musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

What Fresh Hell Is This…. — June 11, 2017

What Fresh Hell Is This….

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Don’t worry dear readers. This entry is not about the UK elections. We aren’t talking about them here. It causes friction. So if deep political insight is what you are after please jog on. Watch Newsnight. Read the Daily Mail…or something.

A few weeks before half term Youngest came home and mumbled something about joining a school club. Youngest is quite savvy when it comes to requesting things and she usually asks very quietly at some key pinch point in a busy evening and takes my ‘sorry dear’ as assent.

In any event the club was at lunchtime and so had no direct impact on me. I was feeling slightly guilty as her club levels always drop in the summer term as the football season limps to a close in a flurry of tournaments and presentation events. Additionally this term, for some reason, school had dispensed with after school training for rounders/ football (this term’s sports of choice) for her year group. Why still remains a mystery. But the upshot was she was coming home every night on time and only venturing out again on Mondays (yep that football was continuing) and Wednesdays, oh and Fridays. So I was feeling under clubbed.

Anyway she went to her club. She seemed to enjoy it. I asked her about what she was doing and then got distracted by something else (probably Latin revision or a French aural exam or prising a teenager off an electronic device or suddenly remembering Eldest’s piano lesson with 3 minutes to spare) and forgot to listen to the answer.

I caught ‘posters’ and ‘may not get through to next half term’ and gleaned that there was some sort of competitive element to the club whilst still involving felt tip pens.

I did catch ‘it will be after school after half term’ which increased that impact on yours truly whilst simultaneously assuaging my ‘lack of clubs’ guilt. I decided to let this go. I was clearly missing my boomeranging backwards and forwards to school of an evening.

Half term came and went in a pleasant blur of those football death throws, a lovely trip to the seaside to visit my dad, some hockey, some successful shopping and a migraine. That wasn’t so pleasant.

I only had Youngest for most of last week (please read Sorry if you want to know why) and so I was able to listen more fully to her when I picked her up from this club on Wednesday night.

It transpires that the club is called the ‘Fiver Challenge’ club. Members have, you guessed it, a fiver to spend on set up costs and need to make as much profit for charity as possible. By selling stuff. Which must not be edible. Youngest and her mate had got through to the final four with the idea of making emoji cushions.

Now in common with most 9 year olds Youngest has no concept of money. And so she had not costed out this plan. At all. My head, of course, started working overtime pondering how to buy all the materials required to make enough emoji cushions to make any profit at all for five pounds. I asked Youngest to come up with a list of requirements. This is what she came up with; yellow, red, black and white felt. I added to this stuffing, sewing cotton in various hues, black embroidery thread, a glue gun with glue and labour.

As even a reel of cotton is about £1.85 I was quite unsure how all this was going to pan out. I have stuffing (from my previous knitting escapades. I have a really rather fetching knitted Christmas crib scene in my loft complete with sheep (well a sheep I got fed up after three kings, Mary, Joseph, a shepherd, a manger and of course the baby himself and so the shepherd has quite an easy job herding one sheep)) and also some left over embroidery thread from my cross stitching days (although not really in very useful colours, they will have to make do) some cotton from general sewing (although no yellow) and Eldest had offered to be the sweat shop labour as long as he only got to make turd, devil or (bizarrely) heart emojis. That left all the actual fabric. And yellow cotton.

So after a morning driving her on a 2 hour round trip for a one hour football thing we decided we had better go out and see what could be done. I had a brain wave. Charity shops. We cruised into town to go on the Charity Shop Crawl which I usually only undertake when a ‘dressing up’ day has been announced at school. Tudors, Victorians, elves, Florence Nightingale etc. I thought maybe we could source some old bed sheets or cheap T shirts in the right hues.

I think it is fair to say that Charity shops have gone up market. I could easily find a prom dress or fair trade chocolates or next years Christmas cards but only one of my usual haunts had bed sheets. And then the yellow sheet I found (reasonably priced and would have made umpteen cushions) was too pale for Youngest. Not emoji enough. I couldn’t find a T shirt under four quid. I can buy them new for that. From actual sweat shops.

We left empty handed. And decided to try Hobbycraft. They came up trumps with cheapish felt and we bought as much as we could for that fiver. I also bought that yellow cotton and decided to pretend I had had ‘it in’. I only actually ‘have in’ black and white (for name label sewing) and colours that match scouting uniforms, that is bright blue and green. Plus weirdly red. Not sure why I have red. That will be good for sewing on tongues though.

Then the children decided to raid their T shirt drawers. I put back all the T shirts they still actually wear and ones I have bought this year but that still gave us a number in the right colours. Brown for turds, purple for hearts and devils (I challenged them on this, purple hearts? but then Eldest sent me one so I relented), green for a sick emoji and 2 yellow T shirts from when the boys had had house events in the Junior school. I had kept them so Youngest (in the same house) could wear them and then the school brought out a house branded shirt only sold at the school appointed uniform shop and those T shirts became redundant. Thanks god I had not got rid of them. The white T shirt (ghosts) that Youngest found in her drawer is size 6 -7 and has Eldest’s name in it so I can only assume he wore it in PE in Year 1. He is Year 8 now. Mental note to self- must go through the T shirt drawers more often.

So then the fun of turning this mountain of fabric into items children may actually wish to purchase could really begin. We spent several more precious hours making templates, drawing round them and cutting felt before we could even begin to sew. And then I was merely required to try to remember how to do blanket stitch (which I can never remember how to do, go on try I bet you can’t either) to thread needles non stop for two hours, start them off and finish them off (after having unpicked at least 5 stitches to allow me enough thread to actually finish off even after telling them repeatedly how much thread I need to finish off) and sooth Youngest when she drew blood. Oh and cut out sunglasses. In those 2 long hours Youngest and Eldest sewed precisely one cushion each.

And just so you know hand sewing T shirt material is really really difficult.

The pop up shop is in 2 weeks. I may have died of over needle threading/ knot undoing /finishing/starting offing by then.

Oh well I haven’t got the glue gun out yet. I like the glue gun. That will be a highlight. As long as I can find it. Preliminary searches have not gone well. Is it possible to lose a glue gun? I’ll let you know.

Cheers school. Again.

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Cushion number one.

 

 

 

Being Brave…revisited… — June 8, 2017

Being Brave…revisited…

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Some of you may remember my previous entry Being Brave…

I was brave in a particular way that I hoped might be a small inspiration to my kids.

Well today it paid off.

I have introduced you to my daughter before. In case you are new, or inattentive, here is a bit about Youngest.

Ever since she sailed into the world Youngest has been a determined and hard working individual. At age 18 months she was insisting on dressing herself and doing up her shoes. This was a shock after two boys who would probably still let me lace their shoes for them now, in some sort of slightly weird servant fashion, given half the chance.

Youngest is perhaps the least academic of all my children. School work has never come as easily for her as for Middlest and I have had less time to spend with her than I did with Eldest. But what she lacks in natural ability she more than makes up for in effort. She is the hardest working of all my children. And that is saying something as Eldest has an amazing work ethic.

Since she was three years old she has been athletic. Taking to every sport put in front of her with aplomb. I remember her coming home from her first taste of football at preschool literally bouncing off the walls. She did it in a pinafore and wellies but already the love for the sport was there. She had done well. Even for a three year old. In wellies. So yes she has bucket loads of natural ability.

But this is not to belittle the effort she also makes in all her sports. I often worry that teachers or coaches will believe she just relies on her natural skill when nothing could be further from the truth. If she is not at training for one sport or another (in the football season twice a week plus matches and then once a week after school for whatever other sport is being played in that term) she is in the garden or up the local field practicing.

If the weather is bad she boots her baby ball around on the landing, driving me mad with the bell inside….

Nearly every Saturday she either plays for school or her football team. In fact in the hockey season there were at least two occasions when she played a league football match in the morning and a school hockey fixture in the afternoon.

In the off season she runs park runs. She managed to compete ten 5k runs last summer and earn her ’10’ T shirt. During the end of this season she has turned out to some Junior Park runs on Sundays as she had no other sport on that day so thought she may as well. She actually hates running but knows that in order to get a flying start for footie and hockey in September she needs to keep her fitness up and so off she goes.

She recently ran ten miles in under an hour and a half whilst crossing off bridges in the sponsored Cub Scout bridge walk. The determination to do that would elude most adults.

In short although my daughter clearly has natural talent in sport she also works her socks off improving her skills and stamina. She is determined. Immensely so. She wants to play football for a living, if such a thing becomes possible for women, and understands that to achieve that she has to work and work.  And she also knows her chances are slim but that doesn’t stop her determination to give it all she has.

To balance all this sport I was keen she do something else too and so along with her brothers she has learnt the piano since Year Two. I play and have since that age and still enjoy  murdering the odd bit of Chopin and it comes in handy at Christmas. I was adamant she carry on even as her sport commitments ramped up.  In fact she recently had to turn down attending swim squad training to keep learning, I couldn’t fit her lesson in on any other day.

She doesn’t have anywhere near the natural talent in it that she does in sport. And so again she works very, very hard at it practising every morning before school and as a result she is making steady progress.

Today was the school music prizes. She entered herself with one of her grade two pieces. She has practised and practised.

She finds playing in public immensely scary. I empathise. It is very hard to control one’s nerves enough to be able to physically play. Her legs turn to mush and her arms shake.

She has often had to be brave in sport. She regularly comes up against opponents much bigger then her, often male. She runs up for her Year so tomorrow she will be attending an athletics meet, running a distance she has never run before, on an athletics track, again a first, and she will be one of only two Year 5s going from her school. But although she will be nervous her natural skill and competitive streak will kick in and help her.

She can’t rely on this in music. This morning she was almost actually sick with nerves and ended up sobbing that she was going to pull out.

We had the bravery chat. That cliche of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. That even if the worst happened and she ‘went wrong’ she could still feel proud of herself for trying. That you have to be in it to win it. I told her everyone would be feeling nervous. I reminded her of me singing that solo and how proud she was of me. And how sickeningly nervous I had been. She decided to go ahead.

And then quite unexpectedly she went and won.

Bravery quite literally paid off. But even if she hadn’t won the prize she still would have won in my eyes. All those competitors today are winners as far as I am concerned. Doing such a brave thing at age 9, or indeed any age, is something to be very proud of.

Well done all.

Sorry — June 6, 2017

Sorry

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I feel I should apologise.

Not to all of you.

Some of you live abroad.

But to all my local readers I need to be humbly sorry.

For the unrelenting pissing down rain and heavy winds that we are currently experiencing in the south east of England are a direct result of my children’s school.

Eldest and Middlest are on Activities Week. Let me explain. The school has a commitment to ‘outdoor’ education which means nothing for most of the year (except for a requirement to stand on cold, muddy pitches an awful lot and having to avoid square drill marching cadets on Tuesday evenings) but for one week a year it does mean the children go off on jolly japes and adventures in the great outdoors to commune with nature, learn more about themselves and drive their parents into a tizz over the kit requirements.

Now don’t get me wrong I am all in favour of outdoor education. All my children are in the Scout movement. We camp. We bike ride and swim and hike and surf and climb and take measured calculated risks with pen knives and camp fires. In short we do a lot of outdoor stuff. I love the outdoors. So do my kids.

Middlest (in Year 7) has a week of fiendishly complicated logistics which involve him in 2 local days out at three different locations and a three day, 2 night away trip. Easy peasy? Not really. Despite filling in the comprehensive (bizarrely yellow) forms stating that I was not going to collect Middlest from either off site venue as he has, you know, siblings that I needed to collect from school contemporaneously I still got a panicked call the week before half term during an important meeting demanding to know if I was collecting Middlest from the Country Park on Thursday. I ignored the call, so they rang my husband who knows nothing about logisitics who then also interrupted my important meeting. In any event Middlest is camping in Oxfordshire on Thursday and so clearly even if he hadn’t had siblings I was not going to be collecting him from the local (ish) country park. We got that sorted. Eventually.

Yesterday he spent the day at a local lake. It was too windy to sail. He was a bit disgruntled about that claiming that surely the more wind the better. I explained about capsizing and ramming. Into each other and the bank. He relented somewhat. Not to worry he had enjoyed the kayaking (although he was frustrated at having to go slowly as he is a bit of a ‘pro’ at kayaking (his words)) and the bell boating. And the replacement sailing activity. Sliding down a piece of astro turf straight into the lake and swimming back to shore. He thought it necessary to wear his waterproof coat during this manoeveur. Not entirely sure why. Maybe I should have explained before the event that waterproof does not mean full immersion proof.  And he could have removed all manner of crap from the pockets first. Which I had to fish out and discard later. Yuck.

So a bag of wet clothes, towels, water shoes and waterproof coats awaited me. Not to worry plenty of time to get that coat dry ready for today. Not. It is at times like these that I seriously regret not having a tumble dryer. We love the outdoors remember. And would like it to stay unmolested by global warming for a little bit longer…

I hung the coat on the line outside and left to get Youngest from her footie training leaving Middlest with strict instructions to bring in the coat (and water shoes) if the black ominous clouds lived up to their appearance. Guess how well that went. I suppose I only lost an hour of drying time.

He needed that coat today as the weather forecast was even worse. He was due to spend half the day on a high ropes course which from memory when we did it a few years ago had no shelter at all and the other half in a wood orienteering. This is the wood which is one of our regular haunts in the holidays. The picture up there is what my children looked like after a wet day there last year. I was severely dreading facing the state of the waterproof coat, and indeed hike boots, when he returned.

It has rained solidly all day. And been very windy. In fact it would have been better if he had been sliding into that lake today as he got drenched to the skin anyway from the unrelenting precipitation.

His hike boots are literally waterlogged. His coat sodden. Not to worry these things dry out except that I have to pack them all later in a suitable rucksack so he can take them away camping tomorrow morning. He will be wearing both there. There is no way they are coming into contact with his sleeping bag. Which is currently dry. Looking at the forecast I doubt that will last.

Luckily Middlest is made of strong stuff. Despite his small and slightly puny appearance he has a great capacity for tolerating mud and rain and immense fortitude in the face of adversity. On the Year 6 ‘Outdoor Education’ trip he fell flat on his face in the mud whilst doing a blind trail. He thought he should just dive head first straight through the tractor tyre. He just found it funny as muddy water dripped off his nose. Apparently. Today he was fortunate as he was the first on the high ropes course (he volunteered- that’s Middlest for you, loves heights and climbing and is an all round monkey) and therefore got round the course before it was abandoned due to high winds. Some children had to be rescued after only a few obstacles.

So he will probably enjoy then next three days when again unrelenting rain is forecast- except for tomorrow when they are travelling there- he won’t wash, brush his teeth or change his clothes. He has a plan. Wear his waterproofs over his clothes all the time. Simply remove them before bed. And sleep. In the middle of the tent (or shelter if they are mad enough to go for that) away from the probably muddy door and also the probably wet sides. With his mates. So they can chat.

We packed all the other stuff anyway just in case. No PJs though. No point.

As for Eldest he left for a week on the welsh coast on Sunday. It was nice when they arrived. According to the text we got and the sparse Facebook photos. I glanced at the forecast for the rest of the week, shuddered and decided not to think about it. At least they are spending part of the week in an actual building.

So again my humble apologies.

The weather will improve next week when they are back in Maths and Geography.

Promise.

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The rucksack wearing Middlest

 

 

 

Early to bed, Early to rise… — June 1, 2017

Early to bed, Early to rise…

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There are many unnerving and frankly annoying things about owning teenagers. And I speak here as a mere amateur as I currently only own one teenager who is at the very early stages to boot.

I can only imagine it will get worse. Watch this space…

But perhaps the issue I am currently finding it the most hard to adjust to is the fact that he never goes to bed. And then won’t wake up in the morning.

This is somewhat of a departure from the norm. If I had written this blog anytime up until about a year ago I would be bemoaning the fact that Eldest woke up every day at 5.30am. In fact this was the pattern of his childhood years. He always believed that morning began at this ungodly hour and could not be persuaded otherwise. Despite trying all sorts. Clocks with pop up ears. Black out blinds. Baby whispering. Lavender. Etc.

When he was in a cot we used to ignore him by means of putting pillows over our heads. But even so we had to resign ourselves to the day beginning at 6am when his clamouring became too insistent to ignore.

Once he was in a bed (shortly after Middlest was born) all hell broke loose on a daily basis as he rampaged around the house waking his brother and demanding attention. In the end I put a stair gate on his bedroom door to contain him until a time I considered to be morning. Basically anything starting with a six.

So for many years my day began at 6am. Even when he started school and got more biddable he still woke early but was able to keep himself amused until getting up time of 7am. But I was still awake because as every mother knows once the child is awake so is the mother. Even Saturday and Sundays began at this hour although husband and I would take it in turns ensuring one of us got a lie in until around 8am.

Even as an older child on holiday having been allowed to stay up late to attend the disco or karaoke he would still awaken bang on time at 5.30am. Maybe after a week of such late nights his body clock may have shifted a little bit but generally he would just get tireder and tireder until he was begging to go to bed at his usual hour.

For the flip side to this early rising was the fact that for those many years all my kids were in bed asleep by 7pm. The bedtime routine began straight after tea with bath and milk and TV (I have very fond memories of In the Night Garden; how I miss Makka Pakka and his OCD stone piling) and stories (often the same one for weeks at a time- The Little Red Train being one of them) and then straight to sleep. This gave me around 3 hours of solitude. At least two of which I could spend how I liked once chores were accomplished. And yes I had to brush their teeth and wipe their bums and dry their little bodies and tuck them in. But all that could be achieved in the knowledge of the peace and solitude that awaited me downstairs. Oh and the sole custody of the remote control. And possibly some Salt and Vinegar Kettle Chips. Once I had started on tea it felt like I was on a downwards slide towards those three hours and how I craved them.

Times have certainly changed.

So for instance tonight I am writing this on my I pad upstairs in my bedroom.

Eldest has commandeered the front ‘adult’ room to carry on with his Arrow binge watch. Youngest had on some American teen rubbish in the family room and so I had retreated to the garden to enjoy the sun. Then Middlest and Youngest decided to come outside to boot a ball around in my general vicinity, Middlest having stopped browsing for new hockey sticks for long enough to be persuaded outside by his sister. So I retreated back inside only to have the teen rubbish put back on once the ball had been booted over next door’s fence for the billionth time.

So I have come up here. For a bit of peace.

I am lucky if I have them all dispatched to bed by 9pm and then Eldest rather begrudgingly so. I know eventually he will be going up later than me. But I am still in mourning for those three hour evenings. I can’t quite let them go. And so I still force him up ‘early’ so I can have the one hour that still remains to me. Which often turns into more than that. Which is a pretty bad idea as our day still begins at 6am. For totally logistical reasons.

And now waking him up that early is almost impossible. Sigh.

So to all those parents of young ‘early risers’ and ‘early to bed’ers enjoy it while it lasts. Enjoy those evenings. For they don’t last forever.

 

Do Tell…. — May 22, 2017

Do Tell….

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There are many imponderables in the world. Such weighty issues as global warming, the general inhumaneness of human kind, the existence or otherwise of alien beings, whether there is an afterlife. Etc.

The main imponderables in my life, however, are slightly more mundane. Here is today’s list.

  1. Who left the used tissue in their pocket? Again. Thus ensuring a liberal coating of white bits all over the fresh laundry. This imponderable is a regular occurrence. Of course no one ever claims responsibility. Eldest has hay fever. Middlest has a cold. And Youngest watched a particularly sad episode of Monkey Life last evening. Thinking about it I was in tears too at the demise of Aris the 4 year old orangutan. So it could have been me. We had become very attached to Aris who had an endearing personality and so to see him being put down was tear jerking to say the least. The culprit remains at large. Of the used tissue. It’s bloody irritating. It’s not so bad when the washing goes straight outside on the line. The birds pick up all the ‘shaken off bits’ to line their nests. Unfortunately Eldest’s hayfever precludes his washing going outside so the kitchen floor also gets a liberal coating. No helpful birds there. Sigh.
  2. Why was Eldest on the second of 2 buses back from the school trip to the seaside. And why was that bus over half an hour later than the first bus. And why had they been given the same ETA. Necessitating me sitting in a baking hot car for over 45 minutes.
  3. Which annoying male member of my family has stolen from the kitchen one of the two Apple charging leads? And why has my husband started charging his Apple device there when he is in possession of at least two such charging cables in his personal charging hub in the spare room? Which must not be touched on pain of death. And why will I get it in the neck tomorrow when the boys’ phones remain uncharged?
  4. Why is going to be baking hot tomorrow when we will be spending all day on a football pitch and then ‘break’ on Sunday in time for our mini break to the coast? Actually this isn’t really an imponderable. Just Sod’s law. And normal for the UK. Of course I have packed today in 29 degree heat (again I could have done with the heat break today) and so will probably spend our mini break freezing due to inappropriate packing. I also spent a small fortune on sun cream. Should have checked that weather first….
  5. Why has Youngest been split up from her very best friend in next year’s classroom reshuffle. Total lunacy. I will be checking extra hard for used tissues tonight…
  6. Why, after extensive fruitless searches, did I today find my husband’s prescription sunglasses (£400 a pair- he has bad eyes and expensive tastes) hanging from the handle bars of Middlest’s scooter. In the garage. At least this time I found the lost item before it was replaced. Now that really would have been Sod’s law.
  7. Why do duvet covers eat other laundry in the machine but not all of it? And how do they turn inside out? I often ponder that. It must have a scientific explanation? No?
  8. Who thought up cricket whites? Just that really. Grass stains. Mud. Unidentified food or beverage based items. All these show up spectacularly and are devil to get out. Whoever did, invent them that is, never did laundry. Which I suppose when I do ponder on it makes sense. As it is a gentleman’s game. And they had servants. Middlest has me. There is a similarity there. I don’t like to ponder that. Much.

So there we have it. Today’s imponderables.

There are quite a lot of laundry related ones I note. Hum.

 

On the Slow Train to Nowhere — May 19, 2017

On the Slow Train to Nowhere

This weekend I am escaping.

I love my family dearly. But like all jobs one occasionally needs a holiday. I think it may be getting on for two years since I last went away without any of them. It’s due.

And so I am travelling up to Sheffield, the city of my university, to spend a weekend without kids and husband. And chores. And football. And the Cub Scout bridge walk. At which it always rains.

Normally I can’t get away on these weekends (which I would like to say have been a regular fixture but really can’t as the last one was 2 years ago) until I have finished pitch side duties around Saturday lunch time. This time the football gods had given me a reprieve and Youngest had no fixture on the weekend. (She is planning to make up for it exercise wise by running the bridge walk in an attempt to cross off all 80 slots on her sponsorship form. I am somewhat regretting my 50p a bridge pledge).

As such I am leaving on Friday. Today in fact.

Last time I got away on Friday (probably about 5 years ago) I sat on the M1 for a good 4 hours. With my left leg screaming from over use of the clutch. Yes my American friends I drive a manual (or stick shift as you call it) along with the vast majority of people here in the UK under the age of 65. Except my husband, he drives an auto. It’s not beige though. Yet.

‘So’ I thought to myself ‘I will get the train’. Where I live is on the direct line to Sheffield. Couple of downloaded episodes of Being Human and a large cup of tea and the job is a good one.

Of course life is never that simple.  First off for some inexplicable reason there are only 2 direct trains all evening. One at 17.41 (much too early to be sure of a home husband and fed, piano lessoned children) or 20.09 (bit late but my friends are night owls so should still be up when I arrive c 22.30) so I plumped for that.

My first inkling that something might go amiss was when my husband sat for two hours at Luton this morning trying to get to work on the same line but in the other direction due to ‘signalling problems’.

Now I am sure there are lovely bits of Luton, although I am yet to see one, but really he didn’t need to spend 2 hours there. Stuck on an overcrowded train.

He finally got to work over 3 hours after leaving.  I spent all day following the disruption updates which stated when ‘normal’ service would be resumed.  First by 12 noon. Then by 2 and then by 4 as trains and drivers and staff got themselves back where they should be.

All good. Husband’s return journey went without incident. Everyone ate. We said our teary goodbyes. Well Youngest was teary the other 2 put their i phones down for long enough to be given a brief hug and husband dropped me at the station.  Too early. At my request. I needed to collect my tickets and buy that large cup of tea.

Of course the train was running late. Predictably.  So I sat in the platform waiting room sharing despairing looks with fellow travelers and resisting the urge to start one of those episodes of Being Human, 2 of which were no longer going to be enough to fill the time.

The train was delayed due to a ‘train fault’. What sort of fault was not specified.  The lady with the whistle and the flag  (which is no longer a flag but a sort of over sized table tennis bat) who was there to wave (bat) the train off also turned up too early. As she exclaimed to a colleague (this presumably being a 2 person job) she had been unaware of the delay. That didn’t fill me with much confidence. To be honest.

Anyway the bat lady, her eastern European colleague, my fellow passengers and I then played delayed train roulette.

In my experience of delayed trains (which after 2 years of commuting to London is quite considerable) the word ‘delayed’ after the train time means either ‘we have absolutely no idea when the train will arrive’ or ‘the train is so late it hasn’t yet left it’s starting point and we don’t want to tell you because people will get annoyed and we can’t face that’ or ‘if we don’t tell you how delayed the train is when we give you an actual eta you will feel nothing but relief at having some certainty’. All these options add up to one thing. Fuck.

As I was sat there a time popped up. 20.16. Seven minutes late. Now in the scheme of things  (specifically the UK rail network scheme of things) this hardly constitutes a delay. 7 minutes. I laughed inwardly. Knowing as sure as night follows day that this would not be the whole story.  No siree!

Sure enough over the next 20 minutes the estimated time of the train oscillated between a best case scenario of that 20.16 and a worst case of 20.31. I leave you to guess at which time it actually turned up.

Anyway I then performed my ‘the sign said first class was at the front and so I needed to be at the very back of the train to find my reserved seat, which only a fool would travel without on a Friday night going north, but actually first class was at the rear requiring me to sprint almost the full length of the platform’ run. I was somewhat thankful for the delay at this point as I had already consumed all of my large tea which would have been a severe handicap during this manoeuvre.

I needn’t have bothered. Reservations had been dispensed with. Presumably because of the delay. Or maybe because the train was made up of old rolling stock  (which may have explained the earlier fault) the sort which require paper tickets to be shoved in slots on the backs of seats. I guess the people who used to slot reservation tickets into slots have been reassigned since new rolling stock which have computerised displays that can presumably be programed from a cental point came on line. Maybe they are all batting off late trains?

Luckily for me there was a seat opposite a luggage rack. The table already had 2 men seated at it but I am not the sort of lady who worries about such things. In any event the younger of the 2 seemed to be doing some coding on a lap top and the elder was reading Scuba Diving International. Which I expect to appear on Have I Got News For You any episode now. He was perusing an article dedicated to doing up a dry suit properly. Preliminary risk assessment satisfied I dumped case in rack and plopped down. Requiring dry suit man to move his legs.

Off we went.  About 500 meters outside the station we came to a halt. The tannoy man came on to explain that we were stopped at an unexpected red signal and he would update us all when he knew what the actual fuck was happening. Dry suit man sighed and got up returning with a can of Carlsberg. It looked tempting. And I am teetotal. And hate lager.

About half way down the can we started to crawl along at about 5 miles an hour. Tannoy man came back on to say we had to go slowly as we had passed the red signal. On the one hand moving was good. On the other crawling slower than the M1 felt like a lose to be honest. I risked eye contact with dry suit man. We exchanged frustrations about the state of the nation’s railways and used words like third world and bloody ridiculous and then we lapsed into that ‘fellow sufferers’ silence. Coding man (well boy really) risked a tut.

Anyway I am still here at my due into Sheffield time somewhere on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border.  Dry suit man and coding boy have long since left. I miss them. I only have some Japanese tourists left. God alone knows what they must think.

If I ever get there it will have felt like the Great Escape. Or that scene in the Shawshank Redemption when you realise he has tunnelled out with a spoon.

Hope my mates have the kettle on. It’s a long time since my last brew.

A Thoughtful One(sie)… — March 21, 2017

A Thoughtful One(sie)…

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Currently I am wearing my most unflattering garment. I do not say this lightly.

Like every other lady I have a selection of unflattering garments. Period pants. A pair of pyjamas that were bought in a large supermarket chain by my husband when I was stuck without warning in hospital with pneumonia. Swimsuits with the bottoms nearly worn through from over enthusiastic aquapark participation. Sexy lingerie that  once fitted and now, doesn’t. But which I have kept in hopeful anticipation of returning at some point to my previous svelte like self. My ABBA fancy dress all in one electric blue cat suit. Fleeces without form in dubious colours. Baggy thermals for camping and pitch side viewing. And my very favourite trackie bottoms which belonged to a previous partner and which he reluctantly allowed me to take when we split (along with my bedside alarm clock, I left him a bright blue lounge and a yellow sofa still on tick) which now have paint on the bum from a decorating job early on in my marriage.

But all these garments look Dior-like next to this garment. I am referring to my onesie. My Piglet onesie.

I am not a fan of onesies. Don’t get me wrong I think my children look adorable in theirs. We replace them every Christmas. Currently Eldest is bedecked as Chewie from Star Wars, Middlest is the cutest dinosaur I have ever seen and Youngest is a tiger which anyone who knows her will know is better than apt.

So onesies on kids I like. But I am not a fan of onesies on adults. I guess in late tennagerhood or one’s early twenties the wearing of a onesie might be seen as post ironic or some other such twaddle. I vaguely get the idea of cavorting as a dalamation  at Glastonbury, or my local railway station as I saw a few years ago, when one is 22. But only just.

There is certainly an age when onesies are no longer appropriate. Whether one is on a campsite or not. I have lost track of the amount of times I have stood next to a white rabbit (really on a camp site? what were you thinking?) whilst cleaning my teeth in a communal campsite washroom. And realising the person was my age or older. And then seeing them returning to a caravan thus divesting them of the only possible excuse for adult onesie wearing- the cold.

So you may ask why I am sporting my AA Milne inspired outfit. Although to be pedantic about it the onesie has been Disneyfied and as such is not a true A A Milne Piglet which I know annoys some purists. I personally don’t mind a Disney piglet, I once shared a buffet with him in Florida and he was more than adorable.

Sorry I digress. That was it, why am I wearing this heinous pieces of clothing? That doesn’t fit. That hangs below my crotch area in an intensely unflattering way. That is so hot to wear I break out in a sweat merely looking at it. That is not in any way ‘breathable’ being woven entirely of man made fibres. That has poppers, surely only suitable for babygrows and throw back bodies that have returned inexplicably from the eighties to haunt a new round of young women. That causes all sorts of toileting issues. That is essentially hideous.

I wear it because last Christmas my children clubbed together financially and organised with my mother in law the ordering and wrapping of said onesie as my Christmas present. They got Piglet because they know I love him as a character. They got a onesie so we could all wear them as a family.

It was perhaps the most thoughtful thing they had done to date.

And it could have been so much worse.

As it was for my husband who is forever consigned to being a Minion with a dungaree pocket in a deeply unhelpful place.

 

I Told You So… — March 19, 2017

I Told You So…

sockets

Today a thing happened that hardly ever happens. My husband was right.

I made a big thing about being magnanimous about it. To be honest it happens so infrequently that I thought I ought to be big about it and make a point of telling him how right he was.

My husband and I are both the sorts of people that are always right. Well obviously I am the person that is always right but he believes he is the person who is always right too. To be honest it sometimes makes our relationship a bit… fraught. Maybe we both should have married other people who aren’t always right. But we didn’t. In the first flush of love maybe we didn’t realise that we both always had to be right. Or maybe it didn’t matter. After nearly 17 years of marriage I can tell you it is something that people should ask themselves. Before getting married.

If we were also the sort of people who shout and storm our relationship could be quite fiery. But actually we are also both gentle (and not so gentle) seethers. So there we are a lot. Gently seething. And being right.

For instance after we moved into this house we bought fitted wardrobes for our bedroom. We spent a very very very long time with the designer from the wardrobe company one evening whilst he talked through our requirements and showed us the frankly mind boggling array of wardrobe insides available and then drew (mind blowingly slowly) scale layouts of our bedroom and new wardrobes. Just when we thought he had finished he said that he needed to go over it all in pen and would be another half an hour or so. It was getting perilously close to my bedtime and to be honest I wanted to get into my slobby tracksuit bottoms and lick the chocolate off the top of my evening digestive and he was somewhat in the way.

The drawings he produced reminded me of the graphic design module that I did as part of a rotation of arts subjects in the year before picking my O level options. I had toyed with taking it before plumping for Fine Art. Just think I could have had a successful career out staying my welcome in strangers’ kitchen diners having discussed their underwear storage requirements. What had I missed?

Anyway after this prolonged experience another guy came out to check the designer’s measurements in a more scientific way (an engineer in wardrobes I believe-another career that has slipped through my fingers) and tell me that we would need to get our downlighters capped off. The lovely designer had failed to mention this.

And then we had to empty the entire room and sleep elsewhere for three days whilst a further man hand built the wardrobes in my bedroom. Don’t get me wrong I love my wardrobes (although I should not have gone for the shoe rack….it only works for high heeled shoes of which I have precisely one pair) but the process was long and turtuous.

Despite being involved in this long winded and tortuous process my husband has always been convinced that our wardrobes were built by Neville Johnson. This is wrong. We purchased the wardrobes from Sharps.

He was vehement in his claims. About a year later when my mum was moving house we visited a Sharps showroom to get ideas for her new fitted furniture. There, in the showroom, was a display of our wardrobes. I took a photo and a photo of the shop front (because otherwise he still would not believe me as he clearly thinks I am capable of claiming to have been in a Sharps showroom when actually I was in a Neville Johnson show room as if I had the energy for such duplicitousness). He still did not believe me.

When my mum got her quotes for her furniture I dug out our invoice to see if the prices seemed reasonable. I left it out on the side so my husband could at last see the error of his ways.

When I got back from whatever I was doing he had stuck a piece of paper over the Sharps logo and written on it ‘Neville Johnson’. It would be funny. I suppose. To anyone else.

There have been countless and I mean countless other occasions when I have been right, I won’t bore you with them all here. But for the sake of balance I should perhaps explain what he was right about today.

The Christmas before last, our first in this new house, I treated myself to  a set of 400 outside lights with which to adorn our frontage. My husband is not a big lover of such ‘tat’ as he calls it. But the kids and I are. And we outnumber him quite considerably and I had hooks and a hammer.

I came to set up the lights and was disappointed to find that there were no electricity sockets in the garage in which to plug said lights. I toyed with using the hall sockets but that would have led to unsightly wire strewing and created a trip hazard. And even I was not up for that.

I mentioned the lack of sockets to my husband who claimed that I must be mistaken as he could distinctly remember, on one of our viewings, the previous male occupant  of the house being in the garage building model aeroplanes and using a desk lamp. I countered that maybe he had misremembered the desk lamp and that in fact the overhead light had been on. We both gently seethed. I think husband came out better in this scenario as we were tacky-lightless over the festive period and indeed the one after.

Soon we are getting our front garden landscaped which is a complicated process which has involved tree surgeons and will involve lead pipe replacers and a landscaping firm. Husband is buying an electric car (the two are not related) which also involves getting electricity to the outside of the garage.

In order to get the new water pipe laid and the electricity point put on the garage I needed to make the garage accessible. And so today, after wheeling ten tonne of felled tree logs round to the side of the house, Youngest and I set to.

First we had to get all the stuff in front of the trailer out. Our lawn was strewn with football boots, kindling, camping fridges, wine, bikes, scooters, balls, extension leads, hose pipes etc.

Then we hauled out the trailer. I needed to re pack it so I could get the water proof cover back on so it could live on our lawn for a couple of weeks. The repacking was necessary after a couple of years of me hauling random stuff out of it (such as the air bed pump and folding chairs and matches and unbreakable crockery for Cub camps) and then just repiling such items back on top in a kind of Jenga fashion.

Then we had to tackle the back of the garage where the new water pipe and electricity point need to come in. The stuff that has lurked mostly untouched behind the trailer for nearly two years and been partially covered by a layer of cardboard discarded from on line deliveries. We moved roll mats and surf boards and boot bars from cars we no longer possess and crutches (left over from husband’s broken foot c 2007) and camp beds and power tools and dinghies.

And there behind one of our many tents (I believe the four man or it could have been the two man not sure) were a couple of pairs of sockets.

So husband was right. He had correctly remembered that sad man modelling in the light of a desk lamp. He was probably hiding from his wife. Who was right about something.

Anyway I get the last laugh.

Twinkly lights at Christmas.

 

 

Social Pariah? — February 22, 2017

Social Pariah?

So tonight I am in the bad books.

Wednesdays are never a good day. A difficult confluence of clubs and activities means I spend the three hours between 4 and 7 more or less in the car and the kids eat sandwiches whilst I drive from one place to another. Tonight was so tight (it being football training week rather than Cubs week) that I ended up eating chips in the car whilst waiting for Youngest to finish said footie training.

Middlest spends a fair amount of time at home alone and no one gets any help with their homework or bag packing or other such stuff that I can usually be prevailed upon to assist with. For I am a soft touch. But not on a Wednesday. Because Wednesday is also the evening I try to get out to sing. Not tonight though. A late plane saw to that. Another story.

So suffice to say not much ‘mummy time’ is on offer on Wednesdays. And it shows.

Middlest was fine all evening eating his solitary sandwiches and tackling maths revision alone. We did have time to remark that the cress we had sewn yesterday in response to his Science teacher’s homework request to ‘germinate’ something had indeed germinated. (Their current topic is reproduction and, as Middlest stated, there won’t be many practicals so I guess she is trying to bring it more to life, literally and figuratively). She is the teacher famous for the homework ‘please produce a 3D model of a cell’ (in our case cillia, some girl got sperm). She has form. Luckily I am a mum who has time to pop out to get seeds that will germinate easily in less than a week. Not all will be so lucky. The runner bean is still in the airing cupboard…ungerminated.

But after his shower (which was somewhat marred by his brother having used his towel ‘by mistake’ and more over having not thoroughly washed the Rugby Sevens training mud off his body first) his mood had shifted.

I mislaid him. I didn’t notice at first as I was washing up all the sandwich boxes and snack pots and water bottles and sorting dirty Rugby Sevens kit and persuading Youngest out of her shin pads which involved me tugging heartily at socks which seemed by a combination of sweat and rain to have melded to her skin.

But he was absent. I went up the stairs and sure enough he was buried under his duvet at an unusually early hour. Something was amiss.

After some coaxing it transpired that I am the worlds worst mum because I do not allow him Instagram.

Now I recently signed up to Instagram mainly to see what all the fuss was about. And to be honest I still don’t see what all the fuss is about. But apparently Instagram has made it onto Maslow’s hierarchy of needs just, and I mean just, above food and drink for any right minded eleven year old.

He also mumbled something about X Box games that ‘everyone’ except him plays and talks about ALL day leaving him out. This from the child who pestered and pestered and pestered for months for an X Box so he could play Overwatch with all his friends. I relented at Christmas and now he has the blasted game no one plays it anymore. Except his brother who seems quite happy with it.

Unfortunately for my children I am the sort of mother who looks at age ratings and follows guidelines. More or less. People with much more knowledge and, let’s face it, time than me are paid to rate these things, I feel it churlish to ignore them.  I had bought him Overwatch at Christmas which is rated 12 here in the U.K. And he is 11 but I did plenty of research first and decided that was ok.

So anyway after comforting the child as much as possible whilst still saying ‘no’ (so not really all that much) and saying ‘goodnight’ to which I got a ‘Harrumph’ in return I decided to re look at Instagram. I was aware that some of Eldest’s friends were on it aged around 10 so thought I may have mis remembered the age rating.

Sure enough Instagram’s own Terms and Conditions state that their site is not for anyone under 13. So therefore I assume that in order for these children to be using it they have lied about their ages. With or without parental consent. Either is worrying.

I remember dimly an e safety talk I went to when a lovely policeman explained about the dangers of lying about one’s age on social media. That the ‘computer’ will think you are 16 or 18 when you are not. How their duty to protect you changes when you achieve such ages. How adverts are tailored based on ages. In short lying about your age is not just immoral but also dangerous.

So it is still a ‘no’ from me.

And as for Titanfall which ‘everyone’ plays that is also a no. I went on you tube and watched some actual game play. The commentator was busy explaining that he didn’t think the gore level was too high as you only see blood with a short range weapon such as a shot gun (!) when his avatar broke someone’s neck. So no blood. But certainly not all that pleasant.

So I will continue to be ‘bad’ mum. He will rant and rail. And I will watch his cress grow. And then so will he.

I won’t share a picture of it on Instagram.

 

Ginger Nut — February 7, 2017

Ginger Nut

gingernuts_4bffe09a8805d

I am not really in a very good mood. There it is out there. And yes it is partly cycle related.

And it is also partly because Middlest got hit in the face by a hockey stick and has lips the size of some celebrity who has had bad plastic surgery.

And partly because Youngest brought home English comprehension homework with questions based around the most appallingly boring text about the plight of pedestrians written circa 1970. Such gems as ‘The title of this text is a rhetorical question- what does this mean?’ To which I wanted to reply ‘A rhetorical question is something I wished this question had been so I would not have had to answer it and have had to try explaining  the concept of a rhetorical question to my 9 year old who really just wants to be in the garden playing football…’.

And then I fancied a bourbon with my cuppa as a kind of reward for not throwing the English comprehension out of the window. (‘The text says that pedestrian crossings are often in the wrong place suggest where they should actually be sited.’ Answer ‘Pedestrian crossings should be sited where people want to cross the road.’ Surely.) And I discovered that some bastards have eaten them all. Well to be strictly correct they are not bastards my husband and I being boringly conventional. But my kids have eaten them all.

I scoured the house for a suitable alternative. All the birthday wine gums are gone. Even the black ones. We ate the one last remaining meringue out of a packet of meringues (use by date Sept 2016) I found mouldering at the back of the tomato ketchup, onion and Christmas pudding cupboard with tinned pears and natural yogurt for dessert between four of us. There is no cooking chocolate. And even I refuse to eat jam straight from the jar with a spoon.

So I was left with a ginger nut. Now I quite like a ginger nut as part of a selection of biscuits. So for instance I will have a bourbon and a ginger nut. Or a custard cream and a ginger nut. But never a ginger nut alone. And I lamented my reasoning when I purchased the ginger nuts. I was trying to be ‘good’ and reduce my sugar intake. So for purely health reasons I decided to buy plain ginger nuts rather than my usual dark chocolate coated real ginger chunk versions. Damn.

And for this I blame another ginger nut namely Chris Evans.

I like Radio Two. For those overseas this is a national radio station here in the U.K. It is a bit of an institution. To explain Radio 2 is the place to go when the noise and inanity of Radio 1 no longer suits you but you are not clinically dead enough to listen to Radio 4 which has no music and as far as I can tell is wall to wall worthy news discussion shows, intellectual magazine shows and soap operas about farmers.

The breakfast show is hosted by one Chris Evans, once a wide boy, a self-made man and maverick turned mostly normal married man with kids, albeit a screamingly rich one. He is still quirky and I like his show, generally. In fact during January I enjoyed listening to him try to stay ‘dry’.

But now it is February and he and seemingly all his fellow team members, have decided to go ‘refined sugar free’. Every time I tune in he seems to be waxing lyrical about the joys of soups and avocados and telling us all how marvellous he feels. Today he was joined by Dr Mosley a TV doctor who has done such things in the name of ‘dietary science’ (i.e. money and fame) as eating only take away food for several months to see what it did to his body. It made him ill. Oddly. The good Dr (who surprisingly has a cook book out called something like the eight week sugar free diet) was taking questions from callers. Such questions as ‘Can I eat cheese as the packet says it has 1% sugar?’. Oh my actual god. Are people really that dense?

The good Dr explained how much cheese you would have to eat to consume the same amount of sugar as contained in a bowl of sugary cereal. Obviously it was a lot of cheese. And whilst I might be tempted in my current state of ‘mild’ irritation to attempt to eat that much cheese even I might struggle.

Someone else wanted to know if eating salad was ok as she had heard that even an undressed green salad contained sugar. It was such a stupid question the good doctor dodged it and explained he had several recipes for sugar free salad dressing in his book. Chris interjected that he had made his own humous yesterday which was a first for him having only ever made pesto before, the Doctor counter-interjected that he had made something for the first time yesterday that I had never heard of before but presumably involved a blender and some sort of pulse and his wife washing up every implement in the kitchen. His wife is apparently ‘thrilled’ that he is taking part in this exercise and cooking. Really? I bet actually she sobs into her washing up bowl secretly stuffing her face with Milk Tray whilst trying to ignore her sanctimonious, evangelical spouse. By this point I personally would have screamed obscenities at the radio but I had small people in the car.

Finally a runner wanted to know what he could substitute his energy gels for during his marathon training. Again err… To be fair the good Dr did say that a bit of energy gel was ok for anyone running over 10k as sugar is needed in some situations. But then he did go onto mention bananas and dried mangos. Those really portable fruits which I am a sure every marathon runner would be able to carry round the 26 mile ish course with ease. Not.

Then there was some spurious gumph about sugar feeding bad microbes and it is the bad microbes slowly being starved to death and shouting out in their death throws for sugar, sugar, sugar that causes the sugar slump when you try to give up. Sigh. I am not a biologist. I hate biology. So maybe that’s true. Sounds like utter crap to me.

I am of the ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good’ school of thought. So a couple of biscuits. A bag of crisps. Broccoli if that floats your boat. I don’t do well if stuff is banned.

Suffice to say I am finding all the holier than thou sugar freeness a little tedious. So much so I am listening to Def Leppard instead.

And tomorrow I am going to the biscuit aisle and stocking up on proper snacks. I need them (bad bacteria or no) after answering Question 14 ‘Did you find this text persuasive and if so why?’ without getting Youngest to write ‘No I did not find this text persuasive as it is badly written, boring twaddle about the plight of pedestrians and you made me answer 14 inane questions about it and any possible power it may once have had to persuade me has been forever crushed during this tedious mind numbing process!’…

Yah boo sucks to you Chris Evans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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