Sunday, 31 March 2013

Misplaced Trust

It’s been a long term with the weather lending it an additional bleakness.  Perran and Carenza now need to revise in earnest for A2s and Pascoe for his finals, but we were naughty parents and decreed a single family day out yesterday.

We visited the Ansel Adams exhibition at Greenwich on the recommendation of my friends Helen and Gill.  The photos of American landscapes were so vivid you could smell the pine needles underfoot, feel the breeze on your skin. 

But as soon as we left the museum, we could feel more than a gentle breeze – a biting East wind was  good for our cultural education, driving us into St Alfege’s Church (designed by Hawksmoor), and into the chapel and painted hall of the Royal Naval College.  But our big mistake was to climb the hill to the Observatory.  (Okay, okay – my idea.)  For some time we had been noting the interesting light and the slate grey clouds, but had trustingly believed the BBC website which had predicted a dry day.   

We discovered that our trust had been misplaced only at the top of the hill when we were a very long way from cover and it started to hail. How amusing we all looked with our scarves wrapped round our heads – I would have taken a photo if I hadn’t been so busy grumbling and whingeing.   

At least sunbathing isn’t going to tempt the children away from their revision this holiday.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Taste of Mitten

Today I have cut eighteen slices of bread and spread them with low fat marg., mashed two cans of hook-and-line tuna with mayo and sweetcorn and formed it all into one gigantic packed lunch.  The lunch also features anything that can easily be slung in a rucksack – hot cross buns (still feel bad about eating them before Easter day), cereal bars (no religious complications here) and apples (suddenly now worrying about Garden of Eden).

This procedure used to be followed most weekends, but is now a rarity – or rather, the scale is a rarity – I still make sandwiches each week day for my enormous teenagers.

Family days out are so uncommon nowadays that we sometimes push the boat out and buy a bowl of soup when we’re there, but today we are going in to pricey London and have already spent our lunch money on exhibition tickets. 

However, this is no weather for picnics.  In my heart of hearts I know that it is so cold today that the only thing that matters about our lunch is that it be suitable for quick consumption.  It doesn’t matter what it tastes like – our taste buds will have frozen long before we finish eating. 

I only hope I don’t accidentally take a bite of my own mitten – tuna, sweetcorn and wool is a combo that I’ve never seen at Pret a Manger, and I think there’s a reason.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Good Friday

Patches of snow form a grim fringe to the hedgerows.  The buds haven’t budded and the flowers haven’t bloomed, BUT, this morning Nigel and I went for a walk and at times the sun was laying a soft sheen over the fields and we could hear the excited anticipation of warmer weather in the chirruping of the birds.

Good Friday is by its nature a grim day when we contemplate the agony of Christ, and that is what our family will be doing at church this afternoon.

The joy of Easter is supposed to burst out with the news of the resurrection on Easter Day.  However, just like the promise of the sun on the fields, I already have a gleam of happiness in my heart because my family is all gathered in at home for the long Easter weekend. 

Pascoe is back belatedly from university – he stayed on to try to complete his final year project at the Institute for Food Research where he is working on E. coli.  He arrived home late last night.  He didn’t want dinner – he had been to WagaMama’s with friends and had received unprecedentedly excellent service.  Belatedly he realised that he had failed to remove his large laminated ID that said he was from “Food Hygiene”.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Imaginary Balls of Energy

Today is the end of the last “normal” term at school for Perran and Carenza.  They and their friends are trying to resist the tickle of sore throats, just like busy executives who keep going for months only to succumb to a summer cold on the day their annual leave begins. 

As usual, as others are winding down, musicians are working even harder - the Spring Concert was last night and Carenza came with Nigel and I to watch Perran.  When it was the sax band’s turn, on came several performers with normal-sized alto saxes, then a lower sixth boy with a large tenor sax, then to audible gasps, Perran with a truly massive instrument. I asked him if he’d put compost on his alto, but it turns out the school has bought a baritone sax.

Even after the end of school this evening, Carenza has a couple of hours of Latin and Perran a performance with the School Contemporary Dance Company.  I have seen the dance before – they throw and catch little imaginary balls of energy.  I will suggest Perran hangs on to a couple of them and stuffs them into an equally imaginary ruck-sack to keep him going as he works through the holidays on revision that is all too real.

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Carenza’s Top Revision Tipsicles

I asked Carenza for her top revision tips.  She was giggling to herself in a deranged way when she gave me these. Can't think why.


FREE TIME – although you will need to be doing actual work (not tea-making or doing bubble writing) for the majority of time, if you don’t allow yourself some relaxation the quality of your work will plummet.

ARRANGE TARGETS – if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, chances are you won’t achieve much; setting yourself clear and reasonable targets for each hour, day or week will give you a sense of satisfaction when you get there and keep you on track.

ROPE IN FAMILY MEMBERS – asking a willing brother/mum/uncle/pet goldfish to test you on something that you were supposed to be learning will motivate you to get it done and give you a variation in activity to prevent total boredom.

TIMETABLE – this is the key to all successful revision: planning your time means you can factor in other elements of your life and balance your time over different
subject areas as well as planning to use different activities.

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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Carenza's Choice

Photo by Cara
I was just blogging about how quiet things were when I happened to look over my shoulder and see that the screen in front of Carenza was showing UCAS Track.

She was staring quietly at her five beautiful offers for History degrees – offers which had been there for several weeks now.


“I think it’s time, Mum.”

“There’s nothing else you need to clear up?”


She leans forward and puts Oxford as firm choice – they are asking for three As and “successful completion of AS Latin”.

Then really there’s only one sure-fire insurance choice – Birmingham, offering AAB, a fall-back she could be happy with.

Done !

I celebrate at dinner time by getting a left-over Christmas pudding out of the freezer.

“But Mum, it’s nearly April!”   

“Look outside.”

The twins regard the bleak snow-scene in the garden, then bend their heads to their pudding with no further objections.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Panic and Guilt

At the end of next week, school breaks up for the Easter holidays, and yet again, it is as much a revision opportunity as a holiday. 

Carenza is basing her revision on a timetable, but Perran says he has a “tick list”. Probably I should have asked what, exactly, is on the tick list, but I am easily distracted.  Carenza’s timetable is a masterpiece of colours and abstract shapes – possibly a substitute for the Art A level that she still sometimes hankers after.   Mesmerised by the pink and orange rectangles, I also fail to check what is on her timetable.  The lettering might say “watch telly, eat biscuits” for all I know.  Their older brother has only recently adopted the revision timetable, previously objecting that it was “too depressing” to see all the tasks that he needed to complete laid out before him. 

Myself, I used the traditional methods of blind panic coupled with a growing burden of guilt about whichever subject I had dealt with least recently.  This worked brilliantly, although I do recall my dressing-gowned mother sticking her worried face round the door at 4am and saying “Shouldn’t you be asleep now?”

I distinctly remember that in those days parents knew nothing – how much has changed! - so I responded to her

“I’m fine!”

Today I turn to Perran and say,

“Could I have a look at that tick list?”

“Oh Mum,” he says, “I’m fine.”

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Life after Life

Poker Night
I don’t remember pronouncing this last weekend a Lull, but for us it was, perhaps because of the snow.   UCAS has not been greatly advanced.  However, I’m developing Hobba’s First Law of Young People  - something to do with abhorring a vacuum and social events rushing in to fill a space.  On Friday, Carenza asked if she could have a few friends round for poker and we envisaged 6-8 people sat round quietly – in fact it was like a cross between that scene in The Hobbit where more and more dwarves turn up on Bilbo’s doorstep combined with a casino scene fom a 1970s’ Bond film – i.e. more people than we were expecting turned up, but they were very nicely dressed.

Perran has continued his recent experiments in how little sleep an eighteen-year-old can survive on – Friday night out clubbing ‘til threeish (a little vague here) and Saturday babysitting ‘til around midnight, followed both mornings by the early paper round.  On Saturday, Perran and Carenza slogged off through the snow to dance classes and part-time job. 

So I guess it hasn’t really been a lull.  It just felt like one to me because I spent most of Saturday absorbed in reading Life after Life by Kate Atkinson in order to review it for Third Way Magazine.  Appropriately, it starts and ends with snow and asks some deep questions in a witty way.  Thanks for a lull, Kate Atkinson.

Saturday, 23 March 2013


When your children go to university, you guess where it will lead them, try to envisage what kind of career will engage them.  But wasn’t one of the arguments for sending them in the first place that it would broaden their horizons and offer them new opportunities.  A few weeks ago, somebody I know put up a surprised post connected to a YouTube video of her daughter (amongst others at Lancaster Uni) dancing the Harlem Shake with a plastic colander on her head.  You go, girl!

My own surprised moment came last week when my oldest son sent me a video entitled  me doing the KUJAWIAK‏.

Turns out it was a practice run for the UEA Go Global party – the Polish dance team was short a member and asked Pascoe to fill in with the courtship dance.  Since he is neither Polish nor a folk-dancer, I’m not sure how this happened, (unless, horrors, he is famed for courtship) but the seemingly surreal appearance of this emphasises to me that in his three years at university, Pascoe has built his own life beyond my knowing.  That’s what I call success.

What videos will Perran and Carenza send back – the Harlem Shake is already old hat, or should I say old colander.


Friday, 22 March 2013


“So, Carenza, Perran has made his choices.  What about you?”


The more we have thought about it, the more her firm and insurance choice seem obvious, and it would be simple now for her to log on to UCAS track, click a few buttons and move on.  It would take only seconds, but feels somehow momentous.  To rush it would be as indecorous as gulping down that first drink on your eighteenth birthday pub trip.

“I can’t do it tonight, Mum – I’m up at school giving a talk on applying to university – it’s an evening for year elevens on the value of higher education.”

Will she tell the prospective sixth-formers just how difficult it is to make the final choice having visited so many welcoming campuses and visualised oneself wandering the lanes of historic cities?  It must be like standing at a crossroads (possibly a multi-exit roundabout would be a more accurate analogy, but let’s not quibble) and seeing different “you”s walking away into different futures. 

“The time has come, Carenza, to place a metaphorical traffic cone in some of your exits, er, options.”

“What on earth are you wittering on about, Mum?  I’m back off up to school now.  I’ll see about UCAS Track at the weekend.”

Thursday, 21 March 2013


"Hi Mum,” says Perran as I come in.

“Brilliant news.  There’s this competition that I’ve been waiting for at school.  To go on a trip. We have to enter in pairs and say what we’ll do for the school in return if we win.  The whole thing is only going to cost us £60 if we win, so is it okay to enter?”

Carenza has had three school trips this year and Perran none.  He deserves a treat, so even though I’m not quite sure what the deal is, I say “Yes, of course.”

He is already ringing his friend Amy.

“Hi.  So we’re entering together?  Great.  Maybe we could offer some assemblies?  Yeah.  Good idea.  And we’re not taking too much time out before exams?  No – I don’t think so either.  Really hope we get it.  Just one thing – what’s this extra day that we have to go to London for?...Really?  Counselling?”


Perran’s enthusiasm is such that I had imagined some pleasant cultural event.  But they don’t usually involve counselling afterwards.  (Although it might be desirable after watching some amateur dramatics companies I can think of.)

“Perran, where is it you’ll be going if you win?”


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Die Cast

Perran with statue of John Cabot, Bristol
The moment has arrived.  Perran has confirmed a change in his A2 modules with the universities.  There is nothing now to stop him logging on to UCAS Track and selecting his final two offers. 

Suddenly it is all happening so fast.  For weeks he has been undecided between Bristol and Manchester.  He has attended a maths course and an interview at Manchester and a post-offer open day at Bristol.  He has thoroughly investigated the Maths and Philosophy Course at each university and slightly favours the maths at Manchester, the philosophy at Bristol. 

Both are buzzing big cities in contrast to the market town we live in.  Both have active dance societies and a multitude of chances to play the sax.

I follow him into his room:

“I know it’s really difficult to choose, Perran…”

“Actually, I’ve just done it.  There you are…”

I look at the screen.  He has put Bristol as his firm choice and Manchester as insurance because Manchester is asking for one grade less so he has both a firm and insurance choice which he would be very happy with.

Alea iacta est.  Which for those not preparing to do a Classics PGCE (as I am) means the die (dice) has been cast.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013


Why doesn’t Perran hit the button on his firm and insurance university offers, I wondered last Friday.

“Perran, why don’t you hit the button on your firm and insurance offers?”

“Mmm. There’s a … thing.”


“Yeah, when I filled out my UCAS form, I had to say the modules I was doing for Further Maths and I put down Further Pure 3, but then the whole class except me voted to do Statistics 2, so it changed.”

“Does that matter?  After all, you’re still doing the same subjects.”

“It might - it does mean my form’s wrong, so technically it could make my offer void. BUT I already told Manchester about it at my interview, and I just emailed undergraduate admissions at Bristol today.”

Not bad.  

However, I’m doubtful about sending a subject-specific query to a general admissions office.  On Monday, when Perran returns from school, it is time to nag, er, facilitate, once more.  “Just ring up the Maths Department,” I urge. 

Perran, who enjoys making telephone enquiries as much as I do, responds by lying flat on the carpet and groaning, “In a minute, in a minute.”

But luckily, when he signs on to the computer, there is already an efficient response from Bristol – the change in module is fine.

So there is nothing now to stop him from making his selection and pressing the button…

To be continued.


Monday, 18 March 2013


Bowie meets Monroe
In our house we’ve been bowled over by the advent of the new Bowie album.  Perran has been a fan for several years now, ahead of the current rush of adulation.  My brother was also a Bowie fan, so the music that permeates our home now is the same that vibrated through my bedroom wall when I was Perran’s age. 
The difference is that our music was very foreign to my parents.  It was difficult for them to relate to it.  That gap between us and our parents was useful when we wished to feel pained and alienated.  It also meant that rebellion could be achieved simply and harmlessly by supporting The Sex Pistols or Motorhead. (Perhaps not quite harmlessly – I still have hearing loss.)

“Is there a kind of music that belongs only to your generation?”

“Not really,” says Perran, “Not many styles you didn’t have.”

Carenza adds, “But a lot of really good female singers: Adele, Amy Winehouse, Florence, Lily Allen.”

A good crop – true, but hardly a revolution.

Perhaps my grandchildren will find some new paradigm for music – a sound previous generations have never heard before and cannot comprehend.  I shall be puzzled and disapproving, and they will revel in being misunderstood.  I can’t wait.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Circus Skills

My oldest son, Pascoe, lives in a student house with a little “unicycle room”.  In it are four unicycles.  What a coincidence, you may say, that so many students in one house ride unicycles.  But in fact they met each other through the university circus skills club.

Most universities hold societies fairs in Freshers’ Week.  Some clubs cost next to nothing.  Others will exhaust your funds – on one open day, I met a student guide from a non-rich background who deeply regretted taking up polo.  I pictured the ponies lifting their hooves mournfully to wish her farewell when the money ran out.

I guess students anticipate that university will expand their horizons, and it will, but their hobbies may well shrink.  The amount of time involved in just learning to live independently is large, the extraordinary range of people to meet is there for free and calls you away from other occupations. And then there’s the annoying little matter of degree studies – they can be time-consuming too. 

When I started university, I was astonished to find that I gave up drawing and painting.   That Autumn, the drift of abandoned pastimes probably equalled the piles of fallen leaves outside in the grounds.

Just don’t do what my friend Caroline did:

“I joined the university parachute-jumping club, but I had forgotten two things – one, I didn’t like heights and two, I didn’t like jumping.”
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Saturday, 16 March 2013

Should You be Wearing That?

Friday was a “wear what you like day” at Perran and Carenza’s school, in aid of Comic Relief.  I was helping with a Latin class and admired the outfits. Emily in hot pink lace said, “I think every day should be a no uniform day.”

For Perran and Carenza it soon will be.  Although there is no uniform in the Sixth Form there is a strict dress code.  Perran has expressed himself creatively to the very limits of the regulations.  Sometimes, seeing him, teachers have doubted their own judgement:

“Perran – should you be wearing that?”

To which his answer is always a firm “Yes.”

As undergraduates, they will almost never wear a suit.  At the moment, having rules and a limited number of smart outfits cuts down decision time in the morning.  In the Autumn, they might find themselves having to get up a whole hour earlier just to decide what to wear to lectures. 

They might become butterflies of high fashion, sporting gauzy fabrics and pouts in seminars.

Or they might just hook on jeans and a jumper and slouch off to campus.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Something Beautiful

A little while ago, three lovely ladies won me in a fundraising auction.  Last Friday night, it was  time to collect – they rang the doorbell and I showed them into the kitchen.  The table was littered with hammer, drill, metal files and a small kiln glowing at 900˚.  This was no dinner party that they had bid for.  At the start of the evening, we had a bare sheet of copper in front of us, by the end, three very individual and accomplished pieces of enamel jewellery.

Satisfied with the evening, I went  in search of Nigel.  He had something to tell me. 
Earlier that evening, he had Skyped Pascoe for news of his PhD applications.  From the out-set, Glasgow’s had been the research about which Pascoe was passionate.  By the time Glasgow interviewed him, however, he was already holding offers from two other good institutions.  Shortly after  interview, he received an informal email – “You will be receiving an offer”.   
But time ticked on, and we began to fret as the deadlines for accepting his other offers loomed.  Glasgow assured him the offer was on its way.  His first offer passed its deadline, then his second.  He was now holding no cards. 
But the place at Glasgow would be worth it.  As long as the offer came through. 
And finally, that day, it had.  He needs to achieve a 2:1 and he will be off to Glasgow in September. Beautiful!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Cottage Pie Madras

Yesterday, when Perran and Carenza’s school offered the upper sixth a day of preparing for university by budgeting with their loan/grant and cooking some nourishing dishes, only 25 pupils turned up.  I can’t blame the others as they are all scrabbling to complete essays and notes for their June exams.  Their reasoning is that unless they perform well academically, they won’t be going to university at all.  With the January results in and the end of term looming, A2 nemesis is far more imminent. It’s easy now to count the days.

However, those who attended the session will reap the benefits.  In fact, they have already reaped some benefits – as I returned home last night, I opened the door on a delicious aroma.  Carenza had just re-heated a cottage pie madras (à la curry powder) as her after-school snack. For lunch she had eaten a tuna bake and for dinner, she intended another cottage pie (“Sasoon didn’t want his”). 

She couldn’t share with Perran and me as we don’t eat meat, so we watched her enviously from across our card-boardy supermarket pizzas.  I don’t think I ever cooked anything that smelt so delicious when I was at Uni.

For new recipes and food suggestions, please visit our updated Student Food page.  If you have recipes for simple, nourishing food, please email them to me at My Moon-Shot .

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


Josie and Dali making tea-cosies at church.
I’m going to miss Wednesdays when I start my full-time PGCE course in the Autumn.   Wednesday is a very full day if you go to the little C of E church that I attend.  This morning, there’s women’s group at Josie’s house – we’re following a spiritual Lent Course.  At the end, we pray for one another.  We also nurture our own perspectives – on Wednesday mornings, there is no doubt that God is a Mother and that Martha (whom Jesus rebuked for excessive housework) is a hero.
The afternoon finds many of my friends cutting out cardboard sheep and practising action songs, ready for an after-school children’s service.  Meanwhile, Carole and I take a group of the elderly and encourage them to share their memories (often with action songs in the background).  Alison at the children’s service always sends across some cake to us.
In the evening, Nigel and I head along to our home group at Hilary’s - more prayer and bible study with people whom we’ve come to regard as family. This, at least, I shall still be able to get to next year, although I think I’d better start booking a whole sofa to myself at Hilary’s – at the end of the working day and commute, I might need a lie down.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Insurance Offer

Carenza as a flying buttress.
Carenza has a dilemma - there is one university which she would clearly like to put first.  No problem there – it is choosing the insurance offer which is tricky.  She has two potential fall-backs.  One of these has an excellent reputation over all, but the contact hours in her subject are legendarily poor.  On the open day, student guides were saying,

“What subject?  History?  Ooh – you’ll be having a lie-in then.”


“Well, I’d better show you the students’ union, because you’ll have plenty of time to spend in there.”

Faced with the prospect of a £9,000 debt for tuition fees over three years, selecting a subject with minimal contact hours for a happy doss is not attractive to Carenza.

So that leaves one other university, beautifully situated, with a great reputation.  Only trouble is, they offered her the same grades as her first choice.

Bravely, she rang Admissions to gauge their attitude to candidates who drop a grade. 

“I was careful not to give my name, Mum.” Clearly, post-university, the secret service beckons.

Some universities could have said right now that they wouldn’t be interested if she dropped a grade, because that is their policy – like her first choice.  No university would be able to say “We will welcome you with open arms if you drop a grade,” because they don’t know yet what the rest of the field will look like.  What she was looking for was a “depends”.  And that is exactly what they told her: “It depends on who else applies and what grades they get.”

 Anecdotally, we have a feeling that the exams are getting harder - many friends and acquaintances have been disappointed by their results.  Also, over-all, fewer are willing to take on the debt and to apply at all. 

The question is whether Carenza should bet on these two factors and choose an insurance offer that’s asking for high grades.
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Monday, 11 March 2013

Last Mother's Day

So that could be the last Mother’s Day which I spend with my children for some time, since the date falls in the middle of the university term. 

But, don’t worry about me - I have a plan for next time. 

First I shall wander around the house howling and drooling, then head into the town centre for some pacing and loud threatening muttering. 

Memo to self: do not give up alcohol next Lent.

Be that as it may, this was as close to perfect a Mother’s Day as I remember.

I woke to a cup of coffee from Nigel: “Shall I send the children in now?”

For a moment I imagined enthusiastic young children bounding in in their dressing gowns.

“Children? Won’t Perran and Carenza mind?”

But it turned out it was them he meant – they slouched in, crawled into bed with us and took up all the space.  It was lovely. 

Later Nigel drove us through snow to pick up Pascoe in Norwich and we took him off to the workhouse (see yesterday’s post).  It was frosty as Siberia and the walls of the work house chapel were made of flint.  It was like an embodiment of the expression “as cold as charity”.  But the café was warm and the cream tea splendid.  I only wish I hadn’t read the information  board – food was being served in what used to be “The Itch Ward”, so called because they used to treat infectious diseases there.

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Saturday, 9 March 2013

Mother's Day

Perran – who is the household punctuation stickler – every home should have one – tells me that it should be Mothers’ Day.  But I think he has misunderstood the true picture.  There is one Mother here and it is me, and today is my day.  Now, having dealt decisively with the apostrophe, I am free to anticipate what the day holds.

Since the offspring hit their teens, organising a family day out has been as easy as getting our goldfish to perform a synchronised swimming routine.  But on Mother’s Day, I become Mumzilla and insist.  I like a cultural day out in a picturesque location that I don’t often visit.  Lunch out is desirable, but I’m prepared to accept a picnic, as long as I don’t have to make it.

As previously, we shall drive to Norwich to include Pascoe.  The BBC predicts sleet and 2˚C for Norwich.  Nigel has therefore found an indoor attraction.  In the year which has included family days out at Eyam Plague Village and Struthoff Concentration Camp, we shall now be visiting Gressenhall Workhouse Museum. 

I confess  I’m a little bit worried about what they’ll serve in the café – I’ve never had gruel before and I’m not sure I want to start now.

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International Women’s Day was earlier this week.  I have been thinking a lot about feminism lately because the world my daughter is entering is not the one I hoped we would have forged for her.  I was at the tail end of the vociferous seventies feminist movement and even owned a pair of dungarees, but couldn’t afford Doc Martens. 

The vintage photos look as if we were having a whale of a time with our banners and badges.

“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

 But in fact we were often challenging ourselves, trying to assert ourselves in every aspect of our lives in a society which thought feminism was either cute (perhaps a ploy to add spice to flirting with that man we fancied) or deplorable (making ourselves unattractive and aggressive and disrupting the all-male status quo). 

I am very grateful that Carenza is a feminist, puzzled that many young women of her age are not.  As the popular feminist website has it, it has become "the F word" .  One ray of hope is that if you ask almost any sixth form girl, “If you and some man were doing the same job for the same company, but he got paid ten per cent more than you, would you think that was fair?” they come up with the only rational response:  “No!”  Because at the heart of feminism is not aggression nor a wish to be contrary, just a desire for fairness.

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Friday, 8 March 2013


Photo by Carenza
Yesterday was the news we’d been waiting for – the results of the January modules and re-sits.  It was the last critical piece of information about which of their university offers Perran, Carenza and their friends have a chance of meeting. 

Thrillingly, some of their friends have finally, quite late in the day, begun to shine and hard work has paid off.  Sadly, others have been diligent and enthusiastic but have been let down by their results. 

A friend who takes the bookings for a private firm which runs revision courses said she had been very busy yesterday with swarms of pupils from a variety of different places who were desperate to improve on their grades.

For the disappointed, it’s difficult to know how many papers it would be wise to re-sit in the summer as these will impact on other A2 exams.  Some are now considering taking another year to get the grades they are truly capable of. 

For those who desperately want to go to university this autumn but will be unable to meet any of the offers they hold, another option is to look at UCAS Extra - it's possible to reject offers that are too high and pick one more university.
Perran and Carenza each had at least one splendiferous result and one somewhat less than fabulous, but appear to be on course for attaining the grades they need for the universities they wish to attend (as always, Deo Volente – as long as God wills it). 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Blinking of an Eye

Perran and Carenza’s older brother, Pascoe, is a final year undergraduate at UEA.  This year he has been asked by the Biology Department to give the student’s perspective talk at open days.  It doesn’t seem five minutes since I drove him to a blisteringly hot Norwich open day and tried not to pass out in the exceptionally well-attended welcome lecture.

“What do you talk to them about?” 

“I tell them how respected UEA Biology is; how it can help to land prestigious internships and great careers. How, whatever you’re studying, you can go to any lecture in any subject – I go to ones on human rights law.  The best bit is going to lunch with the candidates afterwards – that’s when I get the questions.”

Carenza too has given talks at school open evenings and into the sixth form events, and Perran has been there playing his sax at the beginning and end of the evening.

Although all three of my children are moving on, they are glad to be contributing to the future of their school/university.  Many of the youngsters who attended those open days will have been influenced by Pascoe, Perran and Carenza, but they will start their lives there only after they have gone.  And then, in what feels to their Mum like the blinking of an eye, one day they’ll be giving the talks themselves.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


Perran and Carenza have still not returned to UCAS to select their firm and insurance offers.  They are trying to find out more both about their own likely grades and also about the universities. By the end of this week, they should have the results of the modules and retakes they sat in January, so another part of the jigsaw will be in place. 

I know the jigsaw is a dull and much-used analogy, so just for fun, let's over-extend the metaphor - I see the whole UCAS situation as one of those typical jigsaws beloved of old ladies, showing a scene of a nineteenth century farmyard, with trees and sky in the rear. 

The results that Perran and Carenza will get are pretty much like the carthorse and chickens in the foreground  - definite and distinct and easy to piece together.  The universities however, are more like pieces of sky – it’s not always so easy to choose between.  So in an effort to locate a piece of sky with a distinguishing mark (like, say, a swallow), I’ve asked Carenza to ring one of her candidate universities and ask them how flexible they are if somebody who picks them as reserve drops a grade. 

She said, “Okay, I’ll do that, just as soon as I can fight my way out of this metaphor.”

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Phantom Brakes

I got into trouble at the weekend.  Perran is driving my little beat-up Fiesta again after a long hiatus in lessons.  Admirably, whenever we have a journey to go on, he volunteers to drive.  I’ve had the brakes overhauled, so I know my car will get him there – it’s just my nerves that won’t.  

On Sunday, Nigel sat in the front beside Perran; Carenza and me in the back.  Perran drove confidently and fast – right up to the speed limit, as is now recommended practice.  I, however, failed as a passenger on several major counts. 

My right foot was constantly pedalling at a non-existent brake and Perran clearly found my behaviour extremely irritating.

“Mum, was that a suppressed scream?”

“At least give me some credit for trying to suppress it.”

“Mum, are you clawing at the door?”

“No, no.  It was just my cuff buttons scratching against it.”

Nigel turned round and gave me a death stare.

Carenza tried diplomatically to distract me from whimpering by showing me the photos on her mobile, but it was hard for her to flick through them as I was clutching her arm so tightly.

When we reached our destination, I said,

“Well, Perran’s had plenty of practice this weekend – what about you driving back, Carenza?”

“Mmm.  I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet.”

Monday, 4 March 2013

Latin Lover

Preparing for my Classics PGCE course in the Autumn, I want to ensure that I can keep up while I’m adjusting to the long commute and the hours of work.  So I’m researching the Latin set books. 

What I notice is that these texts are much racier than the ones I studied at school. 

I can remember standing in front of my father’s book shelves about to take down a translation of The Golden Ass by Apuleius, when my mother’s voice from behind me said,

“Actually, that book’s a bit rude.”

(I still have no idea how she knew this as she is not a great reader - perhaps this was the very filth that frightened her off reading!)  Guiltily I replaced it.

Now it is set at GCSE.

Ovid’s love poems (Amores) were far too saucy for us, but are now required reading at AS level and I am studying them with Carenza and other sixth formers.  However, it’s not too exciting as the succinct syntax and compound words make Ovid’s description of sex read rather like the instructions for assembling an IKEA flat-pack wardrobe.

This trend towards more explicit Latin books leads me to an interesting connection between coiffure and Classics.  Can it be only a coincidence that as the books have got raunchier, so teen fringes have got longer?  After all, what better place to hide if you feel a blush coming on? 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Cost of Living it Up

All year Perran and Carenza’s friends have been turning eighteen.  Pubs and clubs have become increasingly part of the scene, but this term with lots of February and March birthdays, critical mass has been reached and events are revolving around these venues. 

Good stuff:

 Youngsters are probably safer in a pub than they are loitering.  (Not that P&C ever loitered overly).  It’s great that there’s somewhere that they can go for a really good dance – although they resolutely refuse to take the nice woolly jumpers I gave them for Christmas.

Gross disadvantage:

These places cost money.  Hanging about at somebody’s house wishing you could be in the pub is cheaper than actually going to the pub.  And clubs are worse – what is a modestly-priced night out for somebody who is earning can wipe out most of a week’s wages if you are dependent on a Saturday job. 

I’m hoping that the flurry of interest will die down and clubbing become the way to mark high days and holidays and certainly not too many weekdays.

And there’s another reason – I enjoy it when the twins have their friends round for a party.  Meeting up at our house may be lame by comparison with a club, but at least it’s cheap.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Part Time Job

For three years now, Perran has been doing a paper round.  In fact, for most of that, two paper rounds.  Huge discipline is involved in getting up at 6:45am seven mornings a week and then cycling to the paper shop a mile away, performing two paper rounds and then back again to shower and change into smart school clothes, then walking back to school, a mile away. It doesn’t pay well but Saturdays are consumed by dance classes, and in our house, Sundays are special, so he doesn’t have many options.

Carenza shares a Saturday job with a friend, meaning she works every second Saturday.  Hers is a legendarily cushy job in an up-market card shop.  There is only so much straightening of cards that she can do, allowing her time furtively to memorise French vocab or scan a history article. However, she does have a good one-liner for every anniversary and birthday now. 

When it is a sunny Saturday, and Carenza has already spent all week in school, I do wonder whether sitting in a shop is the best use of her time.  When Perran is working late into the evening, I worry about his early start. 

However, there is no better way to learn to value money than to earn it, so I can only trust that the sacrifices they are making now are worthwhile in terms of life skills learned.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Remember Your Birthday?

A couple of weeks ago, I printed out baby photos for Perran and Carenza’s birthday party and we looked at them together. 

For years, you don’t talk about the baby stuff.  I have good friends whom I’ve known for over a decade and we haven’t shared birth stories. 

But now, Perran and Carenza have started asking.

It’s good to be able to say yes, I breast fed you. 

It also brings back what a disrupted, chaotic time it was.

“I’m not sure what your first words were, though I do remember you both trying to say flower.” 

“I’m not sure when you walked – just before your first birthday.”

“You were born in the middle of the night.  I’m certain of that because it was dark.”  

The tag from the hospital falls out of a photo album and reveals that, in fact, they were born just after midday.

In for a penny, in for a pound.  I confessed how for several years I had mistakenly celebrated their birthday on Feb 9th instead of Feb 5th, until my friend Gina prompted me to check by saying  – actually the ninth is my birthday and I’m sure I would have remembered if you’d had your twins then.

They stare at me with unblinking eyes.  If their own mother can get their birthday wrong…

It is clear that I have taken confession too far and rocked their world.