Saturday, 15 February 2014


Carenza's birthday at uni.
We’ve been restraining our parental instincts in order to give the twins some space at uni.  On their birthday recently, we didn’t invite them home nor did I arrive on either of their doorsteps with cake and candles. 
But on the Friday evening just after their birthday, Carenza turned up at our house.  She had put a few history books in a bag and caught a train home.
We went for a country walk on Saturday morning and spent the afternoon with our books in front of the fire.  Compared with the pressure cooker of college life, dull domesticity  obviously looked attractive to Carenza, just for a weekend.
However, although Carenza was mostly stretched out dozily on the big red sofa, her social faculty was alert and she always had one eye fixed on her texts, tweets and facebook.  Arguably, her mind was still at college, but she had managed to teleport her body home for free food.   But quite soon, her schoolfriend Cara appeared and out they went together, and our nest was empty once more.  

Carenza went back to uni just after Sunday lunch.  We were really pleased she’d come to see us.  Maybe we didn’t need to have bent over backwards to give her space.  Or maybe she felt able to come home BECAUSE we gave her space.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Commute 2

Roman Surveyor planning my commute
a couple of millennia ago
The dull crump of metal on metal accompanied by the crunching sound of plastic and light bulbs is one I’m aiming to avoid. 
My first PGCE placement took me on a serpentine switchback drive through the wilds of North Hertfordshire, on a route punctuated by skid marks and bunches of flowers.
But my second placement to a school just north of London involves a very different commute.  Appropriately for a classics teacher, my route lies along the Roman road of Watling Street.  The advantage is that it is dead straight; the disadvantage is that I can therefore see just how far ahead of me the traffic jam stretches. 
I am no longer fearful of colliding with a deer, but on the other hand,  I have already aroused a certain amount of low-level grumpiness (beeping, flashing, you know…) by nipping into gaps that I thought were big enough for my car, but apparently nobody else did.
Saw my first crash last week (crump, crunch), but am comforted that what we’re looking at here is mainly slow-motion prangs and undramatic shunts.  I’m hoping I’ll escape this, but at least, if I don’t, it’s unlikely to arise in bunches of flowers marking the spot afterwards.
So what did the Romans do for us…..?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014


Perran and Carenza’s nineteenth birthday is approaching fast.  Over Christmas, they thought they might hold a big party to which they could invite loads of friends old and new – AT HOME.
“It’ll be great – everybody can stay over.  What do you think, Mum?”
I can’t think of anything nicer than a party with all Perran and Carenza’s friends and a chance to meet the people who they are spending their time with, but I said no.
They looked puzzled – we’ve always been a bit of a party house, and I’ve never said no before.
Fact is, there are two kinds of party – ones that get bigger than they were meant to be and ones that get smaller.  I really dislike the ones that shrink.
Having cleaned the house upstairs and down and stocked up on crisps and pizzas, the last thing I want is not to be taken up on my hospitality.  In fact, I think that FaceBook ought to have a special sound alert for when guests drop out of a party at the last minute.  Probably a sort of “Wah-wah” noise.
I anticipated that what with assignments, sporting fixtures, university social events and the time and money required to travel to our house, the planned party might have roused initial enthusiasm, then dwindled to nothing.
So I said no. 

And I’m sure that when they are celebrating surrounded by friends at uni, the twins will realise it was a good call.

Saturday, 1 February 2014


We were near Oxford today, but failed to call in on Carenza. 
Oxford’s not much more than an hour from where we live and we have good friends there so it’s on our “flightpath”. 
When I went to university, aged eighteen, the journey took me seven hours, Nigel , around six.  We were secure in the knowledge that our parents would never turn up unexpectedly, and in my case, never at all.  We might have been colonising the moon for all we saw of our families.
We wallowed in what felt like an outrageous degree of independence and freedom.  I rang home once a week, Nigel once a term.   Since we were the eldest, both sets of parents had our younger siblings still at home to fuss over so there was no guilt.  
With Pascoe, Perran and Carenza, I often feel that I would like to see them, but I also know that what they need is time away from us.
So, as we drove past the end of the road where Carenza lives, we both waved, and shouted “Hello Carenza,” but we thought we’d allow her some space.