Living Between the Lines

Hold the Front Page…or maybe not!

When I was a child, at primary school, we were always asked to write about our weekend on a Monday morning. Were you? The Blackboard had the day’s date and the word ‘News’ scrawled on it in thick, white chalk and both were heavily underlined lest we be left in any doubt.

The book in which we wrote was, invariably, a yellow covered exercise book. The pen we wrote with, varied from year to year. Hence, first efforts were in the thick black charcoal pencils that our stubby fingers could grasp more easily, while later efforts were produced with fine nibbed fountain pens that tended to leak in one’s pencil case and stain one’s fingers.

The title could be decorated to one’s own fancy. That was often my favourite part, decorating the letters with coloured pencil. Loops and swirls, tiny flowers hanging from the letter N. There were no rules to how we carried out this exercise,

“Just let your imaginations fly!” we were told.

Mine did.

I had a vivid imagination according to my teachers, essential for a writer I feel. However, I worried about what to put in the news book if nothing much had happened at the weekend. Invariably, nothing much did when you were 9 years old, the age I was when this tale begins.

Entries read much the same each week. I am sure the entire class wrote variations on the same theme.

“…went to see my grandparents”

“played with Jane/John/the dog”

“went to the park and fished in the pond,”

It was a bonus if one had had a birthday over the weekend. Then there would be plenty to write about.

I did try to spice mine up a little by describing events in detail but essentially, nothing much ever happened in the real world.

Luckily, these boring diatribes would be interspersed with the occasional gem, saved up just for this occasion.

With nothing much to say about the weekend on one such Monday morning, I was delighted to write that a black bull had run up our street just as I was leaving for school and my mother had to shut the gate and haul me back indoors. (Monday morning news was allowed as well). I wrote at length about this amazing event (we lived in a town) that eclipsed anything else that had happened over the weekend. I handed in my work, flushed with anticipation.

My teacher flipped through the books, her pen ticking and crossing as she went. At break she came over to me with my book, laid it in front of me and said, not too unkindly, “Deborah, you have a great imagination but news should be what has really happened,”

I was mortified,

“But Mrs Anderson, it did happen…” I began.

I could tell by her face she did not believe me though she did not get me to rewrite the piece.

That evening, the local paper carried a picture of a little black bull who had escaped from its truck and was to be seen running up a familiar looking street at 8.30 In the morning. Apparently, it had jumped out of a cattle truck and was making a bid for freedom instead of heading to Romford farmer’s market.

I was vindicated! Indeed, I think I was first with the Scoop!

I reveled in the questions put to me the next day by the other children, who had now heard about it and I accepted my teacher’s astonished,

“Well I never!” as an apology.

It must have been a couple of years later on another Monday morning, having progressed to writing something we called, Weekly Diary instead of simply, News, that I dressed for school, full of expectation. I had something to write about, it was on the tip of my tongue. I had woken up knowing exactly what to write. I had felt pleased that this item was interesting and looked forward to setting it down on paper. The feeling remained with me over breakfast and throughout the walk to school.

Registration was over, our ‘Diaries’ were handed out and I opened mine. I began writing today’s date. I would decorate the title later. I must start writing before the words disappeared, before the feeling died…before…

…I stared at the paper and realization washed over me.

I was about to write about the trip I had taken on an aeroplane. I wanted to write about the houses and trees looking so small below me, the sun glinting on the wing, how the stewardess had smiled at us and handed out orange squash…

Only she hadn’t had she?

It had all been a dream. I did not have a great idea for my diary, I had not had the most exciting weekend ever and I had never, ever been on a plane.

I stared at the blank page and disappointment flooded through me. But that feeling had been so real, the excitement, the colours, the plane, it had all seemed so real. I sat there for a while feeling foolish.

My imagination had got the better of me this time – or had it?

After a while, I began to write,

“Last night I had the most amazing dream…”

I think I was destined to become a writer of fiction, scoop or no scoop…

computer generated decorative title


I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow


  • Teresa

    Oh yes, definitely destined to use your imagination you were! We used to do a similar thing at school and my efforts were often embroidered.
    Another great post, I loved your true tale of the bull – you do have a knack of reawakening the old memories (not that I remember bulls, but there was this golden eagle once…) x

  • susan swiderski

    Indeed, why tempt fate? You were undoubtedly blessed with the imagination of a writer. Thank you so much for paying my blog a visit today. Figured I’d repay the kindness. Glad I did, too. Nice to meetcha.

  • Patricia

    You have recalled a memory of my writing experience that did not serve me so well or was there ever an apology. My family did nothing over our summer holiday, thus when I started second grade and had to write my usually report of the summer, I wrote about our family taking a rocket ship to Mars and how we grew food in the water wells and had special dried foods and we all got along. The young teacher said “interesting”. She then proceeded to call my parents in to a special conference ( both teachers) and tell them about my lying and embellishing. None of them saw it as good writing or storytelling. My Mother was horrified and never let me forget it.

    A 5th grade teacher called my parents in too, to tell them that my writing was so very good in a report that I had written and it was just beyond the level of my peers. Did anyone even think it was because I was reading adult novels and the encyclopedia by the age of 5.?…my Mother was sure that I was making things up and storytelling for a factual report. I was afraid that the teacher who seemed to like me would find out what my mother knew for sure.

    The second grade teacher wrote her lying remarks in my permanent records and that would follow me all the way to graduate school and I would be sent for special counseling sessions before I could graduate.

    I have also discovered that I am a very strong mental intuitive and I can integrate ideas very quickly….my sister who is logical and mathematical thinker and can hardly read can not understand most of what I say and refers to me as a liar so much that I just try to stay away from her all the time now.

    It is only through writing my blog that I am starting to believe that I write well and that storytelling is a gift….to keep myself honest I do not try fiction often, I feel more comfortable in essay mode… When some one compliments my writing, I am still feeling guilty first and looking over my shoulder. Even though I understand the difference and Integrity is my guiding value and principle.
    Wow, It felt interesting to write this… I can feel how this part of my life fuels my insecurities.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Deborah Barker

      Oh Patricia, what a sad experience you had and how misunderstood you must have felt. To be accused of lying when one is just using one’s imagination is awful. There would be no stories in the world without imagination. As for writing, you do it so well, I have never guessed that you were ever convinced otherwise. I do hope your insecurities fade with each word you write. Such experiences can colour our lives without us realising.

  • Andrea Carlisle

    Thank you for this, Deborah. I, too, remember dreams that seemed to real I wanted to expand them into stories. For some children there’s hardly a line between the two. Luckily, eventually we grow up and can give ourselves permission to write whatever the hell we want. “News” stories be damned.

  • John Cowton

    Writing was most certainly your destiny Deborah. I really enjoyed your account and also enjoyed reading the comments that your writing evokes in your readers.
    I remember having to write on our first day back at school what we did on our holidays. I wrote a complete cock and bull story that whilst on holiday in Llandudno I was called onto the stage with other children to enter a competition and I won it. the prize was £100 a princely sum to win these days, but I wrote this story in the 1950’s! My teacher didn’t tell me off. She just wrote in red pen underneath, ‘did you really.’ Even at that tender age the embarrassment that response caused me was far worse than the corporal punishment that was around these days.
    If only I had written the truth, which was far more interesting. I had been to Llandudno open air theatre and children were invited to go on stage for a competition. It was a talent show. My parents tried their utmost to get me on stage, but there was no way I was going up there, not even under general anaesthetic. My younger sister never suffered my shyness and she sang on stage with Archie Andrews of ‘Educating Archie’ fame on the radio. All the children were given a prize, a goodie bag. I guess sibling rivalry got the better of me when I went back to school. Now over 50 years later I am so proud of my sister for having the courage to do what I couldn’t but clearly wanted to.
    Incidentally, did you have to cover your school exercise books with wallpaper. Lots of schools did and I could never see the point in it.

    • Deborah Barker

      Hi John, love your story about the Llandudno experience! You are right to be proud of your sister – Archie Andrews eh? My elder sister had a glove puppet Archie – now I am thinking, Lenny the Lion and all those oldies…as for covering books, in Grammar school we had to cover every book in wall paper until we graduated to sticky clear plastic on rolls which we had to buy ourselves! No one seemed remotely embarrassed by the different wallpapers that were displayed, some hideous LOL! I confess to enjoying the moment when I covered my first book in plastic and the teacher told me off for not covering it. I had to persuade him that there really was a plastic cover on there. He was not convinced for some time.

  • Hilary

    Hi Deborah .. well that must have been a shock to the neighbourhood about “the little black bull who must” … I guess it must be difficult to distinguish between eager imaginations and the truth .. but the dream starter – excellent …

    I don’t really know if I was put down at school – but I was away from home .. and at that stage didn’t have much aptitude for school work .. scraping along, one of few who didn’t go to Uni .. etc; thankfully I enjoyed sport.

    One day I might get to do a University course .. for now – I get my lessons from bloggers and by blogging .. and living life –

    Glad you’ve kept on story telling!! Cheers Hilary

    • Deborah Barker

      Hi Hilary, I actually wrote an entire novel (not published) on the basis of a dream I had so dreams can be very useful to a writer. Fiction definitely suits me, that and blogging! Perhaps we should all be given degrees at certain stages of our lives, simply from lessons learnt!

  • injaynesworld

    Deborah, you’re a lovely writer. I really enjoyed this. It’s shocking to me that these days schools are not even teaching handwriting because everyone is using computers. But there’s something special about setting words down on paper, a step in the creative process that so many will now never know. I’m so glad you stopped by my blog and look forward to getting to know you and your work. I’m a new follower!

    • Deborah Barker

      Hi Jayne, thank you for following 🙂 Let’s hope the skill of handwriting does not completely die out. One prolonged power cut and we will surely need it again. Hmmm I wonder if they once said the same about chalk and slate?

  • Deb

    There’s no doubt in my mind that you were always meant to be a writer. What a wonderful story. It’s interesting that I have my kids talk about their weekends on Monday so the whole class can participate – sort of like a huge dinner table. It’s a great way to start the week. I would love to have had you as a student. 🙂

    • Deborah Barker

      Hi Deb, I love the sound of your Monday morning group chat! Lucky children indeed. I was often reprimanded for talking too much (either that or for staring out of the window in a day dream) but I am sure I could have contributed to a group chat such as you describe. As you say, what a great way to start the week!

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