Being a teacher, I just had to share this article from The Guardian
about complaining to a school.
It’s spot on. Every parent should be sent a copy to read.
Being a teacher, I just had to share this article from The Guardian
about complaining to a school.
It’s spot on. Every parent should be sent a copy to read.
I have three kids; that’s a LOT of kids’ parties. With number three in Reception class, I have adopted a very laissez-faire approach to parties of any kind and the glimpse of an unexpected envelope in the book-bag makes my heart sink a little.
Except they’re rarely in the book bag anymore, they’re via email where you can’t escape them. There’s no false claims of loss or non-arrival – it’s there, in your inbox, awaiting an RSVP.
Recently, I have been subjected to something even worse: Save the Date emails.
Bunnikins is having a party in seven months time, so can you Save the Date? (subtext: your child better f**king be there or I will stalk you and bad-mouth your name in the playground and everyone will KNOW what a crap mother you are).
Is it just me or is asking me to save the date for a child’s party somewhat OTT? Actually, I think it’s bloody rude. I can hardly say, ‘No, I won’t save the date because something better might come along’ or ‘Actually, I am so tired of ferrying my kids to parties every weekend my child won’t be coming and we shall be at home instead, doing nothing of any substance’. I don’t WANT to save the date, thank you very much. This is not a wedding or some once-in-a-lifetime occasion. It is a kid’s party.
My daughter turned 10 recently and I offered her a party or £100 cash to spend as she pleases. She took the cash. It was the cheaper and easier option for me and she got to buy a pile of sparkly crap from Claire’s and enough stationery to furnish a new Ryman’s store. It was a win-win situation:
She was happy. I was happy. In fact her siblings have also expressed a wish to do the same, which suits me fine.
You may think me more of a party-pooper than a party-popper, but, for me, the stress and expense is just not worth the hastily forgotten two hours of mayhem and (usually) tears.
Incidentally, it is my birthday today and I’m not having a party either. Might have a spend-up at the weekend though ;-)
So, how did February get here so fast, eh?
I have survived Friday the 13th and side-stepped having to watch 50 Shades of Shite at the cinema.
Valentine’s Day has been and gone as has my littlest daughter’s 5th birthday. Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday and that doesn’t just mean pancakes, that means Lent. I know what I should give up (alcohol), what I might give up (biscuits) and what I will probably give up (trying).
I don’t do Dry January, mainly because I think January is the most miserable month of the year and possibly the time when some wine-fuelled joy is most needed. Lent always encompasses my birthday and, much as I like to think I’m strong-willed, I am not and the thought of dragging myself through another birthday without alcohol to numb the pain is, frankly, a naivety. I am also off for a couple of weekends away in March and living’ it up with a diet coke just isn’t going to happen.
Biscuits are a maybe. I teach and the significance of a choccie digestive at 11am is highly under-estimated by the majority of the population. There was near-revolution in one school I worked in when, in recessionary cuts, they stopped supplying chocolate biscuits to the staff room. Talk about cut off your nose to spite your face. The power of a sneakily dunked bourbon was missed completely.
I am (as ever) determined to give up something…which of my vices it will be may well be a last-minute (and hastily revoked) decision.
My birthday, I don’t mind so much this year. Dragged kicking and screaming into my forties, I now discover I have never felt so confident. It’s great. I no longer give a damn about what people think of me or how they will judge me if I choose to wear my hair in an Elsa plait despite my tell-tale wrinkles. Sod it; I am loving the freedom of my forties and have never felt so good about myself. I am in full-flow mid-life crisis (new car, new *sort of * career, and, as my husband has commented, wearing a lot of bangles. I am re-living my A-ha days…).
Yep, February is a great month for me. Full of ups and not so many downs.
Wish I could say the same for March…
It’s Valentine’s Day and social media is a-flutter with its lovers and haters.
I fall somewhere in between and I believe Valentine’s Day is very much a subjective occasion.
When I was young, in my late teenage/twenties, Valentine’s Day was huge. The thought of not getting a card was enough to spiral me into a Bridget Jones type angst. Cards, flowers, dinner, great sex – all of this mattered. Back then.
Now, nearly 42 and after 11 years of marriage, I am resigned to the fact that I have no secret admirers, nor am I likely to acquire any on the way. I was forewarned by my husband that ‘I haven’t got you anything’ and, to his word, he didn’t. It doesn’t bother me a lot, but it does bother me a little. Like many others, I don’t need a special day to tell me I am loved and I don’t buy into the commercialism, but if you go back to the origins of Valentine’s Day, it is about a man who was willing to die in order to facilitate love. And that’s pretty special. He should be remembered and love should be celebrated. With all the tragedy that permeates our news headlines, I kinda like the fact we make such a fuss about something which is, at the end of the day, a positive thing. Lovely, in fact.
I also get the Valentine haters. Perhaps those who are not loved, who are in abusive relationships, who are lonely, whose experience of love is a wholly negative experience. Those who have loved, and lost.
It’s the people who ‘don’t give a damn about Valentine’s Day’ but actually do, that bother me. The not caring but quite willing to vociferously slap their damning opinions in the faces of those who are either trying to have a nice day or are trying to ignore everything heart-shaped. If you want nothing to do with it, then kindly bugger off.
Live and let love. That’s what I think, anyway.
Like much of Britain, I was dismayed to hear that Kraft (who bought Cadbury’s) have been rather ‘Krafty’ *groans* and changed the chocolate on Creme Eggs. No longer does thick dairy milk surround the sweet, gooey filling but cheap, thin chocolate that tastes as sugary as its filling.
I tweeted my alarm to Cadbury’s, Facebooked my torment and then, today, I decided that I really had no right to damn these new ovum without actually trying one. It took all of 5 seconds to persuade myself to buy one.
Ok, a box.
First up, it’s now a box of 5. Robbed of an egg before I’m even off the starting blocks.
Secondly, I mentally prepared myself to push aside my prejudice and judge it for what it is. Being an RS teacher, and having recently finished teaching The Good Samaritan, I urged my pupils to take heed and judge people by what’s on the inside, not on the outside or what label they have attached to them. So, I applied this wisdom to the new Creme Egg. I closed my eyes and bit off the top and…
…I am NOT happy. I’m not convinced the inside hasn’t been changed a bit too, but the chocolate is now a darker colour, thin and really sweet. The old chocolate was thick – sometimes it was an almighty effort to bite through it, especially if it was chilled. It was milky and cloying, which balanced the oozing, sugary filling and every mouthful was a mission of pleasure to complete.
The new egg lacks texture, taste and I would like to know who thought they could change a British institution and get away with it. No, that sounds a bit UKIP-y *shudders* but you know what I mean. Generations have grown up with the uniqueness of Creme Eggs and their limited annual release simply made them more desirable. It was a talking point, ‘Creme Eggs are back in the shops!” and mental notes were made to sneakily buy one next time you were in a shop or petrol station. They were a guilty secret to be scoffed (sometimes whole) and savoured.
Now, I realise that this is very much a ‘first world problem’ and in relation to the horrors of the news headlines, bastardising Creme Eggs is, perhaps, not such a big deal.
Except it is. Change it back, please, Kraft. Because there’s a significant part of the nation that won’t be buying them any more until you do.
Oh, yes I did!
I am usually never more than 30cm from my iPad – it is like my entire world in an Orla Kiely case. Except, that same iPad is now in a bag of dried rice in my airing cupboard.
How did it happen?
1. Pile washing into a basket and pop iPad on top so you don’t drop it when coming downstairs.
2. Pick up daughter’s school shirts on way down and place on top.
3. Load washing into the machine.
4. Put out recycling.
5. Re-enter kitchen.
6. Wonder what the banging sound is in the washing machine.
7. Swear loudly.
8. Google what to do and realise you’re not the only one…
Thing is, I can’t claim on insurance because (a) my husband dropped his in the garden last week and smashed it to buggery and claimed and (b) the excess is £200 and I may as well buy a new iPad and save the inflated premiums, which will cover its cost anyway. Which is what I’ve done, because I am not hopeful for my poor iPad. I can’t turn it off and (apparently), this is essential as it is the short-circuiting that well and truly buggers it up. So, perhaps, wiping it while it was still flickering with life (yes, it WAS still working when I retrieved it from the suds) was not the best thing to do.
I peeped at it tonight and it is lifeless. The light has gone from its watermarked screen and it is, in effect, an ex-iPad.
I pick up the new one tomorrow.
NB: two months later and it still hasn’t come back to life. It does ‘bing’ when I put the charger in but it is totally blank and does nothing else.
Sometimes, I truly believe that the small things in life act as a metaphor for the bigger issues. In my case, for the past ten days or so, my fate seems to have been dictated by a Christmas pudding.
It all started when I declared, with no uncertainty, that we would once again be embracing ‘Stir-up Sunday’ in our house, the last Sunday before Advent when, traditionally, puddings (and wishes) are made. I say ‘embraced’, but, in truth, I was the only one doing the embracing. The rest of my lot gave it more of a shrug.
Stir-up Sunday happened to fall on the weekend away I had booked with a friend. Undeterred, I assured the household that the ingredients had been bought and on my return we would congregate in the kitchen and make the pudding.
Now, I have a really good pudding recipe, care of La Nigella, and it can’t be compromised. Needless to say, as I skimmed it on the journey home I realised that I had forgotten that the fruit needs to be soaked for at least 24 hours (preferably a week) in the sherry before the pudding is made. After muttering a few choice expletives, I decided to opt for the short soak and declared we would have Stir-up Monday instead. I then ruined the mood by singing in my best Susannah Hoff voice ‘It’s just another Stir-up Monday…’. Yep, that reaction your having – same for the kids. And the husband.
Of course, by Monday I was knackered and the kids didn’t get in from school ’til 6 and I had only got in from work myself at half 5 so, I decided it was probably better to give the fruit a decent soaking after all and leave it until the next Sunday.
Next Sunday came and passed. Having single-handedly erected the tree and decorated the house I was in no mood for pudding. Neither were the kids who had reached ‘that point’ (I was soon to follow) and were shouting and fighting and bickering on a loop.
So, last night (Wednesday) I decided the fruit was plump to the point of bursting and pudding must be made. I was on a bit of a high because that day I had finished writing the 121 school reports required of me, the last Parents’ evening of the season had been administered the night before and, save a 3 foot high stack of marking, the end of term had now loomed into view.
So, with kids in pyjamas and about to go off to Bedfordshre, I dragged them into the kitchen and made them stir and wish, ignoring the arguments about who was in whose way and whose turn was longer (the longer the turn, the longer they could stay up – which was more bad planning by me). My son pointed out that as I was the OLDEST I had to go last. I made a very altruistic wish, more of a hope really, and packed the kids off to bed.
The last thing to go in the pudding was the pudding charms. A few years ago I splashed out on some lovely silver Victorian pudding charms, each with a special meaning and each, in its own right, a particularly beautiful choking hazard. I’m buggered if I can find them. I have checked all the usual ‘safe-keeping’ places and they are nowhere to be found. The only possibility is that I left them at my sister’s last year but, seeing as I am in Kent and she is in Lincoln, I couldn’t pop ’round for a rummage. So, this year’s pudding is one that champions all that is health and safety and none of the fun.
By the time I had actually managed to get the string around the rim of the basin to tie the ‘lid’ on, it was about 8pm. Merrily, I popped it in the steamer and checked how long it had to steam for: five hours. FIVE HOURS! I had been up since 5.15am with my poorly daughter and now I had to stay up ’til 1am. I was not convinced the pudding would be ‘right’ if left in the fridge until the today (and anyway, I have a carol service to go to after school and would have even less time), so I left it steaming and whiled away the evening with Alan, Dara, Ant and Dec until it was midnight and I only had an hour to go. Finding some meaningless nonsense on tele to watch, I waited out the hour…only to wake to an acrid smell at 2.45am and my head in the over-hanging branches of our Christmas tree. My pudding had boiled dry, the house stank and weeks of pudding-chaos had been topped, like the star on the top of the tree, by my falling asleep during the final leg. I turned the gas off, swore and went to bed.
This morning, the smell was still there and I gingerly peeped at the pud. It looks…done. It is supposed to be steamed for five hours and then for a further three on Christmas Day. I am hoping that I can steam it for 1 hour and it will be OK. But, more to the point, I am concerned that it will taste of the smell of carbonised stainless steel. I might tweet Nigella and see if she will help me. Maybe she’ll take pity tell me what to do, but I fear ‘Bin it and start again’ could be her response.
Anyway, assuming you’re still reading and haven’t given up on my pudding rant, the point of the post was that all of this menial activity is really just a metaphor for my life at the moment. The complete lack of time I have and trying to juggle events, squeeze things in, do six things at once…all of them badly. Nothing going to plan, no matter how much effort or preparation is put in beforehand. Life lacking charm and, like my poor old saucepan, feeling boiled dry.
I am hoping the pudding can be salvaged and, with it, the hope that, by Christmas, everything will be just fine. But, I fear I might be saying, ‘Pudding, I am going to have to chew you up and spit you out.’ Please, Life. Don’t do the same to me.
Yes. Before you start, I KNOW suburbian isn’t word. But it should be.
So, the other night I was at that point in the evening when you know you should be going to bed but, in actual fact, you are nursing the dregs of a bottle of wine (that was part of the M&S meal deal) and watching crap on tele.
As is the case in these situations, we flicked through the channels and happened upon the top 10 hits of Queen. Or something to that effect. Now (bearing in mind that a week or so before when watching Alison Hammond on Strictly, my husband revealed he had not recognised the song Wuthering Heights, or who sang it) we had whittled our way down to the top Queen song ever and THIS conversation happened:
Husband: I wonder what no.1 will be?
Me: Er…duh! Bohemian Rhapsody.
Husband: Oh, yes. Of course.
(We watch for a few minutes. Yes, I was singing along)
Husband: So, can he really sing?
Me: Freddie Mercury?
Husband: Yes. Can he sing? I mean, really.
Me: Er, YES!!
Husband: But, I mean…would he win The Voice?
Yes. I was as stunned into silence, as I presume you are.
My husband is a reasonably sane man and, whilst not well-versed in 80s pop (he grew up in SA), he is reasonably cultured.
Or so I thought.
Clearly, ignorance of la Bush and questioning the vocal capability of Freddie Mercury calls this into question. Can you seek divorce on grounds of your husband being a musical luddite?
All those misconceptions of married bliss. And another one bites the dust.
I have always been one to vehemently champion the working mother, being one myself and all. And, up until now, everything has gone as well as it can. I have three kids and have always gone back to work through financial need and because I think I might have gone beyond bonkers with boredom if I didn’t.
I thought, as they got older, it would be easier. Not so. My youngest has just started school and (I naively presumed) with all three of them in the same school, life would be easier. Not one bloody bit. I now have three sets of pick-ups, homework, kitbags to wash, snacks to organise, reading to be heard etc. etc. We live about 30 mins from school and by the time we get home (usually around 5:30pm) we have homework, showers, supper, PJs, teeth and reading to do. That leaves about 30s for my kids to actually relax. Be kids. Play.
Bit crap, isn’t it?
And so, for the first time, I am wondering if it would be better if I was at home. I mean, it’s flippin’ manic. All of the above plus 5 lots of washing, the housework, the bills, the food planning/shopping/cooking/cajoling/clearing. We have no babysitter. This not only means no nights out but we have the impending Parents’ evenings to attend, as teachers (yes, both of us in the same school). What do we do with the kids?
Our weekends are a blur of kids’ parties (bloody ****ing things), MORE homework, chores and passing out in front of Strictly. Having made a different home-made pizza for everyone. And cleared up.
My oldest daughter is entering tweenage and squawks at how unfair it all is. My son has Aspergers and needs a lot of attention which former daughter finds unfair (surprise!). My youngest is as feisty as …. and requires taming at any opportunity lest she release the wrath of a four-year-old redhead.
It’s tiring. So, so tiring.
We are trying to do it all and scraping through, but I worry that my kids’ childhood will be gone in a whiffling breeze and when we are finally sorted and good-to-go it will be ‘Where are the kids? Oh, university!’.
Complicated, isn’t it?
You and I seem to be newly acquainted. It’s funny how, in a household so full of people, so bloody busy, there is a serious lack of communication.
I chatted to you just the other day – did you notice?
The kids were tired and being grotty little monsters after school, OH wasn’t home and no matter what I said or how I said it, nobody took any notice.
And so I turned to you. Told you everything. Exhaled. Felt better.
I like how you listen. To my wittering, my screeching, my need to just, well, have a conversation. I kinda had another wall for a time. But I think that wall may have been demolished; I had no warning, no planning permission, no health and safety memo. Nothing. It was there one day and gone the next. I am searching amongst the rubble, but it seems that’s all there is. I have asked the council what’s going on, but I get some prepared statement; a promise of nothing. Lies.
And so, I seem to be back. And, do you know what? It feels good. The awkward silence has dissolved and you and I are back on track. Which is always a good place to be.
It’s been a while since we’ve spoken and it’s my fault; I’m just so busy.
I won’t bore you with the details but it ranges from the wildly exciting to the excruciatingly mundane and I just don’t have any more time or energy to write to you. I’m sorry about that.
I still love you and you will always be ‘the one’. I know you’ll always be there for me and I am forever grateful for that.
I just wanted to let you know; I haven’t forgotten about you. I think about you a lot and I thought you should know that. For what it’s worth.
I will come back. Everybody needs their wall.
It’s been one of those weeks. You know, the really expensive ones that you didn’t see coming. On Monday, our washing machine broke – seems it can’t be fixed and we need a new machine. Two adults, three kids and two muddy dogs in a house with no washing facility.
Then, on Wednesday, the boiler went on the blink and we had no hot water (there is nothing so unfulfilling as a mildly tepid bath and a bath-bomb that just sits, fermenting on the bottom of the bath without a hint of fizz).
So, not only could we not wash our clothes; we couldn’t wash ourselves. Even having to have cold water to wash my hands was an irritant.
These things happen and we are fortunate that we can have them fixed or replaced, but it brings home the fact that you never realise or appreciate what (or who) you’ve got until it’s gone. You know; like when you get a cold and appreciate breathing.
So, there I was, a bit grumpy and inconvenienced and then something happened that made me snap out of it quicker than a cat having a (tepid) bath; I turned on the news.
If ever you need a big slap of reality, just look at the headlines, and then offer the other cheek and get repeatedly slapped by the horrific stories they are exposing. Beheading, bombs, splintered limbs, disease, landslides, abuse, neglect – utter misery. I used to turn down the radio in the car for some headlines, to protect my children from this ever-hideous world. Now I just turn it off altogether because all the headlines depict some tragedy or vile act of one human being toward another. Yet, as adults, we cannot ignore it; we must not. The abject horror and suffering many people have to endure is too hard to bear – but they must and so should we. People die in order to make the world aware (I was brought to tears by the statement from James Foley’s parents) and I feel it is our duty to sit up and take notice.
Change cannot come from ignorance, but from education and action. And hope.
In my last post I spoke about luck; how we can make our own luck, good and bad. I think I need to take that back. It IS luck; a genetic roulette that allowed me to be born in the UK rather than Gaza, that allows my kids to grow up in comfort and shelter rather than squalid refugee camps.
Next time I open my mouth to complain about some small misfortune that has befallen me, I will stop to think and close my safe, healthy, free mouth before remembering how bloody lucky I am.
Some people say they are lucky. You know they type; they always win prizes in raffles, parking spaces magically appear for them and life always seem to turn out with a cherry on the top.
I do believe in luck. I think. Or, perhaps, coincidence. I’m not a mathematician and probability eludes me, but there are some things in life that happen for no good reason whatsoever. We call it luck. Sometimes good; sometimes bad.
“The harder I practice; the luckier I get”
I think there are times when you can make your own luck. And that’s what I am trying to do at the moment. Create opportunities for myself that prompt exclamations from observers of ‘Lucky you!’. I smile and nod, but I am making it happen; it isn’t luck, it is sheer determination.
For example, I write this sitting on the train from King’s Cross to Edinburgh. I am going to the festivals for the weekend with the intention of, naturally, seeing a few shows but moreover to promote and distribute poetry. I assume you are aware that I co-run a website called ‘Paper Swans’ and we ran a micropoetry competition on Twitter, the winners of which have had their poems printed on pocket cards (currently residing in my suitcase) to be given out and discussed at the Edinburgh Book Festival. When I said to a friend that I was going to Edinburgh, his response was (naturally) ‘Lucky you.’ Don’t worry – I didn’t labour the point, but it made me think and about all the time and effort (and money) I have put into making this happen. It will be a success – I know it will, because I will fulfil what I am setting out to do. Luck will be if I happen to meet a poetry agent or small publisher who takes an interest in what we are doing. Luck is if I get through the weekend without it raining or if I bump into Hugh Jackman at a bar. But getting to Edinburgh, having these beautiful poetry to cards to give out – I made that happen (with my cohort, Stephanie, of course!).
It’s funny how pensive you get on a train, isn’t it? Hours of time to kill, the outside rushing by. In a few hours I will be swept away with the hubbub of ‘arty types’ and, as I’m travelling alone, I’ll be feeling as alive as hell.
And if you’re wishing you could do something exciting too? Well, good luck to you.