Sunday, 29 September 2013

Disappointments and Solutions

Since I’ve been blogging about the University application process, I guess my assumption has been that universities make themselves as attractive to candidates as possible and vice versa, followed by a dialogue of applications rejections and acceptances, at the end of which a (hopefully) happy marriage occurs.
However, recently a couple of Perran and Carenza’s contemporaries have met with different outcomes and I thought it was worth airing their stories as it is something that this year’s applicants might like to be aware of.
One had been accepted  for a very particular art course with exactly the right slant for her and was looking forward to starting, only to discover that the course had been cancelled due to a shortage of suitable applicants.   I guess the lesson is to be aware that this could happen in the case of a small “niche” course and ask plenty of questions when applying.
The other had won the place she wanted on the course she wanted, but due to some sort of mix-up, failed to secure accommodation. 
Accommodation is a more common problem, but often, if the undergraduate can make temporary arrangements, empty rooms appear soon after the start of term due to others dropping out.  However, it takes quite a nerve to do this, especially if the individual was already apprehensive about leaving home.  Another potential solution I have heard of is to defer until next year when, because the applicant already has a definite place, it may make it possible to apply early for accommodation.
The good news is that both of these resourceful young women have found other courses to attend and I wish them all the best.

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Exhausted Wallet

Before I started my own PGCE course I was preoccupied with fitting Perran and Carenza out for university life.  I was trying to ensure that they had no need to fret about equipment/toiletries/stationery as they struggled with living independently in a strange city, making new friends and launching on their studies.
In fairness we probably got 90% of our crap together.
Since, however, I started my own process of being beat over the head with course information, college information, placement bumph and assignment rubrics, I have rather taken my eye off the ball. 
That was why, on Saturday, Perran, Nigel and I found ourselves in the Bristol branch of Wilkinsons dragging a trolley heaped high with all the things that we had thought would be in Perran’s room already – lamp, chest of drawers, bin; and a few things that we had left  at home – cushions, sheets, air freshener.
We were not alone.  There were hordes of young people in there, each trailing a trolley of bargain household items, each tailed by one or more harrassed parent. 
“Do you think these are all freshers?” I asked Nigel as we stood in the queue to pay.
Meanwhile the father ahead of us got to the front of the queue.  Nigel peered as he took out his money.

“Thin, well-worn wallet,” he remarked, “Definitely the parent of a fresher.”

Monday, 23 September 2013

When Twins Say Goodbye

I have been apart from Perran and Carenza quite often over recent years, although never for more than a week at a time.
They however, have been parted from each other far less often.  They have often been on the same  school trips and holidays.  Over the years, their once-separate friendship groups have converged and the twins have seen something of each other each day both in school and out.
They make each other laugh and are usually completely on each other’s side.
When they were about four, I was working in the kitchen one day when they marched in purposefully together.
With a grave face, Carenza asked me: ”Mummy, what do you call somebody who isn’t a twin?”
The answer was, “A singleton.”
From now until Christmas, they will both be singletons.  I just hope it doesn’t hurt too much.

Thursday, 19 September 2013


So I had heard that a full-time PGCE course would be tough and immersive, especially as I drive for over an hour to get there every morning.

“Good,” I thought:  not only will I be training for the next stage of my working life, but it will take my mind off the departure of my children for university.

My mind is spinning with ID cards, permits, passwords, wifi keys, library systems, files brimming with pro formas and websites swimming in information.  I have met so many new people, heard so many lectures.  I feel I have lived an entire lifetime and it is only Thursday.

So has it stopped me from moping over my babies as they depart?

Nope – Perran leaves on Saturday, and although I often forget for a whole hour at a time I’m still inclined to be a bit weepy. 

But right this moment, I’d better blow my nose as I have about a thousand pages of notes to stuff into my various folders.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Fresher Fun

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Fresher Fun

Every day, on web sites and in emails, more information is arriving about Freshers’ Week.

“Look at this” says Perran gleefully, “A choice of three club nights every night.”

Carenza consults her documents:

“Hmmm – Library Induction.”

My PGCE Freshers’ Week has already started – I consult my leaflet for today’s event:

“IT Suite - surgery for EduRoam.”

Clearly Carenza and I have been sent the wrong documents.


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Sunday, 15 September 2013

New Diary

A month ago, Carenza bought me a massive new diary.
It makes an ominous thump sound as it hits my desk.  I guess she’s marking the fact that I’m going to be much busier now.  Today is the day that I go along to Homerton College to register and I just don’t know where all the time went.

My desk was supposed to be clear, my filing system as free and airy as if it had just received colonic irrigation.  However, books and papers are still stacked up everywhere.  (I am trying desperately not to resort to the constipation metaphor, but I think it’s in all our minds now.)  In spite of the gigantic size of the diary, I even managed to lose that for a couple of weeks.

About three years ago, Gill and I were removing all the donated (!) junk modelling materials (AKA grade one fire hazard) from beneath the stairs in church, but as we reached the bottom of the pile, Gill pulled her hand out hurriedly – she had grasped a baby hedgehog settling in to hibernate.

I reckon that if I cleared my desk properly, I might very well find a badger, or maybe even a wild boar under that lot.

And the hedgehog?  Carenza and I reared it through the winter and released it in the local woods in Spring.

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Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Last…

I know by now, that as a family grows and evolves, most “last”s pass by unremarked.  It is only a couple of years afterwards that you realise that a particular day in July was not just the last time you took the kids to the swimming pool, but probably the last time you will ever take them.

And so it was last Sunday.  After church, we had a family walk on the rolling chalk-land around Ivinghoe Beacon, a place that we’ve always enjoyed, then picked umpteen pounds of elderberries for wine, then home for tea and cake, followed rather too closely by a decent dinner.  I lit some tea-lights, which means it was special.  A good day.

Also, as it turns out, the last sunday that we will all be together for some months.  This week Pascoe took up an invitation to travel in Eire and by the time he returns, Perran will have been launched on an unsuspecting Bristol – he only this week received his accommodation and arrival details.

I’m glad we didn’t realise at the time that it was our last Sunday as a family – it was better not knowing!

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Tuesday, 10 September 2013


Spent the last two days happily observing really excellent teachers at our local primary school and looking forward to another three to go. 

I can see now why so many writers have a background as a teacher.  As you listen to young children’s ideas, you can at any moment take a sidestep into a parallel universe, one that you could never have dreamt up for yourself. 

Who knew that a camel develops a hump only when it is pregnant, and that it then gives birth to a little camel which may one day in its turn become a teenage camel, then an adult, and then develop its own hump.  Or even, proudly, two!

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Monday, 9 September 2013

Back to School

Summer fun now officially over
As all the children lie sleeping, I have got up and got dressed, assembled my packed lunch, packed my satchel. 

Unlike all the others, I’m back to school.

I am attending our local junior school as part of my PGCE, for which lectures etc start in earnest next week.

It feels like stepping back in time, especially as it was at these very tiny tables and desks where I once sat down to help in my children’s classrooms, feeling like the proverbial elephant riding a moped.

I am very familiar with the insides of the tardis-like PTA cupboard.

But this time, I have a grown-up professional reason for being there – I am to observe teaching and regimes and policies within the school in order to learn to become a teacher.

I have a proper notebook for the task.

As I pop it in my bag, I realise – even my exercise book is one of Perran’s old school ones.
I hope to report back later on how my first day went.

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Sunday, 8 September 2013

Windows 8

We have used thrift and recycling to avoid much of the expense of equipping our children for university.  Partly because we knew we would have to fork out for laptops – expensive.  Desirable, up-to-date,  lightweight models with plenty of poke seem all to sport the controversial Windows 8 operating system.  If one follows the PC (rather than Apple) route, and doesn’t fancy grappling with more niche systems like Ubunto, Windows 8 is now unavoidable.   I too have bought a new laptop for my course and, last night, asked Pascoe to hold my hand while I tried to get to grips with Windows 8.

The Frequently Asked Questions page, when I found it, summed up my own feelings completely:

FAQ: Where did the desktop gadgets go?

FAQ: Where is Control Panel?

FAQ: Where is Device Manager?

FAQ: Where is Task Manager?

FAQ: Where is Windows Movie Maker?

Where indeed?

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Saturday, 7 September 2013

Have you got your PE Kit?

For the last week I’ve been noticing the roads getting unusually busy around 9am and 4pm and was puzzled as to why this might be.

I was also mystified as to the lack of children in the local park and shopping centre.

Then, yesterday I was out with an old friend (you know who you are) and I discovered the reason.  It was her day off, and my last before I start my PGCE.  We were taking a stroll on the South Bank  when suddenly she went a bit preoccupied and starey. 

“What’s the matter?”

“I left my fourteen-year-old having a lie-in this morning. I’d forgotten the kids have gone back to school.” 

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Friday, 6 September 2013

No Driving Practice

No Driving Practice

For some time now, my life has revolved around little car-based errands.  They fitted in with Perran and Carenza’s need for driving practice.  It was my attempt to make myself feel I was achieving something in spite of the fact that I was spending all my time slumped grumpily in the passenger seat of my Fiesta.  We would drive to the next town to pick up an order from PC world, or to our nearest retail park to solve wardrobe crises at Next or M&S. (Just what should a middle-aged trainee teacher wear? Children can be very cruel, you know.)

Trouble is, the practice driving stopped on Tuesday when both the twins passed their test.  We’ve decided not to pay the exorbitant motor insurance rates as they will soon be off to university.   So no practice is now needed.

My irritating errands, however, have carried on, since I am in the habit of setting them up – getting items delivered next day to a nearby store, for instance, rather than them arriving at our house a week later when I’m out.

However, I need a return to sanity now – back to two wheels rather than four.  This morning I undertook my final errand – to pick up a bicycle basket.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Cheesy photo

After the twins both finally passed their driving test within one hour of one another, I felt cheated that I didn't have the obvious photo of them tossing their L plates in the air.
They must still have been pretty happy about passing because this morning they very kindly obligingly trooped out onto the drive to pose for the photo without blackmail or even bribery.

Take 1

"You forgot to smile, Perran."
"Sorry- got a nasty sore throat."


Take 2

"Perran was throwing but Carenza wasn't."

Take 3

"Carenza was throwing but Perran wasn't."
 "Actually, Mum, since you and Dad aren't paying our motor insurance, that's probably enough for now."


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

What the L

When the twins were aged two and potty training, I booked myself some time “working at home”.  A colleague rang me with a query and as I answered her I must have sounded somewhat distracted.  The reason:

Perran had momentarily lost control and weed on the kitchen floor.  He was so frustrated with himself that he began bawling loudly.  Carenza, eager to see what the matter was, came racing round the corner, skidded in the wee and fell flat on her back in the puddle.  She too began to cry at the top of her lungs. 

“What’s that noise?” asked  Dr Edwards on the other end of the phone.

“Nothing.  Er, I really have to go now.”

Then there was potty-training on a trip to Edinburgh Zoo, when Carenza, feeling warm and secure on Daddy’s knee, had a little wee.  It was a bit chilly, but eventually, the breeze dried Nigel’s trouser leg.  Then she got back on his knee and did it again.

And potty training at York Railway Museum.  They each liked to have their own potty, so we felt a bit conspicuous carrying two of them, ill-disguised in plastic bags.

But let me say now that potty training twins was as nothing compared to teaching them to drive. 

So it is with huge relief that I can announce the fact that they both passed their driving tests today.

I wanted to take a cheesy celebration shot of them both but they have each gone out with a friend – for a walk.

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Monday, 2 September 2013


Nothing to do with story,
but you just don't often see a silver-washed fritillary
I’m writing this as I sit here in the GP’s waiting room. 

What am I waiting for? 

A vaccinaton. 

On my form from the college nurse, it was expected that I had received BCG (yep, a regular matter during my schooldays, although not any longer);

 two doses of MMR (nope, this was something that I heart-searched about submitting my babies to, not something I had experienced myself - I wrote on the form that I have had the illnesses themselves but not the vaccination);

lastly, Meningitis C (a vaccination not invented in my day - always makes me think of Mel C from the Spice Girls, but I understand it’s far less pleasant).  I had no alibi for this one, so rang up for an appointment.

I haven’t watched any of those gruesome autopsy-based shows, so I don’t know whether you can tell the age of somebody from the vaccination marks on their arm, but you can certainly date them from their vaccination record.

I haven’t had a vaccination for absolutely ages and as I sit here pondering this, I remember that I’m not terribly fond of needles.

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