Saturday, 27 June 2015

Dress stress

It's the Brother in law's funeral this Wednesday, and I had no idea there was so much to organise. Prior to this, the only family funerals I've been involved in were those of my grandparents, and my parents had done everything, including the 'Which pub holds a good wake?' stuff. The Grandparents' funerals had been Christian, and there had been prayers and hymns to choose, whereas the Brother in law's is not religious, and the choice of songs and readings has been incredibly difficult. The Husband comes from a pretty complicated family, and there was a period of about twenty years when he didn't even know where his brother lived, so he's been trying to piece together enough information from friends and colleagues to put together a eulogy. 

Anyway, it's all pretty much sorted now. I just have some shirts to iron and we're ready. Last weekend was spent shopping for smart clothes; The Husband's suit-trousers had mysteriously shrunk around the waistband while they'd been hanging in his wardrobe, so needed replacing; Son Number Two had to have new shoes, as the only time he ever needs smart shoes, he steals his brother's; and I needed a dress. Son Number One was already sorted, as he's the most fashion-conscious and smartest dressed of us all, but he still decided he needed yet another pair of sunglasses and a t-shirt with a picture of New York on the front (not for the funeral, I must add). 

I do not enjoy clothes shopping. I get very impatient and huffy and am rather a 'that'll do' shopper, but decided that, for this occasion, it was no good buying something from the dregs of the sale-rail. I had spent several hours on the internet, looking up 'black dresses' in the hope that I wouldn't even have to enter a real clothes shop, but as I scrolled through the offerings, it dawned on me that no-one seems to make clothes that I like. I flicked through photos of skinny 18-year-olds wearing things under the heading of 'black dresses', but found nothing: 'Slutty, slutty, horrible, too expensive, slutty, oh that's nice - no, it's backless, slutty, vile, seriously - who would wear that? slutty, dammit, I can't find anything'. I couldn't find anything suitable amongst my work clothes either, so there was no alternative but to actually go to real shops. I went on my own, because I didn't think it fair to inflict my impending bad-temper on my loved-ones. Thankfully, I found something without indulging in too much stress or violence. It's a black and white spotty dress, with a black cardigan. It covers my knickers and is not see-through, so has the advantage over the offers on the internet. I also had to buy proper shoes, because you can't wear a classy dress with Doc Martens. Well, you can, but not at a funeral (I will when it becomes a work dress, needless to say).

I now get it when bereaved people say they need to get the funeral over with before they can carry on with their own lives. We, but especially The Husband, have been preparing for this since the Brother in law's terminal cancer was diagnosed back in March. Our Silver Wedding anniversary passed a couple of weeks ago, with an exchange of cards but without the weekend away that we'd promised ourselves. Sons One and Two have celebrated their 21st and 18th birthdays with kind of muted congratulations because we're all funeralled-out. And we don't have a summer holiday to look forward to because we knew all this was imminent and have been unable to book anything. Sorry, that all sounds very self-pitying, but we are all feeling quite shattered by the past year's events. My father's prostate cancer (now thankfully treated) was followed by the Father in law's stroke and eventual death, and now this. I know shit happens, but a break would be nice. I am just extremely thankful for good friends. I've had hugs when things have been tough, good-natured abuse when tears threatened, and bottles of wine brought to the door. On the other hand, some people have obviously not known what to say, and so have totally blanked me instead. Cheers for that. 

So, enough of the self-pity. (I was trying to find another word for 'self-pity' because I've already used it once. Urban dictionary says that 'emo' and 'Arthur Dent' are related words, which reminds me: I've not read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for ages. We should make it compulsory reading in Year 6 because they never get my, 'Here I am, brain the size of a planet...' jokes. So sad. (Me, that is, not them.))

Tomorrow, it's meant to be good weather - a cause of great celebration here in England. The Sons are visiting The Daughter in Cornwall (Am I jealous? You bet.) and The Husband is not playing cricket, so we may actually be able to go out. I'm hoping we can go to Southwold, but I have to plant the thought in The Husband's head and make him think it was his idea. Obviously, he will also have to decide to visit the Adnams brewery shop, too. If I can't have a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, then a pint of Broadside will have to do...

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Stop summoning demons and get on with your maths

It's taken nearly a week for me to cotton on to the lack of pencils in our classroom, but it seems it can all be explained by the craze of Charlie Charlie. I had noticed some children playing about with pencils, but assumed it was the usual stuff they get up to when their attention drifts. Then, a couple of afternoons ago, one Year 6 boy came up to me, white in the face, and told me that he was never coming back to school again 'because the demon thing really works and our classroom is haunted'. 'Okaaaaay,' I replied, and they explained the Charlie Charlie thing to me. Basically, if you're extremely gullible, don't know how gravity works, and have forgotten all you ever learnt about science, you cross two pencils over, ask them questions, and they get possessed by a demon which answers your questions. (I'm thinking this must be a very lesser type of demon. The sort that get relegated to possessing pencils, and will never inspire a 'based on a true story' type of movie.)

As the boy who had got the jitters was one of our more intelligent students, I was a bit startled that he had been so easily taken in, but then an unrelated conversation in the staffroom had an adult confessing that she thought Ouija boards really worked, so what hope was there? Anyway, I thought I'd managed to sort out the boy's fears, when Ms Fab said she'd had to ban the class from playing the Charlie Charlie game yesterday lunch time, as they were all getting a bit silly and she was worried someone might tell the infants about it (like they did with the Bloody Mary game a year or so ago, which made an infant so frightened to go to the bathroom, in case she saw something in the mirror, that we had a furious mother storming into school). As we were having a bit of a 'finishing off / freetime' session, I stopped the class, told them, in the nicest possible way (I hope) to stop being pathetic, and we discussed the science behind the pencil-spinning. 'But a priest was on the news and says it's dangerous,' The Boy Formerly Thought of as Clever told me. I wasn't sure whether to believe that or not but, yes, I've now read it on the internet, so it must be true: a Catholic priest has warned students that they are opening themselves up to demonic activity. Sigh. More science lessons needed. 

(By the way, I am aware that a few of my recent posts may come across as bashing religion. That's not my intent: I have friends with a range of religious beliefs and they're all very nice people. However, people who use their religions as an excuse to be an arse are in for a bashing.)

During our class discussion, a more enlightened boy said exactly what I had wanted to: 'So, basically, we know it's not haunted and the people who carry on doing it are being stupid attention-seekers because it's a load of crap.' 'Yes, exactly,' I told him, and then remembered that I needed to add, 'but please don't use that word at school.' 

And on the subject of weird stuff, we went to see Derren Brown's stage show 'Miracle' in Norwich last week. Amazing, brilliant, and his book Tricks of the Mind explains just how Ouija boards and the like are 'a load of crap' (to quote my favourite student of the moment). 

Monday, 1 June 2015

On books, families and burning in hell

The final assignment has been submitted for my course 'Why is religion controversial?' and I'm rather sad to see it go (I'm sure my tutor will be even more sorry to see it appear in his inbox). It's definitely been my favourite course, tipping Children's Literature off the top spot. It tied in perfectly with our class RE topic of 'Does following a religion make you a better person?' (to which the answer from the whole class was 'Nope') and I can now irritate my family hugely by explaining, at great and unnecessary length, any religion-related item in the news. I'm hoping for a distinction for the assignment, as it means I'll get a first class honours degree instead of a 2:1, but I'm also trying to kid myself that I don't really mind either way. The Open Uni website tells me I should get my results by 17th July. I thought it was June. Damn. An extra month of pretending not to care. 

I've registered for my final course, which starts in October, and is Advanced Creative Writing. There's no reading list, for which The Husband gives thanks as past text books have been rather pricey at times. However, a past student has recommended that I 'read as much, and as widely, as possible before the course starts.' Oh well, if I must. We've just had a week off for half term, so after dashing off my assignment, I got down to the more serious business of catching up with my reading. I've just finished The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, which is a rather odd book which I've had on my 'to be read' shelf since 2001. I've started it half a dozen times, but now was obviously the right time to read it, as I managed to stick with it. It's about a Jesuit mission to a newly discovered inhabited planet (yes, yes, I know), but it was the bit on the blurb: 'They went for the greater glory of God. They meant no harm,' which made me buy it. It's good. In a kind of weird way. Anyway, I'm now reading the sequel, Children of God, having sandwiched the second compendium of The Walking Dead in between the two. 

Family-wise, the Brother in Law is getting worse and can now barely hear, is falling down a lot, and is not expected to live for very much longer. We have disgraced ourselves, in the eyes of The Husband's cousin, by not making this poor man repent of his sins, and have thus, apparently, condemned his soul to burn in the pits of hell for all eternity. I'm afraid this brings out my inner teenager, as I just want to sigh, 'Yeah, right...' and roll my eyes. Religion is controversial, indeed. The Mother in Law (who is, I suppose, proof that hell does exist) has phoned and made it clear that she has little interest in her son's death, and does not want to know when he dies, as she has no intention of attending his funeral. This, in contrast, brings out my inner Jewish Mother, as I want to rush round hugging my children, and tell them that no-one can possibly love them as much as I do. There's no point arguing with the Mother in Law. She is always right, other people don't know what they're talking about, end of. So we don't argue. We just laugh rather wickedly when she's put the phone down.

I don't see any of us going to heaven, personally.