Sunday, 31 January 2016

Trying to stop the havering

I attended a virtual seminar for my masters degree last week. I had no idea there were such things and had to do a hurried Java update in order for it to work, but it was definitely worth 'attending'. I even took part. I typed 'hello' and 'thank you'. Hopefully I'll be up to getting more involved as the next three years go past...

I almost didn't 'attend'. (This on-line stuff gets complicated, in my opinion. It's fine when writing, but including inverted commas in speech needs to become more of a thing than doing that two-fingered rabbit-ears gesture. Trying to explain to The Husband about my attendance at an 'open evening' and how I couldn't cook tea because I needed to 'be there' got a bit silly.) Anyway, I was getting jitters about the whole masters thing. Here I was, planning to spend the next three years and over £5000 on something that I was purely doing for pleasure, and it seemed a tad selfish. And I'll be 50 when I finish my degree for heaven's sake. I'd also be working with some intelligent people, and I know it's not a competition, but I thought I'd be a bit out of my depth. I felt I was probably going to be that student sitting at the back saying they don't get it. Maybe I shouldn't do it? But, on the other hand, if I took part in the seminar, at least I wouldn't have to make tea, so it was worth doing that at least. 

An hour and a half later, I had a reading list and four pages of scribbled notes, which include (I'm reading through them, now) 'Choose your own essay questions!!!!!' which is circled and has stars round it; 'From picture books to graphic novels' underlined twice; 'Pay yearly, phew!' and other such gems. I've also got 'psychoanalysis of illustrations' and 'carnivalesque', neither of which mean a thing to me now, but presumably did at the time. The best things? Debbie Someone said she was a bit rusty at writing essays and a teacher with a 2:2 asked if he'd be out of his depth and was told 'it depends'. My note-taking obviously needs some work. And so I exited virtual reality and entered the real thing (which smelt of fish and chips, as the rest of the family was starving) feeling a bit more positive. The Boss Lady has written me an amazing reference, and I know I'll be graduating Open Uni with a first, so I just need to convince myself that I'm not a total fraud and I'll be fine. Sigh...

Anyway, I know that I'll be a pain to live with if I'm not studying. It seems like the more I learn, the more I realise that I don't actually know very much. Which makes zero sense and shows that I really should be working on my writing. And, do you know what? There's a PhD in Children's Literature. That got my interest (and my bank account sobbing in the corner). The children at school would have to call me 'Doctor'. It's almost worth doing for that reason alone. (Son Number One deliberately ticks the wrong boxes on parcel delivery information - we've had parcels for Reverends, Doctors, Majors and Professors at this address.) And who the heck cares how old I'm going to be when I finish my studies? I'm hopefully going to get old anyway, so I may as well get old with a degree as without one. 

I think the most difficult thing about doing the masters will be having to choose a new name for this blog. 

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year

And another new year begins, as they do. 

It's been a very 'up and down' year, probably like most people's. We've lost two family members, and my daughter and I have been battling our mental health nemeses of anxiety and depression. My dad is struggling with the side effects of the hormone treatment for his prostate cancer, and I have found out that my friend's father is now facing the same treatment. But there have been positives. Despite her anxiety, The Daughter has spent three months travelling the world with her boyfriend, and both of The Sons have introduced wonderful girls into our family. Son Number One is getting on well with his job with the Forestry Commission, and Son Number Two has decided to go to Hull University this September, to study music. 

I've become reacquainted with old friends, gained respect for some people and lost it for others. Hopefully, I've put my life's priorities in better order and am becoming braver in saying what I feel. 

I don't tend to make any resolutions, mainly because I forget what they are by the end of January, but I hope I can stop comparing myself unfavourably to everyone else (and that it takes less than three months for me to remember to write '2016' on the board at school).

Over the years, Neil Gaiman has written his New Year wishes for everyone. They can all be seen here, but I particularly like the one for this year:
'Be kind to yourself in the year ahead. 
Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It's too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand.
Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.'
I hope your new year is a good one.  

Monday, 28 December 2015

Season's Eatings

I'm not very good at organising things for Christmas. We have a cupboard that must be opened with caution, in case there's an avalanche of chocolate boxes and snacky stuff. All that food that I thought I needed to get in for Christmas tea, but everyone was so full after lunch they said, 'Phew, couldn't eat another thing, thank you.' There are now regular calls from someone opening the fridge: 'This should have been eaten three days ago; is it still okay?' If it smells all right, then go for it, I say. But, that cheese looks a bit dodgy and our rabbits are getting so fat on expensive vegetables. I know there are awful statistics on how much gets thrown out per family, and we rarely waste food, so I feel dreadfully guilty at binning anything. 

For the second year running, we went out for our family Christmas dinner. With The Daughter and her boyfriend safely back in Cornwall, my parents came with us to a nearby restaurant, where we had a wonderful lunch and left the washing-up and a large tip to other people. On the way there, Son Number One plugged his iPod into the car speakers and we had to listen to Elvis. He said that's what happens when you're forced to listen to BBC Radio 2 all day at work - you start liking crap music. He played a bit of early Stevie Wonder, and I told him I didn't mind that, as it was Motown. 'No, it's not,' he said. 'It's Stevie Wonder.' To which Son Number 2 (the guitar player) rolled his eyes and sighed. 

For the first time, my uncle declined to join us. Instead, he stayed at home with a ready-meal and the Christmas Downton Abbey special. My parents said he was being a grumpy bugger, but I could see the appeal. Not of Downton Abbey, but of making less fuss and feeling obliged to join the festivities. We don't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday - more of a family one. But not being Christians doesn't mean we can avoid Christmas. I feel a hypocrite for taking part in the celebrations. If anything, I celebrate Yule, but none of us have the option of saying, 'Actually, can I work through Christmas, because it's not my thing?' It's how our holiday calendar is set up and that's that. So if my uncle wants to lock the door and have a normal day, then fine. I've sort of lost respect for the Christmas of today's Western World. If it was purely a proper religious festival, then great, but for too many people, it's now an over-dressed, tarted-up time to have too much stuff. And the commercialism starts in September, for goodness sake. I've seen too many photos on Facebook from people who are saying, 'Hey, look at the big pile of presents I got! Look at how much money people spent on me!' 

I'm going back a bit now, but when I was little, yes, we got together as a family, but even the youngest children got dragged to Midnight Mass by my Grandparents. I remember trying not to fall asleep during the sermon, and being brought back to life every time we had to stand up and sing. Then I would be mightily embarrassed, because I thought everyone would be looking at the little girl standing next to the big Yorkshireman who was singing too loudly. My Grandmother would sing in a very high-pitched voice, which would get my cousins and me giggling and into trouble. Maybe it was because I was younger, but Christmas seemed simpler and more important, even when I was a little six-year-old heathen. There was a Christmas tree in the corner of the kitchen, but that was it, decoration-wise. It's never going to be a religious holiday for me, but I wish it could be quieter and more respectful. 

Anyway, despite me saying that I'm not good at planning things, we have already organised next Christmas. We are going to Cornwall. We've booked a farmhouse, and are going to spend the week with The Daughter and her second family. It's not going to be big and gaudy; it's going to be simple and about the people who are important to us. This plan, as many do, started after a few drinks. We were at my parents' house on Boxing Day evening, and my mum said, 'I wonder what we'll be doing this time next year?' And Son Number One said, 'Well, you know Sis keeps saying about Christmas in Cornwall...' Then my dad said, 'Why not? Let's do it.' (Which is the opposite of what he said when we kind of hinted about it last year.) So, now we're booked up. Daughter's boyfriend's parents have converted some barns on their farm, and we'll be staying in one of them. And even though the alcohol has worn off, we all still want to go. Sorted.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Introverts unite. Quietly.

And so we reach that time of year when we spend too much, eat too much and drink too much, all justified by the phrase, 'Oh well, it's nearly Christmas,' before we get to January and complain that we have no money and need to lose a few kilos. I have actually been Christmas shopping. Twice. The first time, I had a massive list, a bad mood, a bored husband, and all I bought was a chap-stick. Second time around, I managed to buy a few presents, after which The Husband and I decided to reward ourselves with a cup of coffee in town. Unfortunately, we got sidetracked by an advert for afternoon tea in the shop next door. Never mind. It happens. 

The Daughter and her boyfriend get home from their three months of travelling this Monday. From looking at the photos she's been sharing on Facebook, I like the look of Sri Lanka and New Zealand the most. They loved New Zealand, and were very sad to leave, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if they decided to head out that way permanently, some time in the future. 

They'll be staying in these parts for a few days before going back home to Cornwall for Christmas. For the second year, we'll be having Christmas dinner at a pub with my parents. It's a bit pricey, but it means that everyone can enjoy the day without worrying whether the turkey will be ready at the same time as the potatoes, and who will get the rickety chair at the dinner table. And there's no washing-up. 

For the first time, I gave the work's Christmas Do a miss. They were off to the pub in the village, where we go most years and complain about the food. And yet, we still go back. Yesterday, at school, while I was laminating and cutting-out numbers in French, an increasing number of grumpy people stomped up and down the corridor, complaining about going out that evening. I hope they had a good time. I did. I had a glass or two of rather nice red wine and read a book. Not a party game or a Christmas cracker in sight. I honestly think that the older I get, the more unsociable I get, and that's fine until people won't leave me to be antisocial in peace. 'What you need is a really good night out,' I've been told. Nope. What I need is a good malt whisky and the next DVD of Parenthood (the brilliant American six-season box-set, not the Steve Martin film). 

I wouldn't dream of telling someone, 'Look, a night in with a book will do you the world of good.' Go and enjoy your parties, you extroverts, and let me get away from people for a bit. 

I will have plenty of excuses to opt out of gatherings, anyway. I got an email from Roehampton University, offering me a place on their Children's Literature Masters course. It says the offer is conditional, depending on my degree results, but I already know that I've got a first, so I can start planning. Which reminds me: I better get on with that script I have to write for my present course. I'm six pages into it, with another eight to go, plus a commentary on what I've written: 'I chose the medium of radio, so I wouldn't have to think about stage directions or props. And, yes, I have used personal experience in my writing, because the character of Bitchy Mother is based on my Mother-in-law.' 

So, I'm sorry, I won't be able to make that party - I've just got so much work I have to do. 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Just keep swimming...

I have some catching up to do - sorry. In my previous post, I wrote that I'd got an interview for a prison librarian job. That didn't lead to anything; the job was only temporary because of a huge lack of funding and, the thing that actually ruled the job out for me, I'd have to use the phone. Almost anyone with a stammer will tell you that phones are their nemesis. The Husband makes my appointments for me; I have a special arrangement with the Open University which means he can speak on my behalf. It's annoying and I don't know why I'm so bad with phones. I'm okay with family and some of my friends - I have a caller display on my phone, and if it's not someone I'll be fluent with, I just leave it to the answering machine. Technology is kind of on my side - most official things can be dealt with through email; some friends prefer a text to a phone call, but if the phone rings at work, it's no good looking at me to answer it. Or Ms Titian, because she's fairly deaf and wears hearing aids. Once, dire circumstances left us both in charge of the school office, and we were next to useless. All the forms got filled in, and money got counted, but phones? Nah!

So, no prison job. Which is kind of okay, especially as The Husband's friend, who is a warden at said prison, saw his partner beaten up last week by someone who was fuelled up on drugs. The worst I've ever had is a chair thrown at me by one of our past Year 6 students, so maybe I'm better where I am... I have got rid of my library duties, though. For a job that needed two or three hours a week timetabled for it, I was given no time at all, and the piles of unfinished jobs and the feelings of guilt were getting to me. I couldn't manage much overtime to get things done. Actually, that's a lie. I could have managed it, but if this year has taught me anything, it's 'make the most of the time you have with your family.' Sadly, I've also learned some lessons about my friends. When I said I was going to give up the library, most said, 'Good idea - that'll be one less thing to stress about,' but two friends stopped talking to me. When I asked them if they'd be interested in taking it on, they refused to discuss it and I caught the exchange of, 'See, I told you...' looks between them. I think they believed I was giving up something I used to love in a fit of pique. Thankfully, The Boss Lady was on my side and relieved me of the burden immediately. 

Things are getting better at work, I have to admit. Yesterday, I was given a regular Friday afternoon slot in my favourite class. They have a new teacher who I get on really well with, and have known vaguely for years and years, as he's the father of my son's best friend. He's a great person to be sarcastic and irreverent with, so that's a big plus. We also have a new teaching assistant who is an old friend, and that I had forgotten that I loved so much, so things are on the up. I have taken a leaf out of another colleague's book, and have started saying what I think a bit more. Agreeing with people and doing everything I was asked to just got me walked over, I found. 

Anyway, enough complaining. I should be writing a script for my next assignment, but it's not due until January 5th, so I'm thinking I can leave it until the school Christmas holidays and get it done then. Deluded? Maybe. I'm still waiting to hear from Roehampton University about whether I've been accepted on their Masters course. Apparently, when they said I'd hear within the week (3 weeks ago), I'd been sent the wrong automated email. I should hear within 6 weeks. Meanwhile, I've got some reading to catch up on. I've just bought the second in a series by Terry Goodkind - all magic and ridiculousness, but very enjoyable. The new book is 1027 pages long (rubs hands in gleeful anticipation). Unfortunately, I've forgotten what happened in the first book, so I've got to go back and read that again first. And there are 17 books in the series, so this could take some time, and a lot of bookshelf space. 

Better get the coffee on... 

Saturday, 7 November 2015


Being between assignments, I rashly signed up for this year's National Novel-Writing Month. I've wanted to have a go at writing those 50,000 words for a couple of years, but have never found the time. So I created my account on 31st October and have now typed the grand total of 501 words. The stats page on the website says that, at my current rate of writing, I will have completed my 'novel' by October 5th 2017. It started off well. I had the idea of something I wanted to write, but it took me all evening to write 200 words I was happy with. I then decided that, actually, I wasn't happy with them, deleted everything and started again with something totally different. 498 words-plus-a-title later, and I've got a page of rubbish. The NaNoWriMo website says that the idea is just to write, and you'll probably end up with 50,000 words of sub-standard stuff, and that's okay. But that's not how I write. I write a couple of sentences and re-read them, twiddle about with them, delete them and re-write them. I then read through past paragraphs and change bits. I constantly have a thesaurus open on Word and I spend more time editing than writing. I did try to 'just write' and not edit, but found it resulted in mild panic that I may have mistyped something or used the same word in two consecutive sentences. I looked around on the internet for tips on how to manage Editing OCD and found a good blog-post (which, predictably, I now can't find, so can't link to. Sorry.) which said that, actually, it would be of more use to aim to write one amazing paragraph in a month, rather than 50,000 words of crap. (To illustrate my problems, I have just spent ten minutes looking up whether it should be 'aim to write' or 'have the aim of writing' in that last sentence. I tried both, to see which looked the least clunky. I'll probably change it again or decide on something completely different before I publish this. If anyone knows of a self-help group I can join...)

I have just deleted my NaNoWriMo account because I'm fed up with it sitting on my desk-top nagging me. I very nearly cheated, I have to admit. I was tempted to copy and paste a year's worth of blog posts, a few shopping lists and all of my RE assignments, call myself a NaNo-Rebel (i.e. not writing fiction or sticking to the rules in any fashion) and say 'Yes, I did it!' on November 30th. But I didn't. Mainly because I couldn't be bothered. 

So, what to do to fill in all that time that I'm not writing? I should be reading about how to write a script, but...nah. I'm checking my emails a lot. I applied for my Children's Literature Masters last week, and the university replied, saying I'd know within the week whether I'd been accepted. I thought I wouldn't be told until about June or something, so that's an added bit of 'Oh Blimey' I could do without at the moment. I'm expecting the mark for my assignment as well, so I'm wearing out the refresh button on my keyboard. 

To update you on the prison librarian job I've applied for: I've got an interview on Wednesday. I'm hovering between, 'Hey! I've got an interview!!' and, 'Oh bugger, I've got an interview...'. I am wearing people down with my indecisions about my life. Do I actually want another job? Am I being an idiot? What do I want to do? Can I just go home, please? On a school library conference, Ms Fab and I went to a motivational thing by Andy Cope, which was actually really good, as these things so seldom are. He reckons that about 2% of the population are truly happy, and some people are what he called 'Mood Hoovers'. I am aware that, after ticking all the boxes as a two-percenter, I have now turned into a mood hoover and am risking losing friends because I am pissing them off so much with my whinging. The Boss Lady wants to talk to me on Monday. I need to get through a whole meeting with her without crying, which I'm not good at. Not because she's horrible or anything. She's actually been incredibly supportive over the years and wants me to stay in my job and has asked how she can help me. So, what I need to do is go in there, say that I don't feel challenged any more and not just say, 'I'm fine' and burst into tears, because she's probably expecting that. We'll see. 

How do I start doing this?

Friday, 30 October 2015

Secret agents and prison libraries

Nearing the end of the half term holiday, I have used my time kind of constructively. The first creative writing assignment has been sent. We had to choose from 1500 words of prose or a poem of between 30 and 36 lines. Because I wanted to make a good first impression on my tutor, I didn't opt for poetry. I started writing about one thing that kind of changed halfway through and ended up as something totally different. I don't know why my writing does that. It's like I make my start, and the story says, 'No, no, that's not how it goes. Write this instead...' I just need for my tutor to mark and return it and then I've got to use it for my second assignment, turning it into a script. Cue slight hysterics. The guidance says the adaptation should be 15 minutes, with each sheet of A4 averaging one minute of performance time. This, obviously, does not include time that hypothetical actors would be convulsed with laughter at the script, or storming around having dramatic tantrums and saying, 'How the hell are we meant to work with this material?' 

The assignment after that is a critique, the next is a proposal for our final piece, then comes another piece of fiction. I've decided I'm going to write about Special Operations Executive, which was the organisation that sent spies into France and Holland during the Second World War. I've been fascinated by the subject for years, and a load of new information about it is now available, so I've ordered some books. I scribbled the title of one on a piece of paper in front of me: How to be an Agent in Occupied Europe. I then realised the paper was being used as a 'jobs I'm interested in' scribbly sheet I'm compiling. It now looks like I'd like to work with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, as a bookseller at Waterstones, or as a secret agent. It might be worth a try, although life-expectancy is only six weeks and I can't speak French, which is a bit of a hindrance. 

I am job-hunting. A bit more seriously than my past half-hearted efforts. After nearly 14 years in the job, I now find myself back in the role I last had nearly 9 years ago, which is frustrating to say the least, so it may be time to move on. One job stands out for me, and that's as a library assistant. The on-line application form took two and a half hours to fill in, and regularly failed to save what I'd just written, so goodness knows what they've actually received. Applications close on November 1st, so we'll see. Did I say it's at a prison? No? Oh well, we'll kind of gloss over that bit. It's only Category C and the last time someone had a roof-top protest was a couple of months ago, so... Hmmm. Anyway, I like a challenge, and I no longer get that in my present job. It's either a new job or stop caring so much about the one I'm doing at the moment, which I'm not sure I can do. I'll keep you posted. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Chocolate cake and chips

I have spent the afternoon in the reception class and I will never complain about the Year 6s again. Where do these little, bouncy people get all their energy from? 

Many years ago, when I started as a teaching assistant, I worked for two years in the reception class and loved it. I felt fulfilled and enjoyed the company of thirty over-enthusiastic and slightly leaky mini-humans. Truth be told, I found the Year 6s a bit scary, with their noise and back-chat, hanging off each other as they crashed down the corridor. Today, I spent two hours in reception and am in dire need of alcohol. Their welcome was lovely. They all wanted me to sit with them and look at their drawings. I was ordered to read a story about an elephant by a girl who clambered into my lap and helped me with the voices and sound effects (you can't do sound effects and animal stories with the Year 6s). I had to make an order from a girl with a notepad and purple felt-tip. I asked for chocolate cake, and she asked if I'd like chips with it, so I thought, why not? 'You can order anything from my shop,' she announced. 'What else would you like?' I thought that asking for Jake Gyllenhaal would be inappropriate, so I added some ice-cream to my order, and she wandered off to put some sand in a bowl for me. 

Can I have chips with that? Cheers. 

I suppose one good thing about the reception class children is that you can get really silly with them, (although there have been times when I've done that with the Year 6s). A crowd of them started making a Duplo house for me, and I helped by sorting through the bricks. 'Can I have a polar bear in my house?' I asked, finding one in the bottom of the box. 'You can't have a polar bear in your house!' they told me. 'What about a zebra?' 'No!' I was ordered. 'You can have a baby.' I'd rather have had a zebra...

Oh well. It was kind of fun, but exhausting, and I'm thinking about how I've changed from the days when I loved working with four year olds. At least I can remind myself of this afternoon the next time the older children are winding me up. Yes, they may try answering back at times; they may be a bit cheeky and hormonal, but at least they don't sneeze all over the tables. 

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Learning to take criticism

I'm beginning to think that the only time you get new posts on here is when I'm trying to avoid doing other stuff. Today, I'm avoiding the Open University forum. We've been asked by our tutors to post some of our work so other students can tear it to pieces critique it. During my last creative writing course, I managed to avoid posting on the forum completely. Well, I did the 'introduce yourself' bit, then fell silent for a whole year. Others shared their work and had intelligent responses, but I don't take criticism well. My response is usually to think I'm totally awful at something and hurl whatever it is in the bin. For this course, however, we have to critique work - it's one of our assignments. So, when the tutor asked us to submit our work to the forum, I quickly copied and pasted my morning's work, typed 'Please be gentle with me,' and signed off. Now I'm hoping I've not been seen as a swot for being the first to reply. I thought it was easier to be the first, because then I wouldn't already be feeling inadequate after reading other people's clever work.  

Now I've got as far as opening the OU forum page and can see I've got a response, but I don't want to read it. We've been asked to tell each other two things we like about their work and one thing that can be improved, which is exactly what the children at school have to do. So, thinking back to what some children have written on their friends' work, I could put something like: 'You've used interesting words. You used a metaphor. I can't read your handwriting in the second paragraph.' 

I really should read that comment on my work, and stop being so wet. Hang on... Oh hell, there are now four replies... 

Phew. People have been very kind. They've said my description is good and there are no negative comments, only a question on how I'm going to adapt it into a script for the next assignment. And I've been very good and commented on someone else's work. Maybe this won't be so awful after all. 

I'm having to get used to a new keyboard, which is making writing extra tricky at the moment. It has a different slope and the keys are a bit further apart, so a lot of this post has been deleted and re-typed as it's been complete nonsense. My old keyboard had half the letters worn off, which was fine for me because I learnt how to touch-type at school, but it drove The Husband crazy. He is a one-finger typer, and it takes him half an hour to write a short email. The fact that the R was so worn out it looked like an I, and the L was completely missing, used to lead to great bouts of swearing and noisy deleting, so we now have this new keyboard. It's a gaming one, which I got because they're more robust (according to various websites) and I liked the bit at the front that you can rest your wrists on, because I type so much that I've got painful bits on my wrist-bones, or whatever they're called. Of course, the way it can cycle through purple, blue and red lights is rather good, although I do have to switch that off because it's distracting when you're trying to think of un-clich├ęd ways to write about dust motes in the sunshine. Son Number One is predictably scornful about my choice in keyboards, and points out that I only ever play Candy Crush, so why would I possibly need a gaming keyboard? 'Because I want one,' is the childish answer. The same reason that Son Number Two owns about twenty different watches. The same reason that I really wanted a fire-starter, even though I knew I'd never use it (and Son Number Two bought me one for my birthday, because he understands). And the same reason that I'd like a really expensive fountain pen, when a cheap biro will do the same job. 

I'll point out that I didn't want a fire-starter for any sinister reason. I just watch a lot of survival programmes and you never know when the zombie apocalypse will start. I'll be fine, because I now have a fire-starter and a craft-knife in my handbag (which I have to take out when we go to concerts and there are bag-searches, just in case I'm arrested. I only use it for putting up school displays, honestly, but if the apocalypse comes and you need someone to gut rabbits, you know where I am.).

And now, I must go and do some more work on my assignment, now that I know it's not a total load of rubbish. 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Blue doughnuts and choosing quotes

Many, many months ago, The Daughter and her boyfriend came up with the idea of buying a travel-package-type-thing, in which they could tour the world (or part of it, anyway) changing flights as and when they liked, depending on how much they enjoyed being in that particular country. Plans were made, and I didn't have to worry as it was ages away. Except, now, it's last Thursday. They stayed with us for a few days, then The Husband and Son Number One drove them to Heathrow and waved them off.

They're in Dubai now. Daughter and boyfriend, I mean. Tomorrow, they fly to Sri Lanka, then it's Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand (for Christmas), then back to Dubai, before returning to the delights of a shivering and dismal England in early January. I know they'll have a marvelous time. They're going to Buddhist temples and elephant orphanages and tours around New Zealand on a minibus, but I can't stop doing the mum-thing of worrying. Will they forget that they're not allowed to hold hands in the street in Dubai? Will they appear on the news after some elephant-trampling incident? I've seen photos, and they're both still smiling, and neither of them are behind bars; so far, so good. Actually, I have been pathetic (in the eyes of my eldest son) and bought myself a tablet (The computer-type. I'm not on the other sort yet.) just so I can get Instagram and follow their progress. I've seen some pictures of amazing buildings and waterfalls and, strangely, some bright blue and green iced doughnuts, which look as if they'd be banned in the UK for being too much fun and containing too many E-numbers. 

Alarmingly, I got an email from The Daughter this morning, with the heading 'Ur gent' (yes, it was spelt like that). I opened it, wondering if we could afford the bail, and whether I'd be allowed six months off work to argue with UAE lawyers and do BBC news appeals. The email was an advert for a weight-loss programme. I warned The Daughter that she was spamming all of her friends, and then had a quick lie-down while my heart went back to normal. Mind you, too many of those blue doughnuts, and she may be needing the programme herself. 

My mother has just finished jury service. A couple of years short of her 70th birthday, after which she would have been excused, she had to travel by train every day to Ipswich and listen to a rather nasty court case about child pornography. Unfortunately, she came down with a virus which made her lose her voice and cough so much that she had to be escorted out of the court-room and sat down with a drink. She had to miss the final day, during which the defendant absconded, causing a man-hunt which was all over the local news. He was found guilty and captured, but my mother feels rather peeved that she missed all the excitement.  

I have done some OU work. I've replied to my tutor's post on the forum. He asked us to choose a quote we liked, say why we chose it, and discuss its genre. I waited and waited but no-one else replied, so I thought, bugger it - I'll write something and all the intelligent people will then get motivated to rip my ideas to pieces. How to choose just one quote I liked? I ended up cheating, and copied out the whole of the first paragraph from the children's book Tuck Everlasting, about the first week of August hanging at the top of summer, like the highest seat on a Ferris wheel. Predictably, people followed that up with quotes from Jane Austin and the like.  

And now, I'm meant to be doing my assignment, so I must get off here and make some coffee and have a biscuit and read a book. I am justified in doing this: reading extensively makes you a better writer, I've been told. So, reading a Ruth Rendell murder mystery is actually homework.

Think I'll just check Instagram first, though, and make sure I don't have to do any prison-visiting.