musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

Call me…. — May 13, 2020

Call me….

Yesterday I rang Sainsburys. I have been an on line customer for years and the owner of a delivery pass for about 10. Recently though I have been charged for deliveries and although I don’t really mind and thought it was probably because of the current unusual circumstances I had it on my mental list to ‘get to the bottom of’….

I went on line and was surprised to note that my account showed that I did not have a delivery pass…weird.

So I called up. I got through to a lovely lady with a thick accent (probably Scottish but may well have been something else). I asked her if she could find out why I had no delivery pass. She said it had expired on 30th March. I asked why it had it not been automatically renewed as stated on their website (still). At this point she got very defensive…

At the beginning of lock down, she said, when they were under the kosh of panic buying and on line slot mayhem they took a decision not to renew delivery passes. They simply couldn’t cope with it.

I was not in any way cross with her. We talked a bit more. She was sitting in the bedroom in her flat using a laptop and a mobile phone that had been hastily issued by her employer when she started working from home. Her broadband was not always up to the job. She lived alone.

She said I should be able to get a new pass. I advised her that the website still said I could not. She said she thought she ‘had read it in the chat’ from her employer sometime this week that delivery passes were coming back. Clearly not yet. She thanked me for the intel.

I said not to worry I would keep looking myself. She offered to book me my slot for next week which was a major bonus as usually I log on 3 times a day searching! She did that and reserved the slot for me.

I thanked her and hung up. Later I got the confirmation email and had a chuckle at the bottle of Moët she had used to reserve the slot. I may forget to untick it when I do the actual order!

The conversation got me thinking about all those call centre and social media peeps desperately trying to help their customers in what can only be described as very unusual circumstances.

The banks are under a lot of this pressure at the moment (and indeed have been for the last 2 weeks) in the wake of the launch of the bounce back loan scheme. The volumes seen have been unbelievable. The scheme was rushed in with IT platforms not tested or in some cases ready. It was right to rush it in. Small businesses need the cash. But it needs to be remembered that the time frames are ridiculous and the volumes astronomic.

And the people at the sharp end managing issues and complaints and understandable frustration are often sat alone in bedrooms on hastily arranged IT with a lack of up to date info. In fact the info changes so quickly that it is hard to disseminate it effectively to staff from the centre especially when those staff are dispersed. They are low earners and are answering call after call in an unrelenting fashion day after day. I cannot imagine how soul destroying that must be.

As is the case in these situations those that are happy don’t say it often enough and those that are not yell loudest.

We need to remember that supermarkets and banks and others are actually a whole lot of people most of whom, in very difficult circumstances, are trying to do their best to help people.

When we finished our talk yesterday my lovely accented call centre lady thanked me for our chat. She said it was nice to speak to someone who was interested in her.

Be kind folks.

Today… — April 19, 2020

Today…

Today is a day just like any other. All days at the moment are just like any other.

Today I am struggling.

Yesterday I hunkered down with my family, binged watched the TV, ate chocolate and knitted very small hats for the local maternity unit.

Today it really dawned on me that we may never get back to ‘life as we knew it’.

Yesterday I was optimistic. The paper was full of stories of scientists banding together, forging unheard of cross country partnerships, to develop vaccines and therapeutic drugs.

Today the paper says we may never have a vaccine.

Yesterday the exit strategy had not been discussed in public at all.

Today the paper says that government sources have said that possible exits involve my older family members staying isolated for 18 months.

Yesterday I listened to the government give more money to local councils to help and thought ‘good for you’.

Today I read that our Prime Minister took an extended break in the weeks leading up to the pandemic getting a hold here and that the UK was so busy with Brexit and cost savings that it let PPE levels run dangerously low.

Yesterday a friend dropped off rhubarb at my door. Clandestine fruit delivered with kindness,

Today the paper is full of vitriol against cyclists and shoppers.

Yesterday it rained for the first time in ages and I stood on the front drive and let it splash on my face marvelling at how out of tune I had got with the natural world.

Today I do not want to get out of bed.

We are all dealing with a huge amount at the moment. I will get up. I will feed my family, hang up washing to dry and probably force myself out on a walk.

Today this is all I feel capable of.

Many many people have it a lot lot worse. But all we can do is deal with our own reality, we can support those who have a worse reality, respect their sacrifice and suffering. But we can only experience our own.

Be kind. Always.

Voracious Hoards..* and ** — April 11, 2020

Voracious Hoards..* and **

* I wanted to entitle this blog Plagues of Locusts but thought that might be a little…off. And although what we are facing globally at the moment does feel, well, biblical my Covid 19 PC alarm went off…Voracious Hoards it is…

**This blog is shamelessly middle class. It is intended as a light hearted read. And in no way detracts from the very real hardships that I know are faced by many, many people at the moment.

So here I sit on Day, actually I do not know what day, of lockdown; pondering. All the days currently merge into one. It is a bit like that time between Christmas and New Year but not as fun and with less twinkly lights. It is especially difficult to tell what day it is as my husband has not stopped working 12 hour plus days for about 3 weeks. Yes he is an essential worker. But you won’t be clapping for him on Thursdays because he is (whispers) a banker and so will probably at some point be blamed for the pandemic. So far it is bats, pangolins, the entirety of China. I am sure banks, some of whom are mostly owned by the tax payer (every article you read about banks says that…journalists have it on auto type…they click their £ symbol to type it automatically), will finally be found to blame. As he has hardly left our spare room for 3 weeks (once I had assembled the hastily ordered desk and chair and removed the double bed which now sits on our drive way in pieces, unsold due to lockdown, making us look like weirdos to the not inconsiderable number of people now walking by daily) the days are bleeding into each other. I actually do know it is Friday today because it is Good Friday. And therefore a bank holiday although this year it ain’t.

Anyway as I was saying we are on Day unknown of the lockdown. And mostly during these few weeks I have been focussed on food.

I own 2 teenage boys. Quite what I thought I was doing having 2 sons 18 months apart is beyond me now. And then I thought I would throw in a daughter too.

I can also tell you that teenage boys are basically eating machines. They open the fridge, inhale and £150 of food disappears.

In normal circumstances I can cope. School picks up a meal a day. They take snacks in that resemble complete packed lunches for break time. They eat a cooked meal at school (although the portions are apparently scandalous) . Then I do another cooked meal for tea and then they shovel cereal down until bed time.

When the food shortages hit and were coupled with the request to shop only infrequently I turned into a complete food control freak.

I can now hear the opening of a fridge from 3 rooms away. The rustle of a chocolate bar from the back garden. The clinking of milk bottle on cereal bowl from half way through my walk round the village. I can be heard shouting repeatedly,

“Please take some grapes off the bunch instead of standing at the fridge shovelling in a whole punnet almost absent mindedly”.

“Let that meal register before you eat anything else”.

“What happened to the 18 chocolate bars I bought yesterday?”

“How can you be hungry again.”

“Put your hands up and back away from the biscuit tin, slowly…I said slowly…no sudden moves”

Etc, etc, etc.

I now pack up the snacks they would have taken to school and ban all other snacks from being consumed. In case you think this is unfair Eldest has the following ‘snack’ daily at break time:

Apple, banana, 4 mini sausage rolls, bag of crisps, dried apricots, chocolate bar…I eat less for a pack up.

Yesterday for breakfast he ate; a fried egg and slice of toast, a huge bowl full of fruit with yogurt, a bowl of porridge and a bowl of granola.

He was back in the snack bag in an hour.

I currently spend my life planning, queuing, shopping, cooking and clearing up food. Making other food out of any food leftovers (and here I mean carcasses and bones not actual food). Scouring recipe books for new ideas. Stopping people eating the wrong food on the wrong day. Carrying out fridge patrol. Cooking meals from scratch twice a day which linger on plates for around 5 minutes (except the butter nut squash and quinoa chilli that lingered on plates a lot longer…). Trying to find eggs. Trying to find flour. Trying to find flour and eggs together.

And to make matters worse I detest cooking. I know a lot of you out there are relishing the time to experiment in the kitchen whipping up all sorts of gourmet meals. I am not. Cooking is more of a large scale and unwelcome logistical exercise here. No fun is had I can tell you.

I do like to bake and had vague ideas of working my way through the Mary Berry book I got at Christmas. But I refer you to my earlier comment viz lack of flour. Or eggs. Or both.

To start with I couldn’t even buy my normal weekly food shop due to restrictions. I buy 4 packs of 6 yogurts a week to last a few days. Every time we have beans on toast for lunch we use 4 cans. I am not stock piling buying these amounts of food. But I was not allowed to buy such vast quantities.

Now with restrictions mostly lifted I struggle to physicslly wheel such amounts round the supermarket. I no longer shop on line saving those slots for self isolaters and the vulnerable. I cannot shop weekly, dear government, as I literally cannot fit the amount of food in a trolley or push it whilst maintaining a safe distance in the aisles. If only I could take a teenager to help. But I cant

My food bill has almost doubled. Luckily I am not paying for school meals and my husband is not spending his daily coffee, porridge & sandwich money at London prices so we are probably no worse off.

So if you want to know why supermarket supply cannot keep up with demand that will be all the teenage boys at home eating their way through the stock.

And I really really want to know where all that food that should have gone to schools and works canteens and hotels and bars and restaurants has gone? I don’t care if the beans are in 2kg tins. That would do around one meal here. Send a few dozen my way. Please.

You and I… — November 22, 2019

You and I…

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My love affair with Queen began with a love affair. To be precise my first love affair.

That sounds a whole lot more romantic than it was. I met the boy in question at his friend’s 16th birthday party because the friend was quite the geek and had no girls to ask and my friend was his sister.

I had my second kiss on the sofa in that friend’s lounge. I was 14. (My first kiss was at the school disco the previous summer whilst having my first slow dance to Hello by Lionel Richie. That boy dumped me after one day. I was quite the geek too and his street cred couldn’t take it. I tried to think it was his loss but it wasn’t until October that I got back in the game. Or maybe the game passed me by for all those months. Clever, geeky girl in sensible shoes and glasses- not really that attractive to your average 14 year old boy)…

After some time fraught with tortured teenage angst and misunderstandings that boy and I became an item.

We spent 2 and a bit years together. There was a lot of walking, making fires, meeting him from his Saturday job at Waitrose, watching Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, jealousy, long land line phone calls in hushed voices in the hallway, RPG, art, flat caps, crunchy sandwiches, the Sunday Mail, woods, snogging in the lighting gallery, that sofa, jumping in canals, …well actually that only happened once and it was him. Not me. Nutter.

He had a record player and precisely 3 albums. We would stack all three up and listen to them in turn before turning them all over to their other sides.

One was The Riddle by Nik Kershaw. One was Innocent Man by Billy Joel and one was Queen’s Greatest Hits.

I was smitten from day one.

I was brought up in a house where the LP collection mostly consisted of classical recordings, a few Beatles albums, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and steam engine noises. Yes I kid you not entire long playing records of steam trains.

Queen, then, was something else.

During our dating period Highlander was released and we had a whole new album of Queen songs from the soundtrack. The Live Magic tour happened. We didn’t go. My mum thought I was too young at 16 for Wembly. That’s a decision I regret to this day. Queen never toured again.

My next boyfriend (he was also at that party and a friend of that geeky brother of my friend) was also a Queen fan. During our time together at Uni between us we completed our entire Queen LP collection. We catalogued the songs according to which member of the band had written them. I still have that list. And half those LPs. We tried to decide who of the 4 was our favourite composer . An almost impossible task.

We mourned Freddie’s passing. We went to the tribute concert. All three of us.

We discussed the merits of different album styles. Was Hot Space really such a mistake. Could you beat the old stuff?

Because although my first experience of Queen was that Greatest Hits album, with all the classics oft belted out by drunken revellers at work’s Christmas parties or bellowed at football matches, it was the lesser known stuff that appealed to me more.

Recently during my endless taxi-ing I have been revisiting my Queen catalogue, now all on Spotify, and rediscovering some of my favourite tracks.

And at the moment that favourite is You and I.

Everyone should listen to You and I. To be honest everyone should listen to the whole of Day at the Races but I hold back from recommending that as the 5 minute long odyssey of White Man puts some people off.

You and I is accessible. But quintessentially Queen. It opens with the piano. I have a soft spot for Freddie’s piano. Maybe because I am a pianist. Maybe because he plays an actual piano not a keyboard. And he does it so well.

Next the drums crash in. I love Roger’s drums. Genius.

There is an excellent bass line for John. I am also a bass player and love a good bass line. Although before you think I can’t really have been all that geeky I played double bass. In orchestras. I tried to pretend I could play electric bass. I really couldn’t. The frets are confusing. And it’s sideways. I did once jam with boyfriend number 3 whose older brother was excessively cool but I was awful. Boyfriend number 3 once saw Queen live. He’d gone to see Status Quo at a gig and Queen were also there. Imagine going to see Quo and getting Queen. By accident. I never really forgave him for that.

Anyway there’s also a good guitar riff for Brian. There are wonderful sung harmonies. It switches between speakers (listen on headphones for the proper effect). There is a false ending. Cymbals in the bridge tap tapping away. All good Queen stuff.

But the star of the show is Freddie’s voice. It often is. I adore it.

And I love the sentiment. No more questions. Let’s enjoy tonight.

I am still friends with that boy who introduced me to Queen 35 years ago. (And with the other two). Some people think that’s wierd. It isn’t. No one needs to be jealous. The romantic part was over literally a life time ago. It was in another life. And yes we meet infrequently and don’t pick up the phone enough. But we are friends.

And that love of Queen he started. That’s still there.

Teo Torriatte my friends.

Sock it to them! — October 17, 2019

Sock it to them!

So for those of you not in the know my house is full of hormones. A swirling maelstrom of hormones. A tornado of ‘-ones’ and ‘-ens’ rampaging through our lives for the most part unchecked blundering into feelings and harmony and those envisaged moments of blissful family life such as a quiet board game by the fire or a bracing walk in the countryside with disastrous consequences.

An awful lot of it is testosterone, two thirds of which is emergent and not totally under control or assimilated into shocked bodies. And a third of which is newly prompted into action by the other two thirds. There is a lot of posturing, chest beating, banging of heads and egos and territory marking going on.

There is also some gradually rising oestrogen and some gradually reducing oestrogen as if there is only so much available for our family and Youngest is stealing mine.

It’s a melting pot. On some days I swear the hormones are tangible like some sort of ominous, heavy Victorian smog where beasts lurk around every corner.

I have developed a maxim in order to help me navigate this swirling maelstrom. And that maxim is ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’…

And this basically entails ‘picking my battles’…

So yes it is infuriating that Eldest leaves a bowl every morning in the front room recently bereft of cereal but unable to find its way into the dishwasher. And yes on some days I take a picture of that bowl and Whatsapp it to him at school. With an ironic Smilie. But most days I don’t. For instance if Eldest has a particularly difficult Biology test in period 1 or is recovering from being pummeled physically and metaphorically in a rugby match the previous evening.

I have some non negotiables such as physical violence. I never let that slide. Disrespect to adults. Again a non negotiable. Kindness to siblings and friends. Again important, although not always achieved in the case of siblings- but I pick that battle I go into war over it. Using fingers to eat chips? Yep annoying. But not the end of the world. Not a battle to fight if Youngest is screamingly nervous about a football trial.

I have 3 teenagers/ pre teens. School has, well, several hundred. The melting pot has metamorphosed into a huge crucible on the smelting yard floor. And yet school seems to sweat the small stuff.

Maybe there is a thought process that says small stuff under control means big stuff follows. And they are afraid of anarchy. Or maybe they are all control freaks…

Here is my pet ‘small stuff’ hate. Socks. School is cracking down on socks. Socks must be black under black trousers. All mine wear black trousers including Youngest who will no longer wear a skirt after being told off in Year 7 for wearing a Junior School skirt to Senior school. Another ‘small stuff’ rant I am quite willing and able to have if you have the time? You do? Excellent.

In Junior school skirts are elasticated and flared. They make moving around the playground easy. Especially if one has a penchant for playing football. Youngest had such a skirt. It still fitted (and was within the regulation one inch of her knees). I am eco friendly. And tight. So I did not buy her a new Senior school skirt. Which are straight, have no waist adjustments and prevent ease of movement until they are a darn site higher than the regulation one inch maximum above the knee.

She got into trouble. Which if you know Youngest at all you will know throws her off for days.

I am not sure why Junior school skirts are so frowned upon. It has been suggested it is because they are easier to ‘look up’. Which in turn suggests to me a stern word about the ‘big stuff’ is required with all males in school. But I think it is probably just a ‘small stuff’ battle again. So Youngest is in trousers.

Any way back to socks. The school has a thing about ‘business attire’. I think black socks come under this. I believe this is wrong on a number of levels.

One: not all children (and lets face it we are dealing with children here) aspire to ‘go into business’. What does that even mean? Investment banking? Are we saying that to make it in the world one needs to conform? Really? In an era where employers are crying out for creativity and original, critical and higher level thinking?

Two: business attire is not what it was. My husband works in a traditional business. He now has to hot desk. People wear shorts. He, the epitome of respectability and up tightness, has started wearing chinos and an open collared shirt to work. To be honest it shocked me. But this is how the world is changing. For the better. Otherwise we would all still be wearing bowler hats.

Three: I often see teachers at the school not in ‘business attire’. For instance tie and jacket less in the heat. And before the ‘summer uniform’ rule has been invoked. Shock. If you are going to enforce a banal rule all those in that institution need to up hold that rule. Or it isn’t a rule.

Four: artists should be artists, dramatists should be dramatists, musicians should be musicians. Athletes should be sweaty. Engineers should be oily. Etc. My son is an artist and a musician and a sports player and a biologist and a historian. Only some of those work well in a suit and tie.

Leaving all that aside I can get my head around school uniform. It levels people. It prevents clothing shaming. It is cheaper if you have boys and do not have to fork out £25 per blouse and can bulk buy from Primark.

But I cannot get my head round the plain black socks. It is so not up there in the ‘battles we should be having’ stakes. Socks are an easy way to express ones personality without being too ‘out there’. Socks allow one’s hormonal teenagers a frisson of rebellion without hurting a soul. (Ha ha). Socks are fun. Socks pose no danger to anyone, not in a lab or a workshop or on a pitch. They make excellent stocking fillers. I need those.

So I turn a blind eye to my children’s sock choices. I may go so far as to say something to school if they get into trouble over their socks. I actually buy them fun socks. It’s a thing we have.

So there you have it. I think school should pick its battles. And not sweat those socks. There is enough sweat in all those socks already. And any way have you ever tried matching 3 pairs of almost identical black socks that only vary, slightly but crucially, in size once they have been through the washer? Thought not.

September — September 8, 2019

September

sept

Unyielding leather creases across youthful feet
Unused to such confinement
After days of summer sandals and sloppy trainers
Those flip flop days that passed in a drowsy haze

Sun slanting at an angle more acute
Than the overhead heights of searing heat
Which beckon from only yesterday
Condensation bedews window sills
Behind curtains drawn at an earlier hour
Than of late.

The smell of windfalls lying unused on the lawn
A mocking indictment of crumbles unmade
Freshly chalked side-lines bedecked with watchers
Alternating in and out of coats
As summer remains unsure
Whether to linger longer
Or exit out of the door

Returning to the timetables of life
The schedules and menus and planning
Of time which seems more fleeting

The song of birds earlier and later
Plaintive; mourning what has been
The barbeque lit in defiance
One last time

Clinging onto the last vestiges of the season almost over
Sewing on name tapes in fresh new cotton
Robed in my fleece in the garden
In the last rays of evening light
Contemplating the inexorable slide

To winter.

Ear…ear… — August 2, 2019

Ear…ear…

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So here we are in sunny France. Day 6 of our 2 week sojourn to the Vendee on the Atlantic coast.

It’s actually Day 7 but I refuse to count Day 1 as it consisted of getting up unfeasibly early and driving for hours and hours before having to speak broken French in tabacs and supermarkets, cook pasta, unpack and try not to shout at the kids before falling into bed in an exhausted heap… “let’s make the journey part of the holiday” some smuck said. No let’s forget it ever happened and enter complete denial until Day 15 when we do it all in reverse with nothing to look forward to except those 4 bananas I am certain I left in the fruit bowl….

Sorry I digress.

Day 6/7 then. So far days 1-5 have involved us in unbridled fun. Body boarding, swimming, jacuzzi-ing (even a word?), sandcastle building, reading, sleeping and yesterday a day at a water park sliding and getting an adrenaline fix.

Time today, therefore, for something different. It began at 12.30am this morning when Middlest stumbled into our bedroom complaining of ear ache.

Middlest really did stumble too. The shutters here, which resemble shop shutters but are automatic, let in very little light so it is pitch black in the night. This sees me regularly waking up in what I consider to be the middle of the night but is actually 9am. This was especially confusing during Days 1 to 3 when I could not work out how to alter the time on my Fitbit and so had to manually add on the hour myself. Which my brain seemed incapable of doing in the middle of the night/ 8am/ 9am.

I groaned, I like to think inwardly but it was probably outwardly too, and stumbled into the other bedroom (husband and I currently occupy 2 as the one we started sleeping in at the end of that exhausting Day 1 had a bed so hard my left arm went numb so we turned Middlest out of his twin to share with Youngest so we could sleep with full feeling in all our limbs. This sees our clothes, toiletries and the medicines in one room and us in another) to retrieve the analgesics. I bunged him an ibuprofen and went back to sleep and dreamt of doctors and giant ears.

And thus Day 6 has been spent dealing with the french medical system.

Middlest and Youngest have ear ache form. They first got raging ear ache in Portugal during our 2016 summer holiday. Please read Why are there No Aspirin in the Jungle for that particular tale.

They then both got it again on 2 holidays to the Canaries.

With our own private pool here we hoped we might evade the dreaded ear infections but, no, either the pool contains remnants of previous occupants or it was yesterday’s water park that was the culprit….

We spoke to our rep who suggested a pharmacy. So off I drove to the nearest town having readied my script which consisted off: I am English. I speak a little French. My son has ear ache. Is there something you can suggest?

Day 6, it transpires, is market day. The place was rammed. I drove futilely round 2 car parks, pulled the wrong way up a one way street, reversed quickly before anyone caught on and finally parked up at the supermarket.

We made the pharmacy. The assistant understood my french. Unfortunately I did not understand hers. I caught the word doctor and interior and ear and guessed she was saying I needed a doctor.

Back home we drove. Husband called the rep back. She found a doctors open to people without appointments in the same town we had just left open for just another 30 minutes. Back we raced this time with husband to drop us off seeing as time was limited. The surgery was rammed. There was no receptionist, which was in part a relief. No need to speak broken French to someone who may or may not have been from the same mold as British doctors’ receptionists. I will say no more.

People disappeared into the 2 doctors’ rooms and never came out. This was slightly disturbing. Anyway our turn came. I gave the same speech. The doctor asked me something in French. I looked blank. She asked it again in quite good English. I gave the answer: “His name is Middlest”. About this point I decided, not for the first time, that I really need to learn how to listen to French. I can read and speak it to a useful level when holiday but I am totally incapable of understanding it when spoken. Even something as simple as “What is his name”….

Anyway she got the details she needed. I managed to convey his penicillin allergy. We got a prescription. We paid the 30 euros (frankly that is cheap compared to Spain and Portugal) and left through a second door….ahh now we understood…

Back to the same pharmacy. The previous assistant smiled and said “Ah antibiotics”. The male assistant had less English. We managed with hand signals and my occasional French word of agreement and me deciding to just say ‘Oui’ and decipher the French instructions when we got home. He was concerned, I think, that he didn’t want me to think he was ripping me off as he had to sell me two packets of ear drops. Frankly I would have paid a lot more than the 10 euros to just get the whole sorry mess over with.

We drove home. Middlest had been feeling bad that he was ruining the holiday. So we span it as a worthwhile cultural experience.

No holiday would be complete without a trip to the doctors. This one has the added advantage of not even being worth a travel insurance claim. Less paperwork. Result.

In Search of Waves… — July 31, 2019

In Search of Waves…

imageSome of my more loyal readers (and let’s face it with my posts getting scarcer and scarcer you would have to be pretty loyal right now; and that scarcity is a whole other story I may write one day) may remember that I enjoy a bit of body boarding…

If you don’t remember why not go back and revisit Surfing or Surfing….or not…. or even If the Suit Fits they all bear some testament to my love of riding the waves. On my belly…. I decided after Portugal to just give up on proper surfing for good, The relief is palpable. Body boarding…all the thrill…much less effort..

In search of waves last summer we went to Polzeath in Cornwall for our annual two week summer holiday. The house we rented was literally a short trot to the beach (admittedly across a car park) and then it was only a small hike up the beach to the waves. We had decided to buy full length wet suits of a decent quality and exorbitantly expensive Dry Robes (TM) which as it happened were unnecessary as Cornwall basked in unusually high temperatures for our entire staycation.

Once we realised you needed to get your boarding fix either very early or very late to avoid the hoards of surf schools and sightseers we had a high old time. The waves were mostly good.

Probably beacuse we didn’t get the Cornwall weather we expected and felt cheated by all that sun we decided to head back in October half term for another go. This time the weather was distinctly Cornwall. We used those Dry Robes (TM) in anger as well as neoprene hats, shoes and gloves. You may scoff but we body boarded in November. In the rain. And howling wind. The waves were ‘frisky’. It was quiet.  But nothing was open. All the cafes and tea shops and chippies had closed up for the year.

In a bid to combine sun & open amenities with not hitting your head on a surf board or taking out a toddler or two on every wave we decided to head back to the west coast of France this year.

We last did this in around 2011. We remembered excellent waves. Long empty beaches. But we have moved on a bit from static caravans. So husband found a house again a stroll from the beach. With a pool and jacuzzi. And a washing machine. We bought a roof box for all the wet suits, neoprene accoutrements and Dry Robes (TM) (the weather in West France can still be a bit hit and miss if memory served) and off we drove across the tunnel and seemingly all of France.

The house is spectacular. The beach beautiful. But not body boardable. We tried, looking a bit ridiculous in our wet suits amongst all the bikini clad French bathing in fairly calm waters, but really, no.

Luckily Rob, who had shown us around the house when we arrived, had mentioned a surfer beach, La Conches, just up the bay. He claimed it was a bit busy with surf schools (sigh) but worth the trip especially as it had life guards.

Yesterday with a surf report of 5-7 foot waves we tried our local beach one more time, gave up after having to walk over the rocks to the waves which were breaking at weird angles, got straight in the car sitting on towels and said Dry Robes (TM) and drove in sandy flip flops and wet wetsuits to La Conches which took all of 15 minutes. We banged the roof box on the car park barrier, got out and walked to the beach.

We were greeted by awesome waves of indeed epic proportions breaking in huge straight lines. The beach was deserted. As it was raining.

So off we went striding into the sea catching wave after wave and skimming the shore with our boards. Looking like we at least needed the wet suits.

We went back today in slightly tamer 3-4 foot waves. Which allowed Eldest to catch them just before they broke much to his delight, and Middlest to try his barrel rolls.

2 hours later we again sat on those towels and Dry Robes (TM) in the increasingly sandy car and drove back to our house and the outside shower. All exhilarated, tired and ready for our baguette, cold meats and cheese.

Why do I like it so much? I love the visceral effect of the sea. I love being so close to all that power. I love fighting my way back out through the breakers. I love the crash of the breaking wave, the gurgle as you ride the breakers and the rustle of the shingle under the board. I love the smell. I love the pull of all that energy propelling you up the beach. I love that time slips away unnoticed. I love seaweed tangled in my feet. I love the feel of sand in my toes. I love the triumph when you catch one just right and go from shoulder high water to inches of foam.

And you see here is the single best thing about body boarding. It is a physical activity that I enjoy and can actually do as well as my off spring. In every other area I lag behind, get tired before everyone else, feel like the lame duck. But with body boarding I out last them all. Except Youngest who could have stayed even longer. It is truly a whole family activity.

At one point during today’s session we all managed to catch the same wave riding it up to the shoreline in what , in my mind, was exquisite harmony. Perfect.

Body boarding is something that I can foresee carrying on with even after the kids have left and into my older years. I imagine myself at 60 or even older still riding those waves.

And then I struggle into or out of my wet suit slowly and often with help and reconsider…. I will have to develop an immunity to the cold. Or a layer of fat. And do away with one altogether. For I never want to give up that feeling of pure exhilaration.

 

 

 

It Drives Me Crazy… — January 27, 2019

It Drives Me Crazy…

 

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I have wanted to write this post for a while but never really knew how to start. I still don’t really so I guess I am going to have to hold my nose and just jump in…

Bringing up three kids was never going to be easy. Parenting isn’t easy full stop however many you have. Over the last few years parenting mine has been particularly difficult. They are growing up, hormonal, teenage. All those cliches.

But in addition to that 2 of them have suffered from and still do suffer from mental health issues.

I am not unusual. The statistics surrounding the numbers of children and teenagers suffering in this way is frankly frightening. Regardless of the reasons (and they are no doubt multidudinous) we are, in this country, in the midst of an epidemic of youth mental illness. Statistics published recently state that 10% of 5 to 16 year olds suffer from mental health issues. That is three children in every average sized school classroom.

And yet the help out there is woeful. Totally woeful.

The NHS can’t or won’t provide anywhere near sufficient resources to tackle the issue. 75% of those suffering have not had any help at all and on average it takes 10 years to get the treatment young people need, when usually their issues have brought them to a crisis point.

Over stretched NHS resources send children away because their self harm isn’t bad enough, or they haven’t yet attempted suicide enough times, or they are not painfully thin enough. That is the reality of mental illness provision in England today. That is real. That happens to young people every day.

I struggle to understand how, as a society, we find it acceptable to not provide proper NHS support for the around 22% of fourteen year old girls who self harm for instance. Whether that’s better research into causes, treating people with the issue or providing preventative care.

I wonder how many headlines there would be if 22% of 14 year old girls suffered from cancer and nothing was done? Or indeed they were turned away by the NHS until their cancer was ‘bad enough’ as so often happens to those with mental illness.

The spotlight on mental health has got a little brighter in recent years with the input of royalty and sufferers speaking out but funding for the area is shockingly poor. Not only in the NHS but also in the charity sector. Research is pitiful. Suicide is the single biggest cause of death in both males and females between that ages of 20 and 34 and three quarters of those people will have started with mental ill health in childhood. Research into mental health currently runs at 6% of the UK’s health research funding and is around £8 per sufferer per year as opposed to £178 per cancer sufferer and £110 per dementia sufferer…not even in the same league. Of this pitiful amount less than 30% goes into children’s mental health research despite 75% of cases starting in childhood.

We donate and run and walk and put on national events on a huge scale for other types of disease. But mental illness seems not to have gathered such a following. It isn’t well publicised. It isn’t high profile. It isn’t big business. It is just a canker in our society which is still brushed under the carpet. Or worse not believed in.

I can tell you categorically that mental illness is real. It ruins lives. In an on going way. Not only for the sufferer but also for their families.

Who wants to hear their teenage son decide he would be better off dead than deal with the noise in his head a moment longer? Who would not believe that? Or want to help?

We were lucky. In our area there is a charity, CHUMS, which provided both my children with 4 hours of counselling (all they can afford to provide per child) and helped me learn to help them myself. Without them there would have been no way to get my children help; they were simply not ‘ill enough’ to get NHS treatment. Those 4 hours were precious. It hardly felt like we touched the surface. But still they were four hours that got us from the edge of cliff and back to a path we could manage, albeit a precarious one.

Without it I would have been left in the same boat as most families in the UK with children with mental health issues. Not being able to help my child out of their pain and anguish. Not knowing what to say. Feeling powerless to help my teenager deal with his totally crippling stress, anxiety and rituals which were literally ruining his life. The impotence I felt at times would have continued to overwhelm me.

Thanks to CHUMS he and I have some idea how to deal with his issues. It is still a daily and on going battle which shouldn’t be underestimated. And we are not alone.

To say ‘Thank you’ that same son is cycling a Coast to Coast 140 mile route over 3 days at Easter to raise money for that charity which I can honestly say saved his life.

He is trying to raise £1000. Which is a relatively a small amount but it’s a struggle. We are hoping to get there.

If you are reading this and can help with a donation, however small, please go to his Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/Matthew-Harrison21 where you can read his story in his own words.

He and I and other families will be very grateful.

Thanks.

What happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object… — January 17, 2019

What happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object…

Well I think we are about to find out folks… hang on to your seats…

As the unstoppable force that is Brexit runs full pelt into the immovable object that is 29th March we all hold our collective breath.

There are many sorts of people around at the moment….

There is a loud group of Remainers who think that all their dreams are going to come true and that a second referendum is the only way out. Glibly closing their minds to the fact that it seems more than likely the Leave vote will be stronger. And over looking the fact that even if there were by some miracle a Remain vote we will have to slink back to the EU table with our tail between our legs like a sorry mongrel who got ideas above its station, all negotiating power and standing shot to ribbons. Deluded.

There are Remainers and Leavers trying to put a brave face on it. Wondering how we got into this mess. Trying not to believe that the people we elected into power are so stubborn and lacking in the ability to think outside their own personal and party based interests (to act as bleeding statesmen) that we are going to crash and burn in spectacular fashion. Powerless to do anything except stand back and watch it all happen like rubber-neckers on a motorway as a million car pile up happens on the other carriage way.

There are those of both persuasions who think ‘it will all be OK in the end’. We survived two world wars for gods sake. How hard can it be to live in a world with no food on the shelves or medicine in the pharmacies. Well quite hard but hey you know it will be alright in the end.

There are those Leavers who think this is exactly why we need to leave because the EU are so damn unreasonable.

There surely must be some Leavers out there (although I have yet to meet one) who have decided that ‘oops’ maybe they didn’t think it through properly in the first place. That maybe they just voted based on a red bus and a few lying toe rags or maybe because ‘immigrants’ were taking their jobs (and picking their strawberries, and cleaning their hotel rooms, and serving them beer, and resuscitating them in A&E and teaching their kids Physics) and we needed to ‘stop the tide’. And who now think it wasn’t such a great way to vote. Who knows. To be fair I think most Leavers were not expecting this massive cock up.

Some people must just be ignoring it. For the sake of their mental health or because it means so little to them as they exist in a day to day vacuum of simply making it to the next day caught up in a world where politics has stood still for 2 years as all focus was put on avoiding a catastrophe that know seems inevitable…

There must be I guess some people sitting in corners quietly rubbing their hands together ready to pick up the pieces and make a killing in the fall out… there are always people like this: knitters at the guillotine, looters of bodies, dubious business men, Boris Johnson. The human condition is such that one person’s bad news is usually some unscrupulous person’s good news.

I for one am sick of it. I wanted to stay. Now all I am sure of is that the reputation and standing of this country has been immeasurably harmed by the whole sorry mess. A whole two years when we could have been sorting the issues (poverty, inequality, housing, health, education) that led to the referendum decision in the first place have been lost. My faith in politicians and democracy is in shatters. There is not one single party I can vote for based on their sorry performances.

It’s getting to the point where I would rather it was just all over for good or bad. And I could deal with the fall out as best as possible.

Onwards.

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