Five Films That Make Me Weep



I do not cry often, at least I very rarely cried or was able to keep it well hidden. Since my children arrived I have found myself being uncharacteristically emotional at some incredibly mundane things. This list however transcends all of that. This is a guaranteed snivel-fest for me.

Watership Down

It’s 1984, I am six years old and I am delighted that an actual children’s film is on on a rainy Saturday afternoon. One of my parents walks in as the credits begin, “Oh Watership Down, you will LOVE this” and meanders back out to attend to housework or whatnot. I do remember watching this film in it’s entireity on my own apart from the part where the seagull says ‘Shit’ when my Dad came in and I was terrified that I wouldn’t be allowed to watch the rest…but that aside, I sat gripped to this film. The savageness, the sadness, the men trying to fill in the rabbit warrens, my heart was breaking for every little rabbit on that screen. But it was the Bright Eyes bit that killed me. I sobbed as only a six year can, believing that I would never stop crying.



The Whale Rider

I’m afraid by the time Pai got up to do her speech I’d gone from lump in throat to tears spilling down my face.



In America

Continuing the theme of children performing in public which seems to reduce me to a blubbering wreck..this film had me in bits most of the way through. It’s tragic, dark and often very tense, which is par for the course for anything with Paddy Considine in it. The clip below includes a montage from the film rather than the scene itself.




My Girl

Before you judge me. I saw this when I was 13 and until then Macauley Culkin was that annoying brat from Home Alone. I walked in to see this film the weekend it was released. I saw alongside my teenage girlfriends and about three-quarters of the way though HE DIES. No-one warned me about this, I had no idea. So I had to bawl and be scundered for myself that I was crying over MACAULEY CULKIN. But actually I wasn’t, it was Anna Chlumsky’s performance that really got me. Oh for goodness sake I just watched again and cried…again.



Rabbit-proof Fence

This film upset me so much, given it’s roots in recent history, the injustice of it all. The abduction scene was harrowing, however when I watched a documentary about the making of the film, it really had me in pieces.

Abduction Scene


Documentary – filming of the abduction scene


Bucket list?


A friend was telling me the other day about her bucket list – 57 things to do in her 57th year.  It got me thinking what mine would be, and I realised something that surprised me – I don’t have one.  I can’t easily think of half a dozen things I seriously want to do, let alone 57. So have I led an amazingly adventurous life? Not particularly. The things I’ve wanted to do – riding on a beach, walking with hawks, going to Glastonbury etc, were mainly achievable and mainly done. So maybe I’m just really dull?  Maybe.  But it’s also possible that I simply take pleasure in life as it happens to me.



I do not know when my grandmother was born, and so by extension I do not know exactly how old she was when she died. She came from a time and place where such records were not usually kept. There are many details of that nature which elude me, and which have been lost in time.

But here is what I do know of her: things that are important to know.

My grandmother was born in a tiny, impoverished rural village in the province of Shanghai, which has its own dialect (Shanghainese). A village so impoverished that they shared a single pair of oxen between them, because the individual farmers could not afford one on their own.

She had many siblings, since these were the days before the One Child Policy, but most of them died. We think she had up to thirteen, but only five survived till adulthood.

Her given name was King Far, which means Golden Flower. Peasant names are normally very simple, much more crude, but hers was elegant – even a little aristocratic. I like to think it suited her, though I always called her BouBou – the Shanhainese word for grandmother.

When she was about five or six years old, her feet were bound. Three days later, the government outlawed the practice, and her feet were promptly unbound. A near miss; her older sisters also had their feet unbound, but in their case the damage was already done.

Unusually for her time, she married in her late 30s, instead of her teens. This was because the wars had begun when she was young, and hardly any one was getting married. She moved to Hong Kong for a better life after World War 1, and because she felt it was safer to be further from Japan. Unfortunately, you cannot really move to avoid a world war. The Japanese came back to China in World War 2, but they did not stop with just the mainland: this time they went south to Hong Kong as well.

Most people know about the big atrocities of war, but Hong Kong gets glossed over often as not. It wasn’t as bad as Nanking (is anything?), but it was still bad: 10,000 women raped in just the first few days – sometimes on top of the defending soldiers’ corpses. People of all races and backgrounds, murdered in the streets, and children shot down. I do not know how much my grandmother saw or endured, because she rarely talked about it. She once said that the Japanese soldiers would make civilians crawl on hands and knees between their legs, so that the soldiers could piss on them and laugh; then she got upset and did not discuss it anymore.

Not really the Hong Kong that either me or my mother grew up and lived in: it was worlds apart from the urban, cutting edge city that my mother and I grew up in much later.

But she survived, even if others did not (and almost a million people died). Life moves on, you recover, and thus she found herself getting married at the age of 36. Her marriage was semi-arranged, to a Chinese naval chef.  He “gifted” her with a pregnancy, and then promptly shipped out to sea almost immediately. When he returned a year or so later for a few months, he stayed just long enough to make her pregnant again; and a year or so after that, she had her third and final child.

Look at this woman – this amazing woman. She became a mother to three tiny children in a foreign city where she barely spoke the language (even to the day she died, her Cantonese was poor), with no family to support her, and a husband away at sea. Functionally illiterate, to the point of being unable to write her own name – yet she raised those three children single handed, worked evenings because they needed more money, rented out their flat to sometimes 30 occupants at a time for spare cash, and managed all them efficiently.


My grandmother lived through a lot: the Cultural Revolution, and all that entailed; two World Wars; the Japanese occupation. Famine, disease, war, and heartbreak. Single parenthood (even if temporarily) with three children under 4. Her life was hard in a way I can’t imagine, grueling and unrelenting.

Still – I do not think I ever heard her complain. Even when, at the end of her life, the pain and misery of liver cancer reduced her to a shadow, she still struggled on as ever.

She had unimaginable strength and grace, and endless kindness.

And ten years ago today, she died.

Hope you finally get some peace and rest, BouBou.

Elaine Paige or Barbara Dickson?


I have a shameful collection of CDs in my car that I bring out and sing along to when I am driving.

I often imagine myself singing to a large concert hall or just in a small group being admired by friends around a campfire…I’ll hear them whisper “she has such a lovely voice”…or the rapturous applause of approval from the school assembly hall just after I have moved them to tears with my rendition of Angel by Sarah McLachlan…my imagination allows me to soar high, hit the missed notes and be in tune…

A recent purchase of Elaine Paige’s Greatest Hits (hidden in the glove compartment) has allowed me to return to my childhood, where my good friend and I would sing I Know Him So Well for an entire summer. We would always argue over who got to be Elaine Paige as she really did get the lion’s share of the song, even singing all over poor Barbara’s bit in the second verse.

Now I listen to it in the car, I let Elaine sing all her bits and have her moment, because I know that the only important line in the song is when Elaine sings “Securityyyyyyyyy” and Barbara gets the hook “He needs his fantasy and freedom”…I am happy to be Barbara.

I think sometimes stepping back and letting others have the floodlights on them, helps ensure that you get the best bit in the end.


Finding my meditation


This evening I went to a classical music concert by mistake. At first I wondered if I might escape. Then I watched the violinist and felt guilty for having wasted all my lessons. Then I wrote a to do list. And then I closed my eyes and listened and yet did not listen and lost myself.

I only realised when a thought of my son came into my mind and it was a surprise. I’d meditated. Got away from my internal chitter chatter.

I’ve tried to meditate before. They say it’s so good for you. A fundamental human need. Makes you live longer. I suppose that’s part of what we seek in drink and drugs, the getting away from ourselves. But I’ve just found meditation stressful. I can’t just concentrate on my breathing. Is another thing to add to my list of what I’m rubbish at.

I’ll try again. I must be able to find a few minutes every day to empty my mind. Better to do that than just distract it with stupid games on my phone.

A few minutes peace to get away from all the noise and stress I create for myself. A few minutes for me.

Feed the birds


When did it become bad for a duck to eat bread? Feeding the ducks a stale loaf is what childhood visits to parks are all about. It’s what thousands of children for generations have been doing but all of a sudden it’s bad for them?! Really?

I went to a local park today with my friend and our 2 toddler boys. There’s a lake with ducks, geese and other water birds so I’d taken the last few slices of our loaf of bread from home for the boys to throw to the ducks. When we arrived there were signs everywhere saying not to feed bread to ducks. Apparently it’s bad for their health.

As an alternative you could buy a bag of special duck food that the sold for the meagre price of £1 in the little shop. Can me cynical but really….?! Surely this is just a money making ploy?

You could even receive an on the spot fine if caught throwing bread to the ducks. I was quite tempted to do if just to see if they’d fine my son. It’d be quite an achievement to have a criminal record before his 2nd birthday!