Monday, 10 August 2015

Rescuing books and Polish motorcyclists

We're a good couple of weeks into the school holidays, and I have to confess I've done barely anything apart from catch up with my reading. My next OU course doesn't start until October, so there's nothing to be done there. It feels very wrong not to be reading text books or preparing for an assignment, but I guess I'll have to get used to that for when my degree comes to an end next June. 

I have managed to rescue a couple of books from a pile that's destined to be taken to a charity shop. This consists of books that I've started several times but just can't get into, or ones that include irritating, pathetic or unbelievable characters. The third Bridget Jones novel fits into the latter category, sadly, as I rather liked the first two, but when a character has said, 'Gahh!' about seven times in the first few pages, I know that I'm going to spend the whole book counting, rather than reading, and getting more and more irritated. So I got to page 15 and added it to the pile, thankful that I only paid a pound for it in the first place. The rescued books were ones I've had for a long time, started reading, but couldn't get interested in, but I was obviously in the right mood for them this time. The first was The Godfather. Yes, I know it's meant to be a classic and all that, but I couldn't get on with it before. Now I've read it, seen the film, recorded The Godfather Part Two, and know what the quote used in You've Got Mail, about going to the mattresses means. Book two was (is, because I'm still reading it) Angelmaker, by Nick Harkaway. It's brilliant, quite mad and I have no idea why I couldn't get on with it before. Thank goodness I rescued it; I nearly missed a great book. 

I need to go to the bookshop and buy my annual 'holiday book' - the longest book I can find by an author I've never read before - because we've managed to arrange a few days in Cornwall. We didn't think we'd be able to get away this year, what with funerals and the non-stop paperwork that comes with sorting out probate, but we've got four days with The Daughter next week. Not long, but we've not seen her since Christmas, and she and The Boyfriend are off hostelling round the world in October, so a visit is important. It's a long drive, and I was tempted to get some audiobooks for the journey, but I think I'd get so involved in the stories that I'd forget about traffic. Never a good thing on the M25. 

And on that subject: we had a bit of a day, yesterday. We'd planned a relaxing, middle-aged trip to the Sandringham food and drink festival but, instead, got halfway there, stopped at some crossroads and got hit up the arse by a motorcyclist. So, after picking him up off the road and exchanging details, we turned round and came home again. There's nothing like having a large, Polish biker slide the length of your car and just lie there in the road, to put you off an afternoon out. He was very nice, very apologetic (he hadn't been looking and was too close behind us - confirmed by both him and the car behind him) and he came to see us in the evening to try and sort out a private arrangement so his third-party insurance didn't get clobbered. We were more worried that he was hurt than about any damage to the car, but apart from shredded trousers (please wear leathers if you ride a motorbike. It gives me the shivers to see bikers going 60 mph and wearing jeans.) and a few bruises, he was okay. We just got a broken rear light-cover. Which, of course, isn't just a cover: it's a whole light unit, so for a tiny bit of smashed plastic, there's over £100 worth of hardware to be replaced. Oh well, hopefully he's learnt something that will stop him having a bigger smash in the future. After determining that the guy wasn't hurt, we all stood there, not really knowing what to do, as none of us had been in an accident before. We have learnt that we need to keep a copy of our insurance documents in the car. Thankfully, a phone call to Son Number One at home got us our details.

Hopefully, our journey to Cornwall will be far less eventful. I'm really looking forward to the part where we drive past the 'Welcome to Cornwall' sign at 2mph in a 35 mile queue. Always my favourite bit. 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

I'm sure I left my sanity around here somewhere...

School finished on Tuesday, and the 'Let's-celebrate-the-end-of-a-really-crappy-year' vibe was strong. Tuesday evening, staff gathered at Ms Titian's house, because she's used to entertaining and knows how to do so in style. Food was eaten, wine glasses were broken and occasional insults were not particularly well-hidden. Never mind. We have six weeks to forget that we've really got on each other's nerves lately. 

Last night, we had a smaller meeting, when The Sozzlers went to the village pub. Usually consisting of Ms Fab, Mrs GSOH and me (I? Whatever. I have six weeks away from school. I don't care.), we had an honorary Sozzler in the shape of Mr Chaos. A welcome addition, and hopefully a permanent one, if he hasn't changed his phone number and moved out of the village since last night. 

For the first year in many, there were no tears from our departing Year 6 children. In fact they looked so happy and relieved to be on their way, that I was very tempted to join them. I think there are some feelings which can only be summed up by teenagers, so I'll say that this school year has been very 'Meh'. A word which here means 'We got really fed up and complained a lot, but did nothing about it but slump around and sigh.' (Apologies to Lemony Snicket.)

I have looked for another job, and got all hopeful when Ms Fab told me about one at a local high school, but looking into it this morning, it's for someone to work in the Special Needs department, especially with children with behavioural problems and that play truant a lot. I currently have enough of a challenge working with staff with behavioural problems, but at least they can't swear at you or hurl a chair in your direction. (Well, they haven't as yet. We'll see...) I wrote myself a list of the pros and cons of applying for the job. Pros were: a change of scenery, working with older children, more money, it was a nice school, and I'll know some of the children there. Cons were: working with especially badly-behaved high school children and their parents, longer hours, I'd miss the nicer people I work with, I'd no longer be able to walk to work (not that I ever do), and I'd have to give up the school library. I think it was the library that did it. That, and not being able to have a good bitch with Mrs Secretary. So, I have told myself that if I'm not going to change my job, I must shut up and stop moaning. I think The Husband is getting fed up with my complaints about work. He had to go to the dentist this morning for a filling, and he looked relieved to be leaving the house, so I think I've overdone the whinging. 

Speaking (writing) of the school library, I have kind of jumped the gun and chosen next year's librarians already. The criteria they have to fit is to like books and be nice people to be around. In fact, the latter is more important because I have to work with them. Noisy or argumentative children stand no chance; the meek shall inherit the library. I have shiny new badges at the ready.

Anyway, I must go. The Husband and I are having a rare evening out and are going to see Jurassic World. I promise I'll be good and try not to mention work, so we can just have a nice time watching people being eaten by dinosaurs.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

'Gardening' or 'How to drive The Husband mad'

It's raining hard. The Husband is, I think, very grateful for this, as I've been 'helping' him in the garden. As he is a gardener by trade, by the time he gets home in the evenings, he's had enough of turfing, pruning and landscaping. When I've offered to do bits in our garden, it's taken as nagging. Either that, or he knows I'm going to do a terrible job and can't bare to watch as the hedges get massacred by someone holding the very expensive loppers the wrong way. 

We have had a rather large pile of earth in the garden for about two years, ready to fill in the hole where Son Number One broke up the horrific crazy-paved patio. The pile of earth was meant to be leveled-out and turfed, but it's actually been covered by a large green tarpaulin and used as a look-out post by the cats. Every time The Daughter visited from Cornwall, or my parents came over, they would say, 'You've not done that garden yet, then?' But now it's just a given that half our garden looks like an abandoned building site. Anyway, today turned into the day to do something about it. While Son Number Two nervously took a girl on their first date and Son Number One headed to the cricket club, The Husband and I ripped up long grass, dug up brambles, pulled ivy out of trees and made a start on flattening the heap of earth. 

I suppose I should be honest here, and say that I was of some help, but there are so many things to distract you in a garden. For a start, some ants had made a massive home in the pile of earth. When I disturbed the nest and exposed some eggs, there was frenzied activity: hundreds of ants were racing around trying to take the eggs back underground. I stood and watched them for ages. I imagined mini air-raid sirens going off, and father ants shooing their families down underground tunnels to safety. 'Save yourselves!' they'd cry. 'I'm going back for the babies.' While I was engrossed in all this nonsense, The Husband cleared his throat and I was reminded of what I really should have been doing. Then there were ladybirds to be rescued from being dug into the earth, woodlice that appeared in their dozens from under stones, plants to ask the names of, and so on. It was only after a heavy sigh from The Husband, that I realised it must have been like working with a particularly irritating child. It is to his credit that he didn't tell me to be quiet and get on with it. Anyway, it started raining heavily, and The Husband is now watching Wimbledon and trying to think of excuses not to work with me again. 

Earlier this week, I got the results for my OU course on religious controversies. I managed to get a distinction, which means I'm guaranteed a first class degree, no matter how much I mess up my creative writing efforts. It's quite a relief because I think I may have already used up all of my ideas on my level 2 creative writing. And I've found that I'm not very good at writing fiction. Everything I did on my level 2 was based on fact. Even the story about the scarlet fever outbreak in our village was based on entries in our school log-book, and I killed off a couple of school children that were in my class at the time. The piece of work that I will very loosely call a 'poem' was about some oyster-catchers that I had watched at 6 am whilst on a school trip to the Lake District. 

                                            Merlin, helping me study

I'm not sure if I have enough experiences to write about for another 6 assignments. The Husband has been very supportive during my studies, and has often agreed to me buying £40 text books to help with essays, but I think he may draw the line on a round-the-world back-packing holiday just so I can write about it.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Dress stress

It's the Brother in law's funeral this Wednesday, and I had no idea there was so much to organise. Prior to this, the only family funerals I've been involved in were those of my grandparents, and my parents had done everything, including the 'Which pub holds a good wake?' stuff. The Grandparents' funerals had been Christian, and there had been prayers and hymns to choose, whereas the Brother in law's is not religious, and the choice of songs and readings has been incredibly difficult. The Husband comes from a pretty complicated family, and there was a period of about twenty years when he didn't even know where his brother lived, so he's been trying to piece together enough information from friends and colleagues to put together a eulogy. 

Anyway, it's all pretty much sorted now. I just have some shirts to iron and we're ready. Last weekend was spent shopping for smart clothes; The Husband's suit-trousers had mysteriously shrunk around the waistband while they'd been hanging in his wardrobe, so needed replacing; Son Number Two had to have new shoes, as the only time he ever needs smart shoes, he steals his brother's; and I needed a dress. Son Number One was already sorted, as he's the most fashion-conscious and smartest dressed of us all, but he still decided he needed yet another pair of sunglasses and a t-shirt with a picture of New York on the front (not for the funeral, I must add). 

I do not enjoy clothes shopping. I get very impatient and huffy and am rather a 'that'll do' shopper, but decided that, for this occasion, it was no good buying something from the dregs of the sale-rail. I had spent several hours on the internet, looking up 'black dresses' in the hope that I wouldn't even have to enter a real clothes shop, but as I scrolled through the offerings, it dawned on me that no-one seems to make clothes that I like. I flicked through photos of skinny 18-year-olds wearing things under the heading of 'black dresses', but found nothing: 'Slutty, slutty, horrible, too expensive, slutty, oh that's nice - no, it's backless, slutty, vile, seriously - who would wear that? slutty, dammit, I can't find anything'. I couldn't find anything suitable amongst my work clothes either, so there was no alternative but to actually go to real shops. I went on my own, because I didn't think it fair to inflict my impending bad-temper on my loved-ones. Thankfully, I found something without indulging in too much stress or violence. It's a black and white spotty dress, with a black cardigan. It covers my knickers and is not see-through, so has the advantage over the offers on the internet. I also had to buy proper shoes, because you can't wear a classy dress with Doc Martens. Well, you can, but not at a funeral (I will when it becomes a work dress, needless to say).

I now get it when bereaved people say they need to get the funeral over with before they can carry on with their own lives. We, but especially The Husband, have been preparing for this since the Brother in law's terminal cancer was diagnosed back in March. Our Silver Wedding anniversary passed a couple of weeks ago, with an exchange of cards but without the weekend away that we'd promised ourselves. Sons One and Two have celebrated their 21st and 18th birthdays with kind of muted congratulations because we're all funeralled-out. And we don't have a summer holiday to look forward to because we knew all this was imminent and have been unable to book anything. Sorry, that all sounds very self-pitying, but we are all feeling quite shattered by the past year's events. My father's prostate cancer (now thankfully treated) was followed by the Father in law's stroke and eventual death, and now this. I know shit happens, but a break would be nice. I am just extremely thankful for good friends. I've had hugs when things have been tough, good-natured abuse when tears threatened, and bottles of wine brought to the door. On the other hand, some people have obviously not known what to say, and so have totally blanked me instead. Cheers for that. 

So, enough of the self-pity. (I was trying to find another word for 'self-pity' because I've already used it once. Urban dictionary says that 'emo' and 'Arthur Dent' are related words, which reminds me: I've not read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for ages. We should make it compulsory reading in Year 6 because they never get my, 'Here I am, brain the size of a planet...' jokes. So sad. (Me, that is, not them.))

Tomorrow, it's meant to be good weather - a cause of great celebration here in England. The Sons are visiting The Daughter in Cornwall (Am I jealous? You bet.) and The Husband is not playing cricket, so we may actually be able to go out. I'm hoping we can go to Southwold, but I have to plant the thought in The Husband's head and make him think it was his idea. Obviously, he will also have to decide to visit the Adnams brewery shop, too. If I can't have a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, then a pint of Broadside will have to do...

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Stop summoning demons and get on with your maths

It's taken nearly a week for me to cotton on to the lack of pencils in our classroom, but it seems it can all be explained by the craze of Charlie Charlie. I had noticed some children playing about with pencils, but assumed it was the usual stuff they get up to when their attention drifts. Then, a couple of afternoons ago, one Year 6 boy came up to me, white in the face, and told me that he was never coming back to school again 'because the demon thing really works and our classroom is haunted'. 'Okaaaaay,' I replied, and they explained the Charlie Charlie thing to me. Basically, if you're extremely gullible, don't know how gravity works, and have forgotten all you ever learnt about science, you cross two pencils over, ask them questions, and they get possessed by a demon which answers your questions. (I'm thinking this must be a very lesser type of demon. The sort that get relegated to possessing pencils, and will never inspire a 'based on a true story' type of movie.)

As the boy who had got the jitters was one of our more intelligent students, I was a bit startled that he had been so easily taken in, but then an unrelated conversation in the staffroom had an adult confessing that she thought Ouija boards really worked, so what hope was there? Anyway, I thought I'd managed to sort out the boy's fears, when Ms Fab said she'd had to ban the class from playing the Charlie Charlie game yesterday lunch time, as they were all getting a bit silly and she was worried someone might tell the infants about it (like they did with the Bloody Mary game a year or so ago, which made an infant so frightened to go to the bathroom, in case she saw something in the mirror, that we had a furious mother storming into school). As we were having a bit of a 'finishing off / freetime' session, I stopped the class, told them, in the nicest possible way (I hope) to stop being pathetic, and we discussed the science behind the pencil-spinning. 'But a priest was on the news and says it's dangerous,' The Boy Formerly Thought of as Clever told me. I wasn't sure whether to believe that or not but, yes, I've now read it on the internet, so it must be true: a Catholic priest has warned students that they are opening themselves up to demonic activity. Sigh. More science lessons needed. 

(By the way, I am aware that a few of my recent posts may come across as bashing religion. That's not my intent: I have friends with a range of religious beliefs and they're all very nice people. However, people who use their religions as an excuse to be an arse are in for a bashing.)

During our class discussion, a more enlightened boy said exactly what I had wanted to: 'So, basically, we know it's not haunted and the people who carry on doing it are being stupid attention-seekers because it's a load of crap.' 'Yes, exactly,' I told him, and then remembered that I needed to add, 'but please don't use that word at school.' 

And on the subject of weird stuff, we went to see Derren Brown's stage show 'Miracle' in Norwich last week. Amazing, brilliant, and his book Tricks of the Mind explains just how Ouija boards and the like are 'a load of crap' (to quote my favourite student of the moment). 

Monday, 1 June 2015

On books, families and burning in hell

The final assignment has been submitted for my course 'Why is religion controversial?' and I'm rather sad to see it go (I'm sure my tutor will be even more sorry to see it appear in his inbox). It's definitely been my favourite course, tipping Children's Literature off the top spot. It tied in perfectly with our class RE topic of 'Does following a religion make you a better person?' (to which the answer from the whole class was 'Nope') and I can now irritate my family hugely by explaining, at great and unnecessary length, any religion-related item in the news. I'm hoping for a distinction for the assignment, as it means I'll get a first class honours degree instead of a 2:1, but I'm also trying to kid myself that I don't really mind either way. The Open Uni website tells me I should get my results by 17th July. I thought it was June. Damn. An extra month of pretending not to care. 

I've registered for my final course, which starts in October, and is Advanced Creative Writing. There's no reading list, for which The Husband gives thanks as past text books have been rather pricey at times. However, a past student has recommended that I 'read as much, and as widely, as possible before the course starts.' Oh well, if I must. We've just had a week off for half term, so after dashing off my assignment, I got down to the more serious business of catching up with my reading. I've just finished The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, which is a rather odd book which I've had on my 'to be read' shelf since 2001. I've started it half a dozen times, but now was obviously the right time to read it, as I managed to stick with it. It's about a Jesuit mission to a newly discovered inhabited planet (yes, yes, I know), but it was the bit on the blurb: 'They went for the greater glory of God. They meant no harm,' which made me buy it. It's good. In a kind of weird way. Anyway, I'm now reading the sequel, Children of God, having sandwiched the second compendium of The Walking Dead in between the two. 

Family-wise, the Brother in Law is getting worse and can now barely hear, is falling down a lot, and is not expected to live for very much longer. We have disgraced ourselves, in the eyes of The Husband's cousin, by not making this poor man repent of his sins, and have thus, apparently, condemned his soul to burn in the pits of hell for all eternity. I'm afraid this brings out my inner teenager, as I just want to sigh, 'Yeah, right...' and roll my eyes. Religion is controversial, indeed. The Mother in Law (who is, I suppose, proof that hell does exist) has phoned and made it clear that she has little interest in her son's death, and does not want to know when he dies, as she has no intention of attending his funeral. This, in contrast, brings out my inner Jewish Mother, as I want to rush round hugging my children, and tell them that no-one can possibly love them as much as I do. There's no point arguing with the Mother in Law. She is always right, other people don't know what they're talking about, end of. So we don't argue. We just laugh rather wickedly when she's put the phone down.

I don't see any of us going to heaven, personally. 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

You can take your Bible and... try reading it

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how my brother in law was in hospital with, we all assumed, a recurrence of his old problem of hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain). A scan informed us that the problem this time was a very aggressive form of brain cancer. So, since the beginning of April, he's not actually been back home. He's been moved from hospital to hospice, and is now almost completely deaf, getting increasingly confused, and has weeks left to live. 

The Husband is visiting him every evening that he can, taking the pressure off by playing cricket at the weekends and working hard. The rest of us are taking it in turns to accompany him. Despite the bleakness of it all, there are funny moments: The Brother in Law is on steroids, which are making him very hungry - if you turn up for a visit without a bag from KFC or McDonald's, you're sent on your way. When The Husband appeared empty-handed once, and pointed out that collecting a KFC order would take twenty minutes, leaving little time for visiting, he was told that food was more important, and not to forget a milkshake. (The Brother in Law is on the autistic spectrum, so doesn't tend to sugar-coat things...). 

It was all very hard to deal with, at the beginning. One of the main problems was that he hadn't made a will. Being unmarried, with no children, the lack of a will would mean everything he had spent his life working incredibly hard for would go to his mother. I haven't really mentioned the Mother in Law on here. Mainly because I ticked a box, when creating the blog, that said it was suitable for general viewing and would have no adult content. Therefore, the amount of Bad Words I'm allowed to use is limited. Suffice to say, on the morning of our wedding, she smiled sweetly at me and the Almost Husband, and told us that she gave us six months at the most. I have stuck it 25 years just to spite her. She has used and put-down every one of her children (sorry, that makes it sound like she has hundreds - there are three), and is honestly the most poisonous person I have ever known. So, anyway, the Brother in Law has made it very clear in the past that no money was ever to go her way but, without a will, there was no other way. The hospital consultant had told us that it would do the poor guy no good to know that he was dying (although someone thoughtlessly told him anyway), so we were kind of stuck. Not that we wanted his money, you understand. We just wanted it to go to someone or an organisation of his choice. 

That's now sorted, but it was a very stressful time, because it was all new to us, and we wanted the best for him. I had to hurry out of a school assembly during that time as the children were singing 'One more step along the world I go,' and it got to the chorus of: '... and it's from the old I travel to the new...' and I had to leave the hall. It was totally my own fault. In the years since I've taken creative writing courses, I tend to observe situations and think of how I'd write about them. When the children started singing, my writing brain thought: if I was doing a screenplay, I'd have a funeral scene, with background music of primary school children singing this song. And, dammit, that was it. I had to go and be consoled by The Boss Lady. I really must stop being pathetic. 

And now we're kind of getting as used to the situation as we can. We can see the humour in him bumming cigarettes off the nurses and threatening to hitchhike home when the man in the opposite bed annoys him. But, boy, did we get angry last night... The Husband phoned his cousin, just to update him on things. It was explained that the Brother in Law kind of knows he's dying, but has hope, and wants his job kept open for him, just in case. The Cousin said that it should be made clear to him that he's dying. That he should have a Bible taken in and have Psalm 23 read to him, so he can repent of all his sins and relax in the knowledge that he'll go to heaven. The Husband was remarkably restrained (Brother in Law doesn't believe in God, by the way) and said it would be an incredibly cruel thing to do. 'Everyone should have the chance to repent of their sins,' was the answer. 'Even those who are part of ISIS and behead people need the chance to repent.' We were told that we should at least leave a Bible by his bed, in case he needed it. 'Do we even have a Bible?' The Husband asked me, when he'd calmed down. 'Several,' I replied. 'Plus a Qur'an and other holy books.' We both got the same mischievous look in our eyes then, but decided that placing a Qur'an next to the bed when The Cousin visited might be a step too far. 

I have no objection to religion, but when it's used in cruel or hurtful ways, or just to make yourself feel good at the expense of others, then you can keep it. On the other hand, I know good Christians who know I don't believe, but show their kindheartedness and thoughtfulness in ways that are not shoving their religion in my face. 'I know you don't believe in such stuff,' one told me a while back, 'but I'm praying for you anyway.' To which my answer was, 'Thank you, I appreciate that you care.' 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Trial by child, and the perils of honesty

Over the past couple of weeks, the school council has been getting ready to interrogate interview prospective candidates for our Head of School job. (Forget the British elections, this was far more important.) We had whittled down over a hundred questions suggested by class councils to just twelve. Our school council Chair and Secretary had liaised with their counterparts from our partner school, and final questions had been thrashed out and agreed upon. Sadly, questions such as 'Do you knit?' had been jettisoned, but ones about super-hero powers and embarrassing moments had been approved. 

On the day of the interviews, I was to accompany our panel of four children to our partner school and sit in on the questioning, which was great because I'm very nosy. After a tour of a rather lovely little village school (opposite a nice pub - just as well I don't work there), we met up with everyone involved in the interview process and had to stand in a circle and introduce ourselves. My worst nightmare was made easier by the fact that one of our children was suddenly struck with nerves, grabbed my skirt and whispered that he didn't realise he would have to speak in front of 'all these adults'. 'Me neither,' I muttered back, but we both got through it without making idiots of ourselves. 

Various members of staff (including The Boss Lady) have told me that it's far more nerve-wracking to be interviewed by children than by adults. I can sympathise. This year, surprisingly, the question 'Can you tell us a good joke?' wasn't chosen, but that would dry me up on the spot. Especially because, after the interviews, when the children and I pick everyone to pieces, they usually say 'Well, her joke was rubbish, so I don't think I'd vote for her...'. This year, we went round the council for each child's opinions. Things such as smiling, making the children feel involved, being honest, were not particularly valued by some children: 'He had cool socks,' was top of the list from one boy. 

On the way back to our school, our four children filled my car with biscuit crumbs and discussed the candidates. I pretended I wasn't listening, (for some reason, children think you can't hear them if you're driving) so I was privy to all sorts of amusing and frighteningly honest things. 

And my vote for Head of School? Well, that went to a girl on the other school council - for a year 4, she seemed to have the world sussed, and I bet she could tell a good joke. 

All in all, it was an interesting day, and one to be repeated on Tuesday when we're interviewing for two new teachers.

I know the contribution from the school council for this sort of thing is probably not taken terribly seriously by the adult panel, but it's nice that they're allowed to get involved. And, despite the focus on good jokes and cool socks, the children give very honest and carefully thought out opinions. 

I do find children far easier to get along with than some adults simply because they are so honest. How many adults are going to tell me, 'Did you know you say "Okay, guys, can you all quieten down?" at the start of every single lesson?' I've obviously become Mrs Predictable, but at least they're warning me. I have also appreciated being told that a certain skirt becomes practically see-through when I stand in front of the classroom projector (that's one I can only wear on Thursdays, now). We had a teacher whose dress had such a split up the back that you could see her knickers when she bent over, but did any adult have the guts to tell her? She wore it for weeks while we all nudged each other saying 'You tell her'. Wear that in front of the infants, and they'd tell you within seconds that your knickers were a pretty colour. 

Anyway, here's wishing Tuesday's victims the best of luck. May you come through unscathed. (And remember the cool socks - it's a big plus point.)

Saturday, 18 April 2015

You know you're getting old when...

We had a job-lot of eye tests a fortnight ago, leaving The Husband, Son Number Two and me needing new glasses. (The bank account will take a while to recover.) I collected my new glasses today. Having worn reading glasses for a couple of years, these progressive lenses feel rather different. I've read up on how long it should take me to get used to them. The consensus seems to be between a couple of hours and six months, and that I should count myself lucky if I've not fallen down the stairs by the end of today. Some forums also warn of the danger of reversing your car into concrete pillars, but I've always been pretty good at doing that - I don't think a change of prescription will make a great deal of difference in the driving department, much to The Husband's dismay. So now I'm doing a neck workout, trying to find the right position for having an unblurry computer screen. The optician fitting my glasses this morning was very patient when I explained that I couldn't get any of her page of writing into focus. 'Move your head, not your eyes,' she said, but a lifetime of reading by moving my eyes (how the heck do you read without moving your eyes??) made that next to impossible. Anyway, seven hours later, I kind of get it. You have to point your face to where you want to look, which makes observing misbehaving school-children while pretending that you're not watching them pretty much a non-starter. 

I think the worst thing about the whole experience was the amount of money I had to part with. I used to quite enjoy choosing new glasses; I tended to head for the expensive section (because they're nicer. Come on, I have to wear these things every day.), and then spent ages trying on different shapes and colours and grading them out of ten, depending how much they made me look like my grandmother. But not for these ones. Apparently, for progressive lenses (I'm deliberately not calling them varifocals, because then I'm officially old), you have to look at the price of the frames and then add £110. Because The Husband looked close to tears already, I headed for the cheaper end of the offerings. 'These will do,' I sighed, ungratefully, after trying on one pair, 'even though they've got pink bits.' And then I complained about them all the way home. I really must stop behaving like a toddler, but it's difficult. 

And while we're on the age thing:

While I was taking down a display in the corridor the other day, The Boss Lady appeared, showing two girls around the school. Maybe they want to come here for work experience, I thought. Because I'm nosy, I went to ask Mrs Secretary (She Who Knows All) who the girls were. 'They're candidates for the teaching jobs,' she explained. When I just stared at her, she added, 'Yes, I know,' and we both sighed heavily. They looked like they should have been in school, not teaching it. Since when have they let fourteen-year-olds into teaching? Then she pointed out that one of the girls was the same age as my daughter, and I realised that The Daughter is now 24 and I'm a lot older than I sometimes think. It'll be odd, having to work with someone who's a similar age to my children. Should we get some fizzy drinks in for break times? Are they ready for the problems caused by primary school students: snotty faces and toilet troubles at one end of the school, and Boy Band adoration and hormones at the other? I discussed the problem of age with Auntie Mo, another teaching assistant. 'We may not be young, but at least we've got wisdom on our side,' we decided. And then we quickly changed the subject because we weren't actually too sure about that.    

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Funeral blues (and other depressing colours)

Yesterday was the Father-in-law's funeral. He died nearly a month ago, but apparently the Lincoln cremation service has a bit of a backlog. So we dug out the smart clothes and took what has to be the ugliest route in the UK, past garish transport cafes festooned with Union flags and signs the size of buses offering burgers for a pound. 

The Father-in-law had left no will, and because of the nature of his death (nine months after a stroke which left him unable to communicate) we had no idea of his wishes for his funeral, so he had a fairly generic do. It was something we discussed at a family meal afterwards: make sure you leave a list of do's and don'ts (and, yes, I had to look up the use of apostrophes in that phrase, as it just didn't look right). Anyway, wishes ranged from 'chuck me in a ditch somewhere' (the sister-in-law's husband) to detailed burial instructions, complete with particular hymns. Personally, I have changed my mind from cremation to a woodland burial. Just in case you're involved, I'd like a wicker coffin (or a cardboard one that everyone can scribble messages on) and to be buried at the woodland site just outside Bury St Edmunds, and have a hawthorn planted over me. That way, I can join the food chain and live forever. No-one is to wear black - I'd like all my hundreds of mourners to wear bright colours. I've not decided on songs: shall we go with something straight to the point, with 'Dead' by My Chemical Romance, or a sing-along version of 'Always look on the bright side of life'? Certainly, everyone will go to the pub afterwards (The Dog and Partridge, I think) and bring up embarrassing family stories. And then everyone will go home saying, 'That was nice, wasn't it?' rather than being sad. Either that, or a New Orleans-style jazz funeral, but that may be a bit pricey. 

I know it's a Holi celebration, but let's do this, too. 
(Although they may not let you in the pub afterwards.)

So now you know. I just thought it was rather sad that no-one knew what the Father-in-law wanted. I know some people don't like to discuss 'that sort of thing', but as it's going to happen to us all, why the heck not?

I suppose the one good thing to have come out of all this, is that I've got to know my sister-in-law and her husband better. They may only live a couple of hours away, but we've never really been in touch that much. And I met one of The Husband's cousins yesterday. A great guy, despite being a UK Independence Party supporter, he was the sort with whom you could have long rambling conversations about religion and politics, without it getting violent. I find it very difficult to relax with people when I've only just met them (in other words, I'm an unsociable cow), but he was someone I could spend several hours down the pub with, putting the world to rights. A bit like Ms Fab and Mrs GSOH, who I've not mentioned for ages, but who have kept me going recently. Because the brother-in-law's problem, with fluid on the brain, could potentially be something a lot worse. He had a brain scan, with a view to putting in a shunt to drain all the rubbish away, but they found something that shouldn't be there. We (and the doctors) don't know quite what it is yet, but he's in hospital and going to have surgery imminently. Families, aye?

Anyway, I should be researching why it's necessary for scholars to take account of conflicting and contested perspectives when studying religious practices, but I think I'll head off to YouTube to look at funeral songs. I'm thinking a bit of Dolly Parton might be good?