Monday, 24 December 2012

Washing the car, and other pointless exercises

It's raining, it's cold, it's Christmas Eve, and my husband is considering washing the car. This must be a man-thing, surely? I have never driven around on a Sunday morning and seen hoards of women cleaning their cars, and yet, there are the men, with buckets, cloths and bottles of Turtle Wax, cleaning an already clean car. 

(Photo: Halfords)


Is it just me, or is it a totally pointless thing to do? I know my lovely Dad would say it stops the car going rusty (by adding water, how does that work?), and I expect he's right somehow, but I live in the middle of the countryside and know that, if I clean my car today, it'll be muddy again tomorrow. Surely, continual washing will just gradually wear away the paint, whereas a coating of grime will protect the car surface from the elements. My friend's daughter has little plants growing on the roof of her car, which, she argues, makes it more environmentally friendly. 

I have stickers of flowers all over my car, which I think distracts viewers from the dirt. They don't see a dirty car, they see sunflowers and bumble bees. My husband and Son Number One hate the flowers. Once, my husband pulled over to have a go at an inconsiderate motorist, but you don't have the same impact when you climb out of a car with pink and purple butterflies on the sides. I love my hippy car. One of the school children asked me if I had been shopping in a nearby town last week. 'Yes,' I said, 'did you see me?' 'No,' he replied, 'but I saw your car in the car park.' Which I thought was rather lovely. (If you feel an urge to Hippify your car, then go to the Hippy Motors website, which helps you to annoy angry motorists with your peaceful calmness and laid-back attitude to driving.)

Anyway, the husband has now decided against washing the car (sensible man) and is watching the football instead. He's taken some training, but he's getting there. He's now less likely to complain about my piles of Important Stuff and actually start one of his own. He accepts that I'd rather read a book than dust things, and if he wants a happy, relatively stress-free wife, then the housework will be done next week. Possibly.

So, it's Christmas tomorrow. Have a wonderful day. Or a great Yuletide, or whatever it is you celebrate. Wishing you, and those you love, a great holiday. Much love. xx

Saturday, 22 December 2012


She made it home. A 10 hour journey by train and bus, carrying a suitcase the size of a small house. Christmas may now begin...

I saw three trains go sailing by...

The daughter is on her way here for Christmas. She left Cornwall in the early hours, and made it as far as Plymouth before the landscape disappeared under water. Trains were cancelled, replacement buses reversed into things, and slowly, slowly, she makes her way here through the rain. 

(Photo: BBC)

And school has finished for the year. Do I cheer, or quietly sob with relief? I was given lots of wine, so soon I'll no longer care. (Have no fear, Dear Daughter, I will leave you a bottle or three...)

We finished the term with a walk to the village church, for our Christmas service. The vicar sees himself as a deeply funny, Bruce Forsyth type character, starting sermons with, 'Nice to see you, to see you...' to which the children just sit silently, staring at him, no doubt thinking he's a complete plonker. Which he is. Sitting in the choir stalls, the oldest juniors, the class teacher and I could hear nothing of the sermon, so we passed the time by picking out the various carved animals in the church. The boys I sat next to kept muttering things to me out of the corners of their mouths. It sounded like Humphrey Bogart telling me about phoenixes and griffins. We even found an elephant. 

On the way back to school, supposedly full of Christian spirit, one girl asked me about the likelihood of her being reincarnated as a fish. I do love working with the older juniors. They're so strange. Actually, I'm thinking of using that conversation in my next creative writing assignment. The short story has been sent (scarlet fever, made as twee-less as possible) and next up is poetry. I'm aiming more for a Michael Rosen feel, rather than Wordsworth. Poetry is also the subject of my children's literature assignment, so I'm hoping they'll help each other on the way to some amazing marks (gives hollow laugh).

And now I must go - there are chocolates to be eaten and facebook updates of the Daughter's progress across the country to be read. If I don't write before, have a wonderful Christmas, and thank you so much for reading this rubbish. 

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

School Christmas Chaos

3 days left at school until the Christmas holidays. It's hard to work with those who are on a continual high (and I'm talking about the staff here). Last night was the annual 'do' at a local pub. Every year, people have a few drinks and get creative. Hacked-off waitresses are left to deal with nativity scenes made of ripped up crackers and drinking straws. One of the TAs does her famous napkin trick (I'm not going into details - the blog gets blocked by Google if I add adult content), and sly photos get taken which are hastily deleted from Facebook.

This lunchtime, it was the children's turn. They sat in the school hall while staff and governors served them their Christmas dinners. It was noisy. Some clever person had bought crackers with whistles inside. Well, that won't happen again - lesson learnt there...So we served them turkey, sausages and veg followed by ice cream. After gravy was spilt, roast potatoes shot across tables, and children stole each others ice cream, we scraped all the veg in the bin and sent the children out for an extra long break-time.

You can guess that our school Christmas tree
 looks nothing like this...

Next was my favourite bit - carols around the Christmas tree. We did the tear-jerkers like Away in a Manger, and Little Donkey. We did the irritatingly happy-clappy ones like Mary Had a Baby. Ms Fab had secretly taught the year 5's and 6's extra words to Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, which looks set to become a new school tradition. Then it was The 12 days of Christmas, which we make ultra complicated by making the girls and boys sing different bits, that they have to stand up and sit down to. The children are brilliant - it's the adults who are rubbish and get dreadfully mixed up. To finish, and to wind the children up nicely before we sent them out to their parents, we did Jingle Bells, with added jingle and shouty bits. 

Over the next couple of days there are class Christmas parties, where the children will 'play games' (argue over who won at Pass the Parcel) and eat (until they're sick). The standard of party dress depends on which class you go in. Reception children are in jeans (boys) and princess dresses (hopefully just the girls). Infants are in jeans (boys) and leggings with Christmas jumpers (girls). Juniors are in jeans (boys and some girls) or tiny skirts (the rest, who get very cold at break-times).

And then we have Friday, when the children get another long dinner-break so the staff can do their 'Secret Santa'. We have to sit in the staff room and, one by one, open our pressies. 'Oh, that's lovely!' we hopefully get to say. I'll let you know if mine is lovely, or if I get another weird hat-thing. Gulp.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A woman's prerogative and all that...

I've changed the name of the blog. Sorry to be a pain, but the old one ('I've changed my mind, can I have my money back?') didn't seem to be relevant to what I'm writing about any more. I do still change my mind a lot, that's not any different, and I do feel sorry for my poor husband having to put up with it all, but the blog seems to have veered into school/Open Uni territory more. By the way, anyone want to buy a treadmill?

I have to admit that, when I was typing out the title to this post, I had to look up the spelling of 'prerogative', and it's just as well I did, as I actually thought it was 'per-rogative'. I've been saying it wrong for the past forty-mumble years. (Time for embarrassed wince.) I know I'm not the only one who does such things, thankfully. When my cousin was little, she couldn't say 'anemone'. (Actually, I'm on my second glass of wine, so I'm having the same problem.) Anyway, to stop her tying her tongue in knots, someone told her they were called Ernies. She was well into her thirties before someone asked her what the hell she was talking about. My husband drives me mad by saying 'pacific' instead of 'specific'. The whole family nag him about it, so I have a suspicion he now does it on purpose. 

Sea Ernies

School-wise, the plays are coming to an end, and infant staff have stopped walking around with that forced, 'I'm fine, just don't ask about angel costumes' look to them. Last minute panics over sheep with snotty colds and why baby Jesus had been left in the PE cupboard have been sorted, and staff are piling into the chocolates that wonderful, understanding parents have left in the staff room. (Mrs Howard, I love you.)

Creative writing-wise, I'm back with the Scarlet Fever outbreak, as I couldn't think of an ending for my bookshop story. I got so fed up with it, I childishly typed: 'Then it burnt down and they all died. The end.' I hated my characters so much, I wanted to send a murderer in there to hack them to pieces, but I only had 2200 words, and I'd have needed that for the way the blood spattered up the wall in interesting arcs. I must make sure I send the correct copy as my assignment, or I may score about 9%.

Friday, 7 December 2012

On failed cooking and being horrible to little children...

I think son-number-one's cooking days are at an end. He found a recipe for chocolate brownies that you make in a mug, and the first couple were okay as he was supervised by the girlfriend. Left to his own devices last night, he decided that one measuring spoon was more or less the same size as another and the result nearly set the microwave on fire. The entire house still smells of burnt chocolate. I think he's now realised that cooking really is a waste of time; something I could have told him years ago. 

The Christmas card deliveries have started at school. I have six cards so far and five variations of my surname, but am glad to be appreciated by the children. 

Spelling Is Hard Greeting Cards

Children of all ages are getting higher every day that we get closer to Christmas, and by the end of next week will be bouncing off the walls. The teaching assistant in the infant class is desperate for valium and hoping that the more fidgety children will be ill on Monday, as it's the Nativity play. I've been told there is one well-behaved Wise Man, but the other two are driving her to distraction. 

I have to admit to being unusually grumpy this afternoon, and berated two 10 year olds for sneakily drawing during lessons and then wandering around with bits of paper. After listening to my short-tempered rant, they quietly told me they'd been making me a surprise Christmas picture. One very sheepish apology later, they handed over a rather lovely drawing of me looking all smiley. No doubt they wanted to snatch it back and rip it to pieces, but, to their credit, they forgave me. 

Now I must go and start writing those 90-something Christmas cards. I even bought some coloured pens specially for the job. I do love all the children really you see...shush...don't tell them...

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Oh, the irony...

I read a great blog yesterday, by Katherine Preston. She'd written a bit about irony, and how it's not the dreadful thing that's painted in this article from the New York Times. I completely agree. You may have noticed that I would not get through the day without a heavy dose of irony. People who take themselves too seriously are not attractive, no matter what they look like. Everyone needs a sense of humour. Working with certain children, I would go mad if I couldn't turn being told to get f***ed  into a joke: "Ok, but do you mind if I finish the lesson first?" makes them look the idiots, not me. 

I did make an idiot of myself yesterday, through trying to do a good deed for Mr Chaos (last time I do that, matey....). Most of the staff stayed late after school to put up Christmas decorations in the corridor and classrooms. Mr Chaos had a set of lights for his classroom tree, and, because there were some bulbs missing, we weren't sure if they'd work. He plugged them in. "Are they working?" he asked. "Yes," I answered, then they went out. "Oh, no, they've stopped...they're back on...oh, hang on..." Ok, so no-one told me they were flashing lights, but now all of facebook knows. Cheers for that...

So now the school is all Christmassy. The post-box is ready outside our classroom for those hundreds of cards being sent in the next couple of weeks. It doesn't matter how many letters of instruction we send home, we'll still get lots of cards that just say "To Joshua," or "To Chloe," on the front, and we'll have to work out which of the several dozen people it's meant for. I will have many interesting variations of my name, no doubt, not helped by the fact that another teaching assistant has a very similar name. We've often taken home each other's cards and had to bring them back the next day, "This must be yours, it says 'Thanks for being lovely,' and I know I haven't been, not to this child..."

Monday, 26 November 2012

And...relax...(until next time).

The assignment has been sent! Cue sigh of relief and Chinese take-away. I was thinking I could give myself some time off, but have just realised I have two new assignments due in early January; one is on children's poetry, and the other is the story that I've not actually done any planning for yet. But before all of that, I really need to read a crappy book. My brain has been frozen by intellectual worthy-ness, and I need to thaw it out with some rubbish. I'm thinking Bridget Jones, or something similar. And then I'll see a mindless but watchable film - School of Rock? When my brain is sufficiently mushy, I'll get back to the studying. 

As for school - it's that time of year again. If someone tells me, yet again, how many sleeps until Christmas, they may not live to see it. We have the infants practising their play, which, admittedly is quite fun, especially when you have to play 'guess the animal' with the children in the front row. A monkey in the stable?? Oh, it's a cow, I see...You always have the child whose mum is a great dressmaker, and who puts everyone else to shame; two shepherds in Power Ranger dressing-gowns, plus one with a tunic, beard, and sandals, complete with lamb.

I must get some Christmas cards. We have a school post-box under the Christmas tree in the hall, and I have to try to remember all the children in the classes I work in. My surname is not an obvious one to spell, and I get many interesting variations, some of which I can't work out what sounding-out method got them there. The cards with additional messages like, 'You're cool,' or 'Thanks for being amazing,' I put in prime position at home. 'See,' I tell my family, 'someone thinks I'm great...'

And I really, really must start buying presents. My husband has hinted that he wants a printer. I can't get my head around presents like that. I want something for me, that I don't have to share with anyone, and that isn't practical. Or books. My friend's husband bought her a hoover once. He lived to tell the tale, but only just. I need to cut out lots of pictures of present ideas and stick them to various surfaces around the house. I'll prime the children, too. 'Ok, you need to say "I overheard Mum saying she's really short of £500 Waterstones vouchers," got that?'

Saturday, 24 November 2012

My brain hurts

I've given up on the assignment-writing for today. I've worked every spare minute for the last three or four days and have ended up with 5000 words of notes for a 2000 word essay. And I'm not even sure if I'm sticking to the question. I'm just pleased that I've already read the set books once, and was able to enjoy them before picking them to pieces and analysing them. Apparently Long John Silver's missing leg is actually a reference to the fear of castration that all little boys suffer. Oh please!!! For the last assignment in the Children's Literature course, we learnt that Little Red Riding Hood is really about sex. Of course. Isn't everything??


I do like to re-read favourite books, but having to read, re-read, skim, and make notes from any book is enough to make me hate them. I'm really not into book-burning, but I'm not sure if Little Women is going to make it to the end of next week...

I'm not looking forward to picking apart Mortal Engines, because that was a brilliant book, and I want to read the rest of the series, but I'm worried that studying Junk will make me actually use the stuff, because I hated that book with a passion. 

Anyway, as I said, I've given up for today. I need another coffee and to sit down and watch some rubbish on tv. I'm a Celebrity is probably sufficient mental-slobbery, but I'll top it up with some Strictly Come Dancing. See you soon, if my brain hasn't melted.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

A Quick Note...

Just a quick one to promote a great site. If you're a facebooker or a blogger, go and take a look at the Blogging page on facebook. It's a very friendly and helpful page run by Hasnain. I'm shamelessly plugging it as he's done me a huge favour and featured my blog on the page. Have a wander over and say hello.

I'm kind of studying...

I'm sitting here in the little computer room (which is actually just the hallway with the front door blocked off), pretending to study. I have a creative writing book open in front of me, a few post-its scattered around, and an Open University tab open on the computer, just in case anyone comes past. I have actually been fairly good today - I've finished looking through Treasure Island for examples of fatherhood, I've got a page of notes, and I've opened a new word document ready. That'll do for today. Tomorrow I may type a few bits and delete them again. I kind of know what I want to write about, which makes a nice change. I also have a better idea for my creative writing assignment. My story about the scarlet fever outbreak in the village has been shelved as being complete twee-rubbish and far too Larkrise to Candleford, so my young village school-teacher can rest easy in that I'm not going to kill her off. My new idea combines:


They're just the pictures that fired off an idea, anyway. Probably to be shelved as rubbish sometime in the near future... 

Advice I've seen is to write what you know, and I did used to work in a bookshop. (I was terrible. I was 18 and hated, hated answering the phones, which got me into no end of trouble. They were probably hugely relieved when I left to move to Norfolk.) That 'write what you know' thing is rather worrying, I think. A friend once lent me a book about a man who killed people and left a dead bird sewn inside them. And then there's American Psycho, which I couldn't actually finish. 

I read somewhere that the books you choose can say a lot about your character. I'm not sure whether I disagree with that or just find it disturbing. For example, I enjoyed Last Exit to Brooklyn; well, 'enjoyed' is probably the wrong word, but you get what I mean. However, I don't really identify with drug dealing prostitutes who end up... well, anyway... I just think my bookshelves say that I'll give most things a go. Not the activities in Last Exit, I hasten to add, I meant books...

As a total contrast, a child at school has just lent me 'Jacky Daydream', by Jacqueline Wilson, which I'm loving. And which I must go and continue reading...

Monday, 12 November 2012

Perks of the season.

Lots of people are complaining about the cold weather, but I love this time of year. I like coming in from work, closing the curtains and shutting the world out. My cotton skirts can stay in the ironing pile for another few months, and I can dig out the cosy jumpers from the back of the wardrobe. All of those thick layers do wonders for hiding my waistline, so bring on the biscuits! Actually, an extra layer of insulation helps during those freezing break times on the playground, so I'll have a hot chocolate too, thank you. There's a nice amount of rubbish on the tv, so I can waste the time I should be studying by watching 'I'm a Celebrity,' or 'Strictly Come Dancing.' So sad, I know...

Oh, if I must...

And then there's Christmas shopping to be done. Well, thought about, anyway. We picked our 'Secret Santas' today. Everyone's name is put in a bag, and whoever's you pick out, you buy a present for. On my first go, I picked my own name, but very stupidly put it back. I could have bought something amazing, costing a vast amount of money, and made myself look valued and well-loved. Instead, I was pathetically honest and picked again; I can kind of imagine a present for this person, so I got off lightly. At least I didn't get one of the male teachers. Buying presents for men is a nightmare, in my opinion. Even choosing something for my husband is difficult. I'm sure he unwraps presents from me with a resigned sigh. The person I can always find something for is me. I wander round town with a budget and I return with a book (for me), some make up (me), a nice scarf (you've guessed it) and a pair of earrings (yes, yes...). I'm sure my husband gets suspicious at how presents bought doesn't equal presents given, but he'd never complain because he hates Christmas shopping and wouldn't want to be landed with it all himself. I just see it as a shopping bonus. 

I hear that it snowed in Somerset recently. We need some snow here - piles of it, so the playing field can be covered in snowmen, igloos and giant snowballs that don't melt until March. Bring it on...

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Sorry, but I don't do 'fun'...

The children had to vote today on how to raise money for 'Children in Need' on 16th November. They were given the options of coming to school in spotty clothes, pyjamas, or general non-uniform plus teddy. I was taking an infant class today (I know, I'm heavily into the wine tonight...) and the first few children I asked decided on the pyjama option. As much as I tried to dissuade them, more added their voices to this choice. 'Seriously?' I asked. 'Really? Are you sure?' Vigorous nods, and we ended up with a 20+ majority. I'm sorry, but I will not wear my pyjamas to school. Partly because I wear holey old Primark pyjama trousers with whatever t-shirts my sons have grown out of, but mainly because it's bound to be the day the rather lovely relief postman is working in the village. I do drive the quarter of a mile to school, but there is a road to cross, in full view of the high school bus. I have a reputation to keep up you know (ha ha, yeah, right... sigh...). Plus, pyjamas are for sleeping in, and I have enough trouble keeping awake during maths.

Actually, it's not the worst idea I've seen - the 'Children in Need' website is encouraging people to 'Go Bear-faced' on 9th November. The theory is that you're sponsored to go without make-up for the day. Now, I was once seen without make-up by one of the school governors on a field trip to Cumbria, and it was an experience neither of us wants to repeat. To expose children to the horror of a dozen members of staff with no make-up would be cruel and uncaring. And anyway, the 9th is a Friday, and I need a double layer of pan-cake by then.

So it looks like it'll be pyjama day, once all the votes have been collected and counted. Mr Chaos said his class all voted for pyjamas, and he's already planning to buy a cow onesie, complete with udder...

I have ten days to convince the children that I wear jeans to bed. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

You're not cooking are you?

Sons One and Two have decided to do some cooking, so if you don't hear from me again, think of me fondly. They're making an apple crumble, and the clean-up bill, as they say on the news after major disasters, will run into the millions. This, I believe, is their first contact with the oven since primary school. My daughter, having moved out a while ago, is rather good at cooking - regularly posting photos on facebook of steak in Stilton sauce, or similar 'Master Chef'-standard dishes. Son Number One's girlfriend is keen for him to get cooking. I see a good example of future planning there. She does keep me on my toes, though, as she's quite happy to help in the kitchen when she's here. I've had to make a hasty dash for the oven and say, 'Oh, let me! You go and sit down - I'll give you a call when it's ready!' For which she thinks I'm super kind and thoughtful, but it's actually so she doesn't open the oven and see the pizza-cheese-encrusted bottom. I will clean it. I know I've been saying that for a year or two, but it will get done...

Well, the apple crumble is out of the oven. All we have to do is open a carton of custard, and that's half of tea sorted. You'll have gathered that real cooking is not my thing. For this I blame my mother, who, when my father tentatively made a joke about home cooking, snapped, 'Okay, I'll just give up work and cook all day, shall I?' I really cannot see the point of spending hours making food that will either disappear in minutes, or be scraped in the bin with cries of, 'Why can't we just have pizza?' A male relative of mine married an amazing cook. We were talking about her once at my parents' house, over the traditional Sunday dinner of Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire puddings and five bottles of wine. My mother whispered, 'She makes her own custard...' and a silence descended as we pondered how you would even do that, let alone want to. Needless to say, she's never really fitted in...

I love this woman...

I'm hoping that my parents live to a good age, because I know I'm not ready to take on the Christmas Dinner responsibilities. The older I get, the more I can see myself as the Christmas Dinner Prince Charles. Mother's not ready to hand things over yet, so it may as well pass straight to my children. I know that instant gravy won't be acceptable, and I can barely time beans and toast to be ready together, so Christmas Dinner would just be a disaster, darling. 

Well, I'm off to the loft. The computer keyboard has a very klunky space-bar and it's irritating enough for me to get off my backside and sort it out. I must do it now before the motivation wears off.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

I Know, I Know...

You'll have realised that the autumn theme has been and gone. That bright orange was making me feel sick, although that may have been all the left-over Halloween sweets I've been eating. I'd bought so much and we only had four callers. Probably because I was sitting in the dark, hoping they'd all go next-door instead. We used to 'do' Halloween, when my children were younger and I was less grumpy, but now I just sigh heavily every time the doorbell goes. Plus, this year, we're playing 'Musical Cats' every day. One cat in the kitchen, one has the run of the house. Merlin can't go outside yet, so there are regular screams of, 'The cat's coming! Shut the ******* door!' If Georgie wants to go out, Merlin has to be distracted, or blood is spilt. So every time someone visits, they're probably mystified by muffled shrieks and slammings of doors, especially as Merlin is determined to get out one way or another.

I have actually done some OU work this weekend. Really, real work. I've got a sort of idea for my next Creative Writing assignment (2200 words of fiction), too. I'll need to check our old school log books on Monday, as I know there was a time in the early 1900s when it was closed during a scarlet fever outbreak, and I need to kill off a character. I'm all heart. 

Anyway, I'm off before the children find the sweet stash...

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Really, really important things...

That's half an hour of very important tinkering done. I decided that having an autumn feel to the blog was far more important than starting 'Treasure Island'. Actually, I have done some OU work this morning - I read some of the study guide over breakfast. That directed me to a chapter in a course book, which pointed me to 'Treasure Island', so there I stopped. To clarify, and so it doesn't look as though I'm totally lazy, I have read the book once, during the summer holidays (and enjoyed it hugely) and I will get my assignment done in time, I promise. I've often panicked, but never submitted my work with just two minutes to go before the cut-off time. It's been at least half an hour. If I was going to be very procrastinational (??) I could watch the four-hour Sky version of 'Treasure Island' and pretend it's helping me study. Shame I haven't got the Muppet film...

Things have gone downhill with the cats. One surprised the other, chased it through the house, and they ended up fighting on sleeping Son-Number-One, who was not happy. It wasn't lunchtime, and he had at least three hours of sleeping still to do. The cats are now banished to separate rooms and sulking, while Son-Number-One is moaning about the lack of antiseptic wipes. Come on, a few scars on the chest could be attractive to the girlfriend, stop complaining. At least you didn't get peed on. 

Well, it's twenty-past coffee time, so time to go. Then I'll do some work. I have started my assignment, by the way; I've underlined all the important bits in the guidance notes, and typed the title out. I've checked my word count, and that's thirteen words already.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

But I Don't Want to...

It's half term, and I promised myself I'd get up to date with my OU work. Which I will do. A bit later. Because it's only Tuesday.

It's Wednesday?? Already??

Hmm. Well, I'm up to speed with re-reading Little Women. Almost. I've got those nice little pointy post-its ready on the table, with a pencil beside them. I've checked the facebook group several times, and have chatted with several other procrastinators. Yes, I'm well aware I have to finish 'Little Women' and 'Treasure Island' by this time next week. And write about depictions of fatherhood. And plan my next Creative Writing assignment (although that's not due in until January, so that can hang fire for a month or so). I'm kidding myself that blogging is Creative Writing preparation. I was going to write 'practice', but can't remember if it's spelt with a 'c' or 's' in this case, and after my previous blog on grammar, I'll skip that bit. Sorry, I know I'm rambling, but I'm only on here because I've run out of lives on Bubble Shooter.

Seriously, I must get on with my work - it's only reading at the moment, and I love reading. Except it's work-reading, not relaxation-reading, which is very different. I have to write in books, for example, which has taken me 18 months of studying to get used to. I feel like I'm going to get shouted at every time I do it, and I can never re-read the books afterwards. I keep all my ex-study books on their own bookshelf, where they can be looked down upon by other, unsullied volumes, who think they're spoilt and slutty.  

Umm...What else can I write about? Oh yes, the cats are kind of getting on. I've not had to wipe blood off the walls for a while, and they've stopped shouting and swearing at each other. They actually touched noses earlier today, without a claw in sight. The water-sprayer has been used a few times, but I have to be careful as the cats both like Son-Number-Two's bedroom to hide in, and that's full of electrical stuff (technical term, there). All of his money for the past few years has gone into guitar bits, and things with lots of wires, so I don't think he'll be best pleased if I blow it all up. 'Sorry, dear, but the cats were fighting...'

I honestly can't think of anything else to write, for which I know you're deeply grateful, so I suppose I'll have to get back to 'Little Women'. I'll just make a quick coffee and steal some biscuits out of the cupboard while no-one's looking.

I have a suspicion there'll be quite a few blog entries this week...

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Chocolate Brownies

I never thought I'd say it, but I don't want to see a piece of chocolate ever again. Well, not for a week or so, anyway. We took the local Brownie pack for a weekend away, meeting other girls and doing various activities, all on a chocolate theme. Ugh...just the smell of chocolate now is enough to make my stomach churn.


I've been helping at Brownies for a couple of years now. I happened to be having a burst of enthusiastic energy at the time, which has long since disappeared; and so volunteered to do a course, give up various evenings and weekends, and wear the most excruciating uniform ever. Actually, scrub that last bit - it's not as bad as the Scout leaders have - at least I can wear jeans. Everything brightened up a bit when Ms Fab decided to join us, too. Mrs Say-It-As-You-Mean-It is in charge, and is pretty great. She tells us when she simply can't be bothered to do anything, which results in Ms Fab and I taking over and trying to corrupt young minds with things from this century. (We also helped the Brownies to make some truly revolting sweets for Mother's Day. Sorry to all mums who received them. Hope you didn't actually eat them...) 

 This badge should be banned...

Ms Fab and I are itching to drag our Brownies out of the 1950s. We want to do interesting and faintly dangerous things. The above badge will be involved: "Have you got a flint, steel, and a home skills badge to set fire to?"  Apparently, for this badge, you have to know how to lay the table, and understand washing and ironing instructions on clothes labels. Excuse my language, but bugger that! Now, I know that ironing is important; I did some a couple of months ago, but seriously?! A badge on housework?? Ms Fab and I are planning to focus on important life skills: how to order a good Chinese takeaway, buy a whole outfit for a fiver, and get a job that will pay you enough money to never do housework again...Suggestions welcome. None involving cookery though, please. Ms Fab and I need lessons on that ourselves.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

I really must learn to say 'No.'

We have a new cat called Merlin. He was adopted from a friend who was moving house, although I'm starting to wonder if that was just the best excuse she could think of. We were doing just fine with Georgie, our black and white cat-rescue, nose-in-the-air little lady, but I'm a sucker for a sob story, so said those fateful words, 'Oh, go on, then...' So far, Merlin has fallen in the washing basket, eaten my son's shoe laces and attacked Georgie at every opportunity. He's the greediest cat we've had, and he's only been here for a week. He climbed in the bin after old chips, hoovered under the chairs for crumbs (saves me a job, though...) and discovered a liking for croutons. When I came home from work today, the kitchen drawers were all open, including the one where we stash the take-away menus. I have a suspicion that, had he found my credit card, he'd have been halfway through a Dominoes pizza.


I'm just hoping that Merlin and Georgie learn to get on together. We're forced to keep them apart at the moment as they scream at each other and retreat only when they have mouthfuls of the opposition's fur. A bad mistake was made two nights into the settling-in process, when we let them share space. Not a wink of sleep was had, and I was left washing cat pee off the wall at four in the morning. It's amazing how much urine a small cat contains. Or doesn't contain, after it's all been frightened out of him.

I'm hoping that peace will reign by the time I next write. Sorry it's been a while, by the way. Two OU assignments and a throat-slittingly enjoyable Brownie camp got in the way. More on that later...

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Fully Booked

Well, I'm getting into the Creative Writing course, and am finding it surprisingly easy. So that could mean either that I'm an undiscovered genius or that I'm doing it wrong. I'm really hoping it's the former, but doubt it very much. I've finished my first assignment, but am hesitating over submitting it just in case it makes my tutor suicidal. 

My other course is Children's Literature. I've read all of the set books (so glad I was forced to read 'Treasure Island' as I love it), and am planning an assignment on fairy tales. Again, it seems a great course, and I'm worried that I understand everything, as it's my first level 3. Perhaps it's just that I've been immersed in books since I was little, so it's all quite enjoyable. I'll keep you up to date with my obviously impending fall into the pits of despair as I realise I'm on completely the wrong track.

I've discovered some rather wonderful books through my OU courses. I'm not including 'Little Women' in this, as the sugar-rush almost made me violently ill. I can't remember being that affected by it as a child, maybe it's to do with being older and more cynical. I can relate, though, to one of the girls spending all of the house-keeping on clothes and getting into trouble with her husband. Been there, done that, and had to return the t-shirt. 

As I mentioned, I've always loved books. I have several thousand; walls are lined with bookshelves, which makes painting a room so much quicker. (You think I move the bookshelves first? Oh, come on...) I've kept a lot of favourites from childhood, so Enid Blyton sits primly next to Stephen King, and Calvin and Hobbes crack jokes with Bill Bryson. Neil Gaiman is a favourite, ever since I committed the sin of buying a book because I liked the cover (if you've not read 'Neverwhere', then why not? Seriously, buy it or steal a copy from a friend). 

I always have a book on the go - I get the jitters if there's a long silence and I don't have reading material to hand. When I go handbag shopping (which my husband won't let me do very often), I have to take a large-format paperback with me, to make sure it'll fit in. I have books in the car, in case I have to wait somewhere, and a book in my work locker, in case maths lessons get boring. I'm ashamed to say that, when having to take my accident-prone children to A & E, my first thought is, 'We're going to be there for hours, what book shall I take?'

As for other people, I have one friend that I'll lend my books to, and that's Ms Fab. I stupidly lent a book to another colleague once. She kept it for six months and returned it with a torn cover; I had to be restrained. She breezed,'Oh, sorry! I don't look after books. I normally read them and throw them away.' I'm trusting Karma to sort that one out. I don't understand anyone who doesn't have books in their house. People who love books are usually pretty nice, although Mr Chaos did point out that doesn't include people who are fanatical about 'Mein Kampf'.

My Dad very generously bought me a Kindle. It holds several dozen free books from Amazon, none of which I'm ever going to read. It also contains copies of all my OU study books, and ditto. I just like books: the feel, the smell, the way they pile up in the corner of the room and save you hoovering. I read a quote once, from Jilly Cooper, who said that her grandmother only ever tidied up when she couldn't reach the bookshelves. She sounds like my kind of lady.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

It Shouldn't be Aloud

Yet another lesson, for the oldest children at school, on grammar. The lesson that we have to repeat several times a year for those who "don't get it". I know I'm going to sound like my grandmother here, but when I was at school, we "got it" because we were smacked over the knuckles with a ruler if we got it wrong. They've taken all the fun out of teaching...

The lesson was how to use there/their/they're, as well as allowed/aloud and so on. I'm not as obsessed as Mr Chaos, the Grammar Nazi, but the misuse of these words really bugs me. I don't mind the odd spelling mistake, and if someone has a problem with words, I'll go with it, but otherwise it's a red pen moment. 

It's probably another sign I'm getting old. We used to laugh at our old Graphics teacher for not shopping somewhere that didn't use apostrophes correctly in their signs (she also refused to let foreign cars into queues), but I find myself doing the same. 'No, we're not buying "strawberry's", let's go somewhere else...' That's another pet hate, and one the children no doubt sarcastically chant along with me: 'Just because it ends in "s", doesn't mean it has an apostrophe...'

No doubt this will now be re-read with an agenda of finding any grammatical mistakes...

See how I'm getting better at my blogging? We have pictures!! This is mainly due to me winning a fight with my internet provider. I now have unlimited downloads (and much smaller bills), something which I intend to grossly misuse.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Importance of Lying to Children.

Today I spent some time with the infants, as I couldn't think of a decent excuse not to. The topic was "social skills - how to introduce yourself", so I began by telling them a bit about myself. When I'd finished, I asked them if there was anything they thought I'd left out, and that they really wanted to know. So we covered what colour my cat was, what pizza I liked best, and if I watched "SpongeBob". "How old are you?" someone piped up. Now, I'm intensely irritated by people who think that's a rude question. Children are only too happy to come and tell you, "Guess what? I'm seven," and I have a feeling the only reason some adults object to the question is that they're ashamed of being old. I like getting older - it's a great excuse for not doing things. No, I'm not going to run round the football pitch, I'm far too old - I'll watch you. Watching "Glee"? Oooh, no, I'm much too old for that...So I told the children my age. There was a long silence, broken by a stage whisper of, "That's really old," from a boy at the back. Now, a couple of years ago, I passed the age at which life begins, so I think that was rather unfair. 

Relating the above incident to Ms Fab, she told me that an infant called her over at lunch time to say, in a dramatic voice, "Did you know, that when you get old, you die?" Ms Fab wasn't sure if this was just to be taken as general information, or whether she needs to book plastic surgery (Ms Fab is a great deal younger than me).

We've found that children are great at making you feel terrible. Over the past few years, I've been asked:
Did you ever meet Queen Victoria?
Did you fight in World War Two, or did you have to be a nurse because you're a girl?
What did you do before electricity?
And, my absolute favourite: What was life like in black and white? 

I wish we could return the favour of being brutally honest without getting the sack. There are so many things I'm saving up for my last day at work...

Saturday, 8 September 2012


Shhh...I'm not really here....

I'm meant to be writing a 3000 word essay on ethics, but got bored. 600 words in, I found myself writing complete rubbish that bore no relation to the question, so I think it's best if I take a break, eat the contents of the biscuit tin, and carry on later. Or tomorrow. Heck, it doesn't have to be in for another week or so...It's a course with the cheerful title of "Death and Dying", and was another expensive mistake. I started full of enthusiasm (I like ethic-y things, and think dying's interesting. I may consider doing it myself one day), but my tutor is allergic to being helpful and I'm fed up with reading about hospital policies. Anyway, I've got two new courses starting soon, which look much more interesting. 

I'm doing Open University just for me. School days were most certainly not the best days of my life (were they for anyone??), so I'm dabbling in courses now. People ask if I'm doing it so I can go into teaching. Seriously?? Like there aren't enough messed-up children around already.

So what did we do in the two days the children were at school this week? (The children and I were all in agreement that two days at school and five off would make a pretty good week.) Well, we had School Council elections. We didn't have to rig it this year, as Ms Fab's daughter won the chairmanship, and she's pretty nice. The secretary's a good one, too. At least I can read her writing. 

And the sun's out, now that the holidays are over - that always helps to put the staff in a good mood. Indoor breaks are terrible for making tempers flare. You can hear the teachers' symphony of yelling all the way down the corridor. Playground duty is bearable when the sun is shining. Yesterday, the infants decided to play "wheelchair basketball without the wheelchairs", as Paralympic fever still rages. The new children are getting used to our apathetic response of "Oh, you'll be fine, give it a rub," every time they fall over. See, that's another problem with the little ones: they don't stand up very well, and I'm only equipped with a certain amount of sympathy. At least the juniors only fall down when the footballers are on the rampage. But then they go to high school, discover alcohol, and turn into infants again.

We've not had many children on the isolation table, and I've not been sworn at yet. There's time, I know, they're still finding their feet in a new class, bless their hearts.

I really must go back to that essay. Although I've not checked my e-mails yet.  And I'll just have a quick five minutes on Bubble Shooter (ha ha, "a quick five minutes", I like that!). See you later, I've got so much procrastinating to do...

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Dream Team

Tomorrow, the school opens its doors to the children again. Two staff training days have resulted in a lack of tea bags, three large, family-sized cakes being eaten, and a few labels being stuck on books. Mr Chaos started to panic that he'd not actually planned any lessons, but, instead, decided to completely empty all of the classroom cupboards to "clean them out". Then he went home early, leaving his TA to quietly have a nervous breakdown. I don't think he's "tidied" his classroom since our last inspection. To clear some space, he simply carried the mountain of paperwork from his desk to his car boot, where I think it still sits, slowly disintegrating. 

After our official training on fire safety (don't use water on an electric fire, don't freeze your fingers off on a CO2 extinguisher, you can't use children to smother flames), Ms Fab and I were given the task of covering the display board in the hall. A simple and quick job, normally, but this time we were asked to unscrew the board from the (newly painted) wall, wrap it in blue fabric and screw it back up. Well, we screwed it up okay. Suffice to say that a large chunk of plaster is now missing from the hall wall, but that's all right, as we hastily put the board back up before anyone noticed. Telling the Boss Lady that it couldn't be done her way, we covered it in the conventional way, and made a quick exit. It should stay on the wall, I think, even though some of the rawlplugs fell out. If it comes down, it'll only land on an infant, and we've got far too many of those.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Back to Work

Today marks the end of the summer holidays in this part of the world, so tomorrow it's back to work...and before those thoughts enter your head about how lucky I am, being paid to sit on my backside all summer, I'll point out that I'm not a teacher, just a lowly teaching assistant. So, although I've spent six weeks doing virtually nothing, I've not been paid for the privilege (and quite rightly, too, in my opinion).

My workplace is a little school, where I'm usually found arguing with the older children. I'm not a fan of the infants - too much leakage and whining, although I will work with them if sufficiently bribed. As far as colleagues go, I'm pretty lucky; there are no staff-room rows, just occasional huffiness which is easily smoothed over by offers of cake. 

From Up North, Ms Fab is my little island of sanity. Fellow TA, lover of all things pink and sparkly, she endures my rants, likes the same children that I do, and makes a good, strong cup of coffee. She often works in the same class as me. The class ranges from the unbelievable angels, who desperately need to liven-up their lives by being occasionally naughty, to the, umm, more difficult ones. We'll work on that; Ms Fab and I are great believers in there being a decent child in them all. Somewhere. 

Mr Chaos has the classroom next to us. One of my favourite members of staff, he brings a comfortable untidiness to the place. Mrs Opinionated can't set foot in his room, it makes her OCD itch.

So it's staff training tomorrow and Wednesday. No doubt tomorrow will be spent eating biscuits, drinking coffee, and dreading the morning the children actually arrive. 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Under Pressure

I have to admit, this has started as a "Sigh, do I have to?" thing. I study with the Open University, and in a brief moment of enthusiasm, signed up for a creative writing course. (Enthusiasm is something I do rather well, but it doesn't last. I go from "Hey, look at this! I must do it!" to "I'm so bored," in the space of a month. It's been an expensive habit, but more of that another time.)

I joined a facebook group for the writing course - I always join course groups, they're a great way of procrastinating away the days before an assignment's due - and it seems that everyone's blogging. I ignored the superior "I've only had three books published," blogs. I puzzled my way round the weird erotic poetry ones (You did what? And made it rhyme??). I've resisted blogging until now. My daughter phoned the other day (early 20's, lives in Cornwall), and told me she's started a blog. Not for the eyes of anyone she knows, though. (Oh God, what's she written about me??) So here I am, childishly not wanting to be outdone. 

I'm hoping it will improve as I go along. I may enlist the help of my colleague, the Grammar Nazi, if things get unreadable. 

Future posts (if I can remember my password) may introduce you to people I work with, including the, ahem, delightful children in the school. And then there's my family, who are great. No, really, they are. Although I do have an Uncle Colin....but I think we've all got one of those...