Tag Archives: Education

I Lost My Littlest Potato

27 Nov

I had a scary couple of hours yesterday, thinking I’d misplaced my youngest child. 

Picture the scene: a dark and icy night.  Greedy Christmas shoppers intent on ignoring the married mother of two in her lonely pound shop/post office corner vigil.  A grumpy husband.  A lost teenager.

Spud finishes school at ten-to-four and gets home at five, having taken two buses.  One bus stops in Stockport town centre.  We were in the town centre around that time, so I sent a text to ask if he wanted a lift home.  Ever polite, the answer was no thanks (he’s polite but he might as well have stabbed me through the heart with that capital N he didn’t use).

We were in the pound shop at  four-twenty when my phone went and it was Spud, who did want a lift after all.  The line was terrible but I told him we were at the pound shop near the post office and I thought he had heard me.  He hadn’t.  We waited forty minutes outside the shop and he was a no-show.  I made the Hub wait in the car because he’d already used up that day’s good hour, plus, he could see all the way up the road to the bus station on the horizon, and would see him coming.  The Hub had come out without his phone so we had a little code going: he would put on the car lights when Spud appeared, like something out of a gangster movie; especially with me keeping watch on the corner above him.

Once I had become a human icicle and the Hub had been in and out of the car several times to fume at me (he was mad at Spud but I was closer), we decided Spud must have misread ‘stkprt’ for ‘edgly’ (no capitals for me either but that’s because I can’t use my phone properly: a lack of ability rather than a lack of will) and drove up to our next-most-used shopping centre.  Stockport is not so big that you can’t walk around it in twenty minutes and he had been missing for twice that.

I’d better explain at this point that mobile phones are absolutely bloody useless in a crisis, particularly if Spud’s is faulty, mine has no credit and the Hub’s was lying at home soaking up the central heating and sipping a tequila.  I sent increasingly panicky texts to Spud, as well as repeated calls.  He couldn’t answer because his phone switched off every time he tried.  He managed to ring me at one point and my first question was ‘Where are you?’  If he had only said where he was instead of ‘Looking for you,’ he wouldn’t have been cut off at ‘I’m near – ‘.  That was around four-forty and he kept radio silence from then on.

The Hub and I drove to Edgeley at about five and he drove around the outside while I ran around the inside, but there was no sign of our kidnapped baby.  We drove home, just in case Spud had the good sense to get the bus back.  He wasn’t there, so I stayed while the Hub went back to Stockport.  He traipsed around the town in a kitchen triangle manoeuvre (sink-stove-fridge/pound shop-pound shop-pound shop) but no joy.  He came home again; I forget why because by this time I had my boy lying in a dark Stockport corner, stabbed for his mobile phone (ha!  muggers!  see what you get for your pains!  a phone that doesn’t work).  By this time Spud had been missing for ninety minutes and could have caught at least two buses home; I was wondering if I ought to tidy up for the police; the Hub came in; we discussed our next move; he left; the door went minutes later, and there they both were.  The Hub had seen him coming from the bus stop.  Turns out one bus hadn’t come at all and the next was late; but of course, he couldn’t tell us.

After a choking hug from me, the inevitable humdinger of an argument broke out, with me yelling at the Hub yelling at Spud yelling at both of us.  One plate of egg & chips and a stiff mug of tea later, and harmony was restored.

Something I have never done is lose one of my children.  I stick to the adage, keep your enemies close and your children closer.  That’s it, I’m afraid: until Spud gets a new phone he’s going to be home schooled.  No more anxiety, and I’ll save on the bus fare.

Flaky Mothers Of The World, Unite!

20 Nov

I have long been suspected of being a flaky mother:

Riding your little scooter up and down the path?  Wear these skateboarding knee pads, elbow pads, thick sweater and pants and a helmet or you don’t go.

First day of high school?  Let me walk you to the bus stop in case there are any paedophiles or fast cars lurking to take you from me.

WMD?  Keep your mobile switched on at school in case we are bombed and I need to get hold of you.

My kids never stood a chance, really, and these are just a few of my mistakes with Tory Boy; never mind what I did to poor Spud.

But today, something wonderful happened: Tory Boy phoned (no, that’s not it; especially as he yammered on for thirty minutes while my cereal milk went cold).  He told me that his philosophy lecturer threw a book across the classroom to illustrate a point and there was just one gasp of horror – Tory Boy’s.  He stayed afterwards to remonstrate with the tutor, and refused to accept ‘But it was an old book…’ as an excuse.  Now I know I was right to read to my babies in the womb.   

 

 

Tory Boy insisted on having his shirt signed rather than damage a book

 

I’m Moving To Japan

4 Nov

The jobs are much better there: according to the Johannesburg Star, Domino’s Pizza are offering a $31 thousand job – for just ONE hour of work.

My own job hunt can be classed as a waste of my time/disaster/providing employers with the giggle of the day.  Lucky I have my writing to fall back on.  Oh.  Um….

Spud seems to have similar working hours to the Japanese – he went back to school on Monday after a two week half-term break (when all the other schools got only one week), and he’s off tomorrow because of an inset day, giving him a three-day weekend.  Good job he has three hours of homework a night or he’ll never pass his GCSEs.

*

Don’t forget to check out my new blog http://sapoems.wordpress.com/.  Go on; do it now.  You know I’m going to keep nagging until you do.

Back To School

2 Sep

I am one sad mother today: Spud has gone back to school.  It’s not that I miss him; what I’m going to miss is the sound of no alarm clock in the mornings.  Not that I get up late in the holidays – I can’t, I’m an early to bed early to rise kinda gal – but I like not waking up an hour before it’s due to go off, terrified that I’ll sleep so heavily I’ll sleep through it and Spud will be late for school and that will ruin his day his week his life and he won’t visit at Christmas and I’ll never see the grandchildren I don’t want.

 

Here he is, second left.

Incredibly, there was no drama: school mornings have always been a bit iffy with Spud.  His first day back after Christmas 2004 lasted just two hours.  I was called to collect him because he was so white they lost him when they handed out drawing paper, and he spent the week in bed.  When  he finally returned to school he was upset at being put on a table with a bunch of children he either disliked, who misbehaved, or who distracted him from his work.  At the age of nine he took school very seriously.  I had a word with his teacher and she moved him.  One of the advantages of being an obliging volunteer parent in school (that was the week I removed excrement from children’s shoes) was that teachers felt obliged to accommodate me; not that I wouldn’t complain anyway, if my boys were unhappy at school.  Or in their jobs, when they leave uni: you come and tell your Mum, son, and I’ll sort out those nasty customers/managers/villains/MPs.

I remember that school year quite vividly, paticularly Parent’s Evening.  He was given a glowing report, telling us – you don’t mind me boasting? – how mature and responsible he was and that he was in the top sets for everything and that he had a fabulous sense of humour.  One of his teachers had asked his class teacher to be sure to tell us that he was even funny in PE, although his class teacher wasn’t sure how.  We asked him about it afterwards and the only thing he could think of was that ‘I usually trump loudly when I do roly-polies.’

 

He was such a cutie pie at that age.  He would use the word ‘beep’ to replace swear words  eg, quoting from the original Italian Job: ‘You’re only supposed to blow the beepin’ doors off!’  He wanted to call his Dad ‘bugalugs’ as a term of affection the other night.  The Hub and I argued over this, because he says ‘bugalugs’ counts as swearing because it derives from the word ‘bugger,’ and I say it comes from having insects in your ears in Ye Olden Days, but, because the Hub was convinced it was swearing, we erred on the side of caution and consequently Spud was not allowed to use the word ‘bugalugs’, just in case. 

One day, he wanted to say to his father, ‘Are you all right, beepalugs?’ 

What he actually said was, ‘Are you all right, buggerbeep?’

Big Tent July 23rd

23 Jul

The Big Tent prompt this week was to write a poem inspired by your own favourite poem.  I have two favourite poems, learned at school: Wilfred Owen’s Anthem For Doomed Youth and Dulce Et Decorum Est.  Here’s a bit of the first one (we’re not supposed to post the whole thing because of copyright issues):

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle

I love how that third line sounds like the guns it describes when you read it aloud.

I wrote this one a while back, in protest at the underfunding of the British military.  I haven’t tried to emulate Owen’s brilliance; just used it as a starting point for my own view:

 

Afghan Anthem 

Bullets sing the soldier’s
last rites; road mines
play his death march. 
Soldiers die, they shrug. 
Newspapers cry –
for a day, a week. 
Families lament each
neglected death,
each unremembered anniversary,
as unelected men decline
to sign cheques, and
soldiers die.

 


 

A Lovely Guest

22 Jul

With the Ceausescu corpses in the news at the moment, I thought now would be a good time to tell you about the Romanian student we hosted two years ago. A tenuous link, I know; but I’ve been inhaling paint all day so you’ll forgive me if my brain has taken the night off.

Tory Boy’s sixth-form college hosted a whole group of them for a week and Tory Boy asked if we would take one in. As he had been hosted in Denmark the previous year, we thought it was the least we could do.

The boy’s name caused some confusion because it was Bogdan Vlas and everybody called him ‘Vlas’ but that would have been like calling me ‘Bud’. ‘Bogdan’ sounds like an East-ender asking if he’d finished his toilet business. I did consider calling him ‘Thingy’ but had to go with the standard parental fall-back of full first name use (remember Claire Huckstable’s ‘Walter’ for Cockroach?), so ‘Bogdan’ it was. Hub and the boys ended up calling him ‘Vlas,’ and I called him ‘Bogdan,’ as I am a mother, and that’s the name his own mother gave him. The Hub said I had to stop amusing myself at the expense of the poor boy before he arrived (once he had got, ‘I hope he’s not a slippery customer; or we’ll have to call him Vlasoline’ out of his system). I suddenly had the terrible thought that he might be asthmatic and I would have to call him Vlas the Inhaler.

For some reason I was expecting Viktor Krum; I don’t know why, as Vlas is Romanian and Viktor is Bulgarian (and fictional). He was tall and dark and gorgeous.

He is an only child and it showed in his confidence around adults. He was polite and friendly, and willing to try everything English: particularly the food. He asked if we had tea at four o’clock, which made us laugh. At home he drank black tea but while he stayed with us he drank it with milk, just like the English do. He didn’t notice that the Hub and I both take it black (although, to complicate matters, I only take my Earl Grey black; my PG Tips I take with milk). Bogdan also drank Armenian coffee, which is two parts coffee-three parts cocoa-one part water, and takes the veneer right off your teeth by vapour alone. He saw to that himself. He showered twice a day, which seemed bizarre to my dirty children who have to be bullied into scraping the dirt off, but it is perfectly Romanian (and much harder on the family who hosted two students and had only one bathroom between seven of them).

I thought I would try and make some typically English meals for Vlas, such as bangers & mash, roast chicken, and egg & chips. I started with a five veg beef stew, as it was January-cold and unwelcoming outside and that was warm and filling. He slept with his bedroom door shut so after that stew I had to call him Vlas the Daren’t Exhaler. I had to provide his lunch some days, and although it was cold I only provided cool drinks, or I’d have called him Thermos Vlas.

On the first night TB took Bogdan out to Pizza Hut with the rest of the Romanian contingent and their teenage hosts, and they were back by about ten-thirty; Bogdan had been travelling/awake since midnight the day before and was ready for bed. On Saturday, they all went into Manchester and then back to someone’s house for a party. TB phoned about ten p.m. to say that they were just coming home to collect Bogdan’s insurance documents, on the way to taking him to the hospital. It seems he fell down some stairs at the party and sliced open his wrist. As he was seventeen and a guest in our home, the Hub and I felt it would be better if we took him to A&E ourselves. We were only there for about ninety minutes as the Saturday night blood rush hadn’t yet started.

Bogdan saw a singing doctor. He came from over the water (Wallasey) and we immediately recognised each other’s accent. That didn’t stop him singing, though: half-under his breath and no tune that I know. He was cheerful, at least, and impressed by Bogdan’s English, which is excellent. He gave him three stitches and some glue. I stayed with Bogdan and watched the sewing (years of Schwarzenegger movies have hardened my delicate soul), because I wanted to be able to look his mother in the virtual face; I would hope that if a similar thing had happened to TB in Denmark, his hostess would have done the same. Bogdan was fine, but I bet he went home and said to people, ‘I went to England prepared to like it, and it attacked me.’

On the Sunday I packed him a monster lunch for his trip to York; on the Monday, the students went to Old Trafford (multiple fainting fits in the house at the news) and the Lowry Centre, so it was another packed lunch. I made him such large lunches that he was the envy of his ‘fellows’ as he called them; but I hate to think of a guest in my home going hungry unless by choice (have you tasted my cooking?).

I made a full English breakfast for dinner, to be eaten at tea time. The great thing was all of the food was new to him, so anything that he might not have enjoyed could be blamed on his palette and not on my cooking. The Hub once said that he never knew until he met me that burnt was a flavour. Bogdan loved the bacon & egg even though (despite the George Foreman Grill) it was incredibly greasy. By the way, he is welcome in my home forever because he told me I’m a wonderful cook, bless his innocence.

There was much hilarity around the table because I was talking to Spud Bud and he was looking at me as he poured his orange juice and didn’t notice when he ran out of glass; as one, all four of us rose up and shouted, ‘Wooaahhh!’ and Spud sat there trembling in fright like a cornered little bunny rabbit. He made us laugh again when he told us he had played in the inter-house rugby tournament and lost all his games but his team still came second…because the other three teams came joint-first.

That night, TB and Bogdan went skating in Altrincham with the Romanian students and their carers. They had a lift there and back and then TB phoned to say the car had broken down and then he phoned again to say the car had been fixed. Bogdan’s whole trip was nothing if not eventful.

It being Shrove Tuesday next day it was pancake breakfasts all round. By seven-thirty I had cooked fifteen pancakes (okay, burnt fifteen pancakes), and I was getting pretty bored with the whole hostessing thing, not having thought it through to just how much cooking was involved. TB and Bogdan went bowling and to laser quest that night; one of Bogdan’s ‘fellows’ (so cute) got a gun in the eye and she ended up in Stepping Hill A&E. A couple more of them and they’d be setting up a Romanian ward. They went to Liverpool on the Friday. All of the host students had the option to go on any of the trips, and TB decided at the last minute (literally: he was walking out the door) to go with them. This meant that my guest went to Liverpool with two drinks; four tuna mayonnaise sandwiches; a packet of crisps; an apple; a cheese string; three different sweets; half a pork pie; and a scotch egg; and my child took a bottle of water.

The Hub and I went into Stockport to try and buy something British for Bogdan to take home. We got two London bus key rings but they were tiny, and a large England flag for his room, whixh was better. Bogdan had brought us three hand carved gifts: a pretty flute-whistley-thing; a wooden wine cup; and a wall carving of a cherb, a Romanian mountain animal. The Hub and I gave up on buying British souvenirs, as everything seemed to be made in China, and went with British foodstuffs instead: PG Tips, mallow cakes, sweets, things like that; we also bought shortbread for Bogdan’s Mum, Boddingtons Bitter (made abroad now) for his Dad, and a monster bottle of HP sauce for Vlas, as he had it on everything, including his gravy: he was so keen to try British food we got British fish & chips from the Chinese chippy one night, but he had pudding, chips, mushy peas and gravy, like the Hub. He had a wonderful appetite, but even he balked at mushy peas, though he swallowed his distaste and gave them a go. He didn’t like them. I can’t say I blame him; they are disgusting.

The boys were late coming back from Liverpool on Friday, which gave Bogdan the chance to enjoy his first chav encounter on the bus from college, in the form of two abusive thirteen-year old girls. A real British experience.

The boys wolfed down dinner and went straight out to the barn dance at college. On the coach back from Liverpool, a teacher had asked whose parents were going, and Tory Boy was the only one to put up his hand, so we were officially de-invited by our son, who did not wish to be embarrassed by us.

On Saturday, Bogdan left for London at six-thirty a.m., with his biggest packed lunch yet. He again told me he was the envy of his fellows because he had the biggest and best lunch every day. Food was something of an issue with the students, as they had initially been told not to worry about taking too many clothes to England, but to take blankets and food instead. Not sure if they thought we Brits are poor hosts or on starvation wages. Bogdan had erred on the side of caution and brought sweets and snacks and a sleeping bag. He didn’t go hungry as we gave him full access to the fridge and cupboards (Spud came to me with a doleful face and one sentence that encapsulated his utter deprivation: ‘He ate my Hershey Bar…sigh’), and he ate everything that was put in front of him except for the mushy peas and the scotch egg: he said he took a bite and looked into it and went the Romanian equivalent of ‘Wooaahh,’ holding it out at arms length. He was really freaked by finding an egg in it, for some reason. Two of his fellows shared it and loved it, anyway.

We made a point of buying and cooking British food for him to try as he was so keen to embrace the culture, though we drew the line at faggotts and tripe. We heard through the student grapevine (just had a mental picture of entangled students in a sunny French vineyard) that one girl was staying with a couple in a similar financial situation to us and they had gone out of their way to buy lots of British foodstuffs for her to experience and she turned up her nose at everything, and threw her lunches away. I think she was the worst of the lot, but most of them were lovely. However, if the Romanian students were limited editions, we got number 1/20; the English students kept saying to TB that they wished they were hosting Bogdan.

Sunday was recuperation and packing day for him. TB had to work but managed to get off early, so Bogdan got the bus into Stockport to do some shopping, and TB met him there later. I was worried about Bogdan going off by himself, particularly as he walked out of the front door holding his passport and wallet in hand as an invitation to the local muggers but he was fine, even managing to hold onto his money long enough to buy eight t-shirts, with TB buying him a ninth as a gift. His luggage was ten kilos overweight and we had to give him a rucksack to hold the extra stuff.

I made a light tea of beans on toast – you can’t get more British than that – and at seven we all went to a farewell meal at a strange place: a private house with parts given over to a tea room and arts & crafts section, and not open on Sundays except to special friends like Aquinas College, who hired out the whole building.

Spud was the only child there, as the invite was just for the students and as a thank you for those host families who had not had a reciprocal arrangement with their own child going to Romania, and we were the only host family without a reciprocal arrangement who was not without a child. Spud clung to his father at first, as he was a little diffident back then, but Bogdan persuaded him onto the dance floor and stayed with Spud, showing him his best moves. This was despite the girls clustering around him (Bogdan) all night; he was a lovely, good-natured boy and a great ambassador for his country.

There were so many people there that we didn’t quite work out who was Romanian and who wasn’t; the only thing we could do was pick out the negatives with lighter hair, as the Romanians were all dark. However, there was only one girl who looked obviously foreign, and she was dressed as a Goth, so I’m guessing she was Transylvanian in origin.

The adults all sat together and I was chatting to one of the teachers, Janina, who was charming. She grew up under Ceausescu and was telling me – after some probing on my part – how awful it was, and that the Romanian people all try to forget those times. We had an interesting chat about regime change and European public transport systems, and then we danced with the students.

A disco had been hired and it was peculiar that the teenagers kept requesting the latest music but only danced if a song had been born before them. At least it gave me a chance to make up for Tory Boy’s lack of embarrassment on Friday. We got home just before twelve and I felt as giddy as if I’d had two glasses of wine instead of orange juice and water; I seem to get drunk on atmosphere alone.

When Bogdan first arrived we did that awkward thing of going to hug then changing our minds and shaking hands instead; when he left it was hugs all round. We stayed in touch for a while but I haven’t heard from him this year. He did promise to come back one day and it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a knock on my door in ten years’ time and it was him. And he would still be welcome.

 

Smile And The World Smiles With You; Dissect It And People Ask ‘Who’s That Freak?’

11 Jul

I read this quote today: 

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but, scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.

-Joseph Addison

So here you go:

smile.jpg

According to Mr. Higgins’ Honors Algebra II class at Norwalk High School (07-08) 

The smile of the “smiley face” is in the shape of a parabola.

The smiley face was designed in 1964 in Worcester, Massachusettes by Harvey Ball, and has become a crazy-huge symbol all over the world.  

The equation for a parabola is: (x-h)^2=4p(y-k)             (h,k)=vertex    p=distance from vertex to focus

I thought I would do some research into smiling (gotta love that Google button).  This is from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4128/is_200311/ai_n9341157/:

…smiling isn’t just for fun-it’s a matter of survival. Scientists have discovered that newborn infants, even those who are born blind, know how to smile […] A baby’s smile is designed to attract and hold mother’s attention; it is an infant’s way of bonding with the mother and encouraging her care.

Babies may be on to something. Research shows that smiling is healthy because it can trigger positive feelings. Perhaps that is also why smiling is contagious. When you smile at people, you’ll notice that they generally smile back. But they will not respond to a frown by frowning or to a scowl by scowling. (Try it and see!)

According to The Dating Rule Book, the smile is the sexiest muscle.  However…

Research has shown that it is not enough to just “smile”, humans are fine tuned to being able to subconsciously tell whether a smile is genuine or fake, and the latter is usually responded to by dissent. So it is crucial you practice your smiles, so that a genuine smile would seem genuine (seems easy unless you have severe muscle malfunctions) and a fake smile would seem genuine (as you can guess, a lot tougher). So try thinking of a something horrible (ie. of the economic shituation in America) and try smiling to it, if you can fake a genuine smile with that thought in your head, you’re prepared to take on the world.

smile

QTMama says

A smile creates an atmosphere.  It can be so many different atmospheres too.  From unity to friendship to the flirty “Hi there!” to a thank you to the your welcome … I could go on and on.  And the thing is, smiles are contagious.  You smile at someone and odds are, they smile back.   A smile thrown at someone solicits one in return.  It costs nothing and the best of all?  It feels good to have someone smile at you. 

We may think some people have nothing to smile about – but they do it anyway:

Some people smile because they have good teeth:

 

So let’s get started:

 

The idea for this post came from a Quote of the Day in my Inbox and the glorious sunshine I woke up to.  While I’ve been writing this the sun has been abducted by ugly clouds threatening rain and a wind that even I can’t rival: if ever there was an argument against bringing science to the masses, this isn’t it; it’s just coincidence.

Have a nice day, y’all; d’ya hear?

Pigeons Everywhere!

28 May

I can’t believe the week I’m having; the good news just keeps on coming: I have a job interview next Thursday.  Better than that – it’s with my beloved Open University.

A little background history for my newer conscripts: I did a part-time degree with the Open University, from 2003 to 2008.  It was part-time only in the sense that I worked for it at home.  I attended tutorials and day schools and two glorious summer schools – the first one in Manchester, where I made some great friends who have stayed in touch to this day; and one in London, where I got to visit – I still get all wobbly when I think about it – Shakespeare’s Globe. 

One thing in particular that I learned at summer school is that it is not actually required to venerate the Bard: he had duff moments, and it’s okay to say so.  Mind you, I think I am one of the Few: one retired man in my summer school tutor group happened to mention that he thought Shakespeare was very much a commercial playwright but not necessarily an intellectual genius.  A roomful of students rose as one in outrage and there was almost a lynching in a third floor classroom of Queen Mary University.  While someone went in search of a rope, I had to admit that, though I didn’t completely agree with him, I thought he had a point.  Luckily for me, the heretic was at one side of the class and I was at the other, so the body of Outrageds between us didn’t hear me and string me up as an accomplice.  Our tutor that day acknowledged the ‘commercial playwright’ point (Shakespeare retired a rich man); but on the ‘not an intellectual genius’ point she looked as if she’d found a slug in her cereal.  Mr Foolhardy of Takinyurlifeinyurhands, brave man, was completely unabashed and even had the temerity to keep attending the lectures.

On the day of our visit I woke up feeling queasy, so I had cereal and fruit instead of my usual cooked breakfast (it’s not that easy to get a figure like mine, you know; I have to work at every sausage, bacon, beans, egg, toast, hash brown and pineapple breakfast to maintain it) because I was determined that nothing was keeping me from going to the Globe that day.  We had tutorials in the morning but finished early for lunch.  We were provided with a packed dinner of cardboard sandwich tasting of the plastic it came in (I hate those things, they are vile), a large packet of crisps (ready salted, so everyone could eat them – unless you suffer hypertension, of course), a Granny Smith apple (euggcchh), and a bottle of water.

We then had a lecture on Shakespeare and the London Stage, which was interesting, before dashing for the coaches.  To be fair, I was the only one dashing; I could have given Linford Christie a run for his money (I was going to make a joke about lunchboxes there but it came out too rude): I was so desperate not to be left behind that I abandoned all the friends I had made that week, and dived head-first into an empty bus seat, strapping myself in before the rest of my tutor group had even left the classroom.  I hope I never take part in a flood here in Stockport because my poor family will clearly be on their own as far as I’m concerned.

The journey cut through London and took about twenty minutes.  We passed half of the Monopoly board, and the Tower of London.  There was a pub across the road from it called The Hung, Drawn, and Quartered.  What a great name!  When we arrived, I was amazed to see that not only was the Globe not round or anything like all of the pictures I have seen, but it was also right on the Thames (well, not right on, obviously, because it would sink; but on the riverside).  The river was brown and yukky and it was horrible to think that I once swam in it as a child.  The Globe looked like an ordinary city building and I can’t tell you how crushed I felt, but I was puzzled by the pictures and models of a twenty-sided ‘O’ that were everywhere on display.  However, I was soon distracted by being herded into a lecture theatre with everyone else.  We were privileged to be given a hilarious lecture on the Globe by Patrick Spottiswoode, the Director of Education at the Globe.  When Sam Wanamaker (the American actor and father of Zoe Wanamaker, who plays Susan in My Family) envisioned its rebuilding, he insisted that it be a place of education as well as entertainment, and it had to be accessible to all, which is why there are 700 tickets at £5 each available for every performance.  If you ever find yourself in London, you should go.

After the lecture, Patrick conducted an interview with the American director of Othello (the play we saw), Wilson Milam.  He once directed an episode of the old Dr Who series.  He was as tall and lanky as they come, and, coupled with his laconic speech and in contrast to the energy of Patrick Spottiswoode, my abiding memory is of a large paper man draped over an uncomfortable chair.  Finally, we were split into three groups and carted off to different rooms, and an actor led us in a very physical session exploring Shakespeare’s language.  Our actor was Yolanda Vasquez (who has appeared in Holby City, for those of you who watch it) and she was excellent.

Once that session was up, we had a break until the evening performance.  Unfortunately, no-one had actually said so to us, and consequently there were 150 supposedly intelligent mature students milling around in rising panic and lowing, ‘What do we do?  Where do we go?  Is it a break?  Can we leave the theatre?’  I’m convinced it was the result of the sheep mindset that sets in when you are given a timetable that tells you when to study, when to eat, when to drink tea, and when to listen.  As nobody came to tell us what to do, we eventually figured out for ourselves that we were free for ninety minutes, and many of us made our way to the gift shop.  I had intended to buy souvenirs for everyone but it was so expensive that I came away with only two 50pence bookmarks for the boys and a pencil topper of Shakespeare’s head for me.  DVDs that I had bought in the pound shop in Stockport were going for £19.99 each at the Globe.  After the bookmarks and pencil toppers, the next lowest price of anything was a fiver, and there wasn’t much stuff available even at that price.  I understand that the Globe gets no government funding and has to be self-supporting, but they really could have done with a few lower-priced items for hard-up visitors like me; they’d sell way more stuff.

However, coming out of the gift shop, which is upstairs, my disappointment disappeared, because there in front of me through large windows was the wooden O.  Idiot that I am, it never occurred to me that the theatre would stand separately from the box office and educational and shop and everyday business part of the Globe.   And once we went back out through the front entrance and round the side, it was clearly visible from the street.  In fact, I and those of my friends who had caught up with me, had our packed dinner sitting on the steps next to the Thames and gazing up in adoration at the Globe (actually, I think that last part might just have been me).  To be honest, I was so excited I could barely eat (yes, you did read that last sentence correctly), so it didn’t matter that my sandwich was inedible. 

While sitting there not eating, two smartly-dressed women and a ditto man gave us some money and asked us to give it back to them.  They were on a treasure hunt of sorts, and had to be videoed doing all manner of strange things around London, including singing on the street to passersby and being given money for it.  They hadn’t had much luck, so decided to cheat, which is where I came in.

After not eating and pretend-paying total strangers to sing, we went through the wrought iron gate entrance to the courtyard, where we were able to rent a seat back and two cushions for £4.  The seating is all benches and not very comfortable, apparently.  I can’t say I noticed. 

On the way to the loo round the back, I stopped to chat to a fellow student.  I say ‘chat,’ but it was more of a high-pitched gabble on my part, because I was in a frenzy of anticipation by now.  Fellow Student was standing with some people who turned out to be BBC crew, filming for The One Show.  The presenter, Adrian Chiles, is from Birmingham, and the following Friday was something like ‘Be Nice to People With Brummie Accents Day,’ so they were asking visitors to the Globe to quote Shakespeare in Birmingham accents (Shakespeare was from that general area, so he’d have had that sort of accent).  I tried to decline but they wouldn’t believe that I am rubbish at accents, so they filmed me in a state of total giddiness, not speaking Brummie.  I kept telling them they were wasting their film, but they asked me to say ‘My name is Adrian Chiles from The One Show on BBC1,’ or something like that, so I gave it a go.  I couldn’t get past ‘My name is…’  It was like my mouth wouldn’t work, but I eventually burst out in a cockney accent, ‘My name is Michael Caine!’  Don’t ask me where that came from.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be appearing on telly that Friday night after that performance, and I was right; but I obviously gave the BBC crew a good time, because they were shaking with laughter by the time I was done.

And then it was time to take my seat.  The OU must have bought whatever seats were available, because we were spread all over the theatre.  I was in a £26 seat on the middle tier; some students were in £19 seats up at the top at the back.  Some people were in the most expensive seats on the bottom tier.  I’m not complaining, because I had a fantastic view.  My seat number was A1, so I was at the front of the box looking down onto the stage.  I believe the view is excellent wherever you are, though.  The play was wonderful.  Othello is a tragedy (no offence intended to those of you who knew that) but the way it was played there were lots of laughs in it.  Tim McInnerny (Lord Percy and Captain Darling in Blackadder) played Iago, and he was good.

Apologies in advance for the scary woman in this next photo:

The £5 tickets are for a place with the groundlings, who stand throughout the performance.  There are no allocated places; it’s a free for all, and it was interesting to see them milling about throughout the performance.  The cast often made their entrance through the audience, and addressed us directly during soliloquies, so that the audience is part of the whole experience.  In the interval I went down to the ground floor to take photos, and there were lots of empty spaces because people were taking comfort breaks, so I watched the second half as a groundling, leaning on the stage and looking up at the actors.  It was fabulous.  There were some disgruntled teenagers next to me, who had to squash up to fit in the friend whose space I had pinched (I assume), but I didn’t feel guilty because they talked and texted all the way through the performance, and didn’t seem too keen to be there.  Tim McInnerny gave them a dirty look at one point, but a look from Lord Percy wouldn’t bother this generation of teenagers, would it?

The Globe is an open-air theatre, and we were incredibly fortunate because it had rained or been cloudy all week, but on that Wednesday afternoon the sun came out and stayed out, so we were able not only to eat on the pavement but to enjoy the play without discomfort.  All in all, it is in my top five life experiences.  And I speak as a woman who knows the value of a Malteser.

*

Today is Big Tent poetry prompt day; the prompt is ‘aphrodisiac’.  I post my senryu with an apology to the Hub, who it is NOT about.  My inspiration came from my moaning friends (who won’t be my friends much longer if they find out what I have just called them):

The Housewife’s Aphrodisiac

You want me trembling
with desire for you? Offer
to wash the dishes.

*

Reminiscing about summer school reminded me of this senryu I wrote way back; it is almost verbatim the instructions found in the student information booklet:

From the University Book of the Bleedin’ Obvious

Action in case of
fire: on discovering a
fire: please shout FIRE

Saturation Point

21 May

SATs are taking place at the moment in primary schools up and down the country.   Actually, that’s not strictly accurate: some headteachers have banded together and banned them.  I used to think they were a good idea but I don’t anymore: they don’t take into account a child’s personal level of achievement, just how well they can sit tests.  I have helped out in a Key Stage 2 class every year for the past four years and I know that the children are not learning so much as learning how to pass exams.  It’s not the teachers’ fault: they have to teach the children to the SATs requirements.  In my school, the teachers do rather well, tying in projects to the theme; I imagine it’s the same in most primaries.  But the teachers hate it because the children have to be so focused on tests that they come to loathe learning.

If it was up to me, I would pare down the National Curriculum to its essentials: reading, writing, arithmetic.  Let them do those three things properly and then we won’t have whole generations of children leaving school unable to read and write or multiply in their head.  Amazing fact: it is much easier to learn new stuff in high school if you first learned to read in primary school.  

Apart from anything else, it’s the stress we are loading on our children: Spud was a mess before his SATs.  One day, he couldn’t go to the park straight from school because he forgot to take his phone, so he couldn’t call me to ask if he could go straight from school; when he got home he decided to go up on his bike.  We then had a long argy-bargy about his phone, which he was not allowed to leave in his jacket on the floor while he played football in case it got stolen, and which he didn’t want to keep on his person in case he fell over and smashed it, football being a contact sport with the hardest grass in the world, apparently.  Tiring of his prima donna performance, I sent him into the garden to lock up his bike because he was no longer allowed to go to the park.  Five minutes later I walked into the kitchen to see my last-born strolling nonchalantly in front of the house.  It seems he had scaled our six-foot fence and dropped to the pavement in an effort to scare the heebeejeebies out of me as a punishment for punishing him.  He got off lightly because I was so angry I sent him to his bedroom before I could wallop the heebeejeebies out of him.  Initially, I was going to make him stay in there forever, but the Hub got me to compromise once I had calmed down, and Spud was told he could come out of his room when he was in a better mood, because that way he set the terms of his own punishment.  He came down about a half hour later, bearing a handmade card on which ‘I’m sorry’ had been written in every available space, and, inevitably, ‘I’m sorry for being a brat.’  Then we had a long, long cuddle with much tickling, and we both felt better.  Until he had a tantrum about mince & chips vs cheese & chips which resulted in an ultimatum: Hub told Spud he could lay over his father’s knee face-down and have a good hiding, or he could lay over his father’s knee face-up and have a good tickling.  He opted for face-up and we never had a naughty peep out of him again that night.

Happy days, when every problem could be solved by a tickle.  Apart from appendicitis, that is.  The first day of his SATs, Spud felt anxious but was looking forward to his free breakfast.  The school provided free breakfasts all week to ensure that the children performed at their best.  They offered cereal, toast, fruit, bacon butties and sausage butties.  Naturally, Spud preferred to have breakfast at school that week.  Monday, anyway: he didn’t get the chance again.  He had to write his science exam in the staff toilet.  He was feeling unwell on the Monday morning and the teachers jollied him along through the day.  They kept a bin handy in the afternoon, and it was just as well.   Once he’d been sick, they put a table in the staff toilet and the Head sat with him, door open, so that he could run to the toilet when he needed to.  He was sick five times.  As soon as the exam was over, the school called us.  He was copiously sick all Monday night, falling asleep about ten, and then waking early to start again.  We decided to fall back on Plan B: the Head and another teacher (to observe her and ensure there was no cheating) were to come here, so that Spud could sit his exams at home between throwups.  He was to take all three exams in the afternoon.  

I had made an appointment for him to see the doctor on Thursday, because this was two vomiting sessions in two weeks, and about the ninth in six months.  I had taken him to see a doctor once already; he couldn’t find anything wrong and said Spud had just been unlucky that year, catching everything that was going round.  I had made notes of what he had eaten but each meal was different, so there was no common trigger.  He had some dry toast about seven-thirty on Tuesday morning, but couldn’t keep it or his drinks down.  Around ten-thirty he complained of a pain in his chest, which I put down to wind as he had nothing in his tummy.  It quickly spread to the whole of his tummy, especially his right side.  He got into bed with the Hub for comfort. Hub voiced what I was thinking, and got me to look up ‘appendix’ on the net.  The NHS Direct site must have been spying on us, because it had word-for-word what Spud was going through.  I phoned my doctor for advice, and she said to get him to A+E immediately. 

We were at Stepping Hill for 11h45 and the board said it was a 2 ½ hour wait, which was worrying, but unavoidable.  Just shows how little faith we had in the NHS – by 12h15 Spud had been triaged, admitted, and given pain relief.  He had been seen by two nurses, a doctor, and a surgeon.  Another half an hour and he was up on the children’s ward.  Another surgeon saw him, and then the first surgeon came back and inserted the cannula himself, because the nurses qualified to do it were all busy, and he wanted to ensure the blood tests were done asap.  There was quite a long wait after all that activity but Spud was given pain relief, so it wasn’t too dreadful for him.  He went for his operation at seven-fifteen that night.  We accompanied him to surgery, but only one parent was allowed in while anaesthetic was administered, so Spud chose the Hub.  Just as well, really, because I was ready to break down by this point, and I knew Hub wouldn’t.  Spud was worried that whoever he chose, the other’s feeling would be hurt – how sweet, when he must have been feeling so miserable.  We assured him there’s enough love to go round and all that mattered was that he felt happy. 

A kindly nurse grabbed my hand and rubbed my back when I had a little weep – out of Spud’s sight – and the Hub came out about ten minutes later.  The anaesthetist had told Spud to concentrate when counting backwards, and he concentrated so hard, it was apparently the longest he’d known a child to last before succumbing to oblivion.  I then went back to the ward for something to eat (I was starving!  I’d had nothing for twelve hours and I wasn’t the one who couldn’t keep anything down), and the Hub went home to collect pyjamas and stuff for me.  He was fit to collapse by this stage, but he had promised Spud he would be there when he woke up, and he never reneges on a promise.

Getting food was a bitter struggle.  As doctors and nurses were in and out all day, dribbling information, neither of us would risk leaving Spud’s bedside in case we missed something, and it wasn’t until five-thirty that we knew he’d be operated on at seven-thirty.  There is a parent’s room in the Treehouse (Stepping Hill’s children’s ward, which is actually four wards; Spud was in Rainforest Ward), so I was able to grab a cup of tea at least.  No hot drinks were allowed on the ward at all, however, so the Hub didn’t get one because he didn’t have the energy to walk all the way round to the parent’s room.  I did get him a cold drink from a machine that stole my change, and that had to do him.

As I was going to be the one staying overnight, the Hub insisted I went down to the restaurant, which had just closed when I got there, naturally, as had the WRVS station.  I had to leave the hospital and walk over to Sainsbury’s for something, so I was gone about forty-five minutes and of course, that was when the surgeon came to give us details about Spud’s op and I missed it all.  Still, I had a very tasty lasagne to heat up in the microwave later.  Cloudy linings and all that.

The Hub got back about ten minutes before we were called to the recovery room.  Spud was disoriented and woozy but glad to see us.  Once he was in bed, hooked up to a drip and antibiotics, the Hub was able to go home and I settled down for some much-needed sleep, having been assured that Spud would probably sleep through the night as he had been given morphine, etc.  Fold-up metal beds are provided next to each hospital bed so I didn’t have to leave him.  Which was just as well, because he woke up about every thirty minutes and at midnight was brightly telling me all about his op, or the bits fore and aft that he could remember.  Apparently, reacting like a cannabis muncher is a normal side-effect of the anaesthetic.

A wonderful Scots nurse called Margaret – the only person ever to detect from my accent that I had once lived in Wallasey – checked on him through the night, even finding out, after his 3a.m. query, whether his stitches were dissolvable or not (they were).  He thought she was wonderful, and was sad that he never saw her again, as her time off coincided with the rest of his stay.  Between us, Spud and I only got about three hours sleep that night, which was okay for him because he caught up next day, but left me, who didn’t, feeling totally drained.

Wednesday, he couldn’t bear to be left alone, and he was unsurprisingly niggly.  We played board games and card games; I read to him when he didn’t feel like reading himself; and the play staff brought a PS2 and a tv/video to his bedside.   He complained that he wanted visitors, and no sooner had the words left his mouth than my friend Alison arrived, with puzzle books galore.  She was parked where she shouldn’t, so it was a brief visit, but Tory Boy arrived as she was leaving.  He had come the previous day bearing gifts for Spud – a Sponge Bob Nudie Pants poster and a chocolate chicken – and he squeezed in a visit between exam revision sessions the next day.  Fortunately, his college is fairly close to the hospital.  He was amazingly helpful and uncomplaining about taking on Spud’s (and some of my) chores, and at being virtually abandoned for three days.

And then Helen (t’vicar) appeared; she reckons a dog collar is very useful sometimes, as it gets her into the places other collars cannot reach.  All three stayed only briefly, but they cheered up Spud.  To be fair, he was an excellent patient, just bored.

The Hub came in the afternoon, having struggled to sleep the night before, and then waking at six and staying awake to phone to see how Spud was.  Once he knew he was okay, he got four solid hours, and then cooked me some sausage butties for my dinner.   He also brought the toothpaste I’d forgotten to put on Tuesday’s list, and it was then I understood why Spud’s visitors had left so quickly.  I grabbed a shower and my food and many cups of tea while the Hub stayed with Spud.  He and I got a better night’s sleep on Wednesday, apart from being woken seven or eight times because of the comings and goings of nurses, doctors and patients…I never knew hospitals were so noisy at night!  No wonder they drug the patients.

On Thursday, Spud had recovered so well and had been such a good patient that they let him go home once he had walked around a bit and had a bath.  We got home about three, and he was tired but glad to be in his own bed.  His wound healed well and he has the neatest scar.  The hospital staff complimented him on being a model patient, for he had no complaints and a ‘thank you’ for every horrible medicine.  The doctors said his appendix was inflamed but they got it nice and early.  People complain about the NHS, but we had as good an experience as you can have when your son’s insides are being ripped out by strangers.  The info on the NHS Direct site was specific; the receptionist at our doctor’s put me through to a doctor as soon as I mentioned suspected appendicitis; the doctor was right to tell me to take him straight to A+E; we didn’t hang about in A+E, and he was up on the ward within an hour of being admitted; all of the staff (including office) in the Treehouse were as helpful, kind and friendly as could be; the wards were spotless; the staff regularly washed their hands or used the hand stuff on the ward, to avoid MRSA, and firmly encouraged parents to use it also.

I only have good things to say, apart from complaining about the dreadful food, which appalled me.   I guess schools are so concerned with healthy eating that I expected the hospitals would be too.  They’ve got a looooong way to go.  And there was nothing for parents staying on the ward, of course, except toast or cereal at breakfast, but back to that cloudy lining – I lost 2lbs in three days.  I’ve put twenty on since then; maybe I could do with having my own appendix out.

Will Smith: An Apology

26 Mar

  Dear Will, I’m sorry we are both happily married to other people because, with your ears and my size we’d have been perfect for a remake of ‘Dumbo’.  Love, Tilly Bud.

I love Will Smith; he’s a natural actor and incredibly funny.  I declare today Will Smith Day, for no other reason than it gives me an excuse to think about him.  I loved him in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  I didn’t know then that he was a rap star and I often wondered about the funny little fellow who couldn’t act who kept making guest appearances (DJ Jazzy Jeff, his rap partner). 

My two favourite movie lines of all time are Will Smith’s in Independence Day, and they both occur in the scene where he and Jeff Goldblum are attempting to plant the virus that will wipe out the alien invaders: ‘We have got to work on our communication’ and ‘I ain’t heard no fat lady!’   Doesn’t sound interesting flat on the screen like that, I know; it is definitely one of those moments where you had to be there.  Like Frank Carson, it’s the way he tells ’em.   If you haven’t seen Independence Day – what is wrong with you?  I have seen it about twenty times.

Do you know what?  I have seen ID about twenty times and it has just occurred to me: what happened to the dog?  Remember how Jasmine risked her and her son’s lives to call Boomer in the tunnel when Los Angeles was being blown up?  And he was in the truck when she was driving around saving what was left of the population?  Boyfriend turns up to rescue her and all of a sudden – no dog.  He’s never seen again in the movie.  

Does anyone know if Will Smith claims to be vegetarian? 

I saw Mr Smith in an interview and he described how, after his first record went platinum or he won Grammy awards or something, he went home and told his Mom and she said, ‘Yes, very nice, now go and get some milk; we’ve run out.’   With a mother like that no wonder he’s grounded.

Speaking of mothers, I am a bereft one.  Tory Boy has not come home for the Easter holidays because he is out canvassing for the prospective Parliamentary candidate for Lancaster.  If he’s not careful, he won’t get a good degree because he’s too busy living the politics to study it.   He has promised to come home for his birthday in April (presumably because there will be presents), so I have that to look forward to.   That, and my forthcoming movie, in which large blonde dogs band together and betray humanity to an alien species.  I call it Independence Day: Boomer’s Revenge.  Tagline: The Day The Dogs Bit Back. 

 

I Didn’ Raise Him To Be No Fool

21 Mar

Tory Boy is an idiot. Don’t get me wrong, I love the child but, seriously, breaking into another hall of residence? What was he thinking?

Let me explain: TB was taking a break from essay writing at three in the morning (hmm). He was chatting outside his residence in the middle of the night to another student, presumably also taking a break from essay writing (yeah, right). They became aware of an acrid smell and a vapour coming from a building across the way. They went to investigate. The kitchen window was obscured by smoke. They decided it was on fire.

Did they call the fire brigade immediately? This is where the idiot part comes in so you might guess that the answer is ‘no’. No, because ‘there are only five fire engines in the area and they might have been busy and it takes them half-an-hour to get here’ – all the more reason to make it your first action, then! They did have the good sense to call the porter, whose mother had clearly raised him correctly because he called the fire brigade.

TB & nameless, genderless friend then attempted to rouse the occupants. Someone let them in through the front door but they had to use their secret knowledge of halls of residence locked doors (I’m afraid to ask) to break in to wake everyone up. They also had to cover their mouths and noses with wet cloths to avoid choking. At least I taught him something he paid attention to.

Turns out it was a smouldering pan. Someone either came back drunk and wanted to cook sausages and forgot halfway through and went to bed; or they were cooking their dinner and forgot to turn off the stove and went to bed.

I’m pleased that my boy has the gumption to try and save lives; I just wish he’d use the common sense he was born with and with which his mother tried to stuff him as he was growing up. You should always call the emergency services first. As the Hub pointed out, if it had been more serious and they had been overcome, the fire brigade wouldn’t have known to look for them and this would have been a very different post.

TB says it’s not as big a deal as it sounds and no-one was hurt, and, yes, he did have a shower afterwards and made sure he could breathe properly and will you please leave me alone, Mother? I’ve been up all night writing – and discussing – essays and I need to catch up on some sleep.

He must think I’m an idiot.

Quite Interesting

25 Feb

I was watching QI recently and I learned two interesting facts:

  1. The Netherlands now has its own version.  I first typed ‘Holland’ but luckily I remembered that an episode of QI explained why that is incorrect.  I’m not going to bother telling you why it is, because I’ve forgotten. 

I checked out the QI website and I don’t think it’s that helpful for the kind of information I was looking for – which other countries have their own version?  But it did steer me towards the QI entry in Wikipedia , the first time I have known that to happen, and this in spite of QI’s regular mockery of the veracity of Wikipedia’s entries.  The answer was The Netherlands only.  (Wikipedia cleverly avoided the Holland trap by saying ‘The Dutch’.)  The only reason it hasn’t been picked up by other countries, apparently, is the issue of copyright of the images broadcast.

It took me so long to type that, I’ve forgotten what number 2 is.  How annoying.

Took a chocolate break and it came flooding back; chocolate is clearly brain food – how else do you explain the number of degrees given out each year to 21 year-olds who believe that three years of eating crisps, chocolate, pizza and Coke constitutes a balanced diet? 

There is – allegedly – a website in America called seeitrot.com, where you can buy a webcam for a coffin and watched your loved one moulder to dust away.  I say ‘allegedly’ because of course I had to check it out, and nothing came up except lots of laments about rotten food, and advice on protecting your boat because salt water will otherwise kill it off.  Didn’t know that either.  This self-educating business is fun.

I found the seeitrot.com thing interesting because of my Mum.  I hasten to assure you I had no desire to watch her rot away – it would have been kind of dull, anyway, because she’s a pile of ash – but she had a phobia of being buried or burned alive in her coffin and  I’m sure she’d have insisted I sign up if she’d known about it.  She made everyone she knew swear to stick a pin in her when the time came, to confirm she was truly dead.  Everyone agreed to do it – well, you have to placate crazies, don’t you? – but only the Hub and I followed through.  Just as well, really as, with that many holes in her, the pall bearers would have had embalming fluid stains on their suit shoulders at the funeral.  Now that would have been interesting.

Channelling Bill Withers

9 Feb

I have had a lovely day. I wrote a poem this morning that I was pleased with. In the afternoon I went into my sons’ old school and had a great time with the children, which is not always a given because we live in a deprived area and sometimes it shows. Today they were all well-behaved, polite and friendly. We had great fun with tracing paper and plastic tiles. We had some interesting conversations about football, new schools, religion, accents, particularly Scouse, getting in trouble when it’s not your fault, Darwinism and speaking other languages – not one of them had anything good to say about French, but that could be because the Head was taking them for it. It was lovely, and I didn’t even mind that no-one mentioned the graphite smudges on my face and which I didn’t discover until I got home and the Hub pointed out I was a dirty girl.

Toby and I had a pleasant walk in the freezing sunshine and there was a hot cuppa waiting for me when I got back. A delicious dinner of pasta and then out for parents’ evening. I love parents’ evening. Our boys work hard and do well and most of their teachers over the years have liked them; I always come out smiling. The appointments ranged from 6.15 to 8.15 with twenty minutes between some of them, and the Hub was nervous that we wouldn’t get back in time for the City game; but we did. The trick, of course, is to ignore the timetable completely. The Hub and I have developed the habit of finding a free teacher and asking if they mind squeezing us in; they never do, because they want to get home for the football as well. Sometimes we even see a couple who teach Spud. It amazes me each time to see the parents who take the timetable at face value and wait twenty minutes or more between appointments when other teachers on their list are sitting free; they obviously believe in obeying the rules. They don’t realise the timetable is really just a guide, and a teacher who has put in a full day childminding wants to get home even more than the parents, who have at least had a bite to eat.

We have always managed to avoid the Headmaster’s speech, as well, but he caught us out tonight – on our last teacher. We still managed to get home an hour before our last appointment, however: partly because one teacher didn’t show up and partly because another teacher almost fell into a diabetic coma. I have never been present before when the announcement, ‘Is there a doctor in the room?’ has been made. The atmosphere was electric. People are so easily excited by misfortune, aren’t they? We happened to be standing on the other side of the table that the poor, sick teacher was sitting at, and at first we thought he was sending us funny looks; then he seemed to be in a trance; and then his eyes rolled up in his head. We may be slow but we got it eventually that he was unwell. Fortunately, some of his colleagues were a little quicker off the mark and one of them went to his aid while the other went for the microphone. And guess what? There was a doctor in the house. Hardly surprising, given the calibre of the school; my only surprise was that just one doctor appeared.  There was a terrible traffic jam on the way there, however, so maybe the other doctors were trapped in their cars.

Finally, my lovely day was topped by City winning their match; the menfolk will be in a good mood and it might even last until tomorrow morning. Everyone’s a winner.

Brrrrrr!

8 Jan

Frosty the Snowdog

Sky News is reporting that parts of Britain are as cold as the South Pole.  I know one part of Britain that is decidedly frosty and that’s the area between the house containing Spud’s mother and the school currently containing Spud.  He is not pleased with me: school has been closed all week but re-opened this morning.  Spud was praying for another heavy snowfall in the night and was gutted when it didn’t happen.  He had me check the school website and my text messages every five minutes this morning, in the hope that it would close because of the icy conditions.  It didn’t.

He went off for his first bus at 7:45, pleading to be allowed to stay home.  Then followed a flurry of text messages.  When that didn’t work he phoned me, presumably to let me hear his chattering teeth.  His argument is that it’s not fair because other parents are keeping their children home ‘for safety’, so why does he have to go?  My argument is that 

  1. School is open 
  2. His education is important
  3. We are not quitters in this family
  4. The buses are running
  5. What other (neglectful) parents do for their unfortunate offspring is not my concern
  6. School is open

We are raising a generation of softies, ready to stay home at the first snowflake.  How is he going to be able to brag to his children that he walked seventy-three miles through a snow blizzard at the height of a summer drought to deliver a newspaper to his nearest neighbour, if he can’t get out of bed on a chilly morning?  I think I owe it to my grandchildren to turf him out of doors; don’t you agree?

 

 

PS I was this . close to letting him stay home.  I hate that my baby has to struggle through wind, snow, ice, cold and – worse – public transport, when he could be in the loving arms of his doting mama; but the boy is getting an expensive education for free and he’s going to turn up every day that it’s available unless he is sitting with his head in the toilet and/or both legs encased in plaster.  Snow: it’s character building.

I hope he’s not too cold…. 

 

Mothers & Sons

14 Nov
Top of St Paul's Cathedral

Are we lost?

Good news for this mother – Tory Boy is coming home next weekend.  Just for the day, and just to eat my roast dinner (the only meal I don’t have to burn to ensure it’s cooked), but I’ll grab the scraps and be happy about it.  He hasn’t been home since he went back to uni, and he’s been gone long enough that we have forgotten how irritating he is and can look forward to his visit.

He is thoroughly enjoying his second year.  He has been elected to the Conservative Future Executive (Young Tories to all you die-hard Labourites); he has two political radio slots on the campus radio station; he was able to get work this year (in his first year the recession was at its height and no-one was hiring); his flat mates are much better than last year’s shower; and he has been all over the place to concerts with fifteen of his closest friends.  Not sure if he gets any studying done, but hey, that’s not what university is about, apparently.

He is a good and dutiful son and phones faithfully every Friday and sometimes in-between when he wants something sent to him.  He has a contract phone so he doesn’t have to worry about how often he uses it.  It was not always thus: when he was at school he had a Pay As You Go phone, which he topped up £5 a time.  He has always been quite careless at looking after his phones, and one day it was in his pocket and he must have knocked it and it dialled home.  The Hub could hear him talking to his mates, but TB couldn’t hear the Hub shouting his name down the phone.  I tried phoning the parents of TB’s friends from my mobile in the hope that they could contact one of them, who would tell TB to switch his phone off; but I couldn’t reach anyone.  The Hub was screaming TB’s name by this stage, and he decided to sit in our tiny shoe/coat cupboard so as not to frighten the neighbours.  I hit upon the idea of the Hub using his old referee whistle, and opened the cupboard to find him sitting in the dark yelling ‘TORY!  TORY!  TORY!’ down the phone.  It hadn’t occurred to him to switch on the light (and he’s supposed to be the sensible one).  TB had just put £5 on his phone so it was a shame when the phone suddenly went dead, because it meant his money had run out. 

The Hub was hoarse and exhausted for several hours after, but the bonus for TB when he came home was that his Dad was too shattered to yell at him for being a divvy.

I don’t know why I feel so proud of my son: he once told me that I wasn’t a normal woman because I don’t like shopping or cooking.  I don’t know where he got his misogynist genes from but he’s clearly wearing them too tight.  I will have to beat it out of him and really give him an excuse to hate women.  There are moments when the hand that rocks the cradle rues the birth.

 

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