Thursday, 26 February 2015

Super Powers

In Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, resting my Super Powers
At half term I returned to being full-time mother and daughter in a disorienting programme of visits to see my sons in Edinburgh and Bristol and my parents in Cornwall.  On Monday, however, I pinned my hair back into a bun, perched my glasses on my nose, donned a work jacket and returned to being old Dr Hobba the crusty Latin teacher at a local school. 
It’s a bit like being a superhero.  Inside, I find some of the things the pupils say hilarious.  In my head, I use some choice words, when I am thwarted.  But I must keep these super powers hidden.  Pupils like to think that teachers are completely unable to access their in-jokes, and actually probably don’t even know any swear words. 
It’s all about boundaries.  The only time one crosses them is to reprimand a pupil who is covertly (ha!) being mean to a classmate.  At this point, the selective deafness has to break down, rather like one of those old-fashioned hearing-aids which would unpredictably pick up a private aside on the other side of the room.

The pupils look at each other with amazement: it is as if Clarke Kent just morphed into Superman before their very eyes.  Not only did old Dr Hobba hear what they just said, she even appeared to understand it.

Saturday, 21 February 2015


As I've said before, the enthusiasms of your children take you to places you would never have predicted.
So last night Nigel and I attended Fuze 2015 at Bristol, the largest student-led fashion show in the country. 
Perran texted us excellent advice on which were the best seats, but due to his inclusion of an ambiguous comma (hotly debated between Nigel and me), we ended up in the second best seats.  However, they were still pretty darn good, right on the front row.  
Next to me was a friendly young woman representing the D1 modelling agency and it all felt very exciting.  Although when the models stalked on in swimwear it got a bit too exciting as we had an unimpeded gusset view.  Nigel modestly averted his eyes. 
But you would have been proud of me: never once did I say in an over-loud voice “Nobody would ever wear that!” Although one collection which employed not only heavy brocades, but also those tassel trims that you sometimes see on lampshades did look a bit…..curtainy.
But we weren’t really there for the fashion.  Fuze is so called because it fuses catwalk fashion with numbers belted out by local singers and with fizzing dance routines, and the dance included Perran.  He looked fabulous and danced powerfully.  “Your son is so good,” whispered the woman from D1. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

All Over the Place

With Pascoe in Edinburgh
“That’s a rubbish pentacle you’re drawing,” commented Nigel.
“It’s not a pentacle – I’m plotting my half term journeys on a map of the UK.”
It could be more complicated.  But, since we saw Carenza in Oxford last weekend and Nigel is visiting the Northumberland grandparents next month, all I had to do was visit Pascoe in Edinburgh, my parents and brother in Cornwall and Perran in Bristol.
That’s fine then.
Bristol and Cornwall are by car, and Edinburgh was supposed to be by train, but since the plane was both cheaper and quicker, Nigel and I guiltily broke our own rules and arrived in Edinburgh reeling not from jet-lag but from severe cognitive dissonance.
Some teachers are probably having a rest and a catch up with those bits of domestic admin that never seem to get done, but it appears I’m not, although of course I did mean to. 
The idea of parallel universes came as no surprise to me as I regularly plan several different versions of how I will spend my time without fully acknowledging that I will be forced to choose between them.

My main worry this week is that as I go south west on the motorway, I will peer into a car in the opposite carriageway returning north east, and my own face will look out at me.  I will finally have “met myself coming back”.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Mummy Car

I have to take everything out of the Ford Galaxy.  I find sweet wrappers (expected), old apple cores (suspected), the odd mouldy sandwich (dreaded).  I also discover spare gloves and a bottle of sun lotion – to keep my tribe safe both in winter and summer.  There are road maps so old that the Icknield Way is marked in dotted lines as a road under development.  In the pocket, an audiotape of “Three Men in a Boat” and a Paloma Faith CD.  Next to them is my Latin dictionary. And let’s not forget the strong, leak-resistant plastic bag in case of vomit incidents. 

I put them all in a holdall, these items telling the story of six years of family life, then I heft them into my beat-up Fiesta, and drive away, abandoning the Galaxy at the Garage. 

I have had a nasty prang on the way to work – my fault – and the Galaxy has been written off.
I don’t look back, but I have a lump in my throat. 

The Galaxy has been my mother ship.  The car before it was a Galaxy, and the car before that. Capacious, big enough to separate squabbling children, big enough to take our massive tent (the tent looked smaller in the showroom, I tell you), big enough to shift the children’s junk to university.

But nowadays, there is often nobody in the car besides Nigel and I, so we have decided to put the insurance money towards a second-hand Ford Focus.  Yet again, life has become more streamlined.

Saturday, 7 February 2015


 "If you wish to leave a message for Nigel, Clare, Pascoe, Perran or Carenza, please do so after the tone.”
I was never quite sure about that outgoing message - thought I sounded rather Hyacinth Bucket posh. 
We bought our current phone system at the same time as we moved into our family house. There were four handsets so that we could always find one.  Except we always couldn’t, so in the end we pulled the old phone down from the loft. With the handset attached by a cable it couldn't migrate up to the children's rooms.
Over the years, one handset had been entirely disabled as the result of an inaccurate lob from one end of the sitting room to the other : "It's for you. CRASH."
On the other sets, sections of LCD screen had ceased to function making the numbers we dialled appear like the dingbats round in pub quiz.  One set has lately started wheezing like an asthmatic as it strains to recharge its worn-out batteries.

Did we need to replace the landline phones at all? Well they do provide a last resort for friends who can’t reach me any other way.  So we agreed to replace the phones only to be faced with a new Empty Nest rite of passage. The outgoing message.  If a friend who is fed up of waiting on the doorstep rings now, what they will hear is merely, "If you wish to leave a message for Clare or Nigel, please do so after the tone.”

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

End of Teen-age

There have been tantrums, slamming doors, sulks, heart-stopping failures to return home on time after parties.
We located the obligatory bottle of cheap vodka in the sock drawer.
On a couple of occasions certain people have gone out for the day to Camden Market and returned with more piercings than they set out with.
We have discovered in dark corners outdated detention slips or disastrous exam results.  We even once had one of the twins ring us to come and get them at the police station.

But sometimes I have had conversations with other careworn women and realised that actually our household scored quite low on the Richter scale of teenagerhood. 

Since 2004 we have been the parents of teen-agers.  Now, eleven years later, this is the week when that ends.  In truth I haven’t thought of Perran or Carenza as teenagers for a couple of years, but technically they still were.
I’d like to thank them for worrying us just the right amount.
If there had been no jolts at all, we’d have felt we hadn’t had the full parenthood experience.  But on the other hand, there has been nothing life-wrecking either.

So far as I know.