Category Archives: Parenting

Back to earth (and beneath)

I’ve been pot-holing this week.  Exploring the cracks, crevices, fissures and trenches where glaciers, rivers and oceans pulse, slowly.

If I’ve been spinning with my head in infinity for the last while,  this is the week where I came back to reality with both a bump and then, for one alarming dreamsleep moment, a slipslide beneath the tide encased in a sealed train carriage.

Dreams tell me things.  How I am doing now.  How I did in the past.  What I need to watch for in the future.

Trouble is, I don’t often know what they were telling me, except in the thin shadow of a very long and highly blurry hindsight.

window shadow

Autumn Tree

This has been done by the eldest (twelve) on my phone when she was sitting in the car for a few minutes whilst I bought some dog food at the pet shop.

This has been done by the girl who says she doesn’t like art (as it’s taught in school) anymore.

This has been done by someone who has an instinctive approach to form.

tree (1)

Purple Heart

Gracious living: it’s not something I major on, I admit… unless a jug of warmed milk for the coffee this morning counts.

Ungracious living is more my thing, so it was nice to find this on the youngest daughter’s wall this morning. Even better that I could walk on her small patch of bedroom floor without kicking my way through a pile of crap.

It seems that even amongst such domestic disarray a little girl has some room in her heart for romantic and chaotic swirling in purple. Thank goodness for that, although I can claim no credit.


A Centenary

This week, so far, has taken the form of some kind of major test. I won’t bore with the details.

However, this day can’t be allowed to slip by without noting that my grandmother would have been one hundred years old today. Sadly, she didn’t quite make the milestone, and we lost her in the summer of 2010.

She was a great influence on me and I miss her greatly. Things happen with the children, or me, and I think, ah Granny would have enjoyed hearing about that. And that was really the thing with her, she was fully engaged with her family for her whole life. It’s a rare thing – not to be engaged with your family hopefully – but to be so on the ball with everyone’s minutiae and daily dealings; the humdrum and the spectacular, the triumphs and the disasters.

I don’t feel sad so much when I think of her these days, which is fairly often. I just smile and am glad we knew he for so long.

My sister has a super photo of her, taken when her last great-granddaughter was a baby. I have some of her with my own children too. I might dig them out tomorrow. In the meantime I remember her with such happiness and gratitude. We read this at her funeral, and it was what she might have said herself.

When I am dead
Cry for me a little
Think of me sometimes
But not too much.
Think of me now and again
As I was in life
At some moments it’s pleasant to recall
But not for long.
Leave me in peace
And I shall leave you in peace
And while you live
Let your thoughts be with the living.

And then, there was this, which was kind of perfect.

Somewhere out there

This drawing done by the eldest reminds me of the song Somewhere Out There by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram.

I am not big on sentimentality, but it creeps in occasionally.  Mostly when I am tired.  That seems to be rather a lot lately.  What a bore.


350 mile round trip

And with stops to drop off people and pick up same and delays due to road accidents we were in the car on and off for nine hours yesterday.

I don’t mind travelling, but it takes it out of me these days.

The net result was a fistful of medals and a trophy, but the real diva in this family was distinctly unimpressed: repeatedly placed but no wins.  The trophy for third in the premiership dance category was dismissed, mainly due to it being an eighth of the size of the last one she hooked,

I tell her – this is character-building.  A chance to develop your grittier side.  Take the feedback and come back at it again harder.

After nine hours car, and £100 lighter in the pocket (petrol and competition entry fees) there is a large part of me that thinks – I could buy you ten trophies for less…

I repeat my own mantra to myself: this is character-building.  A chance to develop your grittier side.  Take the feedback and come back at it again harder.

In the meantime, whilst we a building more character, we are also trying to save a pigeon the dog found in the woods this afternoon.  I don’t know what the matter with it is, there are no obvious injuries but it was immobilised and unsteady on its feet.  After the near-miss with the cat on Friday afternoon, the dog gets major kudos for leaving the poor injured thing alone.  I wonder if he knows what I hope he doesn’t – that all our efforts with warm glucose possets are in vain and it will die in the night anyway.

We will see.  It’s out of the way on top of the wardrobe in the cat carrier in a nest of shredded newspaper.  The Daily Express to be precise.  I never buy that paper, but last week I did.  I won’t be bothering again, although I did enjoy reading the cruise supplement.  Perhaps I’ll take the pigeon on a round the world job, if it makes it…

The video link is for daughter #2 really.  Still, it’s never too late for any of us to don a curly hairpiece and and bespangled short dress with poodle socks.  Is it?


Derek Nimmo’s birthday

I marked the occasion (it was yesterday – 19th September).

It was not my idea.  It was not even the inaugural occasion.  How?  Why?  I don’t know – it’s lost in the mists of time that swirl around the recesses of peri-menopausal minds.  A collective term  for women such as myself might be ‘a confusion’.  We don’t get out much – except to drive children to wheresoever they need to be.  Like those cuckoos who pop of out clocks every 15  minutes, much of our daily existence is pre-ordained, by the demands of others.

We don’t get out much because there is no time, no money, no energy.  When we do?  We shuffle in with messed up hair and outfits and we order spirits.  We talk.  We laugh.  We cry.   We are on the edge.

We work, we parent, we try grow things in the garden.  Some of us paint, or make, or write, or sing.  We all dance, sometimes.

Some of us are the World’s Expert on Listerine.  Some of us can teach 40 under-fives in pink leotards ballet and keep our heads when someone pees on the floor.  Some of us exhibit at home, and abroad.  Some of us run school discos after a day’s teaching.  Some of us stitch, or bake and wear customised leather jackets.  Some of us would kill for a turquoise sombrero.  Some of us can’t be there because life has tripped us up, but we know, the next time Derek Nimmo’s birthday comes around – there will be something that has been said and done that day by all of us that is worth celebrating.

My life as the Magic Roundabout – channelling Ermintrude with a fawn dog by my side.

At least she was never forced to drive through at a McDonalds…


There was a novel by Meera Syal called Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee which I didn’t read.  I thought I’d seen the film, but when I just read up on the plot, it didn’t really ring any bells, so maybe I didn’t watch it either.  The title however has stuck because it contains a truth, even if, in my opinion, it would trip off the tongue better with two extra syllables (an extra Ha and a Hee).  Life isn’t all…  is it?

I thought of this this morning because it is that momentous day in the school calendar called Back To School.  The shops start reminding us of the hideous fact immediately the kids get out of school in July.  I was once a kid, and I never wanted to go Back To School.  Old feelings die hard it seems because I would prefer it if my children didn’t have to either.  They, on the other hand, are rather sanguine about the whole thing (and I keep my own feelings to myself – aside from publishing them on the internet of course).  For the first time ever, the Back To School mission is staggered because the eldest is off to Big School.  (I was forbidden from calling it that months ago, even before the David Walliams comedy of the same name aired.)  Anyway, the eldest went this morning, the youngest goes back the day after tomorrow.  There is no middle child.

There are two narratives I could relate about this morning and the events prior to it.  One is quite Ha Ha Ha, Hee Hee Hee; the other is not.  This is a brief attempt  to navigate a course straight down the middle of that particular dual carriageway of life and a displacement activity from wondering how the child gets on 46 minutes into her first day at Big School.

There has been a staged intake by the school of their new year sevens.  They arrive, mainly with parents, although we saw one girl we know with her elder brother, and congregate en famille around the front door of the school prior to the allotted arrival time of 9 a.m.  We park round the corner.  I cannot get out of the car because I am not fit for public consumption, even with my sunglasses on.  My daughter finds my morning mien an embarrassment (so do I frankly) so we slump in seats (more Walliams references if you’ve seen the offending show) and appraise the children in their new blazers trotting to join the throng.  Well my daughter does, I try to be the voice of reason.  She has taken against her blazer most violently because It Does Not Fit.  I remind her that she was there, in the school outfitters, and we tried them all on.  She is Between Sizes.  It cannot be helped, it is, surely, a temporary situation and anyway she will soon have other sartorial matters to worry about, like the standard issue tie due to be doled out this morning.

Whilst she fulminates that even, ‘Bob’s blazer fits,’  ‘Bob’ being an exceptionally short 11 year old, I mention that, ‘all the girls have gone for what look like sensible shoes…’  My daughter, who prefers to interpret the uniform list to her own satisfaction, has been issued with a last minute set of emergency plasters in case her shoes rub because to my horror she has refused to put on any socks or tights.  Fair enough it is hot today, but still.  I hope she does not bring the wrath of the school uniform gods onto her head on day one.  I tell myself that it is better that they learn some of their lessons straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, than a parent ruins their whole summer arguing about such matters…

I have done what I can.  She has been issued with the mini first aid kit in case of inevitable blisters; she has ten pounds for some fingerprint-based monetary system that is too new-fangled for me to understand and also a new eyebrow pencil (don’t ask).  She will survive.  As we watched a friend of hers disappear round the corner with her mum (who was wiping away a tear), the step-father, the younger brother and the dog, I knew that we have a certain kind of approach to these things (minimalist on the surface and a lot of angsting underneath) and other families their own.  There is no right way of doing it.  I  do hope she is alright, but she is on her own now, for another five hours and three minutes.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll buy her some pop socks.  It will fill some time.

viana street art

End of term feeling

Is waiting for the end of the school year better than being on holiday? You know, that whole delayed gratification thing… I am sure if you asked my children that question they would immediately say, ‘Hell, no!’

But for me, knowing that there is an end in sight, is better than the actual end. Once the children break-up – and this term has been a marathon seven weeker – it won’t be five minutes before I have to start stressing about sourcing and buying new school uniforms and shoes and P.E. kits and so on and so on. The fact that the eldest starts a Whole New School in September means we are going into uncharted waters, both logistically and physically. This is the first time that she will, for example, have to wear a blazer…

So, perhaps, the trick is to try and seize today and wring it out – slowly. Today is warm, today the work is not too hard. Tomorrow it will be different again, harder I imagine. So today, mentally, I let the anchor go. It has not yet hit the sea bed, but the wind has dropped and we are becalmed. I imagine the anchor falling, cutting through cool water; water that gets a darker and darker shade of blue as it sinks further and further away from the light. Sinking past the pretty coloured fish that flit under what’s left of the light, before you are eyeballing a pilot fish somewhere on the way down to the Mariana trench. For me, that’s always the best bit, that part in the long middle is always the most interesting – the part where you are no longer on deck and you have not reached the bottom of the ocean. I suppose, it’s the process that interests me most, perhaps even more than the final product. And that’s why I enjoy the drop, because it’s where realisations find you – when you freefall, when you aren’t even looking for them.

Unfortunately, I cannot get this analogy to work properly when flying on a plane. Then, the bit in the middle is definitely the worst – even with the in-flight entertainment. I think it has to do with passivity, if I was doing the flying, I would be fine. Anyway, here’s some more end of term work. I’m realise I am mixing my metaphors – the deep blue sea, the sky and the yellow brick road – but if you can’t do that at the end of term when can you?

By Elodie, 11

By Elodie, 11

Growing Up

The eldest daughter has spent two nights away camping in Kent. She came back and we went straight to an open evening at her new secondary school. So far, I have been impressed with how the school is run, and especially so with the head teacher. I would have said head mistress back in the day, but it sends my mother into an apoplexy, so I’ve watched my words there…

Tomorrow she heads off for a day at the new school. We are not in trepidation because they are so warm and welcoming at the school, but still. The kids grow up every minute of every day, but it is imperceptible. It is only on high days and holidays, and days like these when you stand back and wonder where all of it went. The art at the new school is on display everywhere. Some of it looks adventurous and fun. Tonight she signed up to do an art award club – let’s hope the new school suits her as well as the old.

The tree lady, one my daughter made earlier, is crossing her fingers for her.

tree lady