Saturday, 12 April 2014

Suddenly Summer

Photo by Hannah Thompson
So we wanted to make sure that we got together as a family over the summer. Over a two-week period of nagging, I extracted term dates from the offspring and we then went ahead and rented a cottage in the UK at a point when we should all have been available.  Then Perran got a Summer job and couldn’t join us.  Then Carenza realised she had exams after what should have been the end of term and would join us later.  Pascoe had succeeded in putting the time aside for us, but even so, when would all five of us be together again?
Seems like the answer is now.  At Easter. 
Offspring have appeared from each corner of the country and taken up residence.  It is as if they had never been away.  I have to keep reminding myself that this is an illusion.  I am no longer here – I am training to teach.  And my children are no longer here – they are studying.  Except that now there is food to be bought, beds to be made up, relatives to be visited.  Just like the old days.

 I look at the weather forecast.  It’s going to be cloudy.  It might rain.  There’s a chill breeze.  But whatever it says, as a family, our summer is now.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

No Snow

Snow Days - so good they used to go on all night.
I had a date with snow.  My plan was that some time during the spring term there would be a snow day when it was impossible for me to drive to school and I could get on with my PGCE work.  Oh, and take a magical walk in the local wood. 
It never happened.
Floods meant that on several occasions I had to turn back and take a circuitous route to school but things never got so bad in our area that there was a complete shutdown as there is on a snow day.  And for that I should be grateful.  Grateful also that I never had to set off with a shovel and sleeping bag in my car because snow had been forecast for later.
The hedges are white now, but it is what we call in our family “blackthorn winter” – the sloe bushes put out profuse white blossom early in the year, often on the heels of snow.   So the white in the hedgerows is a herald of spring, not a remnant of winter. 
So it looks as if the risk of snow is over.

And I’m a day behind with my PGCE work.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Daughter Rediscovered

We’re on our way today to retrieve our beloved daughter from her second term at university.  Carenza’s term is much shorter than her brother at Bristol whom I will continue to miss for another three weeks.  As my friend Jenny said of her own daughter, “For all the time they’re away, they might as well be signed up with the Open University as Oxbridge.” 
But it hasn’t felt like a short time.  I have been happy all week knowing we would get Carenza back this weekend.  I have heard it said that when there is a baby in a room all eyes are drawn to its movements like a candle flame, or a fire in the hearth.  I feel the same about my much older children.  Having them back home will re-animate our now-quiet house.
Frankly, I have thought about getting a pet to replace them.  I thought a cat might work, rewarding yet somewhat unreliable and with the potential to be moody.  My offspring, if they are reading this, are expecting me now to say that a cat could never replace them, but actually, the main problem is I’m allergic to cats.
And I’m only teasing.  
How could a cat ever replace them? 

For a start, cats cannot wash up, or wield a hoover….

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Shoop Shoop

This is the longest I have ever left it between blogs.
“Oh”, you might say, “I suppose that now the children have left home, you have nothing to write about.”
The truth is, so much has happened that I haven’t had time to shape it into words.
I have visited Perran in Bristol and Pascoe in Edinburgh; attended a couple of job interviews; had a nasty cold; picked up my Classical Greek again; seen a few of the friends I’ve been missing.
And, as a constant bass level of busy-ness, I’ve been preparing and delivering lessons in subjects and with age groups that are new to me. 
Looking back, the maddest thing was teaming up with the four classics teachers in the school where I am on placement to deliver a synchronised dance to the Shoop Shoop Song by Cher to 800 over-excited pupils as part of a charity day.    Coming in the middle of everything else, it barely even made me nervous.

But it has left lasting scars – even finding a space to rehearse was a masterpiece of subterfuge.  Now, whenever I see a “meeting in progress” sign on the outside of a shut office door I will know that inside there is a chorus line of Latin teachers shoop-shooping away.

Saturday, 15 February 2014


Carenza's birthday at uni.
We’ve been restraining our parental instincts in order to give the twins some space at uni.  On their birthday recently, we didn’t invite them home nor did I arrive on either of their doorsteps with cake and candles. 
But on the Friday evening just after their birthday, Carenza turned up at our house.  She had put a few history books in a bag and caught a train home.
We went for a country walk on Saturday morning and spent the afternoon with our books in front of the fire.  Compared with the pressure cooker of college life, dull domesticity  obviously looked attractive to Carenza, just for a weekend.
However, although Carenza was mostly stretched out dozily on the big red sofa, her social faculty was alert and she always had one eye fixed on her texts, tweets and facebook.  Arguably, her mind was still at college, but she had managed to teleport her body home for free food.   But quite soon, her schoolfriend Cara appeared and out they went together, and our nest was empty once more.  

Carenza went back to uni just after Sunday lunch.  We were really pleased she’d come to see us.  Maybe we didn’t need to have bent over backwards to give her space.  Or maybe she felt able to come home BECAUSE we gave her space.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Commute 2

Roman Surveyor planning my commute
a couple of millennia ago
The dull crump of metal on metal accompanied by the crunching sound of plastic and light bulbs is one I’m aiming to avoid. 
My first PGCE placement took me on a serpentine switchback drive through the wilds of North Hertfordshire, on a route punctuated by skid marks and bunches of flowers.
But my second placement to a school just north of London involves a very different commute.  Appropriately for a classics teacher, my route lies along the Roman road of Watling Street.  The advantage is that it is dead straight; the disadvantage is that I can therefore see just how far ahead of me the traffic jam stretches. 
I am no longer fearful of colliding with a deer, but on the other hand,  I have already aroused a certain amount of low-level grumpiness (beeping, flashing, you know…) by nipping into gaps that I thought were big enough for my car, but apparently nobody else did.
Saw my first crash last week (crump, crunch), but am comforted that what we’re looking at here is mainly slow-motion prangs and undramatic shunts.  I’m hoping I’ll escape this, but at least, if I don’t, it’s unlikely to arise in bunches of flowers marking the spot afterwards.
So what did the Romans do for us…..?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014


Perran and Carenza’s nineteenth birthday is approaching fast.  Over Christmas, they thought they might hold a big party to which they could invite loads of friends old and new – AT HOME.
“It’ll be great – everybody can stay over.  What do you think, Mum?”
I can’t think of anything nicer than a party with all Perran and Carenza’s friends and a chance to meet the people who they are spending their time with, but I said no.
They looked puzzled – we’ve always been a bit of a party house, and I’ve never said no before.
Fact is, there are two kinds of party – ones that get bigger than they were meant to be and ones that get smaller.  I really dislike the ones that shrink.
Having cleaned the house upstairs and down and stocked up on crisps and pizzas, the last thing I want is not to be taken up on my hospitality.  In fact, I think that FaceBook ought to have a special sound alert for when guests drop out of a party at the last minute.  Probably a sort of “Wah-wah” noise.
I anticipated that what with assignments, sporting fixtures, university social events and the time and money required to travel to our house, the planned party might have roused initial enthusiasm, then dwindled to nothing.
So I said no. 

And I’m sure that when they are celebrating surrounded by friends at uni, the twins will realise it was a good call.