Sunday, 26 January 2014

Combining Teacher Training and Quiz Night

 Last night, our church fielded a team in the local inter-church quiz.  I should probably have been preparing lessons, but instead, I joined.  This quiz has been running for many years and has become a hotly-contested event involving around twenty teams.
"But it’s a church thing", you say, "– surely it can’t be that competitive?"
You’re right, “competitive” is not the word – “internecine” would be better.
And it didn’t look good – there were only six of us rather than the recommended eight, and a couple who had young children to get to bed didn’t even arrive until round two.  But, two of our team members were teachers and recited the classroom mantras,
“Let’s just do our very best,” and “It’s not the winning, but the taking part that counts.”
When hovering between two answers, we were asked to consider “What are the examiners hoping we will put?”
And we were encouraged always to “put something rather than nothing, because you can’t get a mark if you don’t put anything.”
By the end of the evening, I felt I’d received a workshop in good classroom practice.
And the result – we came a creditable third.
Even better, because of our skills in analysing pupil data, we were able to work out that we scored more per person than the winning team!

(Bad losers? Us?)

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Shame Continues

Last night we phoned Pascoe who’s settling in to his PhD at Edinburgh this month.  We could hear from the traffic that he was in the street as he received our call.  He’d just been to the cinema with a fellow researcher.
We were on speaker phone and we chatted about this and that, then Nigel said,
“Did you read Clare’s last blog?”
“Not yet – what’s it about?”
“Oh – don’t tell him,” I chipped in, “Just let him read it for himself.”
But Nigel persisted,
“It’s about Clare sounding as if she’d wet herself in public, in a restaurant.”
“WHAT!” cried Pascoe in disgust, “MUM WET HERSELF IN A RESTAURANT?”
Pause, then, “Oh dear, I said that quite loudly and now people are looking at me.”
“I didn’t!”  I say pathetically, “I didn’t actually wet myself, it just sounded as if I…”

But too late, we had lost signal.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Letting myself down

We dropped off Carenza’s missing bedding at uni on Saturday, then had lunch with our friends Nick and Jackie in the pleasantly crowded cafĂ© at the Ashmolean Museum.
We swapped family news and Jackie was talking about their tiny grandson and potty-training.  She thought it intriguing that he had said,
’I’ve wee-d because my trousers are wet.’ 
She pondered – “He doesn’t seem to have quite sorted out cause and effect yet.”
I am currently engrossed in training to teach Latin and it may be a sign that I am losing my perspective that I jumped in enthusiastically:
“Oh, that’s a bit like purpose clauses and result clauses in Latin – the words are quite similar and it’s easy to mistake one for the other.  I think, in fact, that your grandson was making sense – what he was really saying was, [and in retrospect, this is the bit where I should have lowered my voice] ‘I know that I have wee-d, because my trousers are wet.’”
Jackie was saying “Oh, that’s an interesting idea,”   But it wasn’t her I was looking at.
I could see past her to the man at the next table.

This man was gaping in open amazement at me – astonished that a middle–aged woman could talk so frankly, so loudly and in such a public place about the delicate subject of her urinary incontinence.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Ready Meals

Nigel and I are both busy at the moment.  Maybe too busy to cook.
While holding the belief that “ready meals are better than they used to be,” I have found the cost and the potential storage problems have meant they weren’t a viable option for feeding a family of five.
But Nigel and I had always said that when, at last, it was just the two of us, we would indulge ourselves by buying some ready meals. 
It would be fun.
So, after dropping off our last child, Carenza, at university, as we reached the outskirts of town, we stopped at a reputable food store known for its ready meals.
But, as we perused the shelves, peering at portions of this and that, all with delicious pictures and descriptions, I began to feel that I had lost my appetite.

I was actually going to miss cooking for five.  And here in the food store, this wasn’t just any sadness I was feeling – it was Marks & Spencer’s sadness.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


On Sunday we dropped off Carenza at university and the nest is officially now empty.  But possibly not quite as empty as it should be.
Have you ever played “Kim’s Game” – where somebody places a number of random objects on a tray and covers them with a cloth.  They allow you a glimpse, then cover the tray again.  You then have one minute to try to remember the objects you saw on the tray. 
At Carenza’s college we joined her and Hannah and Johnnie for brunch and as we picked at our scrambled eggs, every so often, Carenza would call out the name of a random object. 
Clearly she was playing a version of Kim’s game that involved picturing the things she had left behind on her bedroom floor at home.  This was quite amusing until she said,
“Bedding.  Oh no!  I’ve left behind my entire bedding roll.  Sheets, duvet, everything.”
What will happen?  Will she make a giant hamster nest out of all those clothes she hasn’t hung up yet? Or borrow one item of bedding from each of her friends to make a boho-throw bower-bed?

Or should we have purchased her a couple of nice thick Sunday papers so that she could settle herself down, park bench style?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

University Friends

On Saturday, we met up with the other FOMMS – Friends Of Malcolm Mladenovic, a university friend who died of a heart attack a few years ago.   As every year since, we attend a science fiction or fantasy film, which is what Malcolm himself would have enjoyed.  This time it was The Hobbit, Part 2.  Afterwards we have dinner at the Cork and Bottle. 
What do we talk about?  Well, we dissect the film we just saw.  You might have supposed we would reminisce about the old times at university, but  that’s not the case.  Amongst the things that Malcolm bequeathed to us were some new friends, Keith and Richard, who we got to know both before and after his death.  And there are other dear friends who’ve become part of our group since university.  If all we did was to sit round talking about the past, I wouldn’t want to go any more.
When we got back home that night, Carenza’s new university friend, Hannah, had come to stay.  They had just been watching a film together and were now discussing it.  Just as we had viewed a film from their era, they had selected one from ours: When Harry met Sally

And the verdict on the films.  The Hobbit 2 made me laugh even more than Harry met Sally.  Only thing is – the places in The Hobbit where I was laughing weren’t meant to be funny.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Time's Up

Perran leaves for university today.  He doesn’t seem at all dismayed at the prospect – quite perky  in fact.  Odd that.
We dropped Pascoe off at university yesterday, and in spite of the challenging meteoric conditions, we could see that he had great accommodation in a magnificent city.
Carenza leaves in a week’s time. 
I start back on my PGCE course tomorrow.  I don’t think I can bear to get out the to-do list that I made at the start of the holiday.  Although I’ve worked quite hard, not nearly enough has been crossed off it.
Why didn’t I just write on it “Dec 29th, Bring about world peace, Dec 30th, Find cure for cancer (all forms), Dec 31st, Solution to global warming?” 
I would have had about as much chance of succeeding.
I haven’t yet made a New Year’s resolution, but this year’s should be not to make over-ambitious to-do lists.

I’d better just jot that down at the bottom of the list: “Make New Year’s Resolution.”  I’ll probably have got round to doing it by this time next year.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Mobbed by Crows

When you drop your oldest son off at the university where he expects to study for the next three years, you hope for a bright hopeful day and cheery surroundings.
When we arrived in Edinburgh with Pascoe and all his worldly goods, the sleet was driving in horizontally.  After an hour of searching in the aforementioned sleet, we were able to confirm that the person in charge of the keys for Pascoe’s accommodation hadn’t made it to work that day. 
Passing over the bit where Pascoe managed to get locked inside a deserted building and had to “squeeze out under a door” (his words) we eventually persuaded a nice administrator to don suitably sturdy outerwear, trek to the office and break in to get the keys for us.
When we reached it, the postgraduate accommodation looked as if it might be gorgeous when fully occupied and in sunshine.  But today, it was grey, deserted and windswept. 
We managed to expose each and every item of Pascoe’s belongings to water damage as we heaved them from the car to the flat.  As we finished, I cast around for a little cheer.  Noticing a large park at the bottom of the road, I said, “Nice that you’re so near a green space.”
“Ah yes,” said Pascoe, “I had to cross that park before, when I came up here searching for accommodation…  I got mobbed by black crows.”

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


Janus is the Roman god of doorways.  He has two faces so that he can look both ways at once.  Hence the month of “January”, looking back at the old year, forward to the New Year. 
Looking back, it is incredible to me how much has changed so fast – this time last year, I had a house full of children.
Come to think of it, this time this year, I have a house full of children. 
We’ve been cosy – dammit, we’ve even roasted chestnuts on an open fire.
(Although, due to global warming, Jack Frost has not been nipping at our noses.) 
But it’s January, and the cold wind of change is blowing.  Over the next week and a half, Nigel will be back at work and I to my PGCE course, Pascoe to start his PhD in Edinburgh, Perran to his second term at Bristol, Carenza at Oxford.
I heard Cher on the radio this morning singing, “If I could turn back time…”
But, Cher, I’m here to tell you that you can’t.
So let’s look on the bright side:-
·         The vast and extended clothes-drying system which used to be known simply as “the landing” will become bright and spacious once more.
·         If I put something in the fridge, it will still be in the fridge next time I open the door and look for it.
·         Perran, Pascoe and Carenza will continue to make their perilous way home from late-night venues but, since I will know nothing about it, I shan’t have to worry.
Has this banished my regrets? 

‘Fraid not.