Friday, October 02, 2015

Sunny day...

I am out of work and, due to various tedious, middle-class reasons that have to do with insurance forms, today I have been to the job centre to sign on.

I did this same thing for the same reason 11 years ago and to be honest, it was not as grim as I expected.  I confess however that I was expecting it to be a lot worse this time, given that the  job centre nearest to me is being converted into luxury apartments (yes, really), and I have been sent to the giant Brixton Road one
where they lock the loos to stop people shooting up in them (yes, really).

I have to say though, the whole thing was brilliantly done and I'd like to commend the staff there for making a huge effort to be human.  In fact I began to wonder if my career aspirations are really worth the agony of the day-to-day slog  that I've been doing for the last 7 years.

The woman who did my initial interview was funny,  sweet and relaxed; the chap who checked my papers was smiley and kind, the security guards were friendly and I got convinced to sign up to a free boxing class by an incredibly enthusiastic couple of women.

Everyone working there seemed to be really enjoying their day - maybe it was just that this is a good day, the sun is shining, it's Friday... but my intake chap has been working there 10 years and said outright that he loves his job.

I've been informed that I have the luxury of looking for work at my current level until the end of the year, following which I need to revise my expectations downwards... however perhaps I should revised them upwards, towards something that might actually make me happy. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Somewhere in Paris

Did we walk among them,
did we brush the corner of their blanket 
laid out against the sand 
covered with oil and books and cigarettes?

Did we capture him
in our sunset snaps
the panoramas
is he locked in place?

The sun went down, the light
like a blanket laid out against the dusk.
Who would not want to swim,
gold like a tiger rolling over their arms

Did we see them go,
treading through the surf,
laughing and splashing,
watching the moon rise?

As they stepped into the waves
the four of them under the orange sun
we debated the wine
and took more pictures of the dimming sky.

They did not suspect,
they laughed as they swam,
they called each other,
the sun flickered out.

When the ambulance came
and floodlit faces scanned the falling tide,
we ordered ile flottant,
and the kids asked the driver what was up.

He was not aware,
he has gone beyond
the helicopter
and the rescue boats.

We read the news online.
When he came out of the water it told
only what we all knew,
but it didn't say the obvious, that

somewhere in Paris
a woman knows what
it feels like to have
the son the sea loves

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sea Magic

The summer holidays are coming to a much faster end than expected...this summer simultaneously seems like it's been going on forever and that it's screaming to a premature end.

We are as usual in France, it's hot, the sea is warm and I'm working much less than usual - in fact shortly I won't be working at all.  Having spent the last 7 years working weekends and evenings and every single holiday I ever had I am burned out to the point that every time I see my doctor he asks me when I'm going to be getting some rest.  Now I have an answer for him - 26th September.  There will be job hunting but there will also be resting, retreating, relatives and I'm running out of appropriate words starting with 're'.

There are not many things more rejuvenating than going body boarding with an 8 year old boy, either.  The sheer joy of catching the same wave and being carried along until our knees hit the sand is not to be underestimated.  We've stopped lugging the mountain of paraphenalia which we used to bring to the sea - buckets and spades and nets and umbrellas and mats and balls and books... now it's just body-boards and beach blankets, because once we get into the water, that's pretty much it.

Even the Frog has been seen clutching a board and making an effort - which is great because leaving the boys together allows me to swim out beyond the surf, past the other swimmers to float and spin and dive and hang in the sea like a piece of ungainly seaweed.

Yesterday I clambered out of the water as the rising tide started lapping at the boulders of the sea wall.  I sat on a rock and watched as the sun begin to sink and the boy gambolled like a puppy, making signs and practising his sea magic.  The Frog joined me and we sat in silence as the sea rose over our feet and up to our possessions, then we collected the boy and waded back to the steps, salty and quiet.

This is where it starts.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I'm writing this as a sort of a spacer; an ellipses between the 11 months of dead air which have blown through this site and an unknown period of air until the next post.

The blob, the spud, the boy himself is nearly 8.  Writing about him behind his back no longer seems quite so amusing.  He still does idiotic and very funny things.  He is obsessed with farts and cricket and minecraft and riding his bike and is desperate to start his own YouTube channel.  He's learning to code Java, he's reading the house dry of words.  He loves camping and the sea and picking blackberries and running.  He has skinned knees and elbows and likes his hair to be cut a specific length.  His report card was superlative but he's not top of the class.  He talks a lot and shouts a fair bit.  His room is medium tidy.  He loves the Kaiser Chiefs and and Dr. Who (and Dr. Seuss) and Harry Potter and dragons. He's made 5 loom bands but he's bored of them now. 

He's a boy, in other words, a 21st century boy.  He should be writing his own blog, not being written about in mine.

I have no idea what will happen to this blog next.  For us, life goes on.  The summer is nearly over, the blackberries are ripe; enjoy the sun while it's here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Well, here we are, the year seriously moving on.  It's been, for those of you not in the know, quite a decent year as years go.  Sunny, warm, full of things to do and one of the best summers I can recall in years.  We're now having the perfect Autumn; rain interspersed with warm sun, the leaves are turning perfectly and it's dusk when I pick the boy up from school.  We see bats in the park every evening now and the other day, an owl. 

This perfect fall is a source of frustration round ours at the moment however; the child is already tiring of walking home in the gloaming and today became insistent about demanding spring and summer back, despite winter not actually having arrived.  He was even willing to skip Christmas for the promise of camping.  Something may be wrong with him, come to think of it. 

He asked some fairly detailed questions about how many days it is going to be until summer, and then when I told him it was over 200 he started telling me what he thought about my answer and his sentences were full of phrases such as 'and then I was like' i.e. "So when you told me summer was so far away, I was like 'that's a long time' and now it's like, going to be winter I'm like 'I wish the winter was already over' but it's going to be, like, a really long time." 

The addition of the word 'like' as a quotative in his sentences is relatively recent; I'm not exactly sure when it arrived, but it's become a fixture since the onset of the latest school year.  The worst thing is that I'm not certain whether or not I use it in sentences myself and am in fact the model.  I recently subjected myself to the ordeal of listening to a recording of me talking in a meeting and realised that I hugely overuse the phrase 'you know' as a sort of sentence bridge or a pause when I should more properly be shutting up, so perhaps 'like' is equally a feature in my grammar and he's getting it from me.

Either way it's a sign that at 7, he's seriously grasping the things he needs to do to blend in and grapple his way up the ladder into adulthood, which I guess is all well and good.  I guess that misusing the word 'like' is possibly the least of my worries given that we're raising him in a massive urban pressure-cooker of a city.

In the meantime, it remains to grapple our way through the year, which time we have agreed to mark by the highlights to come - Halloween, Bonfire Night, Yule, Christmas, Equinox, Easter, Beltane and then camping.  Or rain.  One or the other.  Or, more likely both. 

But, it will be, like, fun.

Sunday, April 07, 2013


The Easter half-term holidays appear to have arrived only seconds after the last half-term holiday; it's a wonder my son learns anything at all given he's only in school five minutes at a time.

He has however appeared to learn something recently, although I'm not quite certain it's exactly what the school was aiming for.

This week we've been doing some child-care swaps and on Tuesday he had a friend over for the day.

After lunch, I found them playing 'crucifixion' in the living room, taking turns nailing each other to the 'cross', ie the sofa.  At one point they were chanting 'CRUcify him CRUcify him CRUcify him'.  It all ended when they started arguing about whether or not they could pull out their own nails.

I sense the finer points of their Christian education are being slightly lost in translation... I'm pretty sure that's not what the school had in mind...

... having blogged about it, I suspect the finer points of my education were lost long ago...

Monday, February 11, 2013

New Year. Bit late.

So, it's a new year, or at least it was a new year a few weeks ago. We've had a lot of new starts, the upshot of which are that we have somewhere new to live (hooray);  no money (boo, but what's new) and quite a lot of things to do.

I never make new year resolutions for all the usual reasons - plus I have a memory like a goldfish. This year, however, I have made a sort-of resolution - or at least, issued myself a challenge.

We were a bit homeless last year, which is to say that we were living in a few rooms with all our things in storage, bar the child's clothes and toys.

We expected to have moved by March, so I kept out my winter clothes and stored the rest.  This meant however that once the sun started to appear and all I had was jumpers and furry boots, a little bit of shopping was required.  By the end of the full 12 months, I had acquired a whole second wardrobe - along with a shopping habit.

Roll forward to December this year when the boxes were finally unpacked and I was faced with a true first-world problem - too many clothes.

The first thing I did was cull, robustly.  Three bin bags of kit went to the Barnardos shop right away and another went a few weeks later.

Having narrowed it down to things I couldn't bear to part with, I made myself a deal.  No new shoes or clothes for the whole year.  None. Further, I have to wear everything in my wardrobe at least once this year, or out it goes.

It's odd.  I thought that the simple act of not-buying things would be really easy, but now that I can't buy clothes I am obsessed with the spring window displays - which is bizarre because really I'm not much of a consumer; 60% of the jumpers I still wear are ones knitted or woven for me by family before I left home.  I'm nearly 50 so I think that counts for something.  The rest are ones my husband purchased because he couldn't stand to see me in 35-year-old knitting.  He may have had a point.

I essentially live in the same 2 pairs of jeans and 5 tops year round which is part of the problem.  I keep thinking I should wear something different so I dabble in the shops.  A dress here, a  pair of shoes there... so the wardrobe grows.  But it does mean that I have had been growing a pile of clothes that I never wear and that's what's going to change. 

I will wear them.  I will wear them and if they don't fit then I'm going to pass them on.  If I can't wear them, I can't keep them - and so, I am wearing them.  Every day I pull out something from the wardrobe that I haven't worn in a while.  I wore a trouser suit the other day that I haven't worn in about 3 years.  Looked great

I have no idea whether I will have learned a goddamn thing by the end of the year and frankly this isn't about lessons or denial or any other worthy thing.  I'm broke and I have too many clothes - it all seems to make sense.

In the meantime I've added 2 more charities to my list of automatic monthly donations (Sight Savers and Shelter) partly because clearly there will be a teeny bit of cash I'm not spending - and partly because I'm appalled at my own excess.

Happy New Year everyone, I'll be the one looking awkward in a dress.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Thread Bears...

For the last 25 years, 3 raggedy old teds have weathered cold, damp, dust and neglect, stuffed into a box in the well room of my parent's house. Once in a while, I dig around in it, hunting for this or that and I take them out, give them a squeeze and put them back.  Seems a sad fate for the bears I loved best of all.

So, this summer I brought them home.

Children I think have a natural instinct to love the underdog and despite his piles of adored new animals with hypo-allergenic super-soft stuffing, the boy has taken my old bears to heart.  Teddy, Panda, (apparently I was not a particularly imaginative child) and Timmy (originally my Father's and dating from the 1930s) have a place on his pillow at night - and by day, take their turns being allowed to watch him do his homework, play Minecraft, or build Lego.

Recently however, I noticed that Teddy had a particular smell.  Not a bad smell - a sort of sweet, chemical smell and I began to think critically about what a bear made in the 60s might have for stuffing.  The answer, apparently is 'powder'.

I ended up taking them all apart.

Timmy was the best.  Hand made, most likely by a relation, in the 1930s he was originally stuffed with sawdust, (some of which still lingered around the odd paw) however had been re-stuffed, with wool.   Panda had a remarkably sound but very weird moulded rubbery inner - but Teddy was stuffed with foam which had completely broken down.

Anyway, I found the whole thing fascinating.  I opened them, emptied them, turned them inside out and mended them, soaked them and washed them, re-filled them with washable stuffing which should take them through another 40-odd years, put new chamois behind Timmy's nose, bought Teddy some new eyes and stitched them up - and this is how it went.


Not that tubby or chubby and definitely not stuffed with fluff:

(except for Timmy here...)

 ...and nobody knows (tiddly pom) how cold my toes... etc...*:

...and here they are.  Not quite like new, but as good as it gets for 3 bears with a combined age of 150:
And that's about it.  They might not look it, but I think they're pretty happy as teds go. They get cuddled and carted around and dropped on the stairs like real bears and, more importantly, when it drops below freezing in the well room they will be clean, dry and snuggled up underneath a duvet with someone who loves them. 

Sounds like a good winter to me.

 *obvious thanks to AA Milne for this bit

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Now we are six

It's been a big year.  It's been an odd year, actually with quite big chunks of stuff thrown in (more another day) - and now my little spud is 6.

He's not so little, as one might guess; at least not when compared with most of his school mates; next to whom he is a veritable tower of legginess.  Get him onto a crowded bus though and suddenly he's all tiny again; perspective matters when you're 6.

We got his first report card back in June; apparently he's a dreamer and doesn't listen to anything he's told.  Academically everything was fine and apparently he's a nice boy... until the day after the report card arrived when he was involved in a punch-up in the playground.  Short term it landed him 'on the wall' (a term I had completely forgotten about) for the rest of the last week of classes.  Long-term it probably gained him a best mate; anyway, luckily the report card came first.

I fretted about the report card for a while, because it's true, he is a dreamer who never listens; but then I went home and picked up all my old report cards... and, er... so anyway we're not so worried about him anymore. 

Although maybe we should be.

Anyway, we did some stuff this summer - stuff with our families, stuff with friends who are practically family.  We travelled, we hung out; er, and we played a lot of minecraft. 

So, after everything, Charlie turned 6 and just to prove it, he managed to crack his head open just like a real boy.  Then, yesterday morning, he took his glue head into his second year of school.  Year one, here we come.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

...double standards...

We have reading... not quite actual-in-fact reading but we have some nearly-reading and some pretty good guesswork and it's clear that reading is about to enter the child's world - or more precisely, the child's bedroom, after 'lights out'.

This is, of course, is nothing new.  One of the first clues I had that the Frog might be marriage material was when on an early sleepover he nervously picked up a book and confessed he liked to read a bit in bed; since then we have gaily traded book-lights in many a Christmas stocking.

While I am deeply delighted that my son is taking the first steps to a lifetime of sleeping next to a toppling pile of half-read novels, I am less keen that he has already realised that firstly, reading after he is supposed to be asleep is quiet and therefore he is less likely to be caught and secondly, that we are less likely to kick up a fuss than if we catch him playing Dr. Who and doing all the voices.

And what am I to do?  I have countless memories of being busted with my torch reading under the covers - something my mother was brilliant at working out mainly because that's what she used to do.  It's a family tradition! 

The thing is, I also remember being tired for school every morning and so of course I want to stop him - but the hypocrisy is dreadful.  I have recently purchased what I think is the perfect book light - and what, I ask you, is reading with a book light while ones partner sleeps other than the grown-up version of reading under the covers?  In fact, since we have moved and Charlie has temporary tenure in a double bed, I have been known on particularly insomniac nights to sneak into his room and read in there to avoid waking the Frog.

So... what am I to do?  For the moment we can insist on lights out as he can't really read much anyway... but give it a year or two and he'll be arguing his case - and I won't have leg to stand on.