musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

Inspirational… — March 19, 2018

Inspirational…

 

Four years ago (when she was a tiny seven year old in Year 3) Youngest achieved a surprise victory in the Year 3 and 4 House Cross Country race at her school.

Well it was a surprise to us, maybe not to her.

We had no idea she could run. She has always been fit by dint of the amount of team sport she plays but we had not seen her run in a competitive race before.  At her previous school Sport’s Day races had involved bean bags and hoops.

The House Cross Country race is an annual mass start affair with the younger Years 3 & 4 racing over about 2k and the older Years 5 and 6 running around 3k. The whole school running together. From the best runners to those that struggle. All take part and give it a shot. Quite impressive.

Following her victory and liking the weight of the gold medal Youngest decided to set out to win all four of the races that she would take part in during her time in the Junior school. I distinctly remember her telling me as much on our way home in the car.

This seemed to me like difficult personal goal for a 7 year old. Leaving out the actual running even the time frame was daunting. Four years. And the fact that she didn’t actually ‘know’ how to run.

So I told her it would be tough. I told her that in Year 5 especially when she would have to race against the older and bigger children in Year 6 and over the longer 3k distance, it would be a tall order.

I tried to manage her expectations.

I shouldn’t have.

Today she achieved her goal with a fourth marvellous win in her last race in the Junior school. Not only winning the girls’ race but coming 5th overall against all the Year 5 and 6 boys too.

Mission accomplished.

My daughter never fails to amaze me with her grit and determination.

She doesn’t like running. She doesn’t like the time in her own head. Which can be a scary place. And yet she has dragged herself off to Park runs when time allowed between her other sport to hone her running skills.

Since that first year the weight of expectation has been heavy. Her own fear of failure huge. She is sick with nerves beforehand.

She puts everything out there on the field.

Runs against bigger and older children.

Trains. Tries. Visualises.

This is why I believe she can do anything she puts her mind to.

Talent is a small part of the picture.

Desire is a some of the battle.

Hard work is everything else.

My daughter is quite simply inspirational.

Eldest… — January 28, 2018

Eldest…

So there is likely to follow an unashamedly schmaltzy and over the top piece about my son. I am allowed. Just this once.

Soon my first born son turns 14. In fact next Tuesday.

So what can I say about Eldest?

That he is becoming a lovely young man. Standing nearly six feet tall. Strong and handsome. And that this is hard to believe. It seems like yesterday that he was a babe in my arms. A 14 month old learning to walk with a sock in his mouth. A toddler with a sturdy, determined gait caring for his new brother. A pre schooler quiet and shy. A small boy learning to ride a bike and play football, playing his first notes on the piano, making friends, learning to read and write. A ten year old struck down by appendicitis. A young man changing schools and bravely starting over.

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That he is empathic and friendly, unhappy when anyone is left out, able to get along with different ‘sets’ of friends.

That despite the onslaught of hormones and puberty he has on the whole remained respectful and kind and fun to spend time with.

That he is still a mummy’s boy. Happy to have a kiss goodbye (surreptitiously) in the school car park. Snuggle on the sofa and accept bedtime hugs.

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That he likes Vera. And Batman. And Arrow. And will bore to death anyone who happens to be in ear shot about Marvel films.

That he is a fiercely loyal sibling. Despite the usual fracas and bickering underneath he ‘gets’ his brother and sister. He coaches his sister in football. Wrestles with his brother. Bosses them around far too much. Loves them.

That he loves history. Has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the World Wars. Likes museums and art galleries.

That he is a dedicated and talented musician. Playing the cello with feeling and passion. Practising every day to meet his own very high standards. Playing in groups and performing in shows despite crippling nerves.

That he is his own worst critic. Nothing is ever ‘good enough’.

That he has always been the inventor of games and the ringleader in playtime. From home made trebuchets, to duvet surfing, to extreme hot wheels.

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That he reminds me of me.

That he likes to cook. Although time does not allow this as much as it should. That we still laugh about the carrot and orange soup and the lemon ‘flop’ meringue pie.

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That he has an amazing work ethic. In every area of life. Always tries his best. Listens and learns.

That he is an artist. With creative ideas and talent to match. Taking himself upstairs to draw and producing art to be proud of.

That he takes perceived criticism much too much to heart and forgets all the praise and accolades and prizes.

That he is a team player. Loving his rugby and hockey. Working hard to get onto and stay in the team. Not a monopoliser of the limelight. But quietly doing his bit. A vital team member.

That he always notices. My new hair cut. New clothes. That he will call and chat to his grandma with love and affection. That he makes you feel appreciated. That he buys thoughtful gifts (except for that sabre toothed tiger).

That, although serious and on occasion earnest, he can be silly and loud and exuberant. Not as much as I would like. That when he smiles the sun comes out.

That he has always been an eating machine. And that recently he has found the turbo button.

That he loves the outdoors. Camping and cycling and Scouting and mud. Can map read (ish), start fires, hike, orienteer, climb. That he is adventurous; facing his fears after a thorough risk assessment of course.

That he worries too much. About making the grade. Being good enough. Hitting some ‘ideal’ of what achievement is about. Driving himself to extremes.

When really he has always been better than good enough. He has always been amazing. And always will be.

Love you son. Just as you are.

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Happy Birthday!

Mummy

x

Slightly taxing…. — January 7, 2018

Slightly taxing….

Tax-Season-is-Coming

Here is a thing about me. I am very efficient. I do not like stuff ‘hanging over me’. Occasionally this back fires.

Just over a year ago I was offered some one off consultancy type work. I can’t really tell you what this was all about but once I had got over my initial feelings of panic and allowed a little bit of ‘wow maybe I am still someone whose brain has not been sufficiently addled by years of child rearing and house keeping that someone thinks I maybe useful for something vaguely important’ to set in I decided to accept.

Being my usual efficient self I registered as self employed with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in case I needed to pay tax.

I am not a stranger to the HMRC as I am a registered Agent. This may surprise you. I do get a gentle frisson of excitement every time I get an invitation to join the Agent’s Forum or receive incomprehensible e mails updating me on the complexities of Corporation Tax. But really it is just a way for me to do my husband’s and mother’s  tax returns for them. Because I am slightly money minded. And enjoy form filling.

Mother no longer needs a return doing now she is no longer a property magnate. Well since she sold her rented one bed flat anyway. And so my Agency duty consists of copying figures from my husband’s P60 and P11D and informing the HMRC of the laughably low amounts of interest he earns on the money we haven’t yet squandered on electronic devices for the offspring.

To be honest I was quietly looking forward to the challenge of completing a return for myself. ‘Self employed’ is a whole new form which I had yet to tackle. I love a challenge me.

Anyway for reasons I won’t bore you with I never got paid for that work. I did it but not for cash. That sounds slightly seedy but I can reassure you it wasn’t, in any way.

No worries I thought to myself I will simply deregister with the HMRC. Ah unfortunately not. Having registered I have to do at least two years of returns before I am able to deregister.  Bummer.

Anyway for those of you not in the know the deadline for UK self assessment on line returns is the 31st January. Historically I have been much earlier in my submissions. This is because one of my clients (my mother) used to nag me to get it done. My other client doesn’t. Nag me. Which it now transpires is a shame.

Anyway Christmas is over. I can no longer put off all those things I have been putting off since October when Preparing for Christmas took all my energy or at least was an excuse I could use to put off all those things. All Those Things only really consisted of those tax returns. You will remember from paragraph one that I usually do not like things hanging over me. Apparently things that will land me a large fine are…fine though. I should really explore this part of my psyche at some point. Not now though. More important things to do.

And so yesterday on the 4th Jan I decided I needed to tackle those tax returns.

It probably won’t surprise you to know that I have a spreadsheet of all my savings accounts. This makes me sound a bit like Rockerfeller but I really don’t want to give you that impression. Most of the accounts are legacy and have tuppence ha’penny in and are a result of expiring ISAs from when I worked and had no children and had a bit of spare cash. Some are proper accounts from a similar time. Some I opened to take legacy funds off my husband to avoid tax as I am/was/still am but now have to prove it due to my damned efficiency a non tax payer. Some are newer and opened when I had a hotline to Martin Lewis the self proclaimed money saving expert and was trying to get a decent rate of interest on these funds. It has been impossible to get a decent rate of interest in the UK for several years whilst base rate has languished unloved below 1%. As such I have somewhat given up moving my small amount of savings around.

The mess of my savings accounts is further compounded by the fact that over the years a lot of those accounts have changed hands. So what started off as an Egg has hatched into a northern building society etc. I dutifully kept all the letters informing me of such things unread in a file which would be marked ‘stuff I should have probably read and got round to before the deadline for my completely pointless first ever tax return was upon me’ if I had the gift of foresight.

Anyway I trawled through the spreadsheet looking for taxable savings accounts and made a list.

No one sends out paper to customers anymore. Although I applaud this from an environmental perspective it meant that I had no tax based certificates from any of my savings accounts except for a midlands based building society who still kindly do write every year telling me the interest I have earned on my entirely tax exempt ISA. Thanks. I do often wonder what I should spend that fiver on.

Incidentally this also makes proving one’s address quite difficult. I no longer have utility bills less than three months old showing my address as no one sends them. Well the Water Board do but only every  six months and the Council Tax annually. This was an issue when I wanted to redirect my mail when we moved house, as my address proof was over three months old. It got quite problematic. I did at one point suggest that the postman who had been delivering to me at my address for around 5 years could call randomly one day to check I actually lived there. But they weren’t having any of it. I can’t remeber how I got round that one now, possibly a waiver, signed in blood.

Sorry I digress. Now I just had to get my hands on tax certificates from those relevant institutions.

This meant I had to go into the drawer. I expect everyone has such a drawer. It is full of passwords and user names for a myriad of on line accounts which I should have committed to memory. No one has the ability to commit such a large amount of stuff to memory. Do they? It also contains pass cards and readers for banks. Notes of my memorable answers to memorable questions. Which I cannot remember. And such like. One piece of paper from one bank had the words ‘kiwi’ and ‘tree frog’ cryptically scribbled and then highlighted by my own hand. I looked forward to finding out what the bejeebers that was all about.

I managed to get on line to a few of those financial institutions. The last time I did this was probably last year when I updated the spreadsheet with balances after the annual round of interest payments had been made. Still thinking of ways to use those fivers.

Anyway I managed it with a few. I was on my last one. I had saved it for last as it is like getting into Fort Knox as it requires a 9 digit customer number (in my memory obviously) a passcard and reader with another 6 digit code. Again committed to memory, obviously.

I found the customer number. I got to the card reader response stage and entered the PIN which was accepted. A number was produced which I entered. Then I got the failure message. My card had expired. I needed to ring up. Not to worry I had another customer registration number and PIN for the same bank for their telephone banking service. The PIN was missing from the tear off letter. I emptied the drawer and found it attached to the bottom of my old calculator which no longer works but which I keep for sentimental reasons as it got me through 2 O levels and 2 A levels in maths. If only those qualifications in maths were of help now. But no a degree in cryptology and a much, much better memory would be of more use. I stuck the PIN to the letter with sellotape. I was not going to be caught out that way again. During this process I also found about 15 plastic documents wallets, some address labels, some A4 manila envelopes and an on line banking letter from another bank which I also needed for my husband’s return which had fallen down the back of the drawers. Result.

I braved the telephone system. Once I had negotiated the customer registration number and PIN entry I then had to say in a few words what my problem was. A few words are never enough but not to mind I said “my on line banking authentication card has expired”. This was clearly too many words as the system only heard “card expired” and put me through to the Card Centre clearly thinking I needed a new debit or credit card. The menus then bore no relation to my issue. No matter I thought I will simply enter numbers or say words that will lead me to an actual human. What it led me to was them hanging up on me.

I tried once more from the beginning. This time after listening again to how much the phone call was costing me (perhaps not the best way to spend those fivers) and re doing the reference number/PIN combo I said “on line banking”. This time I got through to a human. In India.

I don’t have an issue with people from India. Except that they can’t understand me. To be honest I have this issue with call centres in Liverpool. What I really need is a nice middle class call centre in the Home Counties. Anyway after what seemed like an age and me desperately imploring my customer services advisor not to put me back through to Card Services I thought he got the gist of what I needed. He went away to take advice. And then he came back to say I needed to go into a branch with 2 forms of ID, one with proof of my address less than 3 months old, to order a new card. I am not in a good place water board/ Council Tax cycle wise and so this seemed like a very bad idea. Indeed.

Moreover I have been burnt by customer service telephone banking teams telling me to do this before. You dutifully go into a branch and try to explain what you need and they look at you all blank as if you have just landed from an alien planet. Then they tell you to call the customer services team. In short they cannot help you. They can, however, sell you a mortgage.

I decided to just order the Tax Certificate and cut out myself as middle man and tackle the expired on line authentication card at my leisure. My customer services advisor went away again and came back to say, thankfully, that this was possible. He asked me to confirm which account I needed it for. I have several. Mostly expired ISAs and terrible savings accounts they opened for me when I failed to deal with my expired ISAs. I looked down the list of accounts which had been sent to me when those accounts moved over from the previous institution I had actually opened the accounts with (which from memory had much easier on line security) and provided an account number which he seeemed to recognise. He assured me that the certificate would be with me in about  3 days. I hung up.

I then looked more carefully at that letter which I had got out of that file of stuff I should have read before my first ever and completely pointless tax return was upon me and realised there was another account I needed a certificate for. It had also occurred to me that maybe I should have been sent a new authentication card and that maybe I had never changed my address with them. Such things are possible.

I called back. Same painful process. Different customer services advisor. Same going away and coming back again. I provided the other account. Was assured my address was correct. Ordered the tax certificate. This one would take 5 days. Fingers crossed.

This whole process had now taken about two hours. My floor was covered with stationery I had retrieved from behind the back of my, let’s call them my password, drawers. The dinner was beeping urgently at me. I decided to quit.

I tried to forget that husband also had an account at this institution and that he would have to go through the same painful process himself.

The next morning galvanised and refreshed I logged onto the HMRC website to start off my husband’s return. And found I could not get past my Agency home screen. Too much traffic. The site had crashed.

I can only hope that my documentation arrives within the three or five days promised and that the site is accessible at some point. Some forums suggest before 8.30am. That sounds like my best option once the kids finally return to school next week. Apparently about 9000 people did it on Christmas Day and Boxing Day this year. They don’t seem so stupid now.

I am never ever leaving it this late again. Promise.

 

If the suit fits… — October 9, 2017

If the suit fits…

westsuit

So today I decided to clean the family room. Nothing unusual in that you may be thinking. Well you would be slightly wrong on that front. For I am a bit of a slob and I hadn’t given the room a proper ‘doing’ for…some… time. I had pushed a vac around a bit and plumped the odd cushion but that really wasn’t hacking it anymore.

I knew this because Middlest’s 12th birthday cards were still adorning the hearth. I won’t admit to his birth date, not because I am worried about revealing his identity, but because then you will realise quite how much of a slob I really am. But suffice to say his birth month is not October or, dare I even say it, September.

Yes the room was in need of a major overhaul.

I like to think I leave rooms for this long because of the level of satisfaction I gain from moving large amounts of dust. But, no, really I am just a slob. Husband had also been making rumblings about the level of dust. In fact when the Sky Q box recently decided to have a minor melt down he commented that ‘there is quite a lot of dust on it’ as if that could be a possible cause… That made me wait another week before tackling the job. And swear.

Anyway as part of the cleaning process I really needed to tidy up first. And part of that tidy up process involved dealing with the wet suit on the Poang chair. And, no, this isn’t a euphemism for an elephant in the room. There really has been a wetsuit on the Poang chair for quite some time.

And here is why.

We got back off our main fortnight’s holiday in early August (Middlest had not turned 12 at this point) and so my husband decided to start planning next year’s holiday. This is a bit of a ‘thing’ for him. I try to be all understanding about his need to have his next summer holiday booked at least 12 months in advance but really I just find it ‘mildly’ irritating to be bombarded with questions and e mails with links to possible destinations when my bikini is still drying on the washing line.

To some extent he is right because we do need to book early as we are (whispers) a family of 5. As anyone who is in a family of 5 will know this is a ‘bad thing’ holiday wise. The accommodation required to house families of 5s is often very expensive and very scarce and books up very quickly.

Still I like to get Christmas out of the way first.

Anyway this year’s process of holiday booking saw him downsize our choice from a 12 day safari to Botswana via 16 days touring the west coast of the US to finally a fortnight in a 4 bed cottage on the beach in Polzeath, Cornwall, England.

I won’t bore you with this process, it was bad enough being part of it as an ultimate beneficiary, but suffice to say we are all more than slightly relieved to be looking forward to spending 2 weeks literally on the beach, returning to our cottage of an evening to eat take away fish and chips and to partake of the good WiFi and a PS4. Instead of ‘basic’ camping in the bush or driving for 9 hours a day down Route whatever. Well the kids and I are anyway.

Not to become downhearted by this downscaling of his holidaying dreams husband has instead gleefully embraced the role of kitting us all out for this adventure. We love to body board and knowing what Cornwall may be like in August we had decided to spend some of the not inconsiderable savings we had made on the actual holiday on better equipment. I saw this as a longer term project.

And so it was that a while ago (!) I took delivery of a new full length wet suit which my husband had lovingly chosen for me completely autonomously. A full 10 months ahead of our sojourn. It is apparently a good time to buy wetsuits as the summer season is coming to a close. Obviously. It is lucky I am not one for fashion or brand new ranges as I am going to be a whole year out of date next summer proudly sporting my brand new not new wetsuit. In some ways his faith in my ability to stay around my current weight and body shape is flattering. In others… Luckily he hadn’t been stupid enough to buy the kids any new wet suits. Which is a good job as by next August it is possible Eldest will have hit 7 foot tall.

He casually threw the wet suit on the Poang and suggested I try it on. My heart sank. I ignored that wet suit for… some… time. Today, however, I could ignore it no longer. It was time to try it on.

We have all watched surfer movies. Blonde, tousle haired youths strolling around with their wet suits around their waists. Shrugging their arms into sleeves and reaching gracefully behind themselves to pull effortlessly at the back zipper before elegantly diving into the waves.

That isn’t me. In any way. In fact I try to avoid donning a wet suit in public. It often involves a lot of very unflattering wriggling and grunting. For I am the shape of a lady. I have a waist and hips and such like. Wet suits usually fit me fine once I have wrestled the small amount of waist material over my arse. But not until that point.

I am also unable to reach around to my back and pull up my zipper. I lack the shoulder mobility. Usually I have to sort of flick the long zipper tail over my head and tug it up whilst bent double. Again not a flattering look.

Clearly having taken this issue on board wet suit manufacturers are trying something new and my husband had already explained that this new wetsuit did up at the front in a quite complicated neck arrangement. He had taken ‘a while’ to work out how to get in his suit. I have worn bodies. I thought I could manage.

Things seemed to be going quite well (aside from the usual arse through small waist wriggling) until I got to my second arm. I had climbed into the suit through part if the neck. The neck line appeared to have several parts. I thrust my arm into a sleeve and it went precisely 2 inches before coming to a grinding halt.  I had my left arm half in the suit but couldn’t pull it up over my left shoulder until my right arm was in which meant the use of my left arm was severely compromised. I thrust several times and got no where.

I took out my left arm and tried inserting my right arm first and this worked once I realised that I was going down the wrong ‘side’ of the sleeve. After that I grunted and wriggled some more and got my left arm back in and the suit up to shoulder level. Then I realised the other half of the neck zip fastener was behind my head. I had to put my head back through the very small neck opening. Whilst not grazing my nose on the zip in a very unflattering way.

Once I had achieved this I got that satisfying ‘pop’ feeling as all my body parts found themselves in the correct area of the suit. Well all my parts except my knees which never seem to find themselves behind the reinforced knee area because I have short dumpy legs. Never mind I could live with that.

I squeaked upstairs to have a look in the mirror and decided it would ‘do’- the colour way being sufficiently garish to mask a multitude of sins and bugles.

By this point I was getting a tad hot. Which boded well for my future sojourns in the Atlantic.

And then it hit me. I had to get out.

To my knowledge I have never got out of a wet suit unaided.

The problem with the reverse procedure is invariably arms and shoulders. I reasoned with myself that without the added factor of sticky sea water I would be able to take off the wet suit.

I was wrong.

I managed to man handle that neck bit back over my head again without major lacerations.

Then I tried to get my arms out. They were totally stuck. By this point the exertions of trying to remove myself from the wet suit had caused me to break out in an unattractive sweat which wasn’t really helping. I was now seriously hot. And remembering the claustrophobia such garments induce in me.

Ten minutes passed and I had made no real head way.

I was starting to panic. I had visions of having to do the school run in my wet suit.

My mind was in overdrive deciding which friend I could call upon to extricate me from the neoprene hell I found myself in. My best bet was a friend in the next village who doesn’t drive. She would have found it hysterically funny but would have helped. The thought of getting in the car and driving over there, though, was not appealing. I started hyperventilating.

I decided to take five, calm down, and try again.

Thankfully it worked and I managed to get one arm out of the sleeve and the suit below that shoulder. With some more deep breathing the second shoulder was out. After that it was just a case of peeling it down inside out. It sounds a bit like childbirth. The relief at the end was similar.

Anyway the suit ‘fits’. I shall not be putting it on again until August.

No buns for me.

**That is not me in my wet suit up there…

 

 

 

 

 

And…. — October 6, 2017

And….

grammar

So today I found myself doing this.

Sitting in the car on my driveway pretending that dropping my daughter at football had taken longer than it had. Why? I hear you ask. Well I will tell you.

I was avoiding homework. Not mine you understand. My son’s. Middlest’s to be precise.

I find myself mystified at his English homework. As does he. To be honest I understand more about his Spanish homework than I do about his English and I do not speak a word of Spanish.

Facebook friends will know that yesterday Middlest prepared for his upcoming Spanish speaking test which requires him to discuss someone else and then himself. He shared what he had written and I actually understood a fair proportion of it just because I have absorbed a fair amount of Spanish via a process of osmosis (interestingly Eldest has been studying osmosis in Biology so now he gets the metaphor) during the 3 years one or other of my children (at the moment two of them but soon all three) have been learning the language.

For instance I understood the following:-

Se llama Homer y es amarillo y gordo. A Homer le gusta la hamburgessas y porjo. En su tiempo libre Homer baila con su amigo Mo, tambien Homer le gusta bebe cerveza.

Well I understood it once I remembered amarillo was ‘yellow’ (and not a destination in a song about Marie) and had googled ‘cerveza’. If you don’t have rudimentary Spanish there is a translation below. Apologies to any Spanish speaking readers- this is my son’s second full year of Spanish so I can not vouch for the accuracy of the passage but I think he gets the general gist across although his grammar may be a bit off.

And that, my friends, is where our problems really begin. Middlest has been told today of a certain number of English grammar tasks that he needs to complete on a program called ‘Doddle’.

I cannot begin to explain to you how misnamed this program is. There is literally nothing we have come across on Doddle that is in any way a doddle. Last year it was some incomprehensible biology. I didn’t do biology beyond year 9. When I was at school one could drop a science and spend one’s time doing more fun and interesting lessons like Art. This was not considered a ‘bad thing’. Dropping science is now considered a ‘bad thing’. It is no longer possible in the English school system to avoid biology and all its  difficult spellings.

I could rant on for hours about how wrong I think this is. And I speak here as a degree level chemist offered PhD placements (I didn’t take one, I was sick of being poor and smelling like a combination of a morgue and a dodgy, unemptied waste bin) who didn’t get beyond human reproduction in biology. I did Art and Music instead and had a lovely little break in my timetable when I could indulge my creativity. But, no, now biology is compulsory and I don’t even think they get to cut anything up.

Earlier Eldest wanted to run past me what a palisade cell does. It was all I could do not to bolt for the hills screaming silently. Instead I just mashed the potatoes a bit harder and tried to look vaguely intelligent. I understand what osmosis is but I don’t want a detailed account. I don’t need it for my metaphor.

Anyway where was I. Ah yes English grammar. Doddle.

So before leaving to take Youngest to football Middlest had stumbled his way through a section on apostrophes (not apostrophe’s people just not).

Now I get apostrophes. I was taught that at school. Although I have to say that I was only actually sure about it’s and its last year when I finally made myself learn the difference. Now I write a bit for public consumption it seemed important. It’s really not OK to spell its/ it’s wrong by getting its apostrophe in the wrong place is it?

But still generally I understand apostrophes and I see the relevance of teaching a new generation that it isn’t OK to tell someone on Facebook ‘your OK, chin up’ really it isn’t.

He managed the 90% pass mark but only because I taught him the rules as he went along. That’s the thing about this Doddle. It’s not very good as a teaching method as it doesn’t actually teach anything unless you get the question wrong. Faced with a 90% pass mark and not wishing to spend an hour on the uses of one punctuation mark it seemed easier to teach it to him myself rather than him having to take the test again.

Then he decided to look at Connectives and Conjunctions.

Oh my actual god.

I was lost on the first page. The difference between them anyone? No anyone? I mean it shout if you know. I didn’t and I still don’t.

The test then went on to ask about some other sorts of connectives/ conjunctions which involved words like sub-ordinate and co-ordinate and adverbial and something else-ial and blah blah blah-ial and the punctuation associated with each.

Suffice to say I have not in all my 47 years absorbed any such information by osmosis.

The test did not enlighten us much. He did not achieve the pass mark. And if he sat it again I am not sure he would next time. I certainly wouldn’t have passed it. I got that same glazed over feeling I got when I was faced with that palisade cell earlier.

Also I am not sure that there is a point in this knowledge. I write a lot and I may not be the best writer in the world (for I am overly fond of ellipses (and indeed subordinate clauses)) but I can certainly use at least three connectives/ conjunctions, whether adverbial or of time and place, in a sentence without being able to name them.

I believe I just have.

It is possible that there are grammar nerds and English teachers out there who gleefully spend their spare time underlining the different sorts of connectives/ conjunctions in their favourite work of literature with different coloured Sharpies. But I doubt it. The grammar nerds would no doubt prefer to trawl Facebook calling out abusers of the apostrophe. And those English teachers would probably prefer to spend their allotted curriculum time discussing those works of literature with their students. Which is most likely why this drivel has been set as homework.

So cheers English department. I told Middlest to leave his score as it was. And to explain to anyone who has a problem with that that he still does not understand it. But that he can use connectives/ conjunctions in his own writing. Quite adequately.

Like Middlest said, “It’s just the word ‘and’ at the end of the day!”

Spanish translation

His name is Homer and he’s yellow and fat. Homer likes hamburgers and pork. In his spare time Homer dances with his friend Mo, Homer also likes to drink beer.

 

 

The Yoth of Today…* — August 8, 2017

The Yoth of Today…*

Try to remember back to when you were a teenager, go on try… I know for some of you that will be harder than for others. I was last a teenager nearly 30 years ago but in some ways it seems like yesterday.

My main recollection is that teenagers believe the world has been invented anew just for them. They develop a sense of overwhelming entitlement. No one else matters except their own kind. Everyone else’s ideas are old hat. Many sections of society are totally invisible.

I remember coming home from my first term at University and lecturing my mother on the merits of recycling. I went on for hours about how she should be saving the planet and how her lifestyle was probably single handily depleting the ozone layer. I was living in Sheffield, a city that pioneered the way in recycling and moreover made it easy to do so. I was young and happy to have over flowing carrier bags of tinnies hanging off my kitchen door handles.

I didn’t need to worry about paying the mortgage or holding down a job.

My mother gently pointed out that she had been recycling for years. Using proper milk bottles, returning pop bottles to the store for the deposit as a child, saving newspapers for charity, using proper shopping bags. The fact that my brother and I had until recently scoffed at my dads proper shopping bags escaped me.

None of that mattered to my evangelical teenage self. I knew best in my quiet arrogance. It must have driven her totally mad.

Soon I will be her. Biting my lip as my children expound on ideas and activities that they believe they have invented. I am not sure I will be as patient.

And nothing sums this up better than the disco at my holiday resort.

I may have mentioned before in Baby I Don’t Care that I like to dance. And my husband and I have, accidentally, got into a ‘step’ war on this holiday and so the extra steps from dancing are very welcome. He is losing currently. This is partly because his daily spin class (which does burn an impressive amount of calories) registers precisely zero steps. Whereas my exercise class of choice does. Tough luck matey you need to pick your exercise more wisely.

As a result we are frequenting the disco regularly where we raise the average age by about 25 years. I am maybe being kind to myself here. However my husband is younger than me and there are other ‘grown ups’ dancing too.  And now I am past 40 I have lost the ability to age young people. I am assuming most of them are in their late teens and early twenties but I have a horrible sneaking suspicion that a lot of them are not old enough to drink. I base this partially on the fact that a lot of them are still wearing braces. It is difficult to age them partly as the place is full of Germans who are just a huge, tall, hulking race on the whole. With huge, tall, hulking off spring. As my own teenage son is five foot nine at 13 the whole height thing is perhaps not the best barometer of age anyway.

So my husband and I are sharing the dance floor with a whole load of teenagers to whom we are invisible, who think they own the place and who think they invented dancing. Here are my observations to date:-

  • Modern dance music is too slow. On the whole. I like to shake my stuff like a mad thing. That is why I like 90s dance music. The stuff my husband and I were out clubbing to before my fellow dancers were even born. I just worked that out. Frightening.
  • Modern dance music samples proper dance music. So just when you think the DJ has finally decided to play a proper track it morphs back into something too  slow again.
  • This is the reason teenagers can dance in hoodies. In thirty degree heat. Bizarre.
  • Teenagers still dance in large circles taking up all the dance floor. Around, well nothing, just a gap in the middle. Occasionally a teenager will get in the middle of the circle and I expect something special to happen like break dancing but they just take yet another selfie and then post it. Whilst dancing.
  • If they are not shuffling slowly in a circle then they jumping up and down arythmically ‘to’ the music. Ignoring anyone over the age of 20 in their vicinity. Husband went all north eastern yesterday and nearly lamped a lad who had jumped on him one too many times. The guy was probably a minor so it wouldn’t have been the best idea. We left shortly afterwards. See? That invisibility thing again.
  • It seems perfectly acceptable to just stand motionless on the dance floor. The other night a girl just stood there stock still for about half and hour next to her friend who, to be fair, was at least shuffling. Getting in the way. I have grudging admiration for her staying power. But did let out a little cheer when she finally left.
  • The hair. Oh my god the hair. The swishing and the flicking. They all have long swishy hair. That they like to flick in what I assume is supposed to be a sexy fashion. I don’t find it attractive to have someone else’s hair in my face. Sorry.
  • They believe that the  rules do not apply to them. After yet another glass got smashed on the dance floor the other night the beautiful Bulgarian entertainment manager lost his rag. He turned off the music and put on the lights and said, and I quote, “I am going to ask you,very very politely for the 175th time to please, please, please not to bring glasses onto the dance floor. And I am especially talking to you and you and you” whilst pointing out the bunch of teenagers who were until a few seconds previously shuffling in a circle with a phone in one hand and a cocktail in the other. The Bulgarian was quite annoyed. I clapped after he had finished. The bar staff should probably do a braces check before serving their very strong cocktails.
  • They are slow on the up take. It takes around half an hour after the disco starts for them to roll up from wherever they have been holed up surfing social media. This is the best time to dance. Before they descend in their herds and take over every available square inch for their shuffling and jumping and circling and rule avoiding even if it was the one square inch you had carved out for yourself amid the entertainment team some of whom believe the wearing of wings is a good idea on the minuscule dance floor.
  • They don’t smoke. For which I am grateful.

When we came here in October there was an 80/90s night. Which was blissfully teenager free. It is not on the schedule this time although tonight’s theatre show is entitled “Totally 80s” and so a little part of me is hoping for some like minded music at the subsequent disco.

Then I can request “Lady” and do my totally nuts club dancing without bumping into anyone with flicky hair, braces and a surfeit of hormones taking a selfie.

A girl can dream..

* I deliberately spelt youth wrong…it’s an in joke…some of ya might get it…some won’t…. but I don’t want anyone to think I am unable to spell…

 

 

Baby, I don’t care… * — August 3, 2017

Baby, I don’t care… *

* I love a bit of Transvision Vamp…it’s my age…don’t ya know…

Time for another pondering about teenagers. You may remember from Early to bed, Early to rise  that I am the ‘proud’ owner of precisely one teenager and that there are many things that are frankly irritating about such ownership.

Today we shall be examining one of these irritating things- self consciousness.

I have always been an embarrassing parent. Apparently. When my children were small they actually liked the fact that I was embarrassing, actually they didn’t call it embarrassing when I was dancing like a mad thing to ‘I am the music man’ at the kiddie disco on holiday. Every night. Or doing karaoke. Or enjoying the slides at an aqua park by running full pelt up the steps to get to the front of the queue dragging them behind by their hands. Or whooping the loudest at Christmas shows and summer concerts. Or enjoying scrambling over cargo nets at soft play centres or indeed in the tops of trees at high rope courses. Or screaming loud encouragement from the touchlines. Or putting love notes in their lunch boxes. They called it fun. Over the years this has gradually changed from fun to ambivalence to down right embarrassment.

So really this blog isn’t about my teenager’s self consciousness but his mum consciousness…

it is a shame really that he is hitting the peak of his social embarrassment right when I am hitting the peak of not giving a flying fuck about what people think of me. Quite literally I don’t care. At all.

Obviously I don’t want people to think I am a bad person. I am careful about things that matter. Such as manners and respect and friendship. But for the trivial stuff I just don’t care.

I don’t actually remember being embarrassed about my parents. Maybe they weren’t that embarrassing. Certainly my mother and father were not into disco dancing or shouting from the sidelines or whooping.

However I do remember being self conscious. Hiding myself under layers of clothing. Crossing the road to avoid other teenagers. Standing in the gloom at school discos. But then I was an awkward teenager. Not cool, not popular, not sporty, put firmly in the academic geek pigeon hole with the added quirkiness of double bass playing.

This is not something any of my children are. They are bright, certainly, but also popular and sporty and empathic and good friends and musical and general all round good eggs. And anyway geekiness is no longer a bad thing.

I can’t really remember when my self consciousness disapperared. I certainly had some in my twenties at university and during my career. Maybe it was around the time that I had kids. When all dignity and modesty was lost during the physical process of birth. It was maybe a realisation that if I was strong enough to build three human beings and bring them into the world it shouldn’t really matter if I have varicose veins.

And so I stopped worrying about stuff. I bought shorts for the first time in years. It was liberating and still is. I will dance first at discos. Sing first at karaokes. Join in stupid pool games. Whoop.

I have always hoped that I had instilled this ‘don’t care’ attitude in my offspring. Yet still Eldest is acutely self conscious. It is probably an age thing. I do remember and so I do feel for him I really do.

But not enough to stop dancing to Hewy Lewis and the News in the front of a four by four jeep with Paco our Spanish driver on yesterday’s safari. Whilst being filmed for the DVD. We didn’t buy the DVD by the way although lots of my fellow travellers did. Sorry guys…

Eldest actually tried to hold my arms down. I have discovered that I am much stronger than him when the Power of Love is playing.

He will have to suck it up. I am not for changing. Life is short. I want to dance. And sing. And whoop.

One day he may too.

I do hope so.

 

Sunbed Wars… — July 31, 2017

Sunbed Wars…

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Time for another holiday missive. I cannot quite believe it has been a year since my last holiday blogs from Portugal. Such gems as Wind Up and Why are there no Aspirin in the Jungle? Please do look them up. I have limited technology here in sunny (and windy) Fuerteventura and so I struggle to provide links. Oo actually I think I may have mastered it. Let’s hope so…

For those of you that remember the latter blog it dealt with the fact that Middlest and Youngest had developed raging ear infections from over pool use and the lengths we needed to go to sort that out. Well by way of background that happened again in October in this very hotel and we spent another day of our precious holiday at doctors and pharmacists.

And so I bought them earplugs and gromit bands to wear on this holiday. Needless to say that hasn’t gone down too well. It is somewhat of a battle to get them to wear them. I actually think they look kind of cool. I would post a picture but all photographic evidence is banned.

I am a lonely voice in favour of such a get up, even husband suggested “We should play it by ear”. Not only is that a dreadful pun but I am also not sure how that would work. Until “we had played it by ear” enough for an ear infection, or possibly two, to develop? What and then wear the gromit bands? After the fact. I pointed out that if that did occur he would be getting the taxi to the pharmacy in the next town and trying to get by in rudimentary Spanish. That was enough to get him to back down. My husband is legendary for his lack of linguistic ability. I once came back from a loo trip when we were in Gran Canaria and discovered him trying to order two pineapple juices by miming a pineapple. It has gone down in Harrison folk law. I intervened. Dos zumo du pina por favor? The look of relief on the poor waitresses face was a sight to behold. I am sure it has gone down in waitress folk law too…..

I also reminded the off spring of the night of agony they both suffered. Middlest on the sofa crying. The subsequent pool ban for the rest of the holiday. The increased pain on the return flight. Apparently all this is like labour pain. Forgotten conveniently by the next time. That has cost me quite dearly. I didn’t want it to cost them. Like many many things I do that appear mean and heartless (apparently) I am doing it for their own good.

So they are wearing them. I put my foot down. And as everyone knows I am the boss. I saw a bunch of pre pubescent Germans pouring all inclusive Fanta on their heads and diving straight into the pool yesterday. I rest my case….

Anyway this wasn’t supposed to be a blog about ear infections but as always I have got massively sidetracked.

No this is a blog about sun beds.

We arrived at midnight on Saturday evening after a traumatic trip which saw us nearly miss the flight due to the M25. Needless to say we didn’t fancy getting up too early on our first day. At about 7.30 then we wandered blearily down to breakfast. Early is a relative term with my kids.

My first inkling that something may be up was when I went onto the balcony to take in the view. The view consisted of a lot of middle aged men, many in Lycra  (can I go nowhere without mamils?) reserving platoons of sun beds. I shrugged it off. In October here we had wandered down after a leisurely breakfast (by 8.30) and still been able to sit in the shade, a must for my family two of whom are very pale skinned. One of those is a fully grown man who still believes he will get a tan, despite 43 years of evidence to the contrary. The other is Middlest who spends his holidays getting more and more freckly in an endearing but ultimately futile way tan wise.

Anyway after this particular leisurely breakfast (probably the best in our All Inclusive experiences with proper sausages and bacon that is so well cooked it cracks, the only way to eat bacon in my opinion. I do wish the continent could get its collective head around the need for cold milk with tea though, not hot milk or, worse, cream and provide tea pots and proper sized mugs. That might be just me of course) husband wandered down and could only find sunbeds in full sun and then they were sandwiched between the bins and the showers.

Nevermind we carried on undaunted. After lunch I happened to be passing a family with a small child vacating their beds under the shade and I pounced securing the beds with everything I was carrying; sun hat, one towel & my sun glasses. I toyed with removing my bikini top to secure the fourth bed such was my desperation for shade, sweat having formed on the back of my knees, but thought better of it. The resort is partly naturist but it isn’t really my style…I ran back to husband and we embarked on a change over procedure.

Despite this retreat to the shade for the latter part of the afternoon Middlest still got mild sun stroke as we were to find out at 11.30 pm when Eldest pounded on the door to advise that Middlest was vomiting copiously into, luckily, the toilet.

I resolved to find shady sun beds the next morning come what may.

Anyway at 07:00 hours I pulled on shorts and a tee shirt and joined the mamils reserving sun beds. I found five in the shade further from the activity pool than everyone wanted but not bad in my opinion.

I got chatting to an English man who was arranging his towels on the run of beds next to ours. My family find it odd that I will strike up a conversation with such people. I was about to spend the day lying approximately four inches from at least one member of his party. Getting on friendly terms seemed fair enough.

Whilst he had a fag and I tried not to stare at his sleeve tattoos we discussed the state of affairs which had apparently got worse in this, his second week of holiday. He had been unable to acquire beds any nearer to the activity pool and this got us to wondering what god awful time those in the prime spots had actually arisen at.

There is a rumour circulating that people are setting out towels the night before. They must be German surely? It is a risky strategy as the wind here is truly phenomenal. It is not our first holiday involving wind, as detailed in the aforementioned post Wind Up. In fact I am starting to wonder if my husband is actually seeking out windy locations, this being our third in a row. That Rugby World Cup hoody is back in action. It looks a bit out of date now but it is still very serviceable.

With regard to sun bed reserving I hold the shop partially responsible as they sell beach towel pegs to fasten your beach towel to your sun bed. I have seen a number of towels flapping kite like from their pegged mooring,  Those beach towels carry a €15 deposit, not sure I would risk it. I like JJ the overweight Bulgarian entertainment team member as much as the next woman but not enough to risk that kind of wonga. I will forsake laughing at people doing spin in the water to ensure I don’t lose €75.

My new friend was off on a couple of day trips in the forthcoming week and he was looking forward to the lie in. I had to agree. Of course there are signs up forbidding the reserving of sun beds, the management reserving the right to remove unattended articles. Of course these signs are totally ignored. And some of the more moral amongst my holidaying compatriots actually sit on the beds from seven am thus getting around this issue. In any event can you imagine the mountain of beach towels and lilos (a particularly risky sunbed saving article here in the force nine gale especially the ones shaped like lobsters whose claws seem to catch the wind very easily) and sun hats and random bags that would be created if the management did carry out their threat? Aqua spin would be highly likely to be called off whilst they sorted all that out annoying a huge amount of slightly over weight women. I am sure the management have thought better of it.

I wouldn’t mind so much except that a huge amount of these reserved sun beds do not get occupied until I am going in for lunch, maybe they should start a rota system?

In any event I have it better than my new found sun bed chum whose party consists of his 20 year old lad and his girlfriend (who was indeed the member I spent most of the day lying four inches from which was quite annoying as she was, well, 20 and therefore didn’t paint me in a particularly favourable light) his wife and sister in law  (overweight, unfortunate sun burn lines, tattoos that were possibly once attractive why couldn’t I have ended up next to her? ) and his 16 year old daughter. He doesn’t get a sunbed for her because she might not turn up all day, and he is British and so has a sense of decency about these things.

The reason I have it better is because he was off to await the forming of the a la carte dining queue which, he informed me, he had been unsuccessful in on a previous three occasions. He had a new strategy planned and was hopeful. I shall look out for him in the all you can eat buffet later. That is where we will be eating every night.

I imagine sun bed man (who of course I did not exchange anymore words with once our families had arrived, for that would be weird) would probably also choose the buffet too. During our chat he agreed with me that the food is great.

Especially the bacon.

Off to set my alarm. Good night.

 

 

 

Middle Class Pitfalls… — July 25, 2017

Middle Class Pitfalls…

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So here is a thing about me. I hate ironing. I think I may have mentioned this before. Several times.

It is odd really as my mother quite likes ironing. And taught me to iron well. It is also true that quite a lot of my friends and acquaintances will list ironing quite near the top of their least despised chores list. It is at the bottom of mine. Down there with cleaning the kids’ bedrooms. Even below cleaning shit stains off teenage boys’ toilets.

I am not sure why really. I know some take satisfaction from the transformation of creased articles into uncreased ones. Some people like to do it whilst watching TV or listening to the radio. Others like to stick a flag in their ironing mountain. Maybe some like the mini sauna involved.

Me? I don’t get it. It makes my arm ache. It never ends. And it seems utterly pointless.

Cleaning, which I also hate, has a point. A hygienic point. Laundry has a point. Cooking and shopping have a point. Ironing in my view doesn’t. And so I don’t do it. At all.

My husband has an unfortunate preference for expensive work shirts. And I have found that the more expensive the garment the more ironing it needs. For instance my kids’ school shirts come in a pack of 2 for a tenner, they don’t need ironing, his cost a lot and do.

I like laundry and have a great routine which never sees non iron shirts crease up too badly as they move from washer to line and straight onto hangers. I actually believe a lot of creasing comes from clothes sitting at the bottom of that ironing mountain.

So the only things that get ironed in this house are those ridiculously expensive work shirts.

When the kids were young my husband therefore spent a large proportion of his Sunday afternoons ironing rigid creases into the sleeves of his work shirts. I used to get perversely annoyed as it took him away from helping me with the kids for a good two hours. I was at that stage when I had three kids under 4 at home with me all day every day and wanted any opportunity to off load them onto someone else. I couldn’t do that to a man in charge of a hot electrical item.

So it was a sore point. I look back now and think ‘you unreasonable bitch’. But then that unreasonable bitch was a sleep deprived nutter clinging onto the edges of her sanity.

To sort this sore point out we decided to send out his shirts to an ironing lady.

That was probably ten years ago. And since then on a fortnightly basis his shirts have been collected and returned neatly pressed for a small fee. It is my main indulgence. When I am feeling extremely decadent I will bung in a pair or two of my linen trousers (only in the summer months) which probably do need ironing but mostly don’t get it.

This system works well. I leave his shirts and an appropriate number of hangers in a green and white striped laundry bag on my doorstep on a Tuesday every other week and on the Thursday they are returned on hangers. The lady has a key so she can let herself in and hang them off my cupboards if I am out. It is bliss. They smell great. She does a better job than me and aside from remembering to wash and dry them all in time it saves me a whole heap of pain (in the arm).

The only thing that has gone wrong in those ten years was when I forgot to not set the house alarm on delivery day and I got a panicked phone call during my exercise class during which I could hardly hear my ironing lady over the racket of my house alarm going off. We sorted that one.

Very occasionally I get someone else’s shirts back and they get mine. But again that is easily sorted. Especially as I am friends with her other ironing client. So nothing has really gone wrong. Until today.

Today I put my bag on the step as usual.

My children and I went out to meet a friend and her son for a coffee and catch up.

I got back and the bag was gone. All good it had been collected.

During lunch there was a knock on the door. It was my ironing lady asking for the whereabouts of my ironing.

So the bag had gone. But not to the right person.

My immediate reaction was that I hadn’t actually put the ironing out. Despite being sure I had. We searched the house futilely. We stood around wondering who in their right mind would steal a bag of someone else’s clothes and coat hangers.

My ironing lady left. I searched around futilely a bit more.

I then considered that maybe a charity clothing collector had taken it by mistake. I posted on Facebook. I drove to the Parish Council to see if they had a schedule of approved doorstep collectors. I drove round the village hunting charity vans and bags left on others’ doorsteps to provide a clue. I got mildly excited when I spotted one such van and nearly caused an accident screeching to a halt to investigate. They were merely out collecting a specific piece of furniture. I glanced futilely in their van just in case.

I emptied the contents of my kitchen bin searching for a discarded collection bag. That was fun. Not.

Someone suggested I call my household insurer. That phone call would be up there with the one I made to my car insurer when I ran into my own gate post. Humiliating. And I suspect ultimately pointless in this case. I imagine I am not covered for items left unattended in an insecure area. And anyway I have no receipts. I am just not going there. I am not.

In the end I gave up.

I told my husband who wasn’t as pissed off as he could have been. I closed my brain off to the cost of replacing the shirts. And the two pairs of linen trousers I had extravagantly bunged in last night that I need for my imminent holiday. They are so old they don’t owe me anything anyway. The shirts on the other hand. Ouch.

I am trying not to think about the possibility that the bag was stolen. In broad daylight in my lovely middle class village across my noisy gravel drive with both sets of neighbours in. It makes me feel slightly sick.

But mostly I am trying to fight that niggling sense that this is all my own fault for being quite so bourgeoisie as to send out my ironing.

Lesson learned.

 

 

 

 

Fun Free Tuesdays…. — July 13, 2017

Fun Free Tuesdays….

Hello everyone. I am back. Did you miss me? Well of course not. Sorry I have probably lost you. Let me explain.

Yesterday was Tuesday. The first Tuesday of my children’s 8 week summer holiday. Still none the wiser? I will continue.

Now I love having my kids at home. Mostly. But there are some things about having my kids at home that I find really difficult. And one of those things is the constant battle to get them off electronic devices.

Childrens usage of electronic devices is one of those subjects which divides parents. A bit like breast v bottle and letting them cry it out or not.

I am of the camp that believes that electronic devices are inherently ‘evil’. This view is founded on no real evidence at all and is just something my gut tells me. It is probably because my childhood was in the era before computers smaller than the size of a room were invented.

I envy my mother. She had it much easier with us. The TV was our electronic device. We had one in the house. During this fortnight it was permanently tuned to the Wimbledon Championships. My mother ruled the air wave choices.

In the summer holidays once the morning television programming for children ended at around 10am there was nothing else worth watching until around 4pm. Even then the offerings in the morning weren’t great. Has anyone ever in the history of ‘Why Don’t You (switch of your television set and go and do something less boring instead)’ ever done that? I know I didn’t. Mostly because the activities they portrayed as more fun than watching them portray them were either; games involving the whole gang of circa 20 kids which me and my sole brother could not hope to replicate; or craft activities using sticky back plastic. Which wasn’t allowed in the house.

So my mother had no worries that for the vast majority of each day my brother and I would be doing wholesome activities mainly outside. Activities such as playing  under the embankment of the bypass avoiding the local flasher or running each other over on bikes. Simpler times.

Computers made an appearance in my teenage years but the time taken to load Killer Gorilla or Frogger into the computer from the tape player (don’t touch the volume at all) was so long and often unreliable that the pay off was not really great enough for me to bother.

I tired to think what I did all summer when I was Eldest’s age. My mother asserted that I still played out in the street. She reminded me of the American exchange children who came over which was probably the summer I had turned 14. She remembers me rushing outside after every meal to ‘play out’. That wasn’t really what I was up to but I didn’t want to burst her ‘wholesome activities’ bubble….

In other teenage summers I read a lot of trashy fiction. And stole my brother’s afterburner and met my mates up the woods to drink weak beer from tins.

So it is more than likely that my inherent hatred of my kids spending all day on small screens derives from my desire to see them undertaking wholesome activities such as these. Rather than watching other people open Kinder eggs or packets of Pokemon cards. It is highly likely my 13 year old has moved on from this somewhat. I don’t ask.

The upshot is that I spend a lot of time policing electronic usage and falling out with them about it. Setting time limits never really works. The time elapses and then they ‘just want to finish this video’ or ‘if they leave the game now they will be penalised and lose a legendary something or other’ or ‘oh mum everyone else plays solidly all day you know’. Etc etc. I once heard Middlest comment through his headphones that he had to leave a game and in response to his friend’s reply he said ‘I know she is sooo annoying’….

And so during my run up to this eight weeks holiday a thought had been ruminating. The thought that we should have one day a week completely free of electronic devices. Myself included. Thus cutting all time limits and arguments off at the pass.

I decided in their last week of term to float the idea. I was slightly trepidatious if I am honest.

Youngest was very much up for it. This was not really a surprise. Youngest is 9 and has just finished Year 5. As such in the Harrison household she has achieved the age of  i-pod ownership. The i-pod she possess is obviously third hand. And as such is glitchy and of limited use. Whatever. She manages to play a few games such as Word Cookies and an advanced form of that 1980s one with a ball and a wall to knock through. And she can message her friends but only at home when she is on the internet.

As such she is still the one trying to get her brothers away from You Tube for long enough to play in the garden.

Middlest went white. He asked me what on earth he was going to do. I pointed out that this time last year he did not have a phone or an X Box. That didn’t help. Apparently last summer was a desert of boredom punctuated by small oases of fun which had usually cost me over £100.

Eldest was surprisingly very much up for it too. Eldest is old enough to understand that he struggles to moderate his phone usage. And needs help to do so. Of course on a day when I do ‘help him to manage his usage’ by telling him to ‘put the damn thing away for five minutes’ he does not see it quite like that. And we usually fight.

So to him a day totally without his phone would be a day of moderate usage without the arguments. Hopefully.

And me. What about me? To be honest I wasn’t too worried. The kids had reluctantly agreed to me having my phone for calls and essential texts only. I believed I could resist face book and twitter for a day. My main concern was not being able to open the on line version of The Times newspaper Polygon puzzle, which my father had got me addicted to on our recent visit. But I consoled myself with the thought of a ‘double polygon Wednesday’.

So on Monday evening I hoovered up phones and deposited them in my bedroom along with my I pad. All completely turned off.

I came down at 8 am having overslept to find Middlest booting up the X Box. He had conveniently forgotten that ‘no electronic devices’ included his games console. We had a small contratend.

Over the day on which I had deliberately planned no activities which would have set me back £100 certain things happened.

We all overslept.

They all came to my exercise class with me and ran around the field a few times before joining in (at one point we were all doing press ups in a row much to everyone’s amusement) and declaring it ‘quite hard’.

We went to Sainsbury’s for a snack to undo all our hard work and had actual conversations.

Youngest got her adult colouring book out and did an amazing page of colouring.

Middlest survived. He helped me cook the lunch. And enjoyed chopping and peeling carrots. He read an entire book. He tried to argue that I couldn’t afford phone free Tuesday (or fun free Tuesday as he had rechristened it) as I was going to have to buy a book a week. I pointed out that we have a perfectly decent library.

He helped me cook as he was avoiding Eldest and Youngest who, to a plan of Eldest’s devising, were setting up a hot wheels car track out of his bedroom window. This involved much arguing but once they got it sorted much fun. The fun was somewhat curtailed by the window cleaner turning up.

Eldest got out his sketch pad and new ‘How to Draw’ book purchased with the book token he got for winning the Year 8 Art prize and tackled eyes and then did a decent portrait. Even if the ears are too high.

We got our haircut and they all read wholsomely in the waiting area. Youngest regaled me with animal facts from her encyclopaedia during my cut and blow dry.

They went to a friend’s house whilst hubby and I went out briefly and had fun playing nerf gun wars. Youngest and I watched an episode of the Crystal Maze circa 1990 which apparently looked ‘so old’.

They all went to bed happy,

Middlest extracted his phone from my bedroom before retiring to ensure it was charged and ready for an intense catch up as Wednesday dawned.

The others want to add another day.

 

 

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