Friday, 31 October 2008

Some of my favourite voices for a cold day

Singing some favourite songs

kd singing something by a better songwriter (shhhh, I didn't really say that...)

Sarah Jane Morris

The gorgeous Heather Small

Annie sings the only vaguely positive one off that depressing album

Tracy Chapman. Love this song.

Gotta have some Dusty if it's all about voices today.

Good voices. Good sentiment.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

We are still here

just not much to blog. P came back from her weekend away, having done lots of terrifying things. She’d had a great time. Leo enjoyed the chance to spend a lot of time in the house doing his sort of stuff - imaginative play, reading, writing, eating... Dani got some pc and knitting time and I went to work a lot.

I went to my writing group last night, which was good, as usual. I took along a piece I’d written down in Cornwall and then re-worked. Reading Patrick Gale is making me long for Cornwall, so it’s good to indulge that in my writing.

We had found a nice looking, cheap holiday flat in York for the week we’re planning at the end of January. But they decided from my email enquiry that I am a Mrs (this is based on nothing but my mentioning that my family and I would like to stay in the flat) and sent us the booking forms addressed to Mr and Mrs. The accompanying letter was also very chatty. Putting the two together, I am inclined to find somewhere else. We had a horrible arrival in a house once, when the woman had her little welcome chocolates ready – addressed to me and my husband... It just gets a holiday off to such an uncomfortable start, when you have to get through a whole load of assumption shattering before you can relax. The holiday firm we use down in St Ives are nothing like that. They just ask for the names of people in the party and don’t invent you husbands... I did think of actually telling this firm that we won’t be using them, and why, and hoping this wakes them up to the amazing reality that not everyone in the world is part of a hetero couple.

Our local prospective Tory candidate has just done the very same thing – sent us a leaflet each, assuming that D is a man. What’s rather funny is that his leaflet is rather full of mentions of Brighton’s diverse population and so on and he, himself, looks rather light in the loafers... He hasn’t lost our votes though, so I don’t suppose he’d care if he’s p’d us off.

Right, better eat something before I leave for work. Isn’t it cold? The whole town seems to be a mass of coughing, sneezing people at the moment. I think I’ll add some extra vit C before I face the germy hordes...

Saturday, 25 October 2008


Bit of a different weekend here as we are one child down. P is off at an adventure/activity weekend camp with about forty other local home ed kids. We’ve had a couple of phone calls and all appears to be going well. I had to work extra hours today because it was an open day at work. Dani and L had a quiet day at home. Dani, L and I have been working together at this silly word game on Facebook. Leo’s typing is really coming on. He’s also great at this game. It’s rather like Boggle so he has played it before. The other night, after I’d been playing it, I was trying to sleep. I realised that my brain was working on a set of letters and the words that kept popping into my brain were the results! That was very weird. Rather like those moments when reading aloud to the children and I become aware that I can hear my own voice reading the words while I’m thinking about something completely different.

Life has been pootling along here. I was very impressed with our Local History centre this week. I’d given them a quick call several weeks ago to let them know that we would be coming in with a group of six children and the sorts of things we were interested in. We arrived to find a big table full of stuff they’d looked out for us – census returns, maps and old photographs and so on. They were very helpful – scanning old newspapers for us and helping the kids with the microfilm readers. One of those moments when you realise that the council tax is rather good value for money!

I have also been thinking about music today after reading something on someone else’s blog about giving up music for religious reasons. Some people are not that bothered about music but I realised today that I have always needed music in my life. I’d miss it desperately.

In my early childhood I learned a strange selection of songs. My mum was in an old time music hall group and so I sang all those songs with her. Then I learned all the songs from the small selection of albums my mum had – Oliver! Bridge Over Troubled Waters and Sergeant Pepper. My four year old interpretations of the various lyrics gave me much to think about! I sang at school and played instruments. Then, in my teens, I abandoned all that classical stuff. For two or three years I probably bought an album every week or two, with my Saturday job money. Sadly, I’ve now lost most of that.

When my sister died I inherited most of her tapes. She’d taped her entire album collection to take to university and I spent hours and hours listening to it. She had made a particular compilation tape that I have put away safely. It had Northern Lights and Don’t Stop and See You. That tape was a connection with her and could get me to cry when I just couldn't.

Then there were all those years of making my own tapes and giving and sharing music with friends and lovers. There are songs that have lifted me and songs that have allowed me to let go.

I am always humming and whistling and being reminded of lyrics. Life with kids means that I haven't had much money to buy music and far less time. But now the kids are increasingly into music too and I love that. I'm not a music anorak and I can't stand music snobbery. I am not *serious* about music. I just seriously love it.

Purely for my own entertainment (because other people’s music choices are rather like other people’s dreams and are of little interest unless you love the person in question) here are just a very few of the songs that I have loved.

Joan Armatrading – Me Myself I. This meant a lot. A song about what a woman wants for herself and not all about luurve...

Erasure – Sometimes. This is just fun. Reminds me of a girl I knew. Girl who was sometimes mistaken for a beautiful boy in the gay clubs where we were dancing to this.

Pet Shop Boys – Only the Wind. This one was important when I realised that things that hurt need more than time, sometimes...

Kate Bush – Moments of Pleasure

Tracy Chapman – Heaven’s here on earth. This one was a baby-rocking song when P was newborn. I felt like Tracy was singing it right to our precious baby and it said everything I wanted to say.

Eurythmics - Seventeen Again. This was a song for L's babyhood and all the unforeseen challenges of life with a new baby and a toddler. Yes, this is my cracked nipples song, I guess...

Ten Thousand Maniacs - These are the Days. I'd always loved this song and then suddenly it felt very real. It talks about "the miracles you see in every hour" and that was (and still is) how I feel about life with children.

Right. Must stop as this is just self-indulgence.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Hurry up and wait

I have been thinking, recently, about the expansion of the teenage state and the effect of this on childhood today.

From the moment our children are born there is pressure for them to progress onto the ‘next stage’. Most of this is, I suspect, about marketing objects to parents. A nice example is the kind of ‘pre-walking’ shoes you can now buy in any Clarks shop. Even ten years ago, when we went to get P her first shoes, these didn’t exist. In fact, while we were there the saleswoman sent away a family with a barely standing little boy, telling them to bring him back when he was walking. Now they’d have been advised to part with a few quid for shoes for the ‘cruising’ stage. These apparently ‘help’. It seems to me that childhood is now crammed with objects that are there to ‘support’ or ‘entice’ children into being someone older than they are.
When I was a child there were ‘teenagers’ and up until that point there was ‘childhood’. Now it seems that children are ‘tweens’ almost as soon as childhood begins. It may just be that we have a girl of eleven but I feel that the culture is particularly loaded with such stuff for girls. There is underwear that mimics that of women, for little girls of single digit ages. Why does a four year old need a ‘crop top’ more than a vest? Why are girls given the idea (from adverts to tv to children’s fiction) that they have outgrown childhood, when they’re in the very heart of those few precious years?

But, what strikes me as rather ironic is that, for all our children are hurried into their teenage years, they are then held in that ‘not yet adult’ state for longer than ever before. Why the rush to get them out of childhood if they’re not to be admitted to the adult world until they are at least eighteen? When I was young, most of my contemporaries left school at sixteen and went out to work. Those entry level jobs aren’t available to sixteen year olds now. It seems that time in college is ‘necessary’. The ‘school leaving age’ (which we all know isn’t really that!) gets higher and higher. Why do we push children to grow up fast and then clap a lid on it and tell them they’re not really grown up until they hit twenty? What is that about? Anyone?

In this house we go our own sweet way as much as possible. But the air we breathe is full of ‘shoulds’, isn’t it?
In this house childhood sometimes sounds like this,
L: Can I have a wormery?
D: Mmm? Yes, I suppose so.
L: Good, because I’ve got one.
A: Where?
L: In my bedroom in a cardboard box.
Said worms are now in the back porch and soon to be in a more permanent box. We finally all agreed that making worms live beside a de-humidifier wouldn’t be good for their health. This worm thing is a challenge to me. L didn’t help by adding the following comment, “I hope they breed and when I take off the lid there’ll be a writhing mass of worms!” Anyway, we got out the Wildlife Fact File that a colleague gave me and I realised I knew nothing about reproduction in worms. Now I do.

My voice is now returning and I am looking forward to a less busy week. We finished watching ‘Life on Mars’. It was excellent entertainment. I turned three in 1973 and it has amazed me how often (while watching) I have found myself picturing the house where I grew up and remembering certain images and sensations – the phone, cupboard doors, patterned carpet, long party dresses with big frills, bearded dad and uncle, the way the tv buttons felt when we pressed them in, cooking by candlelight in the powercut, nylon clothes. When I was little, in the 1970s, I would ask my mum for stories from her childhood. My mum was nearly four when the Second World War broke out and nearly ten by the time it was over so she had a lot of dramatic, childhood tales. It was so clearly ‘history’ to me – another world. Now I realise that it had all happened only thirty years before. It is strange how the things we lived through are never quite ‘history’ to us. Time plays funny tricks. I suspect I’m not the only person who finds it hard to remember these 20something dates. They just don’t seem real to me.

Right, off to eat some toast and not get stressed. There is plenty of time!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Rather gloomy

Bum. Feeling like rubbish, with Rula Lenska voice again. Don’t know why it’s always Rula Lenska who springs to mind. Obviously made some deep impression on me in the late seventies, I guess. The week picked up pace after Monday and I just haven’t been able to shake this off. Got a day off work tomorrow, though, and I’m intending to rest a good deal. But Dani looked decidedly pink of nose last night, so I think she’s probably coming down with it too.

Tuesday the kids had things all afternoon and I needed to be out dropping them off, waiting around and collecting them again, from 1 until about half five. Wednesday included a Kids’ Club meeting and then a strange journey to work. I had to go up to the station to avoid a demo on the road. Good job I did, as the road was finally closed in both directions. Road was open again for my journey home but the buses were still a bit disrupted. Mine was packed with students going out to a club night who were singing rousing drinking songs. Dani had her work AGM in the evening so, when I finished work at 8pm, I had to go round to collect the kids from their cousins’ place. I extracted them quietly, so as not to wake their little cousin D, and we went home. Yesterday was the first day of the history sessions D and I are facilitating for a group of six 10 to 13 year old home edders. I think this went quite well. Then I had to go straight to work for the rest of the day.
By the time I got home last night I was feeling very miserable. I’m just so tired. Poor kids are getting a very grumpy me at the mo. Having one of those days when experiment remnants and the half finished creations are closing in on me and I just haven’t got the energy to deal with it. There never seems to be any less on the list of things that need doing, even though I feel like I never stop. This is why I’m sitting here whining on the keyboard, I guess, instead of actually getting something done. Luckily, we’re off to a home ed group soon, so the kids can get away from me for a bit!

Think I’d better stop there as I don’t seem able to lift this to a happier place. Back another day with a happier post. Will now listen to music, wash up and remember that I really have nothing to moan about.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Keeping on

In the early hours of Monday I was woken by a throbbing tonsil. I always forget that this term tends to bring coughs and colds aplenty. The students return and share about their germs in the close confines of young lives in halls of residence. Then they come and cough at us over the enquiry desk! Honestly, sometimes I find myself wanting to escort them home with a Lemsip. I struggled to get back to sleep and felt lousy in the morning, so I phoned in sick.

I don’t often do that but it was wise, as I crashed out for about two hours in the afternoon – right when I should have been arriving at work. The rest of the day I lolled about. I devoured nearly all of my latest Patrick Gale book. I loved it. It took me right there, everywhere. I was transported.

Today is going to involve much more going out and about. I could really do without it but these are things the children enjoy and are committed to, so I’ll pop some painkillers and get on with it. I have had a reasonable night’s sleep, so it should be possible. Need to buy some cheap joggers for P, who has an adventure weekend coming up. Need to buy some cheap joggers for L who is displaying his ankles rather a lot. Need to get my head around the demands of a day later in the week when our little history course is starting – check bus times and so on. Need to reply to the CME consultation. Oh no, I feel a list coming on. Now, I must not pick up that new Patrick Gale that I’ve borrowed from E!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Back again

Well, it’s been a while and I don’t know why. I have been prioritising story writing, I guess. Work is also very busy at this time of year and I don’t feel much like sitting at a computer in the evening. Instead, Dani and I have been watching series one of Life on Mars, which we borrowed from the library. We missed it first time around but we loved Ashes to Ashes, so we thought we’d give it a go. It doesn’t have Keely Hawes, which is a shame, but we really enjoyed it. I did find it a bit painful from time to time and I found myself dealing with flashes of hospital memory that I could have done without. But I guess that shows it was well written.

On Friday we went to the Planetarium at Chichester. Dani had made a booking for a home ed visit and we ended up being a group of forty six. Thinking about the stars is rather good for putting things in perspective. When the papers and tv never stop about the end of the world as we know it, it is rather soothing to look at the constellations in the company of a man who loves his subject.

Sadly, Leo came down with a ferocious migraine. We tried food and managed to find half a paracetamol, but it was too late. The pain got worse and then, in a packed train carriage, the poor boy threw up. He managed to get it all in an empty Tupperware, which was very clever of him, and he then dozed a bit. He got off the train ok but then threw up again (in another Tupperware!) right at the ticket barriers in Brighton station. It’s probably one of the most hectic spots in the whole town. But it’s amazing how people can manage to avoid you if you’re accompanied by a vomiting child! He rallied a bit after that so we splashed out on a cab home from the station. We had a cold-ridden Pearlie with us too and she was pretty tired by then. She started to feel car-sick in the cab but, luckily, nothing came of it! The children retired to their respective rooms and rested. I phoned the doctor because I’d like to know if there is some better drug we could give him at the first sign of a migraine. I hope she’ll take my word for it that that is what is going on for him, without wanting to spend time and money on a load of tests and so on. Honestly, he is like a text book case and watching him has made me realise that I had migraines as a child, even though I never had them diagnosed until I was about twenty two and had one that involved my falling on the floor repeatedly! There is a certain amount we can do with rest and food, to reduce the incidence, but migraine management is tricky for an adult sometimes – let alone someone of eight. And the dread and panic that he feels when one of coming on just makes things worse, I suspect.

The kids have been busy with things and we’re all getting into the stride with our routine for the term. We shall review things at Christmas, I think, and see how everyone is feeling with the things they’re doing.

I am finding all this financial crisis stuff rather hard to understand. I understand it for about five minutes and then forget again and it all just seems like nonsense. Something will happen. No doubt, the people with least will end up suffering the most as that is what usually happens, isn’t it?

Saturday, 11 October 2008

We are loved

Thanks very much for this award, Peri. We love you too!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

More than

I’m going to break my own rule and share a snippet from some time I spent with Leo, yesterday, doing maths. (Entirely voluntary maths, for those who may be wondering!) We were looking at something that thought it was introducing the symbols for less than, more than and equal to. (Actually, I guess it thought you knew equals... Mind you, I never really saw that symbol as that, for many years. I thought it was more like a piece of mathematical punctuation – the thing you write before the answer!) Anyway, I was surprised by the way Leo was jotting down these symbols like he’d known them for years.

Allie: “Have you seen these symbols before, Leo?”
Leo: “Well, that one (points to more than) I have.”
Allie: “Yes?” (perplexed)
Leo: “Well it’s from that company, More Than, isn’t it?”
Allie: "Is it?"

And, of course, he is right. It was one of those lovely moments when I am reminded that children are always noticing and absorbing and making connections. I must have seen as many adverts for that company as Leo has but he likes design and I'm not usually paying much attention to it. He notices the look of a thing. He must have noted that strange thing they’d done with the letter A and then slotted that together with the maths page he was looking at. I do like home ed – I learn so much about learning.