Thursday, 18 December 2014

Diabolical drive

If I roll out of bed at 6am, and straight into the car, I can be with my parents in Cornwall by late morning.  That is at any rate the theory.
This morning however, the M4-M5 junction was shut and the tail-backs immense, so instead I navigated through Bristol.  All this took time, so I needed a rest break at Exeter.  If I hadn’t had the rest break, I wouldn’t have ended up stuck five cars behind a house.  Yes, that’s right, somebody was transporting a whole house on the back of a lorry, taking up both lanes of the A30.  I see I have already used the phrase “immense tail-backs” and I don’t want to over-use it. 
In addition, there were long stretches of M4 and M5 had been traffic-coned down to two lanes, often, it seemed, just for the hell of it as no roadworks were to be seen.
So it wasn’t until 1.30 that I arrived at the house where I was born.  After over seven hours of driving, you might have expected me to be wrecked, but instead I was ready to take my parents out for a stroll along the river. 
What had kept me in such good spirits? 
Carenza was with me, coming to visit her grandparents, stopping me from stressing with her desultory banter. 

And now we are side by side on the sofa in front of the fire.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The terrifying journey of the three wise men

From Mapshelfshire
 Carenza has arrived back from uni, but my term continues.  Left in the house on her own to put up the Christmas decorations, she appears to have got bored and texts began arriving on my phone.
"The terrifying journey of the three wise men:"
to the Bead Mines of Masterbedroomia

to the burning embers of Sittingroom 
to the frozen Jarstack of Fridge
to the seal colony of Mantelpiece
through the jungles of Windowsill
to the Herb Corridor of Death

Will those Wise Men EVER get there?

Thursday, 4 December 2014

End of Term

Whenever your term ends, it is the rule that you feel it should have ended a week earlier.  Those last few days stretch into eternity.
Is my throat sore?  I feel a bit achey.
Tell yourself you don’t!
 Swallow crates of vitamin C tablets and chug Echinacea.  The end of term is coming and you will survive.
Don’t picture the soft bed, the warm central heating, the decadence of a lie-in.  It will soften;  with near fatal consequences.
Instead, greet the predawn gloom, shunt the car into first gear and keep going. 
Oh, sorry.  Up until now, I’d been writing this piece for both commuting schoolteachers like myself and university students like my children, but I now realise I need to re-write that last bit for students:
“Instead, get up when it’s well and truly light.  On December days when this doesn’t happen, don’t bother to get up.
If you do get up, saunter along to the railings where you last chained your bike and discern whether it’s still there.  If it is, meander into lectures; if not, go back to bed (default setting).”
And this, my friend, is why a degree is a bad thing – it means that adult life never looks good, by comparison.  Never again will you have so much fun, or so many lie-ins.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Mind the Gap

The other evening in the pub, about ten of us were sitting round, the majority of us parents of children in their late teens or early twenties.  Comfortably over our beer or J2O (driving) or white wine (just letting the side down, really), we agreed that there was less difference between ourselves and our children’s generation than there had been between us and our parents’ generation.

We reached a consensus on that.

But then, our children weren’t there. 

From a material culture point of view, the thesis stands:  Perran clacks through my CD collection more often than I do, and Carenza now rocks the few surviving frocks in which I once painted the town red.  Likewise, Pascoe has been sighted at parties wearing my kaftan which a friend brought me back from Syria in better days.

On the other hand, the current range of relationships now on offer bemuses me.  If somebody had been my “Friend with Benefits”, it would probably have meant a purely platonic relationship in which he allowed me access to his toaster, possibly his electric food mixer. 
When my children raise LGBT issues, I have to get past my confusion with BLT – a kind of sandwich, and certainly not the appropriate mental image.  Hopefully, they think the long silence is because I’m considering their point deeply.

So if you’re reading this, and you know of a point where communication between the generations is difficult, please do email me and let me know.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Feet under the table

When I started this blog, the twins were polishing their applications to apply for university.  Only two years on, I have just popped in on Perran who is now happily ensconced in Bristol at the top of a Georgian house full of students.  From his palatial room, he surveys the university he has come to love.  
He had not told us that he’d had the bravery to join the 150 dancers auditioning for a few places in the much-hyped Fuze fashion and dance event.  
But he did tell us once he’d been selected.
Meanwhile, Carenza had casually mentioned that she also had a fish to fry.  After harsh parental interrogation, she divulged that she had launched a bid to become president of the JCR at St Hugh’s College.  
Even to stand demanded grit.  She has published a focused manifesto and spoken at hustings in a packed and beery bar.  She also had to eat a punishing number of burritos (apparently). 
On the night when the votes came in, I was visiting my parents in Cornwall, Nigel was with his in Northumberland.  Perran was waiting in Bristol and Pascoe had joined Nigel in Northumberland.  Over the course of the evening, we each, in our separate locations, kept taking out our mobiles and frowning at them thoughtfully.  Finally, at around 9pm, Carenza sent us her news.  
She was president.  
It was only a text, but we could definitely hear the chink of champagne glasses in the background.
Two years on, the twins could be said to have their feet under the table.

Saturday, 8 November 2014


I used to have a face-painting kit and regularly appeared at school and church fetes to depict spider man, a tiger, or butterflies on chubby cheeks.    Conversation-wise it was as challenging as being a hairdresser,
“So, have you had a go on the tombola…?  I see.  No I wouldn’t want old bubble-bath either.  But you’ve had some sweets from the sweet stall then?  Lots of sweets.  Lots of sugary sweets.  Please do try to sit still for just a bit longer.” 
I’d have been very happy to continue face-painting – I thought I did it well.  But once my children reached eleven and left primary school, nobody asked me again.
The thing I had not realised about this art-form is that it is genetically determined. 

Yet just last weekend, I received solid proof that both of the twins have inherited a talent for face-painting.  

Friday, 31 October 2014

Are Pumpkins Essential?

Perran and a pumpkin of Yore.
Last year, the family pumpkin had hung around for a week with me muttering “must get round to that…” but not actually getting round to it.   
Finally, Pascoe heroically took up a Sabatier and hacked a toothy grin into the orange lantern, setting it outside with its candle just minutes before dusk fell.
This year, with our children all away at university, I didn’t bother with a pumpkin.  So not only did I not have to carve it, I didn’t have to pretend I enjoyed the pumpkin soup afterwards.
BUT, this evening, as Nigel and I tapped away on our laptops, we could hear outside the shrieks and giggles of children.  
I’d invested in sweets and put them by the front door.  But without the sign of the pumpkin lantern, the giggles passed by our door.  Nobody was knocking.
“How does one lure small children?” I asked Nigel.
“Perhaps a gingerbread house?” he suggested.
As we met eachother’s eye, we decided to stop.  After all, one doesn’t want to sound TOO much like a witch.
Instead, Nigel looked out some dinner party candles and set them ablaze outside.  Within seconds, tiny witches and skeletons had knocked at our door.  Within minutes, the first pack of sweets had gone and we were scratching about for more treats.   

And I was glad – who would want to miss out on so much fun?