musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

Adulting…it ain’t all that.. — December 7, 2018

Adulting…it ain’t all that..

48239719_10210430744805449_4409348872162246656_o

‘So,’ Eldest said this morning, ‘What are you going to do on your day off?’

Well son it’s like this.

First I am going to go in to school (in the rain as it happened) to hammer out an agreement on which netball matches your sister can miss next term so she can at least step onto a football pitch.

Then I will probably tackle the weekly round of scraping dried on shit stains off 3 toilets and cleaning mine which of course still smells of roses, collect an obscene amount of almost but not quite empty shower gel and shampoo bottles, sweep finger nail cuttings off window sills into the bin (why do finger nail cuttings end up on widow sills? it flummoxes me), remove layers of toothpaste off every available surface so that you can all take great sweeping spits at the mirror later to put them all back, remove around 20 used toilet roll tubes and then try to remember which child said they needed them, presumably for some ‘fun’ Christmas homework or other, shine sinks so that your father can shave his head onto at least 2 of them during the weekend covering them with a plethora of tiny little hairs, fight back the tide of hay that seems to migrate from the guinea pig corner into every other pigging room in the house, put muddy shoes outside, hoover the stairs which get miraculously filthy even though NO ONE is supposed to wear shoes upstairs. Etc.

At some point during this process Sainsbury’s will arrive with over a 100 quid’s worth of food which will probably last until, oh I don’t know, Sunday? And I will spend a good half an hour trying to resurrect crisps that have been helpfully placed in a bag under the 5 kilos of potatoes, unpack so many bags of said crisps it is obscene and try to work out how to fit all of it in the fridge. If I am lucky it might be the fit, friendly young chap dealing with my returns. But it is more likely to be Mr Miserable.

Oh and then I will do all the admin for all the week which I no longer have any time to do including trying to work out who is where on Saturday morning and at what god forsaken hour I will have to arise, filling in Scout camp forms, updating Pitchero, and ensuring we don’t go overdrawn.

I will wade through the 6, yes 6 separate sport’s kits that were left in the washing basket (or indeed on bedroom floors, on chairs, on the floor next to the washing basket) last night and which are covered liberally in mud, sweat and quite possibly blood and which without fail are inside out.

I will take delivery of numerous parcels as Christmas arrives from Amazon. And again wonder where to put it. I will wrestle with my conscience about not sending Christmas Cards this year…due to a lack of time rather than any environmental values.

I will attempt to start 2 tax returns, determined not to leave them until January again, but I will no doubt be confounded by on line banking and call centres.

I will drive to Sainsbury’s to buy all the missing items from my on line shop and take the umpteen billion empty bottles to the bottle bank which will no doubt be full.

I will move your cereal bowl which I have absolutely every confidence you will leave on the coffee table after breakfast rather than putting it in the dishwasher…

‘So nothing fun then?’

‘Well I will eat a whole family bag of Tyrell’s Salt and Vinegar Furrows for lunch, because I can’…

Adulting, it ain’t all that…

 

 

 

It’s a Man’s World… — November 22, 2018

It’s a Man’s World…

So here is the thing. My daughter likes playing football. She is good at playing football. Better than good. Excellent.

So has played in Saturday clubs since she was 5. Very successfully. Her current club are brilliant and have always been very supportive of all their players.

But she is also very good at hockey, netball, running- in fact most sports that don’t involve a racquet!

This causes us issues. School wants her to play for them and she wants to as she likes to play sport with her school mates and represent her school with pride.

Unfortunately this means she has to miss football matches for her Saturday league club or has to let the school down.

Fed up of trying to juggle fixture lists I decided to bite the bullet and try to find her a Sunday football club where she could train this season and play matches, assuming they had space, with a view to signing for them properly next season.

The FA, who provide her elite training, helped me find some clubs. And told me how to phrase the email to try to get them to respond. They were all ‘boys’ clubs. Which was fine she is used to that. Girls leagues don’t seem to play on Sundays.

The FA guy said my main problem would be getting them to see Youngest in the first place. He said that once she was in front of them actually playing football she would sell herself…

Alarm bells started ringing.

I sent emails off to about 9 managers.

A sum total of 1 came back. I did not even get a ‘thanks but no thanks’ or ‘we are full try in June’; just silence.

The one who did reply was a bit cagey but suggested he assess Youngest ‘over a few weeks’ reiterating that they were a 1st division side and playing at the ‘highest level’. I knew that, that was why I had emailed his club. The intimation was that he was sceptical but at least he had replied so that was a big thumbs up to him.

We rolled up on Tuesday to training. Youngest did her thing and the manager, coaches and training were great, the boys were lovely and she had fun.

After the hour was up the manager pulled me over and said how impressed he was with how well she played and that he definitely wanted her in the team for next season and this season if a space became available, that she was welcome to training for the rest of this season and that he was convinced she would settle in extremely well.

When I told him he was the only manager who had replied to my email he was not surprised. He said most coaches would have read the word ‘girl’ and dismissed the idea out of hand. He, however, was glad he hadn’t. As he said ‘Their loss!’

Maybe all the other recipients of my email are horribly busy, I know they are all volunteers with more important things than football on their plates but even so how long does it take to write an email? Certainly not the 2 weeks I have waited.

And I wonder how many of those coaches would have emailed me straight back if they had read ‘boy on an England Talent Pathway’ rather than ‘girl on an England Talent Pathway’… probably all of them.

This situation is indicative of the slight under current of sexism in grass roots football. It is not overt (most of the time) but it is there, subtly.

Youngest doesn’t play well for a girl , she just plays well. She should not be picked out for special mention because she is as good as her team mates, she is as good as her team mates and deserves only the praise they all get unless she does something above and beyond. It gets tedious when people raise their eye brows and then say something along the lines of ‘oh when the boys start growing she’ll have to move to a girl’s team’. Have they seen Kante and Shaqiri? Height isn’t a pre requisite to playing good football.

She doesn’t get ‘pushed off the ball’ and she isn’t going to ‘lack in physicality’. She is not ‘more likely to get hurt’. And anyway why is it worse if my daughter gets hurt as opposed to the person standing next to me on the touchline’s son?

She should not ‘concentrate on girls’ sport’ as was once said to me by a (male) PE teacher. She should just focus on the sport she loves.

Her team and most of the opposition she meets don’t see her as a girl, they see her as a player. It is a shame that some of the adults surrounding football find that so hard to grasp.

In fact I think all grass roots youth football teams should just be mixed. Not ‘girls’ football or ‘boys’ football. Just football, with success based on participation, attitude and commitment and, eventually at the right age, ability; but certainly not gender.

The fact that my child does not have a penis should not mean she is dimissed out of hand or treated any differently. Talent, hardwork, commitment, coachability and desire don’t care what genitalia you possess.

Anyway she will be playing for her new side next season (and hopefully before) against most of those clubs who didn’t reply. Their loss.

Jolly Hockey Sticks… — September 8, 2018

Jolly Hockey Sticks…

Many moons ago, well actually 1983 but we aren’t counting really are we, I started Upper school.

My mum was generally quite an organised person. I always had sensible black shoes from Clark’s, how I hated those shoes. I had the requisite uniform. My lunch money was always ready every Friday in a little brown envelope. And such.

However on this occasion the extensive list of equipment required for starting year 9 had got the better of her. She had bought me weird canvas hockey ‘boots’ which came up over my ankles and had built in studs and little discs of plastic over the ankle bones. I had long blue socks, the pleated gym skirt and matching big pants in regulation navy. I had the artex gym top. But she had missed the vital words ‘hockey stick’…

Well that first day double Games was scheduled. Never mind, asserted my mum, my old stick is in the attic somewhere amongst the half used rolls of 1970s wallpaper and your dad’s model railway, I’ll just pop and get it. That wallpaper always came in very handy for covering school exercise books which was always the first homework of every subject in every school year. My large day glow yellow and brown flowers always stood out amongst the brown paper and the sticky back plastic. Only slightly mortifying…

So this was news to me. My mother had played hockey as a school girl. I had not come across hockey so far in my school career. We dusted off the stick and I was set.

It dawned on me about halfway through the walk from lunch hall to hockey pavilion that my stick looked slightly different to everyone else’s. And not only because the grip was non existent. No the end of the stick was an entirely different shape too.

(I feel I must pause here to make mention of the hockey pavilion. Pavilion is really a very grand word for what was essentially a shed perched on the edge of the fields. The shed had a very particular smell of mud and teenage boy. The boys and girls sides were separated by a very thin sheet of mdf which many a curious young man had gouged holes in, with, presumably, a set of compasses which were also on the kit list. It was wise to hang ones school uniform up and stand behind it to avoid giving a random 14 year old boy an eyeful. There was no heating. The showers (which we were forced to use unless the period register allowed one to be excused) were cold, the floor was filthy, the roof leaked. In fact the whole place was utterly horrific.)

Anyway I got changed, carefully, into the regulation kit and grabbed my stick.

We filed past the terrifying Miss Stocking. Miss Stocking was scary in a way only 1980s Games mistresses can be scary. I had come across Games teachers before. Only the year before in Year 8 I had had the pleasure of Mr Dover as my form teacher. He taught the boys Games and us, randomly, Geography. And he took the register and once, frighteningly, when I had plucked up the courage to bring flour and eggs to school on the last day of term for the very first time in an attempt to look cool, conducted the bag search which saw me in front of the headmaster getting the ‘very disappointed’ speech. Mr Dover’s method of punishing low level disruption during Geography lessons was to turn around at lightening speed  from the board where instants earlier he had been scribing something on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or concentric settlement theory and throw his Games keys with the unerring accuracy of a frustrated professional rugby player at the offending child. I believe he only drew blood once.

Games mistresses were in a whole other league. Miss Stocking had terrorised my uncle at the school’s open evening when we had visited the school the pervious year to look around. Even now, 35 years later, he has ‘sweaty palm’ flashbacks to being pinned up against the wall bars in the sports hall whilst being interrogated about his sporting past. Which I don’t believe exists.

She flak flaked her way around her domain of sports hall and changing rooms with her nose in the air, her pristine gym skirt flapping and her long blonde pony tail swishing no doubt proving the centre of many a teenage boy fantasy, looking down her nose at everyone but the elite who could actually play sport. She was frankly awful. On so many levels. Inclusivity was not a word she knew how to spell. She barked, she demeaned, she sneered, she gave me a C3 in every single report for every single type of sport and wrote ‘could work harder’ every single time. She really needed a stamp.

As I filed past her that fateful day the words ‘You there!’  were screeched sneeringly in my direction (I don’t believe she learnt my name the whole 5 years I was there- even when she put me in a freestyle house swimming relay in my lower sixth after I had specifically told her I could not swim front crawl and I swam my leg in breast stroke)..

‘What do you call that?’.

Well the only reply I could conjure was ‘A hockey stick?’. She wasn’t best pleased. She proceeded to ‘explain’ that my hockey stick was so old it was the wrong shape. I didn’t dare tell her it had last seen use c 1960. She also told me that spectacles were forbidden on the pitch. I was mortified. The sniggering amongst the other girls was horrible. I wanted the floor to open up.

And thus began my hockey ‘career’. I played Right Half which seemed to involve being passed the ball after bully off and sprinting backwards and forwards an awful lot whilst being screeched at patronisingly by Miss Stocking. Exhausting. I hardly touched the ball. Mainly because I couldn’t see it or because it had bounced awkwardly off a divot made by the rugby team in the preceding lesson.  Occasionally someone would hit the ball hard enough that it made it further than a meter on the bumpy ground and it would usually bounce up and hit me on my unprotected shin, never once did it hit that small disc of protective plastic on my ankle bones. In the rain we would slip and slide on the mud, the built in studs offering hardly any grip on the slick surface as rain pelted our faces and left our perms dripping into our eyes.  As it approached Christmas we would run shivering in our artex shirts and gym skirts after balls which skidded haphazardly off the frozen pitch. I used to dream of snow the only weather condition that prevented play.  After an hour of this torture only the cold showers, muddy floor and peeping tom boys of the ‘pavilion’ awaited.

I hated it. With a passion.

Of course my mum replaced that stick the following weekend. It is not in my attic. I probably burnt it when I was allowed to stop playing after O levels. Ceremoniously.

Happily things have improved. My three kids all love hockey. They have been nothing but encouraged by their school, club and county coaches. The kit is amazing. The surface smooth. Spectacles are allowed. The game is fast paced and fun to play and watch.

Today Middlest played his debut match for his club’s Men’s 6s team with a bunch of inclusive older guys who are encouraging and welcoming giving him the benefit of their experience and valuing his contribution. The club embodies the word inclusive.

I wish my experience had been half of theirs’ for I might have actually enjoyed it given one iota of encouragement.

And by the way we now cover exercise books with stuff printed off the internet. Or not at all. I quite miss the wallpaper.

 

41215771_10209932323785235_7604543453619290112_o

 

Bad news…buses…idioms… — May 13, 2018

Bad news…buses…idioms…

bad news

Bad news always comes in threes. Doesn’t it? Or maybe bad news is like buses…nothing at all and then loads all at once…

It was hubby’s birthday on Wednesday. He had to work. I had a Governor’s meeting in the evening. We were going to pass like ships in the night. We decided to postpone his birthday until Saturday.

I decided to book us into a nice steak restaurant. On our own. This hasn’t happened since, well probably 2010. It was due. Youngest agreed that she felt comfortable being left for the evening with Eldest and Middlest. Result! No babysitter required.

I booked the restaurant and got the last table at a slightly earlier time than I had wanted but still beggars can’t be choosers.

My mum came round on Thursday. I had to pop to town for something. She wanted to look for summer weight trousers. We had one of those shopping expeditions when all the planets align and everything you try on fits and is in your size and colour. We spent a fortune. I replaced the 4 pairs of shoes (probably c 2004) which broke last summer. And got some new tops. And some new swimsuits. And some new sports bras. And hoped I didn’t look like mutton dressed as lamb in any of them. My mum said otherwise. But then she would. She’s my mum…

I decided to wear one of said tops and a new pair of rather gorgeous nude heels to our night out. Well it was his birthday.

Of course it was raining cats and dogs and so the overall look was going to be slightly ruined by the waterproof coat. But never mind.

Just as we were about to leave I noticed a damp patch on the landing floor. Weird I thought. I went to investigate only to be dripped on through the light fitting.

Up to the loft I went in my new top, my rather gorgeous nude heels and a head torch to discover that yes, indeed, my roof was leaking. Copiously.

Suddenly leaving the kids alone for the first time for an evening didn’t seem so appealing with the possibility of ceiling collapse or indeed a fused house. Still hubby wedged a washing up bowl, to my mind rather precariously, amongst the insulation and we set out.

We had a lovely meal. It stopped raining. The meal was unfortunately taken up in part by a contratend on the best way to deal with the leaking roof. I was hoping it was a blocked valley gutter easily solved by our lovely gutter men. Husband thought the whole roof was likely to need replacing. Glass half full versus glass half empty. Either way it was added to my to do list. But hey that was Monday’s job. There were virgin mojitos to drink and crème brulees to eat.

We got home and all ceilings, electricity and children were intact. We decided to deal with the washing up bowl in the morning and let sleeping dogs lie.

In the morning I headed up to the loft again, this time more appropriately dressed, to retrieve the partially upturned washing up bowl. Some water had indeed been collected. Quite a lot actually. Maybe I had been barking up the wrong tree and the gutter wasn’t to blame after all.

Whilst I was abluting I heard mention of ‘cakes’ and ‘House decorating competition’. Some time ago the boys had mentioned to me that they had put their names down at school for the House Cake Decorating Competition. Seriously who dreams up this shit. I had decided to cross that particular bridge when I got to it.

Apparently they had also agreed to make the cakes to be decorated. News to me. I had certainly arrived at the bridge, and it needed to be crossed.

Do not worry we will make them, they trilled. With what, I retorted. So we had to add ‘going to Sainsburys’ to the list of unappealing jobs to be done today which included revision, getting Middlest’s glasses straightened, trying on clothes and ensuring Middlest had the kit required for his imminent school outwards bounds trip, grass cutting and weeding .

Eldest then got a call from his mate and disappeared out calling back as he slammed the door that he would be home by 5.30… not sure when you will get that cake made then son.

The rest of us went to town for lunch and to go, yet again, to the opticians. I have been there so often lately I feel they should name a chair in the waiting room after me.

Wanting to kill several birds with one stone and with Middlest’s glasses duly straightened we nipped to Go Outdoors to replace some outward bounds type kit that sprouting Middlest had outgrown. During the trying on process he accidentally bashed me in the face bending my glasses… another trip to that optician’s loomed. But not today. Please not today.

Best foot forwards to Sainsburys to buy cake ingredients… just as we were about to enter the shop I noticed 7 missed calls from my husband who left town after lunch to drop Youngest at a play date and start the jobs which involved the garden.

Seven missed calls seemed quite high on the ‘urgency’ scale so I bit the bullet and called back.

Eldest had had his bike nicked from outside the cinema in town. He had locked it up along with his mate’s bike to a bike rack but some toe rags had come along with bolt cutters and half inched them. Leaving the boys stranded in town. They then spent an age talking to staff at various premises (who told them there had been 3 other bike thefts that week…might have been nice to put a sign up to that effect maybe?) and calling 999 and leaving messages for the closed Management Suite who deal with the CCTV.

Strictly speaking it is husband’s bike. Eldest out grew his bike about a year ago and it has now been passed down to Middlest. He hasn’t got a new one as he is sitting on the fence about what brand, type, colour of bike he would like next.

So now as a family we are down 2 bikes. Plus we had dealing with the police and insurance company to add to that unappealing list.

Eldest’s mate’s dad had brought them home and Eldest was prevailed upon to mow the lawn. He then got the starter pull cord tangled in the blades. His happened when Middlest and I were in the middle of baking the first cake of three. To be honest it felt like the last straw.

I didn’t really need to deal with petrol and mangled lawn mower starter cords at just that moment. Not really. Once I had the cord unwound from the mower blades the mower thankfully started again although the smell of burning oil was quite unappealing as it wafted in through the open kitchen door. Luckily I don’t need to eat that cake.

Anyway to cut a long story short it is now 8pm.

We have a crime number which we obtained after Eldest gave his account of the situation to the police who rang back whilst we were eating our roast dinner which I certainly wouldn’t have planned to make had I known about the cake baking fest.

I called the insurance company whose out of hours operatives took some details and promised me they would call back tomorrow. I’ll believe it when I see it.

The last cake is nearly cooked. The other 2 were too small for Middlest to pipe soldiers around the edge of (your guess is as good as mine) so this one is a monster and taking an age to bake.

I don’t even know where to start with the roof. I tried to have a look to see if I could see a loose tile by bouncing on the trampoline but had to stop pretty sharpish for reasons best left unsaid.

I’ll be back to the opticians at some point. Like a bad penny.

Serves me right for buying nude heels. Who was I kidding?

The Change… — May 2, 2018

The Change…

menopause

Here is another post that I have deliberated about penning or not. It is up there with Let’s Not Skirt Around the Issue– which incidentally remains one of my most popular blogs of all time- however it is raining here, it feels like December, I have a half eaten bag of Liquorice Allsorts to finish and the only alternative is cleaning. Or binge watching Outlander. This feels more productive. But possibly less fun.

Deep breaths then everybody.

I am a woman of a certain age. 48 to be precise. Therefore I have experience of being a woman. Quite extensive experience. And it is safe to say that being a woman sucks on many levels. And one of those levels is the beginning, middle and end of one’s reproductive life.

Currently I am grappling with the end. For those of you possessed of a penis (you lucky, lucky sods I am envious, really I am, seriously you don’t know how lucky you are- what have you had to deal with?- really?- a bit of shaving (if you feel like it- it isn’t even obligatory especially in November- it is more obligatory for me apparently which goes beyond unfair)- the occasional knock to a vital area causing extreme discomfort- and – and- no, that’s it – get over yourselves) I should may be explain.

For some considerable time, when I was happily producing reliable levels of oestrogen, I was labouring under the illusion that I would have a few hot flushes and maybe put on a bit of weight and then that would be it. The menopause would be done. No more periods. It sounded quite attractive. I would be done with the Feminine Hygiene aisle. The years of debilitating cramps and bloating would be over. I could go swimming whenever I wanted. Calendar watching and forward planning would be done with. I would no longer pull something unfortunate out of my hand bag whilst buying tiffin in Costa. I would caper gaily in meadows neatly eating baguettes with my new dentures and going on cruises.

Oh yes from the mire of PMT it all looked quite beguiling.

But no, the end of one’s reproductive life as a woman (and let’s not forget here that a man never ends his reproductive life, ever, he can remain potent up until the day he drops- again beyond unfair) has stages. And those stages can take years.

When I went to my GP about my severe breast pain (I am not a hypochondriac but even I thought something may be up) he quizzed me on the when this occurred and once we had established it was cyclical he put it down to hormones. But, I asserted, I have never suffered from this pain due to PMT before. Well, he patronised, as a woman ages her PMT symptoms often change. He also suggested I might be peri-menopausal and suggested I go away and look it up.

I think I have mentioned this GP before. I can’t remember where, I have had a bit of a look but it escapes me. So I can’t link it. Sorry. Anyway I found this whole consultation deeply annoying. After I had resisted the urge to punch him I trotted off like a good little woman with my frankly debilitating breast pain and googled the peri menopause.

I wished I hadn’t.

So here is the gen. I had my terminology wrong. The menopause hasn’t happened until a woman goes without menstruating for a whole year. The run up to this when the ovaries start producing less and less oestrogen is called the peri- menopause and can take up to 10 years. Seriously. 10 years.

There are all the classic symptoms. Hot flushes, night sweats, weight gain, mood swings.

But there are others. I had spent the previous 6 months gently worrying that I may have early onset dementia. But, no, my inability to remember words, what happened yesterday, my kids’ names, how to make macaroni cheese is also down to the peri-menopause. Seriously. It is called cognitive decline. Who knew oestrogen played such a role in braininess? Well certainly not the other half of the population. And I guess it just backs up the old adage that men think with their… well whatever.

The literature suggested I try Sudoko. My god. I hate Sudoko. I thought I would blog instead. Maybe I should track my vocabulary usage and see if it is declining as I make my weary way through this never ending desert of the peri-menopause.

My perky fitness instructor recently attended a training course to learn to deliver menopause exercise classes (not something she is going to need for herself for an annoyingly long time). Apparently one does a lot of weight bearing lunges (to combat bone and muscle loss and CV decline) whilst counting backwards from 100 in sevens. Once she had outlined this at our group circuits class yesterday she diplomatically asserted that she wouldn’t need to run that for our class anytime soon but that we could ‘do it for fun’ one time if we fancied. Meanwhile I was stuck at 93. She could start running them for me tomorrow as it happens.

And then ‘mood swings’ doesn’t really come close. Homicidal mania may be more appropriate. Seriously there are days in my ‘cycle’, normally when merely dressing is agony, when it is best to avoid me. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend asking for the whereabouts of your glasses or open the new box of cling film wrongly or alter the height of my desk chair. Not unless you want to be killed with a spoon. Slowly. I think this is nature’s way of ensuring men cop for some inconvenience. It’s about time.

I don’t think I get hot flushes. Yet. I am feeling the heat more though. Weirdly I am having arguments with my husband that the house is too hot. Those that know me will find this distinctly odd as I am usually cold. And I still feel the cold. But not at night. Or first thing in the morning when I wake up feeling like I am sleeping in the desert because hubbie has had the temerity to turn up the thermostat to 18.5 degrees. I might buy him flannelette pyjamas.

And then there is hypermenorrhea, a technical term for bleeding like a stuck pig. Many, many women get this in the run up to the menopause. Heavier and longer periods. Great. So now for 2 days a month leaving the house gets difficult. Thanks for that. A right kick in the balls. If I had any. So in order to stop having periods one needs to have worse ones. Is it just so we remember forever? Is the body having one last ‘hurrah’ at our expense? Whatever it is deeply unfair. Deeply.

There are other symptoms listed which I am not going to go into personally as you may have to leave the room… such lovely things as vaginal dryness, loss of libido, incontinence (maybe I won’t have much time out from that feminine hygiene aisle), loss of bone density, a decrease in cardio vascular function, muscle loss, insomnia, worsening of PMT symptoms, fatigue, depression.

I look forward to running the gauntlet of these over the next 5 years or so.

But I guess the hardest thing in all of this is that realisation that soon (if not already no one can tell you in any given month if you have ovulated or are just having a period for ‘fun’) one will be redundant evolutionarily speaking.

Facing the end of one’s ability to birth children, whether one has had them or not, through choice or not, whether one wants more of them or metaphorically runs screaming to the hills at the mere thought, can be hard. More than hard.

So again the penis owning ones amongst you spare a thought for your wives, mothers, daughters and sisters as they ride this particularly scary and frankly not fun at all rollercoaster to old age.

And if any one suggests (especially in those homicidal 7 days a month) that I will be reborn after the menopause into a golden age of my life where I will have much to offer free from the burden of my own fertility I will tell them to fuck off. Seriously. You have been warned.

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.

 

 

Sunbed Wars… — July 31, 2017

Sunbed Wars…

IMG_1006

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.

 

 

 

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

What Fresh Hell Is This….

IMG_0931

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers school. Again.

IMG_6942
Cushion number one.

 

 

 

Sorry — June 6, 2017

Sorry

13567194_10204998692687541_6971963167892593687_n

I feel I should apologise.

Not to all of you.

Some of you live abroad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So again my humble apologies.

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

Promise.

18891462_10207210603143920_4758564416301591597_o
The rucksack wearing Middlest

 

 

 

On the Slow Train to Nowhere — May 19, 2017

On the Slow Train to Nowhere

This weekend I am escaping.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

%d bloggers like this: