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...