightrope. I hung in there through the tears and eventually we got to the bottom of her fear.

In the last exam, Sensei – the head of their particular club – came and ran through the bit of the exam my daughter finds hardest, the kata. It’s a sequence of moves (20 for hers) that have to be done in order. For the adults, it has to be done completely from memory, but the juniors have a ‘count’ and an indication of what comes next.

But Sensei was a little disappointed with their group and wasn’t afraid to show it. And if there’s one thing my daughter hates, it’s disapproval.

I’m afraid to admit (in case anyone who knows our karate club reads this!) that I put an image in my daughter’s head to ease her fear. An image of Sensei in a pink tutu and red heels – because for their last exam their examiner was a woman in high heels, who kicked butt doing the moves despite her footwear. And my daughter loves shoes!

I managed to get her laughing (rickety rope bridge across crocodile infested waters conquered!) and she admitted that she did really want to do the exam she was just scared.

That was a revelation for my husband and me. After the tears had passed, it seemed she wanted the push, she wanted to be made to do it: to have the decision taken from her. So, Miss Fanny P, you were right – sometimes you do have to shove them out their comfort zone.


My NZ Skydive

It reminds me of when I did a tandem skydive in New Zealand. I’m terrified of heights and was palpitating long before we reached 15,000 ft. If I hadn’t been strapped to the front of a person who had every intention of jumping from that plane, whether I wanted to or not, I would never have done it.

I was only in the plane in the first place because I’d met an 80-year-old granny who’d done it the day before.

It was amazing. I couldn’t breathe by the time we came out of free-fall, and I wouldn’t do it ever again if you paid me millions of pounds (well, possibly then), but when I landed I felt like I could conquer the world.

Fear. It’s a funny thing.

Perhaps my daughter and I need to read ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’.

A New Day Out: 2013 365 Challenge #245

My NZ Skydive

My NZ Skydive

We went on a new day out with the children today. We didn’t mean to be out all day, but sometimes these things sneak up. My cousin was booked in to tandem skydive at the local airfield and we went up to watch him jump. Last year we arrived just as he was landing so we went a little early, took some snacks, and got there before they did.

Unfortunately it turned out he wasn’t booked in, so we ended up waiting for three hours and leaving before his group were called, when the children started to flag. We’re wind burnt and exhausted, but it was a great day out.

There was so much going on. Not just the parachute flights but other small aircraft taking off and landing, people coming and going. Our kids played with their big second (third?) cousins, and some other children also waiting. We had snacks and burgers, coffee and ice cream and caught up with family we usually only see at weddings and funerals.

At the airfield

At the airfield

I also got to tell the children that Mummy did that once, Mummy jumped out of a plane at 15,000 feet. (It’s the only thing I’ve done that hubbie hasn’t). My second cousins were impressed, probably because I don’t look like someone who would throw themselves out of a perfectly good airplane. I wouldn’t do it again. I wouldn’t have done it then except they wouldn’t let me stay on board. Apparently it’s not safe landing the plane with people in (or that’s what they said. Thinking about it that’s probably rubbish!)

So it’s been an amazing day. Shame about the windburn and the exhaustion (not that the children are tired. They’re never tired!). What is it about wind that is so tiring? Maybe it’s dehydration. I’m definitely filing it away in my writer’s mental notebook for future reference.

And the airfield is a great place to take the children for an inexpensive day out. There was even a replica spitfire in the hangar as we walked up to the viewing area. Fantastic.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 


Claire inhaled the muggy scent of damp track and bushland and sighed.

This is what’s amazing about this country. You couldn’t wander through London and stumble across a bushland walk up a steep hillside.

If she closed her eyes, it was easy to imagine she was back in the Tongariro reserve, or up near Cape Reinga ready to hug the trees, rather than in the country’s capital city.

She could hear Josh’s steady breathing beside her. That was the difference. In the Tongariro Park the closest she had come to companionship was dodging Neal’s strange attempts at seduction. Having Josh alongside her was like pulling on her favourite sweater to stave off a chilly evening. Except it wasn’t so comfortable any more.

Claire thought through the new awkwardness of their relationship, as she kept pace with Josh’s long strides and tried not to pant with exertion.

What’s changed from when we travelled together? We weren’t involved, apart from that near kiss at the beginning. It didn’t matter that he had a wife and kids. But only because I didn’t know about them, I suppose. Would I have been happy sharing a bunk-bed with him if I’d known he was married?

Looking back on their time at the Hartington hostel, and the day trip in Cambridge, Claire remembered how altered Josh had been. When Fiona had been unknown, when she hadn’t met Lucas, Sophie and Lily, Josh had been hers. There were no complications, no guilt, no subtext. She hadn’t even worried that much whether she fancied him or not. All the Michael stuff had been too raw for her to want to dive headlong into something new.

Now that was old news it seemed she was a dog on heat. Because there was no doubt she ached to hold him. Every time his skin brushed against hers she felt on fire. Her senses zinged as if she’d been fed coffee on an intravenous drip since breakfast.

She kept glancing at him, trying to see if he felt the spark between them. If she caught his eye he just smiled or ran a little way, taunting her for her inability to keep up. On the surface he was the Josh of old. But now and then, when he thought she wasn’t looking, she knew he watched her. And of course there was the email. They hadn’t talked about that. Thanks to the strenuous walk they hadn’t talked about anything much.

That’s probably a good thing. It’s lovely to see him, but it will be better for all of us when he flies back to his wife and I finally get both feet on the south island.


After what felt like hours, they crested the hill and left the bush behind. Claire gasped at the unexpected view. All around and beneath her, Wellington sprawled out to the horizon. She groaned as Josh pointed to the steps leading up to the top of the lookout.

“No more climbing. My legs are on strike.”

“Do you want me to carry you?” Josh’s voice was playful but Claire gave a little shiver.

“It’s fine. I’ll walk. You may have to roll me back down the hill to the hotel though.”

Before he could say anything she strode past him, taking the stairs two at a time. She reached the top first and had a moment to catch her breath before he was once more standing too close for comfort.

“Told you it would be worth it.” Josh said, once he was breathing normally.

Claire turned, confused at his words, and realised he was talking about the view. “Yes. It’s nothing like Auckland, is it?”

“No. This is more the real New Zealand, I think. Look, there’s the airstrip.” Josh pointed at a ribbon of green stretching out into the ocean.

“Bugger that. Now I’m definitely taking the ferry south.”

There was a pause, and she realised it was the first time either of them had spoken of the future. She wondered if Josh would take the chance to explain why he had come. He leant his arms on the railing and looked around at the panoramic view. Claire sensed the tension in his shoulders, but didn’t have the words to break the silence. Instead she gazed at the snow-capped mountains in the distance, the harbour beneath her where the high-rise buildings were dwarfed by the surrounding hills. On the other side she could see a large circle of green that she decided must be a cricket pitch. And running through the buildings all the way to the horizon were thick bands of native bush.

What an amazing city.

“Claire, I …”

Josh’s voice cut through her reverie and made her hands tremble. There was so much loaded into two words. She turned to face him, studying his profile as he continued to gaze into the distance.

“I needed to see you. The truth is I’m–”


A voice cut through Josh’s words and Claire bit back a curse. With a deep sigh she turned and forced a smile onto her face.

“Bethan, hello.”

The girl rushed over, leaving behind a group of people Claire vaguely recognised from the ferry. Bethan’s ability to make friends astounded her.

“You didn’t get the ferry then? I thought you might, as it’s such a gorgeous day.” Then, sensing she was interrupting, Bethan looked towards Josh in confusion. “Oh, I’m sorry. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“No, it’s fine. Bethan this is Josh, Josh, Bethan. We were on the ferry together yesterday.”

Josh pushed away from the railing and turned to face the newcomer, shielding his eyes against the sun. He turned on his brightest smile and chatted to Bethan as if they were old friends.

Claire watched the mask slide back in place across his face and felt a heavy lump drop into her stomach. Whatever he had been about to say, the moment had passed. Following Josh and Bethan as they walked towards the other group, Claire wondered if she felt disappointed or relieved.