Category Archives: family life

Study leave

I was dreading T beginning his study leave last Thursday. When I sat my GCSE’s I hated study leave. I hated being responsible for my own revision, spending more time devising a timetable – all nicely colour co-coded, surprise, surprise! – than I spent on my actual revision. I lived too far out of town to meet up with friends very often and we were not supposed to go out anyway (although, of course, most students did). It was a tricky time and I envisaged much the same for T.

However, T’s school have, I think, got this sussed. They have laid on a timetable of revision sessions and have set aside study rooms for students to make use of as they will. I fully expected T to dismiss this idea out of hand, preferring to study at home, wanting to be picked up at random times of the day and the whole thing becoming a logistical nightmare.

I had been imaging him sitting up at his desk in his room, not focusing, struggling with the distractions of social media, wanting to go out, not knowing if he was achieving anything.

He has surprised me and has opted to go in for revision sessions, even on some days when he doesn’t have an exam. I’ve typed up a schedule so he knows what is available to him and when, and so we all know when he is in school and not. I am working in the office so much more now, that it would be almost impossible to know if he was actually revising if left home alone all day.

He’s had two exams so far, and has been at school for a full day each day, going to revision sessions and study rooms (these are supervised) and he has felt that each exam has gone better than he expected, so far.

It’s early days and I expect there will be days when he has had enough of it all. We’ve spoken about the importance of down time and because he’s getting a lot done at school I don’t feel I need to nag him too much when he gets home. He’s pretty good at not being stressed and he seems ok. He’s promised to tell me if he needs help (to the best of my ability, I will try!) and we will take each day as it comes.

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Extensions and Paths

I haven’t written a blog post since the 22nd March. I’m not really sure why; it wasn’t a conscious decision, I just haven’t.

So, what’s been going on? Quite a bit, actually. The extension is well under way and I’ve coped remarkably well, considering. Considering my OCD tendancies. Considering we have stuff all over the place –  at least, not where it’s meant to be. Considering there have been various strangers working outside and, more recently, inside the house for the last 2 months. Considering the dining room, garden and garage have been off limits for the last month. We are eating our meals off of trays on our laps in the living room – which, I know, is normal for a lot of homes and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, it’s just that we have always eaten dinner at the table. On the rare occasion that I have been working from home (it’s been preferable to be in the office, away from the noise and the strangers and the stuff everywhere) I’ve been confined to the living room, and feel reluctant to even go into the kitchen. I have been drying washing on a clothes-airer in the living room (just realised how appropriately named it is, as we have basically been living in there since the knock through) apart from a couple of trips to mum’s with the bedding, to dry it on her line. In the grand scheme of things we’re not exactly suffering, it’s just not normal and I like normality.

In the midst of all the abnormality, T has been revising for his GCSE’s, which begin on Monday 14th. He officially leaves school tomorrow. I cannot believe that my boy is old enough to be at the stage of his life already. We’re entering a new phase and, like all milestones, it feels massive. He’s having to think about his future in terms of what he wants to do after his exams, which inevitably leads to thoughts about what he wants to do post-18, what he wants to do with his life. At 15 it seems a bit too much. And, of course, what he decides now doesn’t set anything in stone but it does dictate a path of sorts, albeit a path which can change direction. Trying to advise him on the best course to take is really hard. He has always wanted to be a police officer, since he first knew what one is. He asked for a police uniform for his third birthday and he hasn’t wavered since. Being a Cadet has fuelled his interest and it’s now a case of which is the best path to take to get him there. He has enrolled on a Public Services course at a local college, to start in September. The course is aimed at anyone wanting to join any of the forces, but also looks at social services and other public servant roles. A number of the older cadets in his group are already studying on this course and it seems to be a fairly recognised way of starting on the journey to becoming a police officer. My concerns, which I have shared with T, is that this is only going to take him one way. If, for any reason (medical, change of recruitment policy, for starters) he is not able to join the force, he has to start again down another path. At 19 he will have less (free) options open to him. He has also applied for Sixth Form at the school he currently attends, signing up for Business Studies and ICT BTEC’s. We are also going to look at signing him up for these at college. In my heart of hearts I am torn: I stayed on for Sixth Form and a big part of me wishes that I had stuck to my guns and gone on to college. I didn’t get particularly good grades in my A levels and had no interest in going on to Uni. I don’t want my negative feelings about Sixth Form, and the pressure I was put under to continue my education, to impact on how I advise T. I want him to do what he wants to do but, like most parents, I want him to be happy and to choose the best path, the one that leads to his dream job, his dream life. He is so lucky to know what he wants to do and I want to help him to be able to do it. But, I also want him to have as many options as possible so that he doesn’t have to rethink and redo and take steps backwards if something should get in his way.

I am feeling nervous for him, but excited too. He has all this potential and, depending on the grade he gets in his exams, he can do what he wants. Exciting times. I was watching an interview with an actor talking about a new TV serial that she is starring in, about a child that goes missing. The interviewer asked her if being a parent herself has made it easier or harder to play parts in dramas where children are involved. She replied that she was more emotional since having children, which could be both good and bad, but she also said, and this really struck a chord with me, that “having children makes you vulnerable”. You want to protect them and make them happy above anything else and that is the hardest thing. The responsibility is overwhelming sometimes. When they are small you can stop them from running into the road by holding their hands tightly; you can dictate, to some degree!, what they eat and what they wear; you can choose which school they go to. But when they get to the age that T is now you have to just advise, nudge, help in the best way you can. And hope that it all works out for the best.

I’m not going to his leavers assembly tomorrow. He doesn’t want me to go, saying that there is no point as he won’t be getting any sort of award (they all get called up to the stage to get a folder). I hasten to add, that I have told him I am happy to attend – truly – but he insists that he doesn’t want me to “waste my time”. I feel a bit sad about it. But, I have been very un-involved in his life in secondary school. I drop him off, pick him up, talk about his day, go to parents evening, read reports, help with homework (where I can, most of it is beyond me) and advise him about how to deal with stuff. He doesn’t want me to go, so I won’t. Maybe it’s for the best – I might cry. It’s a fine line between being supportive and just downright embarrassing!

 

 

 

 

 

Be more bad-ass

I am normally the one to do the washing, most of the cooking, to notice when the carpet needs hoovering and the surfaces dusting, etc, etc,  – i.e. I do most of the household chores. I have managed over the last 12 months to get K  more involved in cooking but it’s very sporadic and that’s mainly due to work. I tend to be the one to pick the kids up so am normally home before him (working, but I am home) and so it makes sense for me to make a start (and normally finish) cooking dinner.

Sometimes I get fed up with this situation and wonder what would happen if I just didn’t.

Didn’t do any of it.

Stopped.

Completely.

I have quite a lot of underwear; I have enough clothes (although I wear the same things all the time) to keep me going.

I would probably struggle with the food side of things but I could have a bigger lunch.

I sometimes have a mini-rant and ask – usually starting with “polite request…..could you all….”  – and it is met with sorrys and promises of more help and more thoughtfulness. It doesn’t ever really last.

I know that this is very common and for aeons women have borne the responsibility of most of the household tasks. But really, does that make it right? I am not saying I am going to down tools – lets face it I am far too conformist for that. I don’t really like rocking the boat. I liked to think, as a teenager, that I could be edgy, with my BUAV t-shirts and my short hair. Still have the short hair but the t-shirts are long gone, as are most of my principles.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I would love to be a bad-ass. To not worry about whether anyone has a clean shirt for school tomorrow. To reply, when asked what is for dinner,  “you tell me!” To just say “tough” or “sorry no can do” when someone needs a lift home from somewhere or K needs help with something on the laptop. Sometimes, being the one who does it all, who doesn’t make any fuss, just quietly gets on with it, is a bit crap.

I know they appreciate me. I know I make them feel secure, happy, loved, cared for, safe: all those things that a mum should make them feel. But sometimes, just sometimes, I would like to be someone a bit less conscientious. Just for a day.

I’d probably hate it. I don’t really like bad-asses. They scare me a bit.

I am lucky enough to be going away ON MY OWN this weekend –  well overnight, in reality 30 or so hours actually way – so maybe I will recharge, miss them all and be glad to be home. To sort the washing out.

 

Hips don’t lie and FAITH.

Not sure the title is particularly relevant but its the only song I know with the word hips in it, apart from “hippy, hippy, shake” but there’s not been a lot of that going on.

The MRI showed that I have a cyst, stuck between my hip bone and my groin. It showed up on the scan like a huge tumour so I was really pleased that the consultant didn’t keep us waiting before explaining it is actually just a fluid filled sac and can be easily sorted out.

Sitting in the waiting room beforehand I had been lurching from it being osteoarthritis like Auntie B had or a tumour; to sciatica or nothing. None of these options were a particularly great prospect. Sadly, due to my profound lack of medical training, a cyst had not even entered anywhere close to my radar of thoughts so I only had extreme self-diagnoses to go on. Luckily, the consultant is incredibly knowledgeable and set me straight. I am going to have it drained tomorrow night, followed by a steroid injection to ease the inflammation. I am not looking forward to this, but I am focusing on the fantastic news that within 48 hours I should be up to going for a walk. A walk! Hurrah. I cannot begin to explain how much I have missed walking. It’s the only exercise I truly enjoy, it’s great for my head-space, and my body seems to like it too.  I can’t wait to be back pounding the pavements and fields once more.

Faith. No, I have not come over all born-again in the aftermath of the MRI results. I AM very grateful to whoever or whatever is steering my life but that’s as far as I am prepared to go on that score.

‘Faith: the Legacy’ is the name of a George Michael tribute act that I went to see last night at a local venue. The poor chap was suffering from “man-flu” (his words not mine) and his voice was clearly suffering a bit. He had a passing resemblance to the man himself but this was mainly due to his haircut and jawline more than anything else. His Brummie accent was a little off-putting but we weren’t there to listen to him talk, we were there to listen to him sing and to have a bit of a jig (hips permitting) to the old classics. We weren’t disappointed in the music, the singing was OK – fab backing singers – and all in all it was a fun night. One of the lovely ladies I was with pointed out – when we were singing along to one of the early hits – that we would have been around the age of our daughters when the song was in the charts. If my hip wasn’t making me feel old, that certainly did! It was great to remember how the songs made me feel when I was a teenager and how much joy George Michael’s music still gives me. It was a tribute, it wasn’t in any way a substitute for the real thing, but it was great fun and what more can you ask than that?

 

Darkest Hour at The Odyssey

Last night, K and I went to watch Darkest Hour at The Odyssey cinema.

I love The Odyssey. When I was a child and then a teenager, and even into my early twenties, The Odyssey was an Odeon cinema and the only cinema in the local vicinity. It was where we always went when we wanted to see a film. It wasn’t a regular event as a family (E.T., Crocodile Dundee are ones I remember seeing with M&D and P) but when I was a bit older I used to go regularly with friends. It wasn’t a brilliant cinema in today’s standards: it had 3 screens in it’s heyday, a small pick and mix shop next door and (more appreciated as I got older) a pub just a few doors away. But it was accessible; the bus was reliable and it was a good place to meet friends.

Incomprehensibly to my children, we had to wait for the local paper to be published on a Thursday to see what films would be showing during the coming week and we either had to wing it and hope that they had tickets when we showed up, or in later years, if we had kind parents with a credit card we could book over the phone. The films didn’t change all that regularly so when a new release arrived it was very exciting.  Equally, if we missed seeing something while it was showing, it was game over – wait until the video came into the local rental shop some excruciating months later. This would, without doubt, seem like torture to our youngsters now in the world they inhabit with instant entertainment at their fingertips: streaming services, downloads, multiplex cinemas with 10 plus screens, online booking, pre-booking, etc.

The Odeon shut down in 1995 when out-of-town complexes became the norm. I was sorry to see it go and there was a lot of opposition locally. But, going to the multiplex soon became the norm and now with 4 in a 15 mile radius to choose from we are not exactly short of options.

The Odeon reopened in 2014 under a new name, The Odyssey (in homage to local director Stanley Kubrick’s film A Space Odyssey) and it is beautiful. It has one screen – the original Main Screen of the old days – and has downstairs seating, with tables and chairs or sofa options, in addition to the normal, upstairs seating. You can buy a glass of wine, a gin and tonic, borrow a blanket or a cushion, the seats are generous and comfy and there is plenty of legroom. But, what makes it so special is the feeling it gives me when I walk into the auditorium: I feel 15 again and it evokes such strong memories of my childhood that it makes me very, very happy. There is no booming noise, no brighter than bright lights. There is a curtain across the screen, there is subtle, subdued lighting, art-deco finishes and the film is introduced by a real person who walks on and talks about upcoming films and the film you are about to see. They talk with passion about films and they clearly love working there. It’s fab.

We saw trailers for Darkest Hour when we went to see Murder on the Orient Express as a family late last year. K and I both said how good it looked and were astonished to find that it was Gary Oldman playing Churchill. I’m a big fan and it looked gripping, so it seemed a no-brainer to try and see it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get around to it, but I was chuffed when I saw it was being shown at The Odyssey. Just like in the old days, you have to either book in person, by phone or, a day later, online. I didn’t want to risk not getting seats so phoned on the day of general release and bagged two seats on the front row of the upstairs seating (an aisle seat for me, obviously). The front row has so much leg room, even I can stretch my legs out. Fab.

The film itself was very, very good. I deliberately hadn’t read much about it. I’m familiar with the facts of Churchill’s rise to power and knew it focused on the start of the second world war. The trailers we’d seen showed the epic “on the beaches” speech in Parliament so I knew it would have some standout moments. I knew Oldman had won the Best Actor BAFTA recently and there was no question it would be a stellar performance. He was phenomenal and so were the supporting cast. It was funny, emotional, clever and enlightening. It wasn’t epic but it was very good. I am glad I have seen it, but, in hindsight, I would have been equally happy if we had waited until it was available to stream at home. The problem with The Odyssey is that it is a little bit too comfortable: the temperature is just right, the seats are soft, you can stretch your legs. In addition to this, I had my woolly scarf keeping me nice and warm. Sadly, all of this meant that my eyes shut for a little bit too long on a couple of occasions. Only for a matter of seconds, I didn’t miss any of the film and I didn’t make any unfortunate snoring noises. But, it did make me wonder how much I was enjoying the film. I have this issue at home – I love Silent Witness and Shetland but they always seem to lull me into a sleepy state and I miss bits. It was on a par with that. Very good, but not enough to keep my eyes open the entire time.

So, full marks for The Odyssey; 8 out of 10 for the film itself. Not that I’m a critic. But the eyes don’t lie. Odyssey-42

Hips, tunnels and music

I’ve had a problem with my right hip for a while (OK, about 12 months) and after a particularly bad day a few weeks ago I finally bit the bullet and went to see the GP. I’m not a fan of going to the doctors. I always take the kids without much hesitation, erring on the side of better safe than sorry when it comes to their health. With my own, I’m less conscientious and always expect to be made to feel like I am wasting their time. I don’t know what this is based on, as I’ve never had a bad experience and have always come away feeling generally happy with the care and the outcome of a visit.

The GP examined me quite intensively (at one point making me yelp) and agreed that there was definitely something going on. She suggested it may be Trochanderic Bursitis which is (in simple terms for any other lay persons out there like me) inflammation or irritation of the padded bit around the hip joint. She had suffered with it herself at one point and it eventually cleared up on it’s own. Having witnessed the yelping she was kind enough not to send me away on the basis of her own experience and suggested that physio may be in order. I mentioned that K has private medical insurance through work and she immediately suggested an appointment with an Orthopaedic Surgeon for a more specialised opinion and if physio was needed this would also be covered by the insurance.

I love the NHS; I think it is a fantastic institution and am eternally grateful for all the times that I, and those that I love, have been the beneficiary of it’s care. However, faced with a potential wait of another 6 months to see a consultant and the inevitable wait for a scan and then another appointment was not appealing, now that I had finally got the ball rolling. I called BUPA the next day and was given an authorisation code. Within a few days I had a letter from our local private hospital with an appointment for the following week.

I saw the consultant last Friday. He agreed that I do have some symptoms of bursitis but that I also have symptoms that don’t fit with this diagnosis. He suggested an MRI would be a good starting point and, once we see what it shows up, he will decide on a course of action. Like all good consultants he didn’t speculate on other possible causes. I wouldn’t like to play poker against him (even if I knew the rules).

The MRI was duly booked in for the following Wednesday (yesterday) after much joking with the receptionist about it being Valentines Day and surely I would be being wined and dined. Oh, how we laughed. She booked me in for 7pm.

I am not a fan of enclosed spaces; I don’t like sitting close to people; I have to have an aisle seat at the cinema and theatre. An MRI? I wracked by brains to remember back to episodes of ’24 hours in A&E’  – was the MRI the tunnel one or was that the CT scanner? I was pretty sure the MRI was the tunnel one. She gave me a leaflet. It was the tunnel one. Oh hell.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep too well on Tuesday night (massively exacerbated by the full-caff coffee which the hopeless waitress at the pub where I had dinner with my friend “kindly” gave me instead of the decaf that I’d ordered) and by teatime on Wednesday I was pretty anxious. K kindly chauffeured me and metaphorically held my hand until it was time to go in. Gowned up and procedure explained to me by the very patient technician I was ready to go. Luckily, as it was my hip/pelvis being scanned I didn’t have to go in all the way. My head poked out by a few centimetres. I had ear plugs in, ear defender headphones with music playing (I could have taken a CD) and a panic button in case I, well, panicked. The fact that I was given a panic button made me slightly more panicked than I would have been if they’d said, “you’ll be fine, we’ll be right outside”. The fact that a panic button is sometimes necessary worried me. The noise, the vibration, the length of time it took, along with the panic button gripped in my vice-like claw made the whole experience almost unbearable. The music helped a bit. I quite liked some of the songs (a weird mash-up of One Republic/Hosier/The Script/One Direction (why?) like some strange boy-band compilation) and counting how many songs had passed with an average duration of 3 minutes each was a good puzzle for my poor, tired, emotional, overwrought brain. It was over in about half an hour; but it was a long half an hour.

I am back to see the consultant next Friday to find out the results and to see what the next course of action is.

 

Hunting for happiness (a work in progress)

“Everyone you meet always asks you if you have a career, are married or own a house, as if life was some kind of grocery list. But nobody ever asks if you are happy”.

I saw this quote this morning and it made me think. The person who said it (the late actor, Heath Ledger) was maybe feeling a bit jaded by being asked the same things by journalists all the time. But I see his point. We meet someone new and one of the first things they ask is “What do you do?” – meaning what job/career. I used to dread this question when the kids were small as I always found myself making excuses for being a ‘stay-at-home mum’ (awful expression, but infinitely better than ‘full-time mum’ – as if being a mum is something you take off, like a cloak, when you leave the house to go to do a paid job). I wasn’t embarrassed to not be working (it’s not like it’s something to be ashamed of) but quite often I was made to feel that I had to justify it “but what do you DO all day?” was the most common question. I gave up answering and became very adept at deflecting conversation away from myself, a habit which I have found hard to shake off.

But I am getting away from the point. It does seem that we are more interested in peoples jobs, marital status, number of kids, where they live. Of course, it’s far easier to ask someone about these things when you are meeting for the first time, or if you don’t know them well. It’s not the norm to ask someone about their state of mind. “Are you happy?” would be a bit of a weird conversation starter, but I’m not sure why. When we were kids, my parents always used to dread running into a certain neighbour because they would inevitably ask them how they were, and then be there all day listening to the never-ending list of ailments they were suffering from. Not really what you want when you are in a rush to get somewhere. When I bump into someone I know or meet up with a friend, the most natural thing in the world is to ask “How are you?”. Very rarely do I hear (or, in fact, give when asked myself) any response other than “OK thanks”. People rarely launch into a lengthy monologue of all that is not right in their world. If it’s a close friend that I know well, it’s generally easy to pick up on tone of voice and a follow up of “Are you sure?” is sometimes required to get the true answer.

Is asking someone how they are the same as asking if they are happy? It’s not, but in our reserved, British, stiff-upper-lip way it’s probably as close as we’re going to get. There’s a world of difference between being OK and being happy. Being OK takes a little work, but not much. It’s just ticking over, getting on with it, being OK. Being happy takes more effort. As my blog name suggests, I am still working on it, hunting out the happy moments. Day to day I am OK: I have bursts of happiness, flashes of “ah, that’s lovely”, life-is-good moments. But, it’s hard in the day to day –  school runs, work, washing, food shopping, cleaning, cooking – cycle of life to be happy all the time and to find the happy moments in the mundane.

How would it feel to be asked if you are happy? Would you feel awkward saying yes, as though it’s admitting that you live in some sort of utopia – I know I would – and that you are being a bit smug. Perhaps that’s just me. Or is the opposite that stops us asking? How would you deal with someone saying that, no, not really, they’re pretty unhappy actually. Again, I suspect it depends how well you know someone, but if it’s a good friend you would surely have an inkling that all was not well, through just chatting and being part of their world. But, we all keep parts of ourselves hidden; we all keep some things to ourselves. I have a friend who is a big over-sharer but even she has stuff going on that she doesn’t like to talk about.

My lovely girl starts sentences very often with “I’m so happy, because x has happened”. She’s not being smug or showing off, she’s sharing a happy moment and expressing that happiness. Quite often it’s something small like finding out that the book she is reading has a sequel. But to her it’s a happy thing and she wants to tell me. I love it. If I asked her if she was happy she would probably say “yes”. I hope that she doesn’t grow out of seeing happiness in small things and maybe I can learn a bit from her.

I don’t think I will suddenly begin asking everyone I meet if they are happy. But it has certainly made me think about my own response when asked how I am and about looking for those small moments. Keep hunting the happiness.