Monthly Archives: January 2016

The long and short of it

I found myself gazing wistfully at my daughter last night. I don’t do wistful, generally speaking. I well up at things from time to time (most Wednesday nights whilst watching 24 Hours in A&E, in fact) and I am sentimental now and then. But wistful? Not really.

So, what was she doing? I hear you ask.

Nothing particularly wistfulness-inducing. She was twirling her hair round and round and into a bun on the top of her head. Okaaaaay, I hear you thinking. Nothing particularly special about that. Oh, but there is. You see, she has long hair. And she can twirl it up into a bun on the top of her head.

I feel an explanation is needed.

As a young girl (a few short years ago) I yearned for long hair. But my hair was very, very thin and wispy. After many fruitless attempts at growing it, Mum took me to her hairdresser and they suggested that it might be an idea to cut it short to see if it would thicken up. And oh, how it did. So thick, in fact, that it made it almost impossible to grow it. I managed to grow it once when I was in 6th Form and to keep in line with the fashion at the time (and as my friend was training as a hairdresser and asked if I would be a guinea pig) I had it permed. The result was a very thick, wavy mess. (I had spent four hours with curlers in as that was how long it took for the perming solution to penetrate the thickness). Subsequently, I have always kept my hair short and even at that length it is still unbearably hot in the summer and I feel like ripping it from my scalp. Having said that, I can’t imagine myself with anything other than short hair and I have been quite daring over the years with different styles and colours.

When I was little, I used to pretend I had long hair by putting towels on my head or scarves: anything long and floaty that I could tie to my head would do. I had a Girls World hairstyling head that I LOVED. I was so envious of my friends flowing locks and I was taken back there last night whilst watching A twirling away. I was, and still am, very much in the minority when it came to hair length and there were times when I felt singled out or excluded because of it. Sounds dramatic, but it’s not easy to join in at sleepover makeover sessions when you don’t have hair to “put up” and it does make you an easy target for lesbian jokes, or just downright being mistaken for a boy (and not always from behind). You only have to look at the female role models of the time – Charlie’s Angels; Wonder Woman; female pop-stars of the time, like Madonna – to see that long hair was de rigeur. The only women in music with short hair in the 80’s were in the Human League (OK, and Shirley from Wham! but she doesn’t count) – I liked their music but they weren’t pin up’s. I embraced it more in the 90’s and started getting edgier styles – I once got mistaken for Marcella Detroit from Shakespeare’s Sister; a highlight of my late teens – but through school life it was a bit of a bane. Not only was I tall enough to have to stand in the back row with the boys for school photo’s: I had a matching haircut. I think this had a lot to do with me not wearing very girly things. I have always been happiest in jeans or trousers and had an almost pathological fear of having to attend a formal function that required a dress. Even the prospect of wearing a wedding dress wasn’t a completely happy one.

When she was tiny, I feared that A had inherited the wispy gene as she had a head of Mohican-style fluff. Luckily it grew a bit, flattened and, although it was thin, after a few years in a short bob it was thick enough (but not too thick!) to grow. And grow, and grow. I love watching her twirling it around. I love helping (in my very inept way) to put it up in styles for her and I even have a Pinterest board of hairstyle ideas just for A. She has always wanted long hair and I can’t see her cutting it short any time soon (I have never enforced this, by the way- I loved her cute little bob). I know it’s not PC to encourage your daughter to be girly or to fit into the stereotype that girls should have long hair and wear dresses. But, I am glad that she likes it long and I am glad that she will wear a skirt from time to time and that she likes to get dressed up a bit. It’s taken me until my forties to consider wearing girly things and since turning forty I have bought no less than 4 dresses – up to that point I owned a big fat total of zero – and a few pairs of high heels. My favoured attire will forever be jeans and I will always have the teenaged me in my head saying I look stupid in anything else, but I have got better at shoving a figurative sock in her mouth.

Who knows what my girl will do with her hair in years to come? I won’t stand in her way if she wants to chop it all off (I may weep a few tears into my pillow) but I won’t discourage her from keeping it long. Her lovely, long hair. Twirling it round. Sorry, I’ve gone all wistful again.

 

 

 

Get moving

Following the weight loss of pre-Christmas I have challenged myself to try and maintain it and have realised that I need to move more (not a new realisation, more a little voice in my head that that I have studiously ignored but now it’s being a bit more vocal).

I have a desk job. I’m quite lazy; my hobbies don’t exactly scream “active”….knitting, reading, cooking. Not a great combination for being trim and fit.

However, I have been missing my daily walks to school (as much for the social aspect of seeing Mrs Lovely every day) and have been feeling very sluggish. I thought I had a plan. A plan to go cycling at least once a week with Mrs Lovely. She gave me her work timetable so that we could schedule the days when we were both free. She is already very active and attends a boot camp three mornings a week, work permitting, so we had planned that we would fit a bike ride in on the days that she isn’t busy. Great. Fantastic. I had myself all geared up and we were set to go last week. Weather took a turn to the cold side and icy roads were not very appealing. We decided on a walk instead. Then I felt poorly so we didn’t go. Moved it forward to this week instead. Then the new lady started at work and she goes into the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays – the days that I have traditionally gone in but had planned to change to a Wednesday to accommodate the bike ride – and it seems that my presence is expected. I suspect that she was encouraged to come in on those days as I would be there to lend a hand. Not being a boat-rocker I haven’t voiced my dislike of this arrangement and instead have had to put the bike ride plans firmly on the shelf for the time being.

However, not to be deterred from my new resolution (notice the absence of the word ‘year’ in that sentence? This is not a silly, flash in the pan, going-to-give-up-the-minute-I-start resolution made in the afterglow of a bottle or two of Prosecco) I have dusted off a fitness DVD (one session so far, that has given me very achy calf muscles); been swimming with Mrs F (twice now) doing 30 lengths each time; and upped my general walking in the realisation that I don’t need an excuse, like taking A to school, to leave the house and go for a walk. Genius. I have signed up to the Everyone Active scheme and am logging my five 30 minute active sessions that I have committed to doing each week. I get points for each activity and we all know “points mean prizes”. Actually, I’m not sure they do in this case but I guess I should see the fact that I will hopefully, eventually, get fitter as the true prize. I can’t see me joining Mrs Lovely at boot camp but it’s a start. And maybe I will get such big muscles that I won’t be scared to say I don’t want to come into the office on Tuesdays……

 

 

 

More Options and some concerns..

Last night was the Options Information Evening at T’s school. We had 6 appointments for talks by the subject heads that he is keen to take up for GCSE – 3 that he is very keen on, 2 more for reserve and science (to try and resolve the dilemma*).

In true RPS style the evening was well-organised, slick and on point. We started, punctually, with a speech by the Deputy Head (the head had been detained. I would say unfortunately, but I quite like the Deputy; he’s got a great manner). He made some very sound points; some that I had already had and others that I had not considered: choose the subjects you enjoy and are good at (not one or the other – you may love History but be really crap at it so why put yourself through the stress? N.B. He didn’t actually use the word “crap”. Equally, you may have a real aptitude for German but find it deadly boring. Again, you’re not going to give it your best shot if you’re trying to drum up enthusiasm at every lesson; choose the subjects that you think you might like to do at A’level; don’t do a subject just because your friend/crush/favourite teacher is doing that subject. You may not get that teacher and your friend may be good at it and you’re not. Your crush may not be your crush in 6 months time. Sage advice. He told us that the majority of students get their first choices, but not all. Seven out of one hundred and ninety-two didn’t get their first choices last year. Great hit rate but not great for the seven. So, be certain that your reserves are subjects you really want to do and not just an afterthought. They try and give everyone their first choice but can’t always manage it if it’s oversubscribed or has a timetabling clash. However, they won’t just write it off and give you your reserves, they will have a discussion with student and parents and find the best alternative situation. Quite reassuring, but just like school allocation day, I will be convinced that he will be one of the minority that defies the “it will all be fine” motto until I have it in my hot little hand that he has the subjects he wants.

So, onto the speeches. Fifteen minutes and then straight to the next one. Luckily, they had timetabled them pretty well so we were never more than a stone’s throw away from the next room that we needed to be in. Of course, we were never last to arrive (apart from for Food Tech, but that wasn’t my fault. T and K had wandered off thinking we had the wrong room while I sensibly checked my schedule and found I was right). The speeches were all generally informative. Some were more dynamic than others. Loved the Business Studies teacher. She seemed to be someone that had done some shit jobs in her time and had the experience to be “real” with the students. She’s been there 2 years and has helped to drag the pass rate up from around 50% to over 85% in that time. She did confess (not very repentantly) that she used lots of threats of violence and lunchtime sessions/after-school sessions to get that result. Fair play to her. Some were less impressive. Food Tech seemed to know she was pitching to a tough crowd and confirmed our suspicions that this wasn’t a good reserve choice.

Final session was Science. He was a very serious man (no kidding?) and he made some good points: if you don’t like one of the Science subject then don’t do Separate Science. Why risk a mediocre grade for one GCSE when you can get a better, overall, combined grade for 2? If you don’t feel you want the pressure of extra work then don’t do Separate Sciences. If you don’t want to do a Science at A’level then don’t do Separate Sciences. But there was an underlying message that he believed that going the Combined (Core) Science route was taking the easy way out. Less work, less pressure, less GCSE’s at the end of it. Sounds good to me.

However, as the session progressed it became abundantly clear to me (and, I think, most of those present) that it is not the case at all that it is an easy option. The new GCSE structure (thanks Mr Gove) means that, as for Separate Science, there are 6 exams to be sat for Core Science  – yes SIX – and each one lasts 1.5 hour and….wait for it……no coursework.

For me, this is the biggest concern of all. I can cope with changing from letter grading to numbers (just about, if I have a conversion table). I can cope with combining grades to get an average 5-5/5-4/5-6 for 2 GCSE’s if going the Core Science route (it made sense when he explained it). But no coursework? This is insanity. Sorry if I’m a bit late to the party on this. I think I was being an ostrich up to this point.

I am of the first year GCSE generation. I was in the class of ’88 who first benefited from coursework making up a large percent of our final grade. I would not have passed as many GCSE’s as I did or get the grades I did had it not been for coursework. I know not all students have a problem with exams but I think most (honest) people will be happy to admit that they don’t enjoy them. I could be wrong, but it seems that the whole reason for the shake up of exams that led to the GCSE being devised was the introduction of coursework. Now this is being shaken up again (for the sake of it?) will the class of 2018 suffer for it?  Call me cynical, but I am certain that the class of ’88 did so well so that those that gave birth to the concept of GCSE’s could proclaim it a resounding success. Will the class of 2018 have the same experience or the opposite?

On the whole we found the evening very beneficial. Neither K or I particularly enjoyed our school days (massive understatement) and we are both determined that T (and A) will get the most out of it that he can, by doing what he enjoys doing, to the best of his ability and in spite of the constraints and pressure that this new system will put on him.

Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

 

 

*not a real dilemma, just needing confirmation that he is making the right decision, but all of this feels like a dilemma, like the biggest decision of his life so far.

Walk…and relax

This morning Mrs F and I headed off to Marsworth Reservoir on the way to Tring. After a false start (I went up the wrong road leading out of Markyate) we finally got where we wanted to be. And it was cold. Very cold. But we got our hats and gloves on anyway and had a ramble. The walk took us along the canal path and then round by the reservoir, up a road and back around another reservoir before returning to the car park. Again, we had a few mis-turns and double-backs but an outing with Mrs F wouldn’t be the same without some of those. 

   
 
A cup of tea and a rummage at a local farm shop finished the morning off nicely. Back home I thought about doing some washing, but decided against it. I thought about hoovering, but decided against it. Instead, I did some knitting and watched a film. Very lazy and self-indulgent. But that’s just the way I roll. 

Cinema/theatre

Last night Mrs Lovely and I went to our screening of Jane Eyre at Watford cinema. I hadn’t given too much thought as to how it would work as I didn’t want to be disappointed. I had some reservations when a very chipper lady introduced the play, saying it was a small company of around 10 actors using one set. I couldn’t see how they would possibly be able to convey the atmosphere of the various settings from the book and the numerous character just with ten people and a very basic set – comprising of a walkway and platforms and ladders. 

But it was brilliant. Clever; funny; ingenious use of lighting and simple costumes; the set was anything but basic – it was perfect. They kept to the main text of the book and included as much of the original dialogue as they could. It was wonderful. The screening ran for 3 hours 20 mins with a 20 minute interval. It felt like an hour at the most. I was so swept up in the story (that I know almost line by line by heart) that I almost felt like I was hearing it for the first time, but with the reassurance of knowing I would love it. 

A great night. 

A little MORE conversation…

Like most siblings T & A tend to talk at each other or bicker rather than having conversations about mutually interesting topics. Let’s face it, K and I struggle to have meaningful conversations about mutually interesting topics. But I digress.

Most evening mealtimes (the only time we are all together in one room for a meal) the conversations are a bit one-sided: A telling me something; T telling me something; K telling us about his crap day; me telling them to stop talking over each other.  If A starts talking before T has finished (although he certainly seems to have finished) then all hell breaks loose. That kind of thing. It’s not great. And probably explains why I continue to eat so quickly (a habit I got into when T was a baby and I had to eat my meals in super-fast time before he stated crying again).

But last night, oh my goodness. I felt like I had been transported into another family’s dining room. With another family’s children and husband. (Does Daniel Craig have teens/pre-teens? Not saying K looks anything like Mr Craig but, as I’ve told you before, this is MY blog and I will dream if I want to. Again, I digress).

You see, The Kids were….wait for it……talking TO each other. They were having an actual CONVERSATION. And it lasted for almost the whole mealtime. It was incredible. The allowed each other to speak, they listened to each others opinions and seemed, dare I say it?, interested in what each other had to say…! They were talking about Science lessons and Maths and it was all way over my head but I loved every minute. Perhaps T is growing up? Well, I know he is but maybe he is maturing and not finding his sister quite so irritating? Or maybe A is growing up (again, obviously) and is not being so irritating. I have certainly found her to be quite pleasant this week (early doors, let’s not jump the gun) and not as argumentative as she usually is. (I’ve even heard them having mini-conversations upstairs. Without banging of doors or raised voices/quiet voices calling each other unpleasantries. It’s all a bit odd. Nice, but odd.)

I’m pretty sure that tonight we will return to our usual state and I will be glad when dinner is over (especially as I am going out for my trip to the cinema with Mrs Lovely), but I will cling to the memory of last night and hope that one day it will be the norm.

 

 

Radio

When I’m working at home I tend to listen to the radio for company. We listen to Radio 2 in the office and I  have started putting it on at home as well. There’s a fair bit of music that isn’t to my taste but there’s some old stuff that I like and they actually play some new stuff too (who knew?). The best bit is that there’s a fair bit of chat which makes it feel a bit more like there are other people here. That sounds a bit sad, but even if I don’t really listen to half of it, it’s still quite nice.

Monday was not a good day for me for the radio. When I woke up and checked my emails and then my Twitter feed, I discovered that David Bowie had died. Sad. I couldn’t call myself a Bowie fan; I like some of his older stuff: Ashes to Ashes, Life on Mars, Starman, etc. – mainly because they make me think of the TV programmes with Gene Hunt and Bolly-Knickers – but no, definitely not a ‘fan’. So, to find that the whole country (in the form of my radio) seemed to be Bowie grief-stricken was a bit annoying.

I do understand that music has a big impact on people. I’ve written before about my love for music and how it can make me feel better when I’m having a bad day. I  do have an emotional connection with certain songs and bands/singers. But, I don’t really understand this “grief” that people are expressing at the loss of a singer. He was certainly iconic and changed the face of music during his time. I appreciate that he undoubtedly helped a large number of people feel happier with themselves at a time when it was not acceptable to be different. He will be sadly missed by his fans and contemporaries, but far more so by his family and friends. People that actually knew him. Someone phoned in to one of the radio programmes and said that they had been unable to go to work, so overcome with “grief” that they couldn’t face it. Can you really feel true grief for someone that you have never met, someone you didn’t really know?

Listening to people say that they were as devastated by his death as they were of that of a parent or sibling, was shocking. Music is powerful, and music is something I would hate to live without. But to mourn the loss of a singer as much as a parent seems a little extreme to me. Radio stations were criticised for not playing non-stop Bowie records all day. I thanked the stars that they didn’t. The half hour stretches and constant phone-ins was bad enough.

Yesterday wasn’t much better, but I was interested to hear a discussion with a psychologist about “public grief” and how it is a phenomenon that has become more prevalent in our society in recent years. She cited the outpourings of public grief at the death of Princess Diana as being the start of it all; that we had never before seen such a public response to the death of a ‘celebrity’ (of sorts). The death of Elvis probably elicited a similar response to the death of Bowie but mainly in America (a much more hysterical nation than us Brits ;-)). I do remember my mum being sad that he had died, but not wailing-and-taking-to-her-bed-sad. The psychologist explained that, at a time when we are faced with so many unpleasant events taking place in the world, people welcome an opportunity to be upset and have a good cry. I can see how that can be true – we all have days when all we need is to sit and watch a sad film, to get it out of our system. But to take time off work and talk about “grief” for the death of a celebrity (be they singer, princess, actor or whoever) still seems a bit over the top to me.

Perhaps it’s just me?

Anyway, pleased to say that normal service seems to have been resumed and although we still seem to be having the odd Bowie moment, it’s bearable.