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Archive for July, 2009

On Work

You’ve got to admire bees.  Even the ones who don’t make honey know how to keep busy, don’t they?  I’ve had a couple of very lazy days and if I hadn’t made it to Asda today I think I’d have had a severe case of cabin fever.  Tomorrow, The Bloke allowing, I plan to take a leaf out of the bees’ book and get out there and do something.  It might not be work, but it will be ‘activity’. Watch this space.


“I suppose you think you’re funny…”

I’ve lost count of the times that’s been said to me, but actually, yes, I DO think I’m funny.  I was a borderline swot at junior school and balanced it a bit by being the silly one of the group; not the class clown exactly, but just a bit dafter that your average swot. It was a cover for the fact that I didn’t consider myself to be as clever as my friends, I think.

At home, the “I suppose you think you’re funny” line was trotted out every time I offered a smart retort to my parents; this happened regularly, my parents were strict and words were my only form of rebellion.  Needless to say, I was the only person who was amused by back-chat.

“I refuse to grow up” became a kind of motto and I relished the opportunity to surprise people with my childishness.  It was a mistake in many ways – I’d have got a higher grade in O level Biology if I hadn’t spent 2 years making thumb-print animals instead of following the syllabus with the rest of the class.

As I got older and became interested in boys I continued to be the daft, silly one.  This time, it was compensation for being less pretty, less slim and less confident than my friends.  It worked – there were never any more serious man-droughts for me than there were for my mates.

When I started my teacher training I used silliness to my advantage. I’m not a performer, in fact I’m quite shy really, but I am prepared to show off and soon learned that being a bit over the top in the classroom is a good thing.  My classroom persona is the class clown – it means that kids don’t have to fill that role so mostly, they get on with their work.  If they encourage me and laugh WITH me they’re siding with the enemy, aren’t they? That’s carried me through my career and has rarely caused problems, although on one occasion I was asked to curb my sarcastic comments as some students had complained.

I realise that sometimes my sense of humour is a little bit off the wall, and there are times when people don’t ‘get’ me or think I’m being rude.  I’m not – I just let my tongue run away with me sometimes and say things that only I think are funny.  If you’ve been on the receiving end of that then I apologise – I don’t mean to cause offence. If it’s any consolation I hear that little voice in my head saying “I suppose you think you’re funny…”  Trouble is, I still do.

Two bright sparks on a grey day.

We went to Twycross Zoo today, my nieces and I. We joined the kids from summer school and travelled by coach, which meant that a) we were stuck there in the rain until the designated time and b) we had to sit with 50 other wet, tired and grumpy kids on the way home. The weather was awful – it lashed down all day. Mollie got a nasty bump on the head trying to avoid a puddle and we (well, I) got into a panic when it was time to get on the coach. We’d had to make an emergency toilet stop and we were REALLY late, then I couldn’t find the coach park – the signage is awful at the moment because they’re making some changes. Despite all this, we’ve had a lot of fun. Maria and Mollie can almost always find something to laugh about, and a day’s never completely grey when they’re around.

Sharing the love… of photography

Every year, in about March, our head teacher sends out an email asking who’d like to be involved in Summer School.  Every year, despite the fact that in July the previous year I’ve said ‘never again’, I agree to it. I volunteered for two days this year, and spent yesterday up to my elbows in Mod-Roc as the children prepared the base for the totem poles they’ll design on Thursday.  Today was an altogether cleaner day, as I borrowed a dozen digital cameras, set http://www.picnik.com up on every computer in an ICT suite, and let the kids get creative.  It was fascinating for me to go round with them, exploring the environment of a school I’ve known for eight years, and to discover that we have a rose-bed, some fuchsias in a pot on the playground, a wall which has become a shrine to chewing gum, and a little cluster of Scarlet Pimpernels growing on the athletics field.

The activity proved also that picnik is pre-teen-proof, that kids love being creative, and that digital photography opens up this most fascinating of hobbies up to all age groups.  I will at some point try and share some of the work the children produced  but for today, you’ll have to be satisfied with one of mine and a shot of one of the kids at work.

And this afternoon, I have said to the co-ordinator ‘I probably won’t be involved next year’. Then I’ve come home and started to plan how next July’s sessions might be different from today’s.


Aliment, chow, comestible, eats,  grub, nosh, nutriment, tuck, vittles; call it what you will, I love food.  I love eating – that’s a given, and it’s why I have the wardrobe of three women – there’s fat me, slimmer me, and slightly slimmer me.  There’s never a slim me.  But I also love reading about food, pictures of food, shopping for food, preparing and cooking food, sharing food.

I was brought up in a family where food was used as a treat, as a celebration, for comfort, even for punishment (I can’t think of any other reason why I’d have been made to eat peas.)  I was generally a well behaved child and rarely embarrassed my parents in public, but the one time I did it was about food – the packet of sweets I wanted and wasn’t allowed until I got home.  Even now, I associate certain foods – Heinz tomato soup, for example – with being unwell.  This is my ultimate comfort food.

Many of the anecdotes my family tell relate to food. The elder of my two brothers has always loved Chinese food.  One year – it must have been about his 9th birthday –  what he wanted as a treat was a big Chinese meal.  We rarely went out to eat and all kinds of food were cooked at home, so my parents made a massive banquet of dim sum, sweet and sour chicken, noodles and steamed veg.  There was enough food to feed a family for a week, but the six of us polished off most of it.  However, there were tears before bedtime, as the birthday boy was so upset because he’d left food on his plate – it was so delicious that he wanted to finish it, but he was so full he felt physically sick.

Food was never wasted in our house.  Our mom was the kind who would insist on a plate being cleared.  No matter how much you whined, there was no way pudding was allowed until you’d cleared the main.  Mom was a great cook; she baked fabulous gateaux and cakes, and made the best stew I ever tasted.  Our birthday cakes, like the meals, were homemade, and it surprises me that these days so many children get mass-produced birthday cakes.  A couple of years ago I’d baked a cake for my niece’s birthday party at a Wacky Warehouse <shudder>, and people were amazed that it had been made by a family member.  It wasn’t that flash, or fiddly, or clever, but it didn’t come out of a supermarket box. The kids loved it. I love to bake and regularly take cakes or biscuits to work.  Sharing home baking shows appreciation for what others do for me, and it means the team takes time out over coffee rather than grabbing a cup on the hoof and swigging it between lesson prep and supervising detentions.

Much of the day-to-day cooking at home was done by my dad; he still loves to experiment with different flavours and styles of cookery and we always enjoy eating there. My parents’ attitudes to food have stayed with me, and this has had a negative influence (I can’t leave anything on my plate) and a positive one (I love to cook.) The bloke and I always sit and eat together if we’re both at home; dining, whether it’s in or out, remains a social activity and a time for the building of relationships.


We’ve had some visitors in the garden today.  A little black cat appeared earlier, stalking something.  When I went out and she spotted me she vanished through the hedge, but the creature she was stalking, a little frog, stayed for long enough to have his photo taken.

In looking for a suitable caption for my frog photo I found this anonymous piece of wisdom.  I think this has happened to me –  I have a lot of bad habits.  Yesterday, I wrote about the garden, and my laziness therein.  Today I have another confession.  I don’t like housework either.  I have been in messier, dirtier houses than mine, but there are times when I am ashamed of my untidiness.  I can make the excuse that I’m busy, I work hard, I need to relax, but actually, that’s codswallop.  I’d relax more readily in a clean, tidy, well ordered house.  I’d waste less time hunting for stuff that hadn’t been put away properly, and I’d no longer have the mad dash to clean up when anyone arrived.  So, as soon as I’ve finished this blog entry and uploaded my photos, I’m going to start on the bathroom.  Then I’m going to rationalise my wardrobe and take some stuff to the charity shop.  When that’s done, I’m going to clear out some of the clutter from my office. Today, I’m going to start to nurture some new habits.

Wish me luck – and if you’re the next visitor, please tell me it looks better!

(p.s. if you’re waiting for more stories about Polly Esther Cotton, I am working on it.  I think she’ll be meeting a frog, soon ;))

A Gardening Confession.

I do not like gardening. My paternal grandfather was a talented gardener, and he passed that skill and joy on to my father.  My mother loved her garden and loved to create a beautiful (if eclectic and unusual) environment.  I do not like gardening.  Don’t get me wrong; I love flowers, I love plants, I even relish the pleasure of nurturing a seedling or managing to keep a pot plant alive, but I really, really do not like gardening. I don’t like the back breaking hard work of it, I don’t like the dirty, chipped finger nails, and I don’t like the humidity and heat of the garden on a summer’s day unless I can lie in my sun-hat and read a book while someone makes sure my gin and tonic is topped up.

When we bought our house one of the selling points was the garden.  Ours is a 1930s house, on a Birmingham council estate.  It was built at a time when the powers that be believed that all social housing should have its own green space.  Most of the gardens near us are larger than average and ours is almost on a corner, and is a little larger still.  It didn’t occur to us at the time that it’s too big for one person to cope with. The Bloke works hard at his paid job, so his tiredness and my apathy have resulted in a garden that is, at the best of times, a little overgrown.

We have decided this summer that we’re going to deal with it.  I have helped. I have nodded and made noises of agreement when he’s told me what he’s going to do.  I went and bought a box of grass seed.  I spent about an hour digging over a flower bed which is going to be turned back into lawn.  The Bloke did the other five hours of digging to finish it off, but he  would never have done it without me, right? At some point over the next few weeks he’s going to make me help fill a skip so we can move on to the next part of the garden.  He also needs to build his new shed, mend the broken greenhouse, trim back the shrubs, seed another section of lawn and put some new bedding plants down.  I’ll be glad when it’s finished so he can resume his proper work of topping up my G&T in between mowing the grass and trimming the hedge.  Then, and only then, will I be able to enjoy the garden.

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