Like many women, I belong to a Book Club. Like many women we’ve discovered it’s a fabulous way to read books, drink wine, eat chocolate and spend an evening every month with the girls. The only thing that troubles me is when it’s my turn to choose the book. High culture, classic, low brow, non-fiction etc? It’s always a worry because you don’t want to let anyone down in the group, you’d like to give them the gift of a truly memorable read. Something that we can churn over, discuss, find inspiration, or just plain enjoy. Luckily an opportunity presented itself yesterday afternoon with a fellow mum while collecting Thing 4 from the playground.
Me: Hi there, how are you? Have you had a productive day?
Lucy: Oh hi! Yes, great day actually. I finished my book.
Me: Oh brilliant, what was it? Any good? I need to come up with a suggestion for Book Club next week.
Lucy (a little bit disdainfully if I’m honest, but maybe I’m being overly sensitive in hindsight): Oh no! I wasn’t reading a book. I was writing my own. It’s an academic publication about the development of working memory in young adults. Do you remember, we spoke about it before Christmas?
Lucky I’m not a young adult isn’t it?
Family trip at the weekend to see the film ‘Lion’. I’d read some critical reviews (it’s a little slow in parts, the music can start to become overpowering, there are some areas where it diverts from the true story) but these points were so minor in my experience. It’s a stunningly powerful film, a formidable tale of familial love – maternal, fraternal and filial. It’s an unimaginable situation for a five year old boy to go missing, but equally horrifying to think about how a loving mother might feel in this situation. The beauty, pain and strength of the story is in the love that is shared between the central characters; love lost, love found and love created. And in the context of being adopted, Thing 4 found a true positive and recognised the privilege of being loved (albeit while feeling hard done by!),
“It’s not fair, Mummy. He had two mums and I’ve only got one.”
Thing 4 was to be collected from Brownies by friendly mother while I was at Parents’ Evening for Thing 3 (“easily distracted”). During conversation with English teacher, I can feel handbag vibrating ceaselessly. Short 3 minutes chat (yes, we will read more/anything/everything/audible books even, magazines, First News – for sure!) which must please tutor as he has a queue snaking round the corner of the room.
Yes, it’s Brown Owl who has left 450 messages because on top of her many hours of voluntary service to the Girlguiding Association she now has to take her own children to gymnastics competition (obviously it’s the Inner South East London U9 floor and vault official quarter finals) but of course, it’s no trouble for Thing 4 to tag alongside, would she like dinner too?
Learning Outcome 1: must spend dedicated time finding more reliable parents in the Brownies playground. Learning Outcome 2: attend fewer Parents’ Evenings? Learning Outcome 3: realisation of pure unbridled relief at ignorance/involvement with gymnastic club. Learning Outcome 4: volunteers in this world should have a medal, though they would likely gift it to someone else in the spirit of generosity and selflessness.
I passed the haggis in the butcher’s window this morning and it set off a whole chain of thoughts down memory lane. The first was that I really used to love haggis even though my father repeatedly told my brother and I that it was a small furry Scottish animal that lived in the Highlands. In fact, he actually led us to believe that the haggis was related to the Lirpa Loof, a hairy creature that lived in the wilds of Ireland. Like the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas, parents and mythical stories are just a magical part of childhood. Got to admit, though, that my kids aren’t having much of a magical time with my story-telling (must work harder)!
Really, really need to sign the passport renewal form but I need a black pen. Can I find one? No. A pencil even? No. A coloured pencil, yes, but it needs sharpening, and who knows which vortex the sharpener might have fallen into, although I believe I saw one back in 2015 on the shelf behind the sports water bottles and I thought to myself at the time I should move it to a more memorable location. It’s not there now, which means that I probably did move it, but clearly to nowhere memorable. Back to finding a pen (which is a complete mystery as Thing 1 was gifted the entire contents of a Paperchase store for Christmas so there must be one somewhere). Ah, yes, I shamelessly kept the pen which came from the Cats Protection League Christmas newsletter, and I’ve located it in the bottom of a Bag for Life in the car boot. Passport form signed. Recycled envelope used from this morning’s post. Need to get my hands on a roll of sellotape to stick down the already used envelope. The only roll in reach is an old sticky one which doesn’t appear to have an end. I’ll use the masking tape which is in the drawer instead (even though I presume this should be stored in the tool box). Now my plan is to attach aforementioned pen to a piece of string and secure to the desk so it cannot escape. Anyone seen the string recently?
Monday and bin day again! A sick child in the house threw me this morning so when I heard the waste lorry coming down the street I was obliged to abandon Calpol delivery, leap downstairs, find a pair of shoes (size 12 flip flops were the immediate ones to hand), dash outside in dressing gown at sub zero temperatures, wildly waving and shouting “Wait, wait!”. No wonder they moved on without my bin. Sob sob, because I’m incapable of waiting another two weeks for bin collection, now I’ll have to take a trip to the refuse centre. Maybe tomorrow. And maybe there’s something wrong with me?
I am reminded of the time a friend asked her husband if he’d taken out the bins and he answered in the affirmative. But later that day, she discovered the bin hadn’t been emptied. When she confronted him about this, his response was that a kindly homeless person must have seen the bin on the pavement and brought it in for them, not realising it was purposefully placed there for collection! Full marks for inventiveness. Zero marks for taking out the bins but no surprise there, eh? Domestic duties, it seems, are always pink!
Minecraft. What? Where? When? Where? Who? Thing 3 tells me it’s a ‘Sandbox’ but that’s just not enlightening. What’s fascinating me is the polar approach towards construction adopted by boy/girl. I’m not gender stereo-typing here, I’m just a casual (well, maybe less than casual when I’ve finished watching Series 1 of The Crown) observer but one world is full of armoured vehicles, buildings complete with spy holes, ammunition stores, secret tunnels, a couple of thousand sports pitches, trap doors, sky scrapers, dug-outs and a large sign saying “KEEP OUT SISTERS”, and the other is awash with dog and pig hospitals, bedcovers with flower designs (as much as flowers can be designed with blocks), enormous bathrooms, more bedrooms, a cat rescue centre, equine stables, orphanages, schools, a foundling hospital and a secret password so that none of her siblings can access these worlds. What this tells me is that at least two of my children spend too much time on Minecraft.
Back in November, when the result of the US presidential election was confirmed, there was a great deal of negative and hateful comment in the press and beyond. Much of that hatred and antagonism is revisited today, on the eve of Trump’s inauguration. I am desperately trying to understand the world in which I live (but failing). There are some beliefs and convictions held by individuals in societies around the world (not exclusive to America) which I do not share or understand. But I would like to understand them, and to play my part in healing these rifts and rebuilding what essentially connects us all, which is being human. I see what is achieved in a broken world and I can only imagine the dizzy heights that could be reached if we worked harmoniously together. Delusional? Possibly, but that’s no good reason to stop hoping and trying.
There was a time when I was spooning pureed fruit (organic, of course) into those precious mouths and I truly looked forward to the time when they would be old enough for us to have homework chats. We could pore over the atlas together, discuss why Henry broke from Rome, read Jane Eyre in tandem or converse over dinner only in French. The possibilities were endless! But perhaps homework hour should be rebranded? Arsenic hour? Take last night as an example.
Thing 4, on writing up science conclusion, after quite some persuasion that homework should be completed before turning on episode 756 of The Next Step: “I discovered that North Pole of a magnet is on the left and South Pole is on the right.”
Me: “Where were North and South Pole, then, for Hattie, who sits on the opposite side of the table to you?”.
Thing 4: “ What do you know about magnets? You weren’t there in the class, and anyway when you were at school, in the olden times, magnets hadn’t been invented!”
The word ‘repel’ sprang to instantly to mind….
An exquisite box of caramel sea salt truffles dusted with icing sugar were staring at me from the depths of the fridge, behind the jar of piccalilli – kept only in the fridge because I love the stylish Fortnum and Mason jar – where I had hidden them so nobody else could find them (not that they’d appreciate truffles, they are more of a Smarties bunch). The chocolates were given to me as a Christmas present by one of my gorgeous pupils. They were so scrumptious that I was forced to eat the entire box in one sitting, while watching back episodes of The Crown. A study once concluded that eating chocolate led to improved cognitive performance. On reflection, perhaps a good rummage and tidy would unveil the whereabouts of the giant box of After Eights which, post Christmas, are lurking somewhere else in the house……