Sunday, 2 July 2017

Trying out big school - Transition WEEK starts tomorrow!

Ten things we know about Big School, before Transition Week:
  1. Transition week is yes, a week! Most other get two days. We get a week! That's a week of him coming home earlier than me...
  2. They advise taking a packed lunch for the first day, but afterwards, it's £3.50 on average per day for a hot lunch. This is going to cost me a fortune!
  3. They have two lunch "hours" of 25 minutes, he can eat at either. Both more like, if he realises he can do it.
  4. He's going to get homework this week. (Ha ha ha ha ha ha.)
  5. They already know the details of the detentions and bookings. We have been told (by him) to not expect him NOT to get any detentions.
  6. But he doesn't want isolation, that sounds awful. (Good.)
  7. He can wear any shoes this week, but in September, he has to wear all black shoes. Yes he's already asked me for a certain pair. No I can't remember the name.
  8. He's outraged he can't wear shorts to secondary, but he is able to this week. (Good cos his long trousers probably don't fit him any longer!)
  9. What he doesn't realise is that at another secondary, the year 6s going up in their shorts for transition days are mercilessly teased by the year 7s (obviously a rite of passage) - I wonder if they do that at his school? (Bah ha ha.)
  10. He's sort of excited. I think that means he's bricking it but can't under any circumstances let on. Watch this space.

Friday, 30 June 2017

How I miss those farm visit days

Today, I accompanied Year 5 on a school trip to a wartime farm for their WW2 topic. How I love my job. We got to be bossed around by a strict teacher in an authentic school room, writing with chalk; participate in rag-rugging (I want to do some at home!); weigh out how much cheese and butter you were allowed for our rations and walk around the farm visiting the animals. We had some free time in the afternoon before our coach took us home, so the children voted to go back to the park so they could - wait for it - play on the little tractors! Yes, there was a racetrack there with some toddlers pedalling around in tiny John Deeres. Nine- and ten-year olds playing in the toddler park. It was so lovely to see them just being children again!

As I lead them across the farmyard and past the barns to the park, I felt a sudden pang in my heart. I realised it was the effect the farm was having on me. How long ago it was that we used to take Ben out to these types of places, where you'd be totally in control of what they were playing on. Not for about seven years have I had to think that red is a Massey Ferguson and green is a John Deere tractor. I haven't had an excuse to pet a small animal that wasn't in my garden. I haven't milked a cow or a goat since then. 

There is a country park near us which we ALL went to when they were tiny. I can't quite remember when we started going, but even after my maternity leave, we used to meet up - prams at the ready, buying our animal feed and using our annual season tickets that we'd been bought as alternative Christmas presents. We would hurry the children through the gift shop on the way in (yes who would put a shop in the Entrance?!) and start on the circuit we all knew so well. At first, we would tour the whole place, stopping off to feed them along the way (the animals and the kids), then we graduated to a shorter route, with a possible hot drink stop on the way - how racy! In the end, in the months before they started school, we'd scoot really quickly round to the gated field, pitch up on our rugs and let them loose. Our picnics became second nature to make on a mummy-morning (as opposed to a work-morning, whereby I couldn't possibly have made my own lunch!). I suppose I didn't realise that the last time I went there was, in fact, the last time. Like all of those last times that you don't realise. They just don't happen again. 

Fast-forward to 11 years old - before I leave work, if it's not a sports-club night, I check whether he's in or out on his bike. I then get another call later asking if he can stay out until 7pm (no!) and then on a Friday, another one asking if a mate can stay over. 

Don't get me wrong, I love the time this gives me, but today I realised I missed holding his hand and helping him into the little trikes, watching with pride when he managed to negotiate the bends in the tracks. Watching him ditch the trike and run to the next activity, without a care in the world, happy in these activity farms. But I wouldn't have time to write things like this if he wasn't playing out this evening!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Personal shopper experience for my birthday

Mr Humdrum is usually extremely good at presents. Whether it's clothes (apart from THAT orange cardigan that I tried to wear for weeks, then admitted it was horrid), make-up (he can even ask for Touche Eclat) or anything else, he's usually spot on. This year, for my 46th, he surprised me a couple of days before with a gift voucher for Debenhams. Yes, you may say, what's so great about that? Well if you buy a voucher for £100, you get a free personal shopper, tasty treat from the restaurant, a glass of wine and an hour makeover from a beauty brand. I was to attend after school on a Friday with my mum in attendance. My mum is usually my personal shopper; I actually think she buys things with me in mind, knowing I wouldn't usually try them, and they says, "It doesn't really fit me, do you want to try it?" Or I just try her clothes on and buy the same. She has just hit the big Ahem-O, but looks fabulous in my opinion. So, how was I to cope taking my personal shopper to My Personal Shopper?

We were ushered into the suite and this is the only complaint I have to make about the whole event (spoiler - it was fab), it was hot. There is NO aircon! Not nice if you're a little nervous and trying on lots of clothes - please listen, Debenhams! Jordan got us settled with a glass of bubbly and a hot drink for my mum. He asked me what I was looking for. I had to admit I didn't really know, though I'd seen some nice orange dresses I maybe would like to wear to my friend's wedding party the next week. Jordan did agree that as this had been "sprung" on me, it wasn't like I had an outfit in mind!

The first thing was to get my bust measured. The last time this happened, I was in another branch and the lady tactlessly said that as I was a larger size, I had to shop from the back of the store. Nice! The bras she fitted me for, well the cup actually fitted around my head! Way out. This time, there was no obligation to buy, but obviously it made sense if you're trying on dresses, a good fit would make all the difference. I'm afraid I can't remember the name of the lady who fitted me, but she had my size immediately. Never these days do I wear padded bras, but she explained it would give me a better shape - it did! No more Fat Back either, perfect fit.

Jordan arrived back with a couple of dresses - the bottom left in the picture, nicer on the hangover than on me. He showed me the pink one - never would I have chosen it, but I loved it. Wallis, and a great size to boost my ego. The frills covered any lumps and bumps and the colours really did suit me. Tick! Continuing the theme, the black dress (similar layered dress again from Wallis) would do me perfectly for a 50th birthday coming up. The skirt was divine on it, beautifully smooth from the bum down. A pair of cropped black trousers, like Audrey Hepburn, I asked Jordan. Yes, these are perfect thank you, with perhaps the top of the orange dress I liked originally! That's the top I wore out that night for my birthday. I had in mind a jacket, tried to describe what I wanted; he came back with the exact ones I already had and one that my own personal shopper/mother had given me! There was only one dress (not pictured) that I didn't like - a turquoise affair - lovely colour but not a flattering style we decided. Jordan had brought in a couple of pairs of shoes to help with the look too, as well as filling up my glass! He knows his stuff, knew exactly what to get me to try on. I know he was good as my mum was impressed! We did giggle during the whole thing, it was a very funny experience. Payment time at the till - I received a discount on the bras (I couldn't resist - hadn't had them so high for years!), opened a Debenhams card too and ended up with them giving me money (well it felt like that). I still had my tasty treat from the restaurant and the makeover to go. Jordan made me feel extremely relaxed and provided such a good service, I can't recommend him enough. I would certainly return if I had to purchase a particular outfit. There is no pressure to buy at all, they are not commission-based.

Two weeks later, I booked in for my makeover. I had confided in Jordan that the last time I was made up in that store, I ended up looking, well like a lady of the night! He looked at me knowingly, saying that we didn't want that, and that he would book me in with Fiona at Bare Minerals. I pitched up on a Saturday afternoon as I was going out that night. Fiona instantly put me at ease; sitting near that Mac thing they have in Debenhams did make me feel a little out of touch! Facialists have in the past been horrified and hidden behind their hands almost when I admit that I have no real beauty regime. I hardly wear make up anymore and when I do, I never wash it off. I just like a nice glossy lipstick. Fiona showed me how to apply the Bare Minerals powder, which I remember having a few years back, and how to achieve the glow I now know I was missing. She let me have a go at the bronzer and the blush, taking my hand when I was going wrong, like a driving instructor pressing the brake pedal! The eyes are more tricky and I let her do them, with an idea to book in for a future free lesson on how to do them. A slick of gloss and wow, I was done. There was again no pressure to buy, but I came away with the powder. I think you'll agree that my photo is an improvement! In fact, I wore the powder and bronzer to school on the Monday, and two children said I looked pretty that day! Result! I can't recommend Fiona enough either; she listened to what I had to say and then used her own experience to guide me. I didn't, I think, look like a lady of the night this time! Thank you Mr Humdrum.

The Cureheads at Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea 24.6.17

Having seen this Cure tribute band at the Butlins Shiiine On Weekend last year, I decided to give them another go in my home town. Admittedly, I'd not given them a good rating last time. Well, that's not entirely true. Musically, the music was great. In fact, more than great. But "Robert" was a bit odd - he rambled on about his grandad and Armistice Day. I think he thought we should be interested in him, rather than Robert Smith himself. With hindsight, after this second gig, I think the problem was that the first set was on near midnight and possibly he'd had too many lemonades? I decided that I was going to have too many lemonades this time, in order to truly enjoy the tribute experience, and it was my birthday celebration. I did know, however, that he was probably more "Robert Smith" than "Robert Smith" these days, in terms of voice, having heard a few YouTube videos of concerts. And his guitar - well, you can tell he learned these tunes from a young age. He knows them! He can play them! And yes he's awesome!

Listening to the support act, I bumped into "Robert" himself and had a photo taken - we pouted, as you can see. I actually was excited! The audience was sparser than I'd imagined, going by crowds The Smyths usually pull in. But I realised that they were nicer. More goth-like than lad-like. You could actually dance in the second row without having your drink spilled over you by Bigmouth-singing lager-louts. There was certainly a lot of love in the audience.

I always like to set up my reviews by specifying which period of the band's musical history I prefer. For The Cure, it's anything up to Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, released in 1987 when I was revising for my O-Levels. Anything after that is a bit "new" to me.

Stage atmosphere, they do it well. All dark and gothic-esque. I know it's EMO these days, but it's goth to me. Gary Clarke is certainly in character as Bob himself, all lippie, hair and mood. It just takes me back to The Head on the Door days, which I had on cassette in 1986.

I'm struggling to find a set list online, and I am having trouble remembering exactly what they did play! However, the first half of the set mostly consisted of songs I'd consider "newer", except perhaps Charlotte Sometimes, and A Night Like This. The second half of the set was more my stuff. In no particular order, mainly because I've forgotten, they played 10.15 Saturday Night, A Forest (my favourite), In Between Days, Lovecats (which apparently he said he doesn't like, nor do I that much - overplayed), Boys Don't Cry (I think), and Friday I'm in Love, at which point I went to the loo as I can't bear that song. I also have a memory of Let's Go To Bed and/or The Walk, but I can't confirm it was on the set list!

All in all, it was a fantastic evening - I'm definitely going to see them again, without as many lemonades, so I can remember all that they played!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Should I let my son go on his school trip to London?

My son's end of Year 6 trip was to see The Lion King in London's West End. Going up to London is always a treat from our south coast city. However, we agreed for him to go before the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London! Over half-term, indeed after last Saturday's London Bridge attacks, our school Facebook group flooded with posts entitled "What do people think about the school trip to London?" and "Should I let my child go?" I read that a school that my friend's children attend in Cornwall had posted a Facebook update saying they were having emergency meetings about their own school trip this week with the Local Authority and governors. We heard nothing from our school.

I had a text from the mum of Ben's school bestie. She wasn't keen on him going, I don't think, but wanted to know if Ben was going. I replied that he was. We'd talked about it, he wanted to go. However when I mentioned his bestie possibly wasn't, he changed his mind. He then said he was scared of the terrorists. What could I do? This was two days before the trip. Annoyingly, as I hadn't yet paid for it, I went into the school office and paid for it knowing he probably wouldn't go! But I was stuck - I couldn't force him. I was pretty sure it was because of his mate, but he would just say it was because he was scared. What to do? A school dad said to make him go. I couldn't do that! Imagine if anything had happened, how would I feel? My own dad said he wanted him to go, and that he should, but we were stuck. I came up with the plan of asking him to pay half of the amount, just to see how that made him feel. I only felt worse reading of the possible terror attack in Paris last night.

He came home from school on the first Monday back, saying they'd had a chat in class. His teacher told the class her brother worked behind the scenes in London with the police when attacks happen, and that in his opinion, it was one of the safest places to go at this time. This was reassuring to hear, not that he felt it was safe, but that it almost put a human person in a helping role that is unknown to most of us. I think the children felt reassured. Ben came home from school, heard I'd paid, and said that he wanted to go. In fact, after their chat, he had told the teacher, "Screw ISIS" - to which she replied, "Exactly that, but with better language"! Job done. We were extremely happy with his decision, and it was his decision after all.

The sad thing was that many children who had decided not to go, or whose parents didn't want them to go, were being made to feel bad for this. Some mothers reported on Facebook that they were told they'd have to do loads of work at school, or that London was safe and there wouldn't be an attack! How can you say this? In no way can you say this! No one should be made to feel bad because of a decision they take. They have their children's best interests at heart, and no one could blame anyone for doing what they feel is right.

So I dropped him off near school today. He wanted to go to the shop to buy sweets for the journey with the pound I'd given him. He kissed me goodbye and sauntered off down the road. I watched him for longer than I normally do, all sorts of thoughts rushing through my mind.

At school while I was teaching, his school phoned - I jumped out of my skin! It was just the receptionist asking a question. I told my class I was keeping my phone on just in case they wanted to contact me. They did - we had a nice text when the school coaches left. And another when they reached the theatre. I'm currently waiting for one saying they are leaving London.

I know we did the right thing for us as a family. I know that every parent did the right thing for their family, whatever their decision. I just never thought I'd have to face this. I can't imagine how the parents and families of those who have died in attacks must feel. They too waved their children off before what was supposed to be a fun, exciting thing to do. We all say, "We can't let them win," but when it comes down to it, how would we feel if it happened to us. This was, without a doubt, the hardest decision I've ever had to make as a mum.

Added just now - after a Facebook comment from a friend who said she's more worried about her children's safety than her own. I went up to London this past weekend to see Depeche Mode and when we left the London Stadium after the event, as word got round the 80,000 of us walking out, about the attacks, we were full of it - We won't let them win, Screw them etc. Gallows humour, we are British etc. It wasn't just the copious pints of Pimms I'd imbibed, I really felt invincible leaving the gig. I too am more worried about my son's safety than my own. I know exactly what she means.

Friday, 21 April 2017

A Humdrum Mum reviews Tana French's The Likeness

I'm afraid I came a little late to this party. I've just discovered I've read #5 and now #7 (this one) in a series. I hate doing that! Sometimes you never read anything that'll give the game away. Sometimes it's the fault of the fault of English translations (Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole's first case is much referenced in later books, but was only available later). Anyway I digress.

Detective Cassie Maddox agrees to go undercover to find the murderer of a woman who is her doppelgänger. She has to seamlessly return, believed to have survived a stabbing, back to her four housemates. 


This novel is basically a story of an undercover cop, who you don't actually know will or wants to return to real life. She lost her parents at a young age and identifies with her new housemates and their "no pasts" mantra. She finds herself slipping into their closeness. I found the theory that someone could fool others into believing they were someone known to them slightly incredible, but then you worry she is going to get burned every day ... The story is tense and a definite page turner. In fact I stayed in bed this whole morning to finish it!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

A Humdrum holiday in Wales


During the half-term holiday, we celebrated Mrs Humdrum Senior's 70th birthday by renting a cottage in the Middle of Nowhere, South Wales for the week. Holidaying with my parents and us three, I imagined finding a happy medium of activities for us all would be tricky. We like sightseeing, we like walks. He likes - well, YouTube.


After overriding Mr Humdrum (oops not good parenting but I had to do it), we allowed Ben to use his phone on the wifi in the car to watch The Simpsons or YouTube. Our journeys ranged from 30-90 minutes each way each day, and I reckoned that this was a good trade-off for his attention during daytime and at mealtimes. To be honest, I was asleep on the way home most evenings! It seemed to work; he disappeared upstairs after the hot tub each night, but came down again to play a game or to watch a film. He put up with our walks; even when the sightseeing wasn't quite to his taste, he didn't moan. I think the little angel is starting to understand compromise...


I knew the hot tub would go down well - I didn't realise just how much! I thought a hot tub was meant to be a relaxing place? Not when he started fighting with his grandad! They just couldn't stay still! For me, it was the best thing of the holiday. Being able to get up and go straight in for a dip before breakfast, and first thing when we arrived home after a heavy day enjoying ourselves, was bliss. Come rain or wind, we were in there. Both female Humdrums did have to wear shower caps to keep our hair dry - mostly from the rain!

And if the hot tub wasn't relaxing enough, the boat trip was. Redline Boats at Goytre Wharf wasn't cheap, but it was well worth it. We hired a day boat and travelled south towards Mamhilad. Although there were no locks to encounter, we did have a splendid lunch at The Star Inn. Opposite the pub was a church dating back to the Middle Ages with ancient yew trees in the courtyard and the oldest (I think) font inside on record. Ben managed to crash the boat each time he drove it; I did quite well, but had to totally concentrate on it. Sadly, we weren't able to hire the boat we'd booked so we didn't have a canteen on board, but flasks of tea kept us going. The rain held off too!


Writing about coal for 12 years, you'd think I'd have been down a mine. Well no, I hadn't. Until now! Big Pit was a great day out, recommended by the owners of our cottage. It is still technically a working mine, and so we had to wear all the right safety equipment and no batteries were allowed underground. The tour is about 45 minutes and you walk about 700m 90m underground. What's amazing is that it is almost "current" history - it's living history for us adults. Although I may not have understood the miners' strikes in the 80s, I can certainly remember it on the TV. Here is was all made real. Maybe it's a bit odd, but I like looking at all the safety issues - particularly how things have improved over the last 100 or so years. How children aged 6 used to watch doors there, sometimes in darkness if their candles went out (and gosh, was it dark when we all put out our headlamps!). How the horses lived and were better treated than the men. How the wives and families campaigned for better conditions. When we soaked ourselves in the hot tub that evening, we recalled how it was only after 1939 that there were baths on site so the miners didn't come home filthy. And it was free! A highly recommended, fantastic day out. Ben loved it too; even Mrs Humdrum Sr who doesn't like anything like this usually (cramped spaces, lifts underground etc).

Daytrips to The Mumbles, Tenby and Swansea made up the rest of the week. On the way home, we called into St Fagans near Cardiff. This is a sort of living open-air housing museum, whereby buildings from all over Wales were donated to preserve the old Welsh way of life. From farmhouses to woollen mills, chapels to a tannery and a toll house, the grounds also include a sort of village green with a tea-house on site. The shops were amazing - I could hear "I remember these" when looking at the old preserved packets. Apart from an amazing pre-fab house, the highlight was a terrace of six houses, the Ryd-y-Car ironworkers' houses, whereby the dĂ©cor ranged from 1805 up to 1985, the last of which seemed quite familiar to Mr Humdrum and I as being like our grandparents' homes! They must've looked so dated to Ben. Unfortunately this was the only thing we did that week that Ben didn't find interesting!  

During Gale Force 7 winds, we trekked out to the Worm's Head, after walking to King Arthur's Stone. The scenery in both locations was stunning and the weather kept dry for almost the whole time. The stone is thought to be a Neolithic burial tomb dating back to 2500 BC. I love touching old stones like that, imagining who has also placed their hands in the same place. The Worm's Head is an amazing headland joined to the mainland by a rocky causeway, and only accessible safely when the tide is right. The Bay Bistro, whilst not cheap, served us with delicious toasties and cake, with "breathtaking" views of the bay (their words, but it was breathtaking in that wind!).

The evenings were taken up by either eating or planning our next day in the hot tub; there wasn't much time for anything else, except a quick game of something before bed. Uno usually did the trick.

I feel we turned a corner with Ben's attitude and maturity that week. Maybe he realised the holiday was in honour of Nana's birthday and was accordingly well behaved. Maybe he just realised that if he did what we wanted, we would let him do what he wanted. He did admit that if he played up, he knew he'd be "restricted doing things" (yes he actually said that). I'm sure I'm speaking too soon on this... watch this space.
                                  

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

What becomes of the uncontinued?

I call them uncontinued, because to name them discontinued lends a sense of finality. They may, of course, be picked back up again. The prefix "dis" means a negative force. Not continued. But they are just not continued for the moment. Therefore uncontinued.

Whilst off work recently, and saving my voice, I trawled the internet as usual. Well this time, I did some work on my old blogs. I have two (a private one and this public one) and I hadn't blogged on this once since July and the private one since October last year. I have thought over the last year or so that I was probably a bit too early with my ideas with blogging. I blogged (privately) intensely about my son's baby/toddler/child/teen-hood from 6 weeks of age. He's now 11 and I know there would be more of an audience now were I to have started this lark last year. In the past, I made up a story called "That's not my son" using the "That's not my..." books as inspiration. Now these sorts of things are being done all the time. I saw a part time job advertised the other day for a writer with a sarcastic/funny view on parenthood to write for a parenting events magazine locally. Years ago I'd have jumped at this - in fact I did used to write for a Hampshire based events magazine, free of charge of course. I wrote for the local NCT magazine. I haven't ever wanted to make money from writing, or blogging, but I have just loved doing it. Over the past few years, life has taken over. And my son isn't as interesting as he used to be. Of course he is to me, but can I really find a positive spin on the teentrums (sic) that my 11 year old has been having? (Oh I've just invented a new term there, time for a new article...) (Bugger, I just checked and it's been invented already.) You see? I should've started this five or six years later than I did!

Back to my original point. I haven't blogged much. Firstly because the Blogger app is no longer supported by Apple, and I don't use my laptop that much (apart from when I'm ill obviously). Secondly because Facebook has taken over. I love bloggers such as Totes Inappropes, Mum of Three etc and follow them on Facebook. I have taken my blogs to Facebook too, which lends for smaller updates, and have even created a new Facebook page, Mum of a Tweenager (used to be Mum of a Tenager). Don't even start me on Twitter. My blogs tweet (apparently) but I can't get my head around using it. I tried to have a conversation once with someone and was delighted to get a response, tagging me. I tried it again, to no avail and I was left wondering what I'd done wrong. What faux-tweet-pas had I unwittingly made to reveal my ineptitude? Instagram is the only medium I've not properly used. Of course, I have an account (who doesn't?) but it is mostly to catch up on what my boy posts. Maybe this is the future...

I'm still digressing! I used the Blogger function Next Blog sitting at the top of the page. Where would this random algorithmic link take me? I used to see blogs written about baking by Louisa from Arizona; family updates by Brad and Shona who relocated to Australia; manga art pages by SikRud from Another Planet. Where would I go today? I felt like Mr Ben. I clicked. I got to - wait for it - a baking page all about yeast. OK, next blog. Something about dirt and children, yep I can see that'd be interesting to read. A poetry page by Hannah. The next ten or twelve I click on are all religious sites, in which I have no interest. I move on. I find this. Angst-written posts by an angst-ridden man. Written in December, he's lost the love of his life. He is trying to move on with his life because "no one is interested in a man who has nothing", but he is giving up the following year to winning her back. He gets drunk, in front of his parents too, and is sick. He flies from the US to Singapore "for a day". He heralds the new year. But it's 2012, not 2017 he heralds. I pause. There are no further posts. I can't have this - I have too many unanswered questions! Where is he now? Did he drink himself to death? Did he ever find the love of his life again? Did she take him back? Or did she move from Singapore to Australia and is currently shacked up with Brad? (Poor old Shona keeps updating the blog, but it's hard to find the time now she's on her own with the kids.)

My point is this. Unless deleted, blogs are still there. They exist. In the ether. Who will look back on mine in years to come? My son? A random blogger, off ill trying to take her mind off her sore throat? Who knows? Now, let me try to get this linked on Instagram. I feel a new audience coming.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

He's doing what?

I thought Ben was finally feeling motivated to clean his boots. No. He's cleaning his old ones so he can sell them. 

Friday, 17 June 2016

He's back and I didn't miss him - shock!

His shoes lay strewn near the front door. ACDC riffs belt out from the amp in the front room. My head throbs. Peace reigned for five days. Five long, lazy days. Now that peace is shattered. The boy is back. But - prepare yourself for the shock - I didn't miss him!

The school parents' Facebook chat page buzzed while they were away at their Year 5 residential. I started a thread asking if any other parents had received their postcard. We were asked to pack a stamped addressed card. I had but some other parents didn't, making them feel totally rejected! One mum forgot and felt awful. It was on this thread that it appeared I was the only parent who didn't miss their little bundle of joy! Other mums described tears at bedtime the night before. Tears when they were pulling away on the coach. And this was boys, actually, not girls. I jokingly said I was certainly going to win the Worst Parent Award for this half-term. One mum replied that I'd raised an independent boy rather than a clingy girl. Another mum said her boy had never been away from home for this long before. One quipped that by 7pm on the first day, she would've driven to pick her up. Whilst blogging this, a friend texted to ask if I was glad my boy was back. All of this was said non-judgmentally of course, and my comments here should be read as such too. I did explain that Ben is used to taking week long holidays with his grandparents from age 0. When driving away, he wouldn't give us a second look. We'd get the obligatory wave and that would be it. I remember taking another child camping when they were 5. His mum cried when she spoke to him on my mobile. Working in school is all well and good for childcare, but rubbish when you consider I don't get any time off without Ben!

I would like to add that I've been ill this week with a tooth/sinus infection. I wouldn't have been able to get the right amount of rest had I needed to get up at 3pm to go and fetch Ben. We also had a bit of a feisty weekend before he left and I told him, not jokingly, that I was glad he was going away for a week. He agreed, not jokingly.

When we picked him up today, a few of us mums nervously admitted we hadn't missed our children one bit! One couple had been abroad on a mini holiday and had a ball! I suddenly realised that those of us who didn't miss our kids and felt no guilt, were mums of onlies! I think that had the "missing their kids" parents had the silence and tranquillity that we've had, they'd feel the same. They probably do enjoy the time for different reasons - sibling dynamics change tremendously and they may get to spend precious time with a younger or older child.

But not having the daily dialogues around getting ready for school, coming down to eat, the decision of what to cook for the family, not having to share the TV time, not waiting until bedtime to watch Game of Thrones - this week has been bliss. And that's with my sinus infection!? When's the Year 6 trip?!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Axl, We Salute You!

ACDC Queen Elizabeth Park, London
4.6.16

Last December, I was quite hungover, the night before having fallen asleep in a curry house after a long school term. I booked ACDC tickets with trembling hands. My son has recently got into them and has started playing the electric guitar, so it seemed like the right thing to do. Take him to an ACDC gig for his first one. We booked with our friends, also having two boys well into ACDC and a dad who'd seen them before.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Duran Duran - 29.5.16 - Common People Festival, Southampton


(Photo taken from Duran Duran's official Facebook page)

Six months ago, my Durannie friend asks if I want to go to this festival in Southampton to see Duran Duran. It's just before my birthday, what a great idea. And let's upgrade to VIP tickets! Together, we've seen them three times. The first - no John sadly, but still good. The second - in Birmingham, fantastic to see JT at last (he's always been my fav, my friend preferring SLB). The third - extremely special in St Andrews football ground. We were so close and I was pregnant with Ben, dreaming JT was the father! 

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Adam Ant - Guild Hall, Portsmouth - 27.5.16 We weren't square, we were there!



Having heard about the Dirk Wears White Sox tour, we knew we had to buy tickets for the Kings of the Wild Frontier tour. Thirty five years since its release, it has remained a firm favourite in our house. We were 11. It was the first "proper" album that I got into. Glynn's parents wouldn't let him have a copy, instead buying him a Shakin' Stevens album - which he now can't jibe them about as they bought him an expensive watch to shut him up. I had a copy taped for me by one of my parents' friends.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Be careful what you wish for

We live on the edge of a busy town, but right by the shore and with lots of green space around us. There is a little park behind Ben's old infant school in a nice estate. I've been desperate to get Ben "playing out" for ages now. "Just go up the park after school, see who's there," I'd say.  Occasionally he would, but he said "I'm more of a homeboy!" No you're bloody well not, not if I have anything to do with it. You will not come home after school and fester in your bedroom playing the X Box.

So he did start to go up to the park. There are a few kids who are in his year (5) who live nearby. I don't know all of them. The first day he came back and said everyone rode off and left him after he "accidentally" kicked his mate in the bits n bobs whilst on the swing. They had an argument on Instagram about it afterwards, but made up the next day. Then someone else kicked his ball into the hedge and wouldn't get it out, so his dad had to go up and fish it out. Once while another friend was round, they played up the park and the park boys were picking on Ben's friend, who I was responsibel for. I was up there too, but not in earshot, but I took them home. Another day, he'd been punched in the face by his mate's older brother. Apparently he'd kicked the ball "too hard" at him. Then the last straw was a couple of 18 year olds who kicked his mate's bike and he hit his head when he fell. 

This was only over the last two weeks! And it's not including all of the girlfriend/boyfriend business that goes on in the park and on Instagram. When I say "goes on", I mean they play on their bikes and hit each other with sticks! 

Each day he came home with a different story, I felt more and more uneasy. What was I doing to him?  Had I pushed him too much to play out? Was he really a homeboy? Was I making him feel it's OK to be beaten up just so he can have mates at the park? Should I stop him going? Were they all bad news?

We've had two sessions at the park now where he's come home with no fights - and with the same girlfriend! This is what I call a result! I've sorted it in my head after talking to some friends of mine.

- He's still talking to me about it. The time to worry is when he won't share.
- He's not upset. 
- It's the pecking order thing. They have to work out who's who. (I'm a girl, we didn't do quite the same things when I was growing up!)
- Having a fight at the park is still better than festering in his room playing X Box!

We no longer have dinner altogether every night. It's kept warm for him and he fills up on snacks beforehand too. But this is OK. It's part of him growing up. I can accept that. For now...

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The passing of Prince



This started out as a post to Ben on my family blog but has ended up here. This year, the passing of some of our best celebrities has affected us all in different ways. On the one hand I'm fed up with the name dropping (David Walliams actually thanked Bryan Ferry for inviting him for dinner with Prince -yuck) but I'm more fed up with people telling me how I should feel! I'll feel how I bloody well like about it. "But you didn't know him!", "You value his life more than migrants dying on boats!" No and no. Of course I didn't know him, I know I didn't particularly want him to be tainted with the same kind of death as Michael Jackson (he's far better than that) but no, I don't know him. 

But I do know how I feel now when I hear his music. From 1982's 1999 album, through Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, Parade, Sign 'o the Times, Lovesexy, to 1989's Batman soundtrack, then dipping back to 1980's Dirty Mind and the following year's Controversy (I must get For You!), he literally was the soundtrack to my 80s. Sheila E's Belle of St Mark, I love it. Most of those are either on vinyl or cassette. Hearing them is like putting on an old comfy jumper. I know every line of every song. I know which song follows every song. I can't say I listened to the lyrics like I did perhaps The Smiths, but musically Prince took me through my life from age 11 to, well, until today. Everyone loved him. We went to see him on his Lovesexy tour, one of the first times I'd been far away on my own (to Birmingham from Cornwall!). We had t shirts (wish I'd kept my Batman one). We giggled over Wendy and Lisa's Fruit Up Your Bottom, as we renamed it. We loved him. I can still feel that I'm sat on my top bunk in my bedroom, with the Around the World in a Day on cassette, marvellling at the simple tune of Pop Life. Feeling slightly risque years later hearing him talk about "trying horse" (I was 16...). During the 1990s, I bought Come and liked a few things he'd released. I loved some stuff recently about the same time as he worked with 3rdeyegirl and lazily thought I must get round to buying some of it. 

Prince, you soundtracked my childhood and to bastardise my friend's quote, I feel like an old school friend has gone. Not someone I'd kept in close contact with of recent, but someone who I loved at the time and helped me grow into the person I am today, musically and personally (not that there's much difference in that in my mind). 

So I will grieve. For a creativity that once produced so many fantastic songs and albums and will never do so again. But I often put on Controversy before a night out to get me in the mood. The only joy that can be taken from a musical death is to rediscover all that you once loved. 

Prince is dead, long live Prince.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

I KNOW I'm right!

Bringing up a child is hard enough, but when you realise they have their own minds, well ... How dare they! 

When Ben was at nursery, I remember the nursery manager saying "In life, there are leaders and there are followers. Let's just say Ben won't be a follower." To a parent, this is pleasing to hear, of course. He'll end up being head boy at school and fast forwarding twenty years, he'll be the president of some society or other, management at work etc etc. (But actually I don't think anyone is ever going to say "He'll be the follower" to a parent!)

We like to think we are cool as parents, as individuals, as a couple. We like indie music, we listen to 6Music and we don't watch the X-Factor or any broadcast TV for that matter. We shop in Waitrose and read The Guardian (well the free Saturday edition from Waitrose covers the guinea pig hutch nicely). We don't like popular chart music. We hope Ben will be as "rebellious" as us. 

Except he isn't. Well he is. He did rebel. Against us! He liked One Direction and Olly Murs. Imagine my shame! I used to tell people that he was rebelling against us to deflect the embarrassment. Thankfully that phase didn't last long before he discovered ACDC. With his electric guitar as a Christmas present, he's doing his first performance at school next week (band name Dread Zeppelin - tracks Back in Black and Sweet Child o'Mine). As indie kids, we totally accept his rock music. 

So then we get to agreeing and disagreeing. At football, Ben's always, how shall we say this, had his own idea of whether the coach or ref is right. From the initial walking off the pitch (years ago) to hands up in the air (more recently) via actually arguing with his own coach, we now think we've turned a corner. 

The message I got from my dad growing up was never to believe everything you are told. Something like "Believe half the people half the time, and take the rest with a pinch of salt". I question everything and although I wouldn't say I'm pessimistic or cynical, I trust nothing I read nor hear 100%. We have a funny (to us) family saying of "I know that" and I seriously dislike people saying to me "Yes, you're right you know". I KNOW I'm right, I didn't need you to confirm it! 

At school, Ben has a healthy respect for his teacher and would never argue with him (or her). He is too scared he'd be sent to the head! However at football, it's a different matter. He doesn't as a rule argue anymore with referees but he will argue with his coach. We've always said to him that he has to do what his coach has asked him during game time and if he didn't agree with it, or wanted to know why, his coach would always explain his reasoning afterwards, provided he asked in a calm manner. This has happened a couple of times.

But today, I think we finally turned that corner. Ben moaned at a teammate today for not passing to him when he thought he should've. His coached shouted over that he was right not to have passed to Ben and that Ben was wrong in this instance. Ben carried on playing and we were happy that he'd been told off correctly and even happier that he didn't react badly to it.

It was only on the way home that he said he still thought he was right, his coach was wrong, but he knew he just had to get on and play because his coach had spoken. Nothing would sway him, he KNEW he was right, but he didn't argue.

That's my boy!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Why read Ben Elton's Time and Time Again?



I should probably preface this by admitting I've never read a book by Ben Elton that I didn't love. And I have read them all, in case you're wondering if I only read one. From the magnificently soppy Inconceivable (and yes the film was as good as the book), to his behind-the-scenes of Chart Throb and the like, and his war books like The First Casualty. I love them.

Time and Time Again is, guess what, about time travel. A bereaved army officer and adventurer is forced to go back in time to stop the onset of the Great War. I'll tell you no more of this, as you can read the blurb anywhere. This was a real page-turner for me. I'm not snobbish about books, I don't particularly like chick-lit (but have read some by a hotel pool abroad) and I try to avoid any recommended by sofa-couple's book clubs ("Oh go on, you'll love it" usually puts me right off - The Life of Pi is a good example of that). I like a page-turner, and I will read Dan Brown's books as the storytelling is vivid and addictive. I tend to veer towards murder and dysfunctional, alcoholic, divorced detectives from either Scotland or somewhere Scandi. Brought up on Agatha Christie, I adore Rankin, Mankell, Nesbo, Peter May, Stuart Macbride ...

Having just finished The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, I found Time and Time Again was also a complete page-turner. Both books took me a few days to finish. (I do read every night, and I mean every single night, but I can sometimes only manage a chapter or two as I'm so tired at my age!) I stayed up past the witching hour, racing from chapter to chapter. Every chapter or so explained something in a different time zone and I found myself unable to stop glancing across, then having, just having, to continue. There are a few twists in this story and not being a history-lover as much as Ben Elton seems to be, he made it very real-life for me. When the first twist came, I wasn't expecting it at all. Like with The Girl on the Train, I was trying my hardest to "work it out" but I just didn't expect it at all. I did get the twist with The Girl on the Train, but that is a very different genre altogether.

I can thoroughly recommend Ben Elton's Time and Time Again; just watch out if you need to get up early in the mornings!

Friday, 29 January 2016

My weekly musings (AKA a load of twaddle)

This week has been a really odd one. The most awful thing was my cousin's funeral on Wednesday. She died aged 57 of cancer. Bloody unfair to her and her three daughters, all in their 20s, two of them with children, who also lost their dad a few years ago. Susan had just rekindled her relationship with her former husband and that in itself is unfair. It's all just wrong.

January is a hellish month for us; of course Ben's birthday in the middle of it is a joy, but why did he have to be born three weeks after Christmas? No sooner have we got the decorations down, eaten three chocolate oranges a week and broken weak Dry January resolves than it's time to celebrate our son and heir's special day. Now it's the end of the month and I feel like my year can finally start. I know this happens every year, but I just forget! I need to put in my diary reminders for next year. "Lost your marbles?" on January 12th would help. "Find them now" on 1st February. Maybe the plot might reapear around mid February?

I'm meeting some girls tonight for a takeaway curry. We've already been messaging about all of us either having had a meltdown, being on the verge of one or ignoring the fact that one is going on by not talking about it. I asked a leading question for tonight's discussion - How do you ask for help when you don't know what to ask for? Predictably no answers are forthcoming as I'm sure the others are the same as me. I just don't know how to ask for help because I usually don't know what I need help with. I've been overwhelmed with work this last month, not actual workload, just being on top of organising and covering for other people on courses or just away. I was scared stiff I'd not be in the classroom I was supposed to be in. I planned each week, kept my diary meticulously up to date and wrote lists of things to do. I did only miss one day - luckily I found out in advance - and it turns out, we don't think I was actually informed so it wasn't my fault! This, I find now by writing it, is more stressful than the thing I thought I'd be stressed out by. (Which was marking two sets of books for maths and English three times a week for the whole of the month, on top of what I do normally.) I don't know if anyone will have any answers for me, I guess we all struggle with asking for help. I'm fine asking physical things, like "Can Ben stay with you overnight as we are off to a funeral?" but I think saying "This is too much" is too hard. Or possibly only becomes apparently after it actually has been too much. I'm sure we will have fun discussing though!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

The joys of getting ready for school

I realised last term that my stress point is leaving the morning to go to school and work. I work in school so being late is not an option. At all. I'm fine leaving for work, it's just Ben leaving for school that stresses me out. It's the "Mum, I need to take my footbal in today" comment five minutes before we leave. Or the "Where is your coat Ben?", "I don't know, I must've left it at school yesterday" etc. 

We are not the most organised, but we are certainly not disorganised. Organised chaos mabe. My idea  was always to get ready the night before. School bag was in the right area, school clothes out, and shoes and coat should be in the right place because surely Ben would've put them there the night before? Whilst searching at T-2 minutes, it becomes apparently that he didn't put them there at all. In fact he left them at his friend Max's. Great. 

I know this is not rocket science (I hate that phrase), but I really thought I was "getting ready the night before". I wasn't as organised as a fellow NCTer, who used to even get the breakfast out in the bowls on the table, covered over with cling film, granted, but I wasn't bad.

It had taken me nearly 45 years to realise that I don't like change. I am fine with my routine. I can get Ben and myself off to (different) school(s). It's just when he throws the curved football at me that I lose it. And I mean lose it. Sometimes when we leave the front door, we high five and Ben says to me 'Today was great Mum, we didn't argue!"

Nana suggested to me that I help him get ready. She advises in her usual non-accusing way, just something she'd noticed. It might help, you never know. It did at bit. We would spend about half an hour every evening getting ready, which meant me shouting three orders, Ben forgetting them and then us descending into another row. So it just moved the row from the morning to the night before!

Grandma, in her "have you considered" way, suggested me writing a list for Ben the night before, then removing myself from the situation, with a cup of tea, and giving him some time to do it. Guess what? A combination of the two grannies' suggestions works perfectly. I write a list on a whiteboard, carry on with my own jobs, he gets ready, rubs them off and has ultimate responsibility. Who knew!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

From clearing out to nights out

A tricky first week back for reasons too many to mention, none of which horrendous on their own, but when you have about five of them at the same time, it makes for a muddled Humdrum. I found that sorting out Ben's clothes really cleared my mind. It'd been on my to do list for ages, but like all lists, never actually being ticked off. All received by the British Heart Foundation. 
So from clearing out to actually going out. Ben had a sleepover at school on Friday, so we took the chance to go out for dinner. After last week's shenanigans, I'd sort of decided to do Dry January (affect voice a la Shaun Keaveny) but bumping in to Emma in Gun Wharf put paid to that! Actually I do her an injustice, I'd already ordered a bottle of Prosecco before I spotted her and her boyfriend. The last time we'd both been to that restaurant was together for a McCloskey Christmas meal. You know, the one where I took Ben to see Father Christmas the next day and was slighlty unwell. Yes, that one. We were much more mature this time, all grown up now, talking about schools and stuff. Plus ca change...