Sunday, 29 December 2013

Perran back from university

Before Christmas Nigel asked,
“Can we go out for the day on Saturday?”
“Not sure.  What if Perran arrives home from uni in the middle of the day and we’re not in?”
I rang him.
“I’ll be home at 7, maybe 9.”
“P.m.?”
“Yeah.  Evening. Then is it okay if I go out?  Everybody’ll be home and we’re all going out on the town.”
Hmmm.

“Well,” I said to Nigel, “Although Perran is clearly missing us desperately, he feels that he can just about bear it if we go out for the day.”

Friday, 27 December 2013

Falling Standards

Much has changed chez nous.  The twins have been away for a term and probably, if they thought of home at all, they thought of it carrying on much as before.  However, as I am studying for my PGCE and commuting many miles each day, my focus has not been domestic. 
After a day or two back home Carenza said plaintively “All my friends said that when I got home you would make a fuss of me!”
By my standards, I had made a fuss of her: I had put sheets on her bed and cleared a path through her belongings so that she could get to it.  What more could she want? 
Apparently a cup of tea and a biscuit would have been nice. 
She has clearly become spoilt.


Sunday, 22 December 2013

Last Shout

My friend Diane said, “Christmas doesn’t seem as Christmassy this year.” 
Eventually we worked out that it was because we no longer had the usual school events marking the countdown to December 25th – the seasonal fair and concert and charity fancy dress day hadn’t happened for us.
But last week there was one last shout – the annual school prize-giving. Ex-students returned to pick up their A level /B-tech certificates.   Not all of them were there – not everybody had returned their reply; not everybody was back from university  (including Perran).
But Carenza took us along.  It was lovely to see both old friends and former teachers again.  Hard not to feel nostalgic for us, but for Carenza even more so.  Before we set off, she took a peek at her old head girl badge, then sighed and put it back in its box.  She wouldn’t be wearing it this year. 

“I’m going to have to ask the people on either side of me to hold me down so I don’t get up, grab a bunch of flowers and make a speech,” she said.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Accommodation

It doesn’t seem five minutes since we got Perran sorted out with accommodation for this year, but already he is having to make plans for next year.  He seems to have found a group that he wants to be with, a good selection of different subjects, nationalities and sexes. 
Moving into a rented house will be an exciting time.  By one week in, Perran and his friends wil be beginning to realise the shortcomings of the plumbing.  By two weeks in, the shortcomings of each other.  Calls to the landlord and to us await.

Being Bristol, it will be much more expensive than Pascoe’s accommodation was in Norwich, but there is one thing that is true of both places  - almost before the ink is dry on the latest contract, it’ll be time to make arrangements for the next year.  

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Planning the Holidays

As my PGCE term finishes, I keep thinking about the holiday ahead.  I have three weeks, Nigel and the children at home too for longer or shorter periods, with timings overlapping to a greater or lesser extent.  I keep counting the days ahead like golden coins.  It looks right now as if the stack is tall, but I realise that, in my plans, I have already pre-spent them several times over. 
There are holiday trips to town, country walks, and of course the non-negotiable excursions to see grandparents at the farthest edges of the country.  There are hobbies and reading and watching old films.  There are friends to entertain.  And there’s Christmas cooking and gifts to buy and wrap.
Not to mention reading ahead for our academic courses.

I guess what I need to do most is to scale back my plans and enjoy each day as it comes.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Christmas is where the Heart is.

One of the largest pieces of evidence that the twins have found new families at university is that Christmas at home is not enough for them.  Last Saturday, when we picked Carenza up from her college, there was a wreath on the college door and a Christmas tree in the foyer.  I had thought only shops and families with small children  got their decorations up this early.  But apparently, the students have been celebrating Oxmas, a sort of ersatz pre-Christmas, because it would just be too painful not to celebrate Christmas with your wonderful new friends. 
When we delivered Carenza to spend the weekend at Perran’s flat, later the same day, the kitchen looked festive – the flatmates had pooled resources to buy a fake tree. I was more impressed with what they had done with the multiplicity of advertising flyers which are constantly dumped in student accommodation – they had folded them, then cut them up to make “snowflakes”. 
After the excitement of Christmas with friends, how can we possibly compete at home? 

Perhaps just by being very quiet and very cosy. Does anybody know whether The Great Escape is on the telly this year?

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Commute

I have just finished my first PGCE placement.  It was at Buntingford in the distant north of Hertfordshire.  I had to set off at 7:30 each morning to allow an hour for the commute.  Sometimes that was plenty of time, sometimes, congestion around an accident meant it was a narrow squeak.
Both my favourite and my least favourite section of the journey was the single lane road between Baldock and Buntingford.  It could be magical with dawn’s rosy fingers filtering between autumn gold trees or it could be lethal with clinging fog.  The route felt as if it had been selected by somebody who craved more excitement in their life.  It was a complete switchback of ninety degree bends and blind rises.
I had three driver’s prayers – that I didn’t hit any of the local wildlife; that I didn’t end up with the point where I’d failed to negotiate the corner and slewed off the road marked by a dozen bunches of flowers; that it didn’t snow.
How did I do?

No snow, stayed on the road, even at corners, avoided the deer, avoided the farmer’s dog in the mioddle of the road… hit the pheasant, but it was pretty much a case of kami kazi.  Only regret – the road was too dangerous to stop and pick it up.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Catching the Post


When I was at uni, every so often, I’d ring my mum and once we’d got the tiresome “How are you?” bit out of the way, I’d demand she sent me my warm jumper or my mittens or such like in a parcel.  In those days, the royal mail was cheap, efficient, but brutal, so the parcel normally arrived mummified in brown tape to prevent the escape of its contents. 
I thought that as the mother of new undergraduates I would be sending an assortment of similarly over-wrapped parcels through the post, but times have changed.  Thirty years ago, “stuff” cost more than postage.  Nowadays, however, for the price of posting a small second class parcel, one could buy an entire new wardrobe.
But this week I finally found myself trekking twice to the special post box nearly a mile away which has a nice wide mouth.  Perran needed his proper dance gear for a competition on Saturday, and I also posted Carenza a pair of woolly tights to make her smile.
Of course, I was expecting conventional thank you notes to arrive by post through our own letter box, but what did I get in return?  Just two texts:-
:D
:-)
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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Twin Telepathy

When I spoke to Perran recently, I wanted to know how much he and Carenza were talking to one another now they were at separate universities, and the answer was “Not much”.
I asked Carenza the same question.  She replied – “Well we’re twins, so we have this natural telepathy.”
Hmmmm.
I guess there are lots of other exciting things to do, new people to get to know and old friends to stay in touch with.  Perran and Carenza are close enough to know they won’t lose each other, and they’ll both be back under the same roof at Christmas, after all.
 “How’s that going then, Carenza?  The telepathy?”
“I don’t know: I’m still waiting for a reply.”

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Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sexist Fox Hunt Thwarted

Oxford Student Fashion Shoot
After a traumatic week, the “Fox Hunt” did not take place in Oxford due to a united front by St Hugh’s authorities and student body.  The chaps concerned have now apologised, as no doubt they did when reprimanded in 2008 and 2012.
Before all this blew up, Carenza had also been in a (terribly repectable) fashion shoot for the Oxford Student and that was also published this week.
But Carenza had a much needed change of focus yesterday when Sasoon visited Oxford and took her to see the fabulous Loucin Moskofian, singing with Leeds Uni Big Band - her rendition of Etta James’ At Last was stunning. 
But after an eventful week, there’s no denying that the main thing for Carenza is to get her Monday essay in on time.  Easier if she hadn’t succumbed to a bad bout of the Week Five Flu.  Get well soon love – you’re my hero.

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Thursday, 14 November 2013

A Blow against Misogyny


St Hugh's JCR overwhelmingly supported Carenza's motion to disassociate themselves from the Black Cygnets secret drinking society.
Hooray.
Tellingly, the small but inevitable backlash of bitchy comments on student sites is almost entirely anonymous and based on the dreary, flaccid argument "it's just a bit of fun".
What I really want to know is why my wonderful daughter is still having to face very much the same male chauvinist types that I did a generation earlier at Cambridge - jolly buffoons on the surface, but in reality ruthlessly enforcing a pernicious set of mysoginist values through the inclusion/exclusion techniques of bullying.
Well done, Carenza.
The full story in Cherwell
The Telegraph
Daily Mail

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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Sexist Drinkers Hit on the Wrong Feminist

Invitation to an event designed to flatter pretty female freshers,
then get them drunk and "capture" them.
Carenza is now just in her fifth week at Oxford, but it's never too early to take a stand.
She applied to St Hugh's because she loved its history as a college founded to educate women from non-wealthy backgrounds.
A reprehensible minority has been threatening the college ethos.  Despite having been banned by the college authorities, a secret all-male drinking society continues to operate at St Hugh's.  They call themselves the Black Cygnets, presumably because they're not mature enough to be considered swans.
With support from the responsible majority of undergraduates, both male and female, Carenza has spoken out against them.
Read more: Oxford Student Article on Black Cygnets

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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Visit

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Having visited Perran earlier in half term week, today was Carenza’s turn. 
She is not the only wildlife in her room under the eaves.  As she showed us, there are also spiders and wasps.  But nothing compared to a student we once met as we toured an open day at Hull University.  This girl had been unable to resist the fee offered for opening her room up to visitors, but had failed to take into account the difficulty of keeping secret her pet rabbit, strictly illegal according to Hull rules.
Remembering that it was the wardrobe where that Hull student had stashed her rabbit, I did take a stealthy peek in Carenza’s.
“Why are you looking in my wardrobe, Mum?”
*casually* “Just wanted to see your clothes, dear.”
“They’re the same as before, Mum.”
Note to self: never peek in daughter’s wardrobe while she is actually watching you.

BUT, it was a pleasure to see Carenza snug in a cosy room with a great view across the grounds and to meet some of Carenza’s new friends including Toby, Betsy, Olivia, Taylor and Dave.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Fireworks

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It’s the time of year when we usually play our annual game of Where’s Wally.  To make it more interesting, we do it in the dark.
On a windy hillside.
Next to a lake.
Surrounded by many thousands of people.
All there to watch the huge municipal firework display.
In spite of the fact that vast crowds of spectators are there, milling about in the pitch dark, we have often been amazed to find ourselves standing next to either Perran or Carenza and their group of friends.
Even when we haven’t, Nigel has still made it his business to text them saying “Hi – we can see you!” just to foster a healthy degree of paranoia in our offspring.
This year, we attended the event with Pascoe and friends Dan, Pippa, Graham and Ollie.  But , however much we played “Where’s Wally”, there were no twins to be seen, of course. 
Nigel asked “Shall I send them the ‘We can see you’ text anyway?”

“Oh, go on then.  At least, if they’ve reached the stage of term where they feel a bit homesick, it’ll remind them how good it is to be at university miles and miles away from their parents.”

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Agenda

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I am driving down the M4 with an agenda.
It’s not going to be the kind of meeting where it would be acceptable to lay down a bullet-pointed schedule of items to be covered, but in my head, I definitely have a list.
The main points are:
Nutrition
Finance
IT backups
Transport
Date of Next Meeting.

In fact, the occasion is a visit to Perran in Bristol. 
He meets me from lectures looking handsome and happy; we have a delicious lunch at the Boston Tea Party, a wander round the museum, trawl a few charity shops for vintage clothing (Perran) and Latin books (me), then go back to his flat.
There is only one functioning light bulb in the kitchen.  Perran tells me they’re waiting for the maintenance man, but I secretly wonder if he has carefully removed the bulbs so I can’t see the true state of the kitchen – which actually looks fine by twilight.
We’ve had a lovely afternoon, but it’s time to go.  And the agenda? 

All points covered satisfactorily.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Halloween

2012 Perran carved a potato after I forgot the pumpkin
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Every year, I have bought a large pumpkin and it has magically turned into a lantern.  This year I bought one and left it on the kitchen surface as usual, but nothing happened.  Even a day after Halloween, it still has no grin.
And this year, there was no gaggle of blood-spattered teens congregating at my house to polish up their scars before going on to some zombie social event.  Instead, they will have been plastering white face paint on each other in the comfort of their own student accommodation.
“You look really undead, Perran.”
“Aw, thanks.”
However, as night fell, a new generation of tiny witches did find their way to our door.  Some years we have hardly any visitations and are left sucking the Halloween lollies moodily on our own.  But this year, we had loads.  The sweets were soon used up and we were forced, lamely, to open a pack of biscuits.  Thank goodness they were chocolate and not rich tea – we might have been turned into frogs by our disgusted callers.

Oh well, time to start magically transforming the pumpkin into soup for the weekend.  

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Half Term

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It’s half way through my first PGCE term and we get a week’s holiday, er, I mean, Reading Week. 
To celebrate, I decided to contract a messy cold.  It makes me feel like a real teacher as I understand it’s a bit of a tradition in the profession to stagger up to the holiday in reasonable health, then, just as you relax, so does your immune system. 
I was supposed to be visiting my parents this week, but it turns out they also have a cold so don’t want a visitor.  Although I’m sorry they’re unwell, maybe it was for the best as I was due to set off on my five hour drive first thing on Monday, just when the gale was raging. 
Instead, Monday was like having a snow day but without the inconvenient white stuff.  Nigel couldn’t get to work due lack of trains, so we had a cup of tea in bed, watched the trees thrashing in the wind and played “guess the name of the large object we can hear blowing about on the patio”.
When the storm abated, Nigel went out to check the damage.  He returned saying,
“Clare – it’s utter devastation out there.”
“Oh?”
“Two of my kale plants are now leaning at a slight angle.”

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Skype


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Through my childhood, sci-fi TV series had characters using video phones, but now, for several years video calls have actually been within reach of many of us.  We are living in the future.  So why does it still feel a bit crap? 
I guess, in Star Trek , the dramatist would love the shot of somebody reporting a disaster by video link.  The character’s anguished face made the news about Klingons more dire. 
BUT the handsome chaps on the video screen reporting to their crew were actors, so they were experts at looking engaged and interested.  You never saw them glancing at the time or furtively doing a little word-processing. Unlike the rest of us defective human beings.
I find a conventional audio phone suits my fidgety nature much better.  I am able to indulge in one-handed housework, but try to avoid doing jobs that involve standing on wobbly chairs as I would hate my parents or children to hear my final expletives as I tumble to my death.  It could scar them emotionally. 
But it’s Skype for us at the moment.  Nigel, Pascoe and I line up on the sofa and call Perran or Carenza.  Perhaps if we were better organised we could use two laptops, Skype them both simultaneously and have a conference. 
But even then there would still be the slightly crap anti-climax where we wondered what to talk about, did a little word-processing, checked our watches and picked our noses.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

All dressed up

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The Picasso version of matriculation
Carenza had her matriculation ceremony!
Shouldn’t I have been there?  After all, it was an official rite of passage in my daughter’s young life.  Apparently not.  The word is that she is an adult now.  Parents will be allowed back in a few years’ time for the graduation ceremony, once there is a decent level of separation and they can be trusted not to lick their hankies in order to clean their offspring’s face.
Carenza was obviously able to picture me at home wearing my twin-set and pearls; my court shoes and matching handbag and hat gleaming as I stood by the front door waiting eagerly for my invitation to plop onto the door mat, so she sent us some pictures as compensation.
Perran also appeared all dressed up in the Bristol student newspaper, but didn’t send us the photos.  But I found them anyway!  Ha ha! (Manic laugh.)

Monday, 21 October 2013

Hanging on the Telephone

Hanging on the Telephone
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When I was an undergraduate, my room was next to a landing at the head of a staircase.  On the landing was a rare public payphone.   
The first two times it rang, I answered it and dutifully toddled off to find the person for whom the bell tolled.  The first time, I wasn’t sure who the student in question was and had to make enquiries; the second time, I knew exactly who they were but they seemed to have given their mother the number of the phone furthest from their room, perhaps in the hope that she would give up ringing them.  I walked miles and then they were out.
The third time, and every time thereafter, I ignored the phone as I judged time-consuming phone-answering duties to be incompatible with the serious business of studying for a degree.  Who knows what love affairs ended, what mothers wiped away a lonely tear, as a result of my phone-refusal.
And how glad I am that my own communication with my offspring is not dependent on some hard-hearted undergraduate who is able callously to filter out telephone bells. 
The twins may have Skype switched off and their mobiles set to silent, but sooner or later, a text from me will get through.  And the two keystrokes that it takes for them to draw a smiley will reassure me that all is wellJ

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Thursday, 17 October 2013

Nice Peas

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Sometimes you hear successful figures of today on Desert Island Discs saying
“Yah, in our house, there was always a debate going on, always lively argument round the dinner table.”
This makes me feel inadequate as the main subject of dinner debate chez nous is whether it’s okay to put extra salt on food or not.  However, we do always switch the radio off, thank God for the food, and then the silence is somehow filled with chat, even though I could rarely recount to you what we’d talked about. 
Probably trivial gossip.
The great thing is that Perran, Carenza and Pascoe lead much more interesting lives than our middle-aged bunch. 
“So he dumped her by text?  That’s horrendous.”
“Yeah, and then she put a picture of him picking his nose on Facebook.”
Does anybody remember the Spitting Image portrayal of John and Norma Major as a dull, grey couple eating a monotonous meal?  I picture Nigel and I like this after Pascoe has left for Edinburgh:
“Nice peas, Clare.”
“Yes, Nigel, they’re very green.”
And across the town, our various empty-nest friends will be the same. 
So I guess we’ll be inviting them round more often.  Only trouble is, unlike the offspring, we won’t be able to lock them in the kitchen and force them to do the washing up afterwards.

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Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Pan Fire

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I thought I was doing really well – I have made it to every session of my PGCE course so far, despite a mammoth commute, have handed in my first two assignments on time, have kitted up and seen off two children for university.  The house is a bit of a tip, but heigh-ho. 
In living at home with Nigel, I knew I was going to lose out on university life, but weighed against that are the advantages of retaining family life and links with old friends.
I was doing just this at the church Harvest Supper on Saturday, when in the middle of a speech about African AIDs orphans, I had a mental picture of…SMOKE!
 I realised with a shock that I had left a pan on at home.   I raced back.
I opened the front door on a pall of acrid grey smoke.  I thank God that it wasn’t worse – the house wasn’t actually on fire.
I guess a burning pan is the traditional way for a woman’s unconscious to tell her that she has too much on her plate.  I think I’ve just been told.

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Saturday, 12 October 2013

So What Happened to The Tribbles?

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Just before Carenza left for uni, she made a plethora of pom-poms.  Obviously we feared they would take over the house in the way that Tribbles once invaded the Starship Enterprise, but luckily we were wrong.
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED TO THE POM-POMS
Carenza made them into a rug.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TRIBBLES





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Thursday, 10 October 2013

Bum Dial

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Bum Dial
When friends ask “Has Perran been in touch at all?”
We say “Not much,” then, defensively, “But that’s a good sign – he’d only be ringing us if he was miserable.”
There’s been the odd text, skype, phone call, enough so we know he’s still alive. 
Yet we are content.  The reason?
On Perran’s second day at uni, we were in the kitchen at home each wondering silently how he was getting on.  Then Nigel’s phone rang: it was a call from Perran’s mobile.  Nigel listened for a while, then turned the sound up and beckoned me to come over.  We could hear several voices, amongst them, Perran’s - a group of girls and boys, laughter. 
The conversation was indistinct, but it sounded friendly and happy.  We imagined them in the kitchen of their shared flat.  Clearly Perran’s phone had called us by accident from his pocket.  We smiled at each other and quietly switched the call off.
No deliberate call could have been quite as reassuring as that bum dial.  However much somebody declares “I’m alright!” over-anxious parents can never be sure. 
But hearing that, we could be sure.

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Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Gone

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Gone.
I had to go to PGCE lectures yesterday, which meant that it was Nigel and Pascoe who drove Carenza and all her goods and chattles to Oxford.   I wasn’t there to help her settle in, hang up her clothes, shove stuff under her bed.  And now I have no mental picture of her in her room . 
However, being the parent who does the drop off is not an easy option either.  Almost before you have heaved the last box up the stairs, other freshers are hanging round ready to chat, and you soon feel in the way.  Quickly you deposit that final fatal crate and depart, still doubled-up, to phone your chiropractor for an appointment.
Last night, as I rubbed ointment into Nigel’s lower back, I was, on balance, pleased not to have been the one to deliver Carenza to Oxford. 
Anyway, there’s something about the webcam that always makes a college room look so much larger when you see it on Skype than in real life, so as long as I don’t visit her, as far as I’m concerned, Carenza will be living in a palace.

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Sunday, 6 October 2013

Birthday

“It’s such a perfect day.  I’m glad I spent it with you…”
The mellow sun is low in the sky and Nigel is driving Pascoe, Carenza and myself home from seeing Perran in Bristol while Lou Reed is serenading us from the CD player. 
For my birthday, I like to get the family together, but had thought that it would not be possible this year since everybody is destined to be studying far from home.  But to my delight, we managed it.
Pascoe’s departure for Edinburgh has been delayed until January, Carenza doesn’t set off for Oxford until tomorrow.  So all we had to do was drive all the way to Bristol to be with Perran.  Oh, and celebrate my birthday three days early.
Perran was lucky that one of his flatmates also had parents visiting, so tidying the flat had probably been a joint effort.  It looked very civilised.   However, eagle-eyed Carenza triumphantly pointed out a takeaway pizza box on a shelf in the kitchen.
“That,” said Perran with dignity, “Is the cardboard recycling.”
My best birthday present this year was to see that after only two weeks, Perran is settled and thriving at Bristol.

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Thursday, 3 October 2013

“The trouble with tribbles”

Carenza is still at home.  She missed Perran desperately when he left, and now Sasoon has gone too. She is enjoying a few get-togethers with old friends, but finally she is ready to be on her way. 
She has chosen an interesting way of expressing her feelings.  She began by making a few pom-poms.   Then she created a pom-pom garden and now she has moved on to a pom-pom empire.  She had better leave soon or we shall be over-run by pom-poms.  
As Nigel drives her to university on Monday, pom-poms will hop and bounce along, squeaking and following the car down the road like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn. 

On second thoughts, perhaps I shall try to persuade the pom-poms to stay with me.  They can snuggle up to me on the sofa when I watch telly at night.  They will be company for me.

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Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Jack's Song About Leaving Home




The feeling in the air is that it's time to leave home.  Despite a few nerves, and parents who will miss them, Perran and Carenza's friends are ready to move on, some of them to new places, others simply to new challenges.  Jack Wheater (on the right of the picture) expresses the feeling of his generation - to hear his poignant song, click on the link below.

Jack's Song About Leaving Home

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Disappointments and Solutions

Since I’ve been blogging about the University application process, I guess my assumption has been that universities make themselves as attractive to candidates as possible and vice versa, followed by a dialogue of applications rejections and acceptances, at the end of which a (hopefully) happy marriage occurs.
However, recently a couple of Perran and Carenza’s contemporaries have met with different outcomes and I thought it was worth airing their stories as it is something that this year’s applicants might like to be aware of.
One had been accepted  for a very particular art course with exactly the right slant for her and was looking forward to starting, only to discover that the course had been cancelled due to a shortage of suitable applicants.   I guess the lesson is to be aware that this could happen in the case of a small “niche” course and ask plenty of questions when applying.
The other had won the place she wanted on the course she wanted, but due to some sort of mix-up, failed to secure accommodation. 
Accommodation is a more common problem, but often, if the undergraduate can make temporary arrangements, empty rooms appear soon after the start of term due to others dropping out.  However, it takes quite a nerve to do this, especially if the individual was already apprehensive about leaving home.  Another potential solution I have heard of is to defer until next year when, because the applicant already has a definite place, it may make it possible to apply early for accommodation.
The good news is that both of these resourceful young women have found other courses to attend and I wish them all the best.

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Exhausted Wallet

Before I started my own PGCE course I was preoccupied with fitting Perran and Carenza out for university life.  I was trying to ensure that they had no need to fret about equipment/toiletries/stationery as they struggled with living independently in a strange city, making new friends and launching on their studies.
In fairness we probably got 90% of our crap together.
Since, however, I started my own process of being beat over the head with course information, college information, placement bumph and assignment rubrics, I have rather taken my eye off the ball. 
That was why, on Saturday, Perran, Nigel and I found ourselves in the Bristol branch of Wilkinsons dragging a trolley heaped high with all the things that we had thought would be in Perran’s room already – lamp, chest of drawers, bin; and a few things that we had left  at home – cushions, sheets, air freshener.
We were not alone.  There were hordes of young people in there, each trailing a trolley of bargain household items, each tailed by one or more harrassed parent. 
“Do you think these are all freshers?” I asked Nigel as we stood in the queue to pay.
Meanwhile the father ahead of us got to the front of the queue.  Nigel peered as he took out his money.

“Thin, well-worn wallet,” he remarked, “Definitely the parent of a fresher.”

Monday, 23 September 2013

When Twins Say Goodbye

I have been apart from Perran and Carenza quite often over recent years, although never for more than a week at a time.
They however, have been parted from each other far less often.  They have often been on the same  school trips and holidays.  Over the years, their once-separate friendship groups have converged and the twins have seen something of each other each day both in school and out.
They make each other laugh and are usually completely on each other’s side.
When they were about four, I was working in the kitchen one day when they marched in purposefully together.
With a grave face, Carenza asked me: ”Mummy, what do you call somebody who isn’t a twin?”
The answer was, “A singleton.”
From now until Christmas, they will both be singletons.  I just hope it doesn’t hurt too much.



Thursday, 19 September 2013

Whirlwind


So I had heard that a full-time PGCE course would be tough and immersive, especially as I drive for over an hour to get there every morning.

“Good,” I thought:  not only will I be training for the next stage of my working life, but it will take my mind off the departure of my children for university.

My mind is spinning with ID cards, permits, passwords, wifi keys, library systems, files brimming with pro formas and websites swimming in information.  I have met so many new people, heard so many lectures.  I feel I have lived an entire lifetime and it is only Thursday.

So has it stopped me from moping over my babies as they depart?

Nope – Perran leaves on Saturday, and although I often forget for a whole hour at a time I’m still inclined to be a bit weepy. 

But right this moment, I’d better blow my nose as I have about a thousand pages of notes to stuff into my various folders.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Fresher Fun

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Fresher Fun

Every day, on web sites and in emails, more information is arriving about Freshers’ Week.

“Look at this” says Perran gleefully, “A choice of three club nights every night.”

Carenza consults her documents:

“Hmmm – Library Induction.”

My PGCE Freshers’ Week has already started – I consult my leaflet for today’s event:

“IT Suite - surgery for EduRoam.”

Clearly Carenza and I have been sent the wrong documents.

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Sunday, 15 September 2013

New Diary



A month ago, Carenza bought me a massive new diary.
It makes an ominous thump sound as it hits my desk.  I guess she’s marking the fact that I’m going to be much busier now.  Today is the day that I go along to Homerton College to register and I just don’t know where all the time went.

My desk was supposed to be clear, my filing system as free and airy as if it had just received colonic irrigation.  However, books and papers are still stacked up everywhere.  (I am trying desperately not to resort to the constipation metaphor, but I think it’s in all our minds now.)  In spite of the gigantic size of the diary, I even managed to lose that for a couple of weeks.

About three years ago, Gill and I were removing all the donated (!) junk modelling materials (AKA grade one fire hazard) from beneath the stairs in church, but as we reached the bottom of the pile, Gill pulled her hand out hurriedly – she had grasped a baby hedgehog settling in to hibernate.

I reckon that if I cleared my desk properly, I might very well find a badger, or maybe even a wild boar under that lot.

And the hedgehog?  Carenza and I reared it through the winter and released it in the local woods in Spring.

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Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Last…



I know by now, that as a family grows and evolves, most “last”s pass by unremarked.  It is only a couple of years afterwards that you realise that a particular day in July was not just the last time you took the kids to the swimming pool, but probably the last time you will ever take them.


And so it was last Sunday.  After church, we had a family walk on the rolling chalk-land around Ivinghoe Beacon, a place that we’ve always enjoyed, then picked umpteen pounds of elderberries for wine, then home for tea and cake, followed rather too closely by a decent dinner.  I lit some tea-lights, which means it was special.  A good day.

Also, as it turns out, the last sunday that we will all be together for some months.  This week Pascoe took up an invitation to travel in Eire and by the time he returns, Perran will have been launched on an unsuspecting Bristol – he only this week received his accommodation and arrival details.

I’m glad we didn’t realise at the time that it was our last Sunday as a family – it was better not knowing!

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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

THE LIFE-CYCLE OF A CAMEL

Spent the last two days happily observing really excellent teachers at our local primary school and looking forward to another three to go. 

I can see now why so many writers have a background as a teacher.  As you listen to young children’s ideas, you can at any moment take a sidestep into a parallel universe, one that you could never have dreamt up for yourself. 

Who knew that a camel develops a hump only when it is pregnant, and that it then gives birth to a little camel which may one day in its turn become a teenage camel, then an adult, and then develop its own hump.  Or even, proudly, two!

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Monday, 9 September 2013

Back to School

Summer fun now officially over
 
As all the children lie sleeping, I have got up and got dressed, assembled my packed lunch, packed my satchel. 

Unlike all the others, I’m back to school.

I am attending our local junior school as part of my PGCE, for which lectures etc start in earnest next week.

It feels like stepping back in time, especially as it was at these very tiny tables and desks where I once sat down to help in my children’s classrooms, feeling like the proverbial elephant riding a moped.

I am very familiar with the insides of the tardis-like PTA cupboard.

But this time, I have a grown-up professional reason for being there – I am to observe teaching and regimes and policies within the school in order to learn to become a teacher.

I have a proper notebook for the task.

As I pop it in my bag, I realise – even my exercise book is one of Perran’s old school ones.
 
I hope to report back later on how my first day went.

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Sunday, 8 September 2013

Windows 8

We have used thrift and recycling to avoid much of the expense of equipping our children for university.  Partly because we knew we would have to fork out for laptops – expensive.  Desirable, up-to-date,  lightweight models with plenty of poke seem all to sport the controversial Windows 8 operating system.  If one follows the PC (rather than Apple) route, and doesn’t fancy grappling with more niche systems like Ubunto, Windows 8 is now unavoidable.   I too have bought a new laptop for my course and, last night, asked Pascoe to hold my hand while I tried to get to grips with Windows 8.

The Frequently Asked Questions page, when I found it, summed up my own feelings completely:

FAQ: Where did the desktop gadgets go?

FAQ: Where is Control Panel?

FAQ: Where is Device Manager?

FAQ: Where is Task Manager?

FAQ: Where is Windows Movie Maker?

Where indeed?

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Saturday, 7 September 2013

Have you got your PE Kit?


For the last week I’ve been noticing the roads getting unusually busy around 9am and 4pm and was puzzled as to why this might be.

I was also mystified as to the lack of children in the local park and shopping centre.

Then, yesterday I was out with an old friend (you know who you are) and I discovered the reason.  It was her day off, and my last before I start my PGCE.  We were taking a stroll on the South Bank  when suddenly she went a bit preoccupied and starey. 

“What’s the matter?”

“I left my fourteen-year-old having a lie-in this morning. I’d forgotten the kids have gone back to school.” 

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Friday, 6 September 2013

No Driving Practice


No Driving Practice

For some time now, my life has revolved around little car-based errands.  They fitted in with Perran and Carenza’s need for driving practice.  It was my attempt to make myself feel I was achieving something in spite of the fact that I was spending all my time slumped grumpily in the passenger seat of my Fiesta.  We would drive to the next town to pick up an order from PC world, or to our nearest retail park to solve wardrobe crises at Next or M&S. (Just what should a middle-aged trainee teacher wear? Children can be very cruel, you know.)

Trouble is, the practice driving stopped on Tuesday when both the twins passed their test.  We’ve decided not to pay the exorbitant motor insurance rates as they will soon be off to university.   So no practice is now needed.

My irritating errands, however, have carried on, since I am in the habit of setting them up – getting items delivered next day to a nearby store, for instance, rather than them arriving at our house a week later when I’m out.

However, I need a return to sanity now – back to two wheels rather than four.  This morning I undertook my final errand – to pick up a bicycle basket.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Cheesy photo

After the twins both finally passed their driving test within one hour of one another, I felt cheated that I didn't have the obvious photo of them tossing their L plates in the air.
They must still have been pretty happy about passing because this morning they very kindly obligingly trooped out onto the drive to pose for the photo without blackmail or even bribery.


Take 1

"You forgot to smile, Perran."
"Sorry- got a nasty sore throat."



 
 





Take 2

"Perran was throwing but Carenza wasn't."
 "Sorry."
"Sorry."









Take 3

"Carenza was throwing but Perran wasn't."
 "Actually, Mum, since you and Dad aren't paying our motor insurance, that's probably enough for now."

 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

What the L

When the twins were aged two and potty training, I booked myself some time “working at home”.  A colleague rang me with a query and as I answered her I must have sounded somewhat distracted.  The reason:

Perran had momentarily lost control and weed on the kitchen floor.  He was so frustrated with himself that he began bawling loudly.  Carenza, eager to see what the matter was, came racing round the corner, skidded in the wee and fell flat on her back in the puddle.  She too began to cry at the top of her lungs. 

“What’s that noise?” asked  Dr Edwards on the other end of the phone.

“Nothing.  Er, I really have to go now.”

Then there was potty-training on a trip to Edinburgh Zoo, when Carenza, feeling warm and secure on Daddy’s knee, had a little wee.  It was a bit chilly, but eventually, the breeze dried Nigel’s trouser leg.  Then she got back on his knee and did it again.

And potty training at York Railway Museum.  They each liked to have their own potty, so we felt a bit conspicuous carrying two of them, ill-disguised in plastic bags.

But let me say now that potty training twins was as nothing compared to teaching them to drive. 

So it is with huge relief that I can announce the fact that they both passed their driving tests today.

I wanted to take a cheesy celebration shot of them both but they have each gone out with a friend – for a walk.

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