Category Archives: school life

Enjoy the Silence

As a child I didn’t really like being on my own. I liked reading but liked to be around other people while I was doing it. I hated bedtime, night-time – the solitariness of it was awful and I was scared of the dark, but could never explain why. As a teenager I would, of course, spend a lot of time in my bedroom but still hated the dark, didn’t like going upstairs alone in the dark, and hated being in the house on my own at night.

My brother once asked me to cat-sit for him while he and C were on holiday. I thought I would love the independence of living on my own for a week and doing what I wanted. The reality was that I barely slept the first night. They lived in a maisonette at the time and I was convinced I had not locked the door properly, waiting all night to hear footsteps coming up the staircase (the cat didn’t help by wandering around until the early hours). I got through that night somehow but slept at home for the rest of the week, going in on my way to and from work to feed the cat. I have never told my brother that I didn’t stay there, I was far too embarassed. I would have been about 19. Ridiculous.

Even now, as a grown woman of 47 and mother of two teens, I am not keen on being “home alone” overnight. I dread K going away even for one night and never sleep very well, if at all, when he is not here.

However, I do like being on my own during the day. I I love our house, I am very happy here, we have lovely neighbours, we feel safe and secure (which is a bit at odds with me not liking being here alone at night, but I never claim to be rational) and it’s a nice place to live.

But if there was one thing I could change it would be the noise. I often have the radio or Spotify on low during the day when I am working, mainly for some background noise, but I also really love just sitting with the sound of the birds and the wind in the trees, the windchimes clanking (some people hate them, I know, but I find them quite relaxing).

Unfortunately, because of where we live, we have planes going over regularly and, despite what people say about getting used to it after a while, although we have lived here nearly 20 years I still find it irritating. Add into that: traffic noise from the A5 (which is louder on some days more than others depending which way the wind is blowing); cars going past on the High Street; buses pulling up at the bottom of the road – it’s not exactly peaceful.

We live in such close proximity to other houses – we’re packed in, let’s face it, and the gardens run at parallel and right angles so we are pretty much surrounded by houses and gardens on all sides – we hear a lot of other noise. Dogs barking, trumpet playing (sometimes all day – where does he get his puff from?!), kids screaming, kids crying, kids arguing (same kids, all from the same family, one of whom seems to be the unhappiest child in the world). When we sit outside of an evening, or even just sitting in the extension (we stil haven’t come up with a better name for it, even a year later), we are aware of being overheard or being too noisy or we’re aware of other people’s conversations, music, noise, etc.

When we went on holiday to Dunwich a few years ago, K and I were both struck by how peaceful it was. We had neighbours but were not really aware of them. There was no traffic noise, no planes, no screaming/crying/arguing kids – just birds singing. I didn’t want to come home. In fact, I cried the morning we left. I know a week somewhere is not enough experience of a place to know that it is perfect but it felt pretty idyllic at the time. When we talk about the future we see ourselves there. I have no idea what the future holds, but in our dreams we will retire and live by the coast, maybe with a dog and I will cycle everywhere. Ha ha.

In just over a week’s time we are going away for a week, staying in a barn conversion on a farm in the middle of nowhere. It’s got land all around it rolling down to a stream, no-one within shouting distance. Definitely no screaming kids, crying kids or arguing kids. Not unless we really p**s the teenagers off. Hopefully the only crying will be from me on our last day. Because that will mean I have had a lovely time. I may not come home.


A letter to my husband

We’ve known each other nearly 23 years. That’s nearly half my life. When I think of it like that it doesn’t seem possible. Who’d have thought a holiday fling could last this long? I know we had our doubters and, at times, fleetingly, I’ve wondered if they were right, but here we still are. You and me. Me and you. (Don’t finish the song!)

You drive me mad at times. Well, OK a lot. You make stupid jokes, talk in silly voices, make horrible smells and you can be really infuriating when you ask me “where’s that thing?” – you actually expect me to know what the ‘thing’ is. You will try and carry on a conversation we had three hours or sometimes 3 days before and expect me to know what you are talking about. It’s maddening.

But, often we will start to say the same thing to each other. We will be thinking the same thing and go to say it at EXACTLY the same time. Then we do that stupid thing about being so in tune with each other, because we don’t take that stuff too seriously. I mean, we’ve been together 23 years, if we weren’t in tune with each other it would be worrying.

When I say pardon – because I haven’t heard what you muttered – you repeat only the last word, when I haven’t heard any of what you said. I have to ask you to say it ALL again. And then you say you cant be bothered. And then I realise that actually I am the annoying one because I never hear what you say mutter.

When I do hear what you say, I often take it the wrong way. You’ve said to me, more times than I care to remember over the years, that I take everything to heart and I need to stop being so sensitive. I used to argue that I can’t change who I am, when really you are right, I am too sensitive. But, one of us has to be! You don’t take much notice of silly upsets. You don’t take much notice of me when I am in a strop. You don’t think it’s necessary to say “sorry” all the time and I know I say it too much, not just to you but to everyone. I’m working on it. You know how to be sensitive when the occasion requires it. When my lovely Auntie B died and I was devastated you cancelled your meeting and came home (you should have been away overnight) and and held me tight.

You can be very stubborn and unyielding and then at other times you are easygoing and laid back and go with the flow. I like to plan ahead; I like to be in control. You are generally happy to allow me to plan and control. Until I go too far and then you will snap. Usually I will know, I know I’ve gone too far, pushed too much (just like I used to with Dad when I was younger) but I can’t help myself, and then I reserve the right to be upset when you blow your top.

It does my head in when you tell me something that one of the kids has done wrong – too long in the shower, still up at stupid o’clock, not clearing stuff away, leaving lights on – as if it’s all down to me, that I’m the one that “trained” them and me alone, therefore I am responsible for their failings. I know you don’t actually mean it like that, it’s just me taking things the wrong way again. What you’re actually saying is that it annoys you. I tell you to tell them, not me, I am not in charge. Ha ha.

We don’t argue much. I don’t like confrontation. I am a dweller, not a shouter. You say it as it is (well, how you see it anyway) and I clam up. And sulk. Our lovely A is more like you. T and I will apologise, say we know we were wrong. You and A hate to admit to any failings and will rarely apologise. If either of you ever do have to apologise we always joke that we should mark it on the calendar, it happens so rarely.

We can go on long car journeys and not say more than a few words to each other. Sometimes it really bothers me that we have nothing to say to each other. But then you say something stupid and I wish you would stop talking! I am not a great conversationalist so I can’t lay this one entirely at your door. On the other hand sometimes when we go out for dinner we will not stop talking for 2 hours, apart from when we’re chewing. Maybe we make more effort in public, ha ha.

You don’t show loads of affection. I know you love me – you tell me every night before we go to bed and you tell me every morning when we leave the house, but more than that, I just know. I’ve never been one for holding hands, especially when I’m walking – I need my arms to swing freely, or I can’t seem to keep in step with you. If I ask for a hug you will oblige, I’ve trained you well. T is the best at giving hugs though – he has the height advantage and I can rest my head on his shoulder. Because we’re the same height, you and I, I get a cricked neck if I try that with you. (By the way, I know we ARE the same height, you just like to think you are talller than me.)

You’re really helpful. You will do anything for anyone. If one of the kids needs anything, you are there. Not necessarily for the emotional, crying stuff or the personal, icky stuff, but on a practical, hammer-at-the-ready stuff you’re there. If a neighbour needs a power tool, you are the man for the job and will quite often end up doing the job for them. You’re hardworking, you’re conscientious. You set a good example to our kids on this front. They’ve got me for the emotional or icky stuff. I have no clue about hammers. It works.

You let me choose what to watch on TV, but complain when I fall asleep. You don’t laugh at me when I cry at 24 Hours in A&E. You don’t understand my fears, but you mainly overlook them. Except, you make me hold the ladder for you even though you know it terrifies me. You ask me to drive at the weekend but then tell me I shouldn’t park there or to be more careful of the alloys (even though you promised you wouldn’t) and I hate driving with you in the car. But you fill my car up with fuel because you know I hate doing it and you rarely take me up on my offer to do the late pick up when T has been to a party. You may not open doors for me or make sure I am with you when you nip out across a busy road when we are out, but you have your own version of chivalry, of caring.

When the kids were smaller we lost full sight of each other for a while. We stopped noticing each other in all the day to day-ness of having a young family. And of course, I wasn’t well for some of it. You coped with all that really well. But, now they’re older and they’re out most of the time and we have more time to ourselves, we’re seeing each other again, going out on our own, having afternoons and evenings just-the-two-of-us. And it’s lovely. It may be the hormones getting back into balance and I’m feeling better, but I am starting to like you a hell of a lot more again. As your Nan said, on our wedding day, you’re alright really. She thought the world of you and I reckon she was a pretty good judge of character.

Thanks for the last (almost) 23 years. We’ll keep planning, keep rolling along, keep not talking on long car journeys, keep this balancing act going that we have managed up til now. You and me, me and you.

A plan, another plan and some plans

T had a great time during his work experience week last week. It not only gave him an insight into some of the roles there are within the force, he met some great people, felt part of a team and got to hear different people’s perspectives on “the job”. He has been feeling under pressure from school to continue into Further Education, despite explaining that he wants to join the force. He has been told to think about applying for a policing or criminology degree. He just wants get on with being a police officer. We went to the Recruitment event which was held on Saturday at our nearest HQ. Although we were only there around 20 minutes, it was (combined with the chats he’d had during the course of the week with staff he was working with) incredibly useful. He spoke to a female PC who had come into the role later in life, having been a pub manager and PCSO in a previous incarnation. She seemed to take an instant shine to him and was happy to chat.

He can’t start his application until his 18th birthday which is over 12 months away. This was a bit disappointing, but she was reassuring that the process should only take around 4 months so he was not too disheartened. He will hopefully be able to apply for a degree apprenticeship:-

Apprenticeships allow you to train as a police officer, get paid as you learn and provide a permanent job when you qualify. The training is a partnership between you, the police force and a higher education institute. As well as practical on-the-job learning, 20 percent of your time will be spent studying in higher education.

This way he will get practical experience and training (and pay) for three years, with 20% of his time spent studying at a FE college or Uni. Everyone he has spoken to this last week have suggested that this is the best route; getting experience whilst studying, doing the job – not just writing about it – and getting paid at the same time. If he goes to Uni to do a policing degree he will not have to train for 3 years but he will likely be more respected by others in his team if he has had “on the ground “training. This has completely made his mind up that the apprenticeship is the way forward and we’re all very happy that he has ‘a plan’.

I have a plan. Over the weekend I was suffering with my stomach troubles. I’ve not been careful about what I am eating and, despite settling down considerably when I stated HRT, I have been struggling for a few weeks; eating the wrong things and feeling more and more uncomfortable. I have taken a long hard look at what I am eating and, although I have been calorie counting and exercising, I can’t ignore the fact that I eat a LOT of the wrong foods and exercise alone is not going to help with the digestion and other issues that I have. So, I have read up on it all and have decided to cut back hugely on my carb intake – I am not cutting it out completely but cutting back on anything but good carbs; I’ve bought wholemeal pasta and rice for when I do want carbs – I don’t want to have to cook two different meals and am hoping that I will be able to serve wholemeal to the rest of the family and they won’t notice (wishful thinking); I’ve got some nice lunch recipes – today I made chicken noodle soup (with some of the wholemeal spaghetti) and it was delicious, with enough leftover for lunch at work tomorrow – that don’t involve bread and I my delivery yesterday contained more veg than fruit and lots of fish and I am going to see what reaction I get from the rest of the family.

When we went to Sherwood Forest at Easter we had a problem with the hot tub and, without complaining or asking for any sort of ‘sweetener’, we were offered: a partial refund; 15% off our next visit (with no restriction on how long before we re-booked – they normally offer this anyway but you have to book within a certain number of weeks); early check-in and late check-out; and a free Entertainment Pack giving us Wi-Fi and films to watch. So, rather than leave it and leave it and not take advantage of the offer we have booked for October half term and we are going to the Forest of Dean. We’ve never been to this neck of the woods on holiday before and it will be nice to go somewhere different, whilst knowing that the accommodation will be good. The lodges are somewhere between Ross on Wye and Monmouth (where I have been – for a day when I worked for the building society) and the area looks beautiful. It’s a bit of a gamble going at the end of October, but it will be a break, we are not scared of a bit of wet weather and we will have films to watch if the weather beats us. We’ve only got a week in the summer this year so it’s nice to have a plan for later in the year.

In the summer, A and I are going to see Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, as I was able to get two tickets on the Kids Week offer. We haven’t been up to London on our own since we went to see Wicked three years ago so it will be nice to have a day out together. We might try and have afternoon tea somewhere – if I can find somewhere that doesn’t cost the earth! More research needed. We’ve heard great things about the show and can’t wait to see it. Hopefully it will be more successful than our trip to the screening of The Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet performance on Sunday. The performance was broken up into three acts. We sat through the hour-long first act and during the interval I asked A for her honest opinion – neither of us have seen a ballet before – and she said it was OK but she was glad she knew the story (she’s just read the play in English at school and has watched the film starring Leonardo Di Caprio) or she would be completely at a loss as to what the heck was going on and I had to agree. The dancing was lovely, the music was pretty good (I had no idea that the theme music from The Apprentice would make an appearance!) but without dialogue or even a bit of singing I felt a bit bored. Perhaps we are just not cultured enough or maybe R&J was not the ideal one to see for a first foray. However, we agreed to give the second act a go – it was only half an hour long – and then decide what to do about the final act. By this point by stomach was really painful and I really just wanted to come home and get my pyjamas on! but we endured it. It didn’t turn around for us and we left during the second interval! As it was a screening, there was some chat during the interval from the presenters – Darcy Bussell and Ore Aduba – with people involved in the production. It was explained that this particular interpretation of the ballet was a very “natural” and didn’t really contain many classical moves. Perhaps that was where we found it underwhelming, not being familiar enough with ballet to appreciate it. Perhaps if we went to see something more classic like Swan Lake we would be moved. I am not sure I want to take the chance and so I think we’ll stick to plays and musicals for now.

I like to move it, move it.

I haven’t managed to get out for a walk this week until this morning. I promised myself I wouldn’t let bad weather stop me because, as they say, there is no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothing. I have decent walking boots and a waterproof coat – there’s even a pair of waterproof trousers in the cupboard from when T went on his DofE trip that would fit me if needed – so there’s really no excuse. Other than motivation. I was NOT motivated to go out in the pouring rain. However, I have exercised: Pilates on Monday night and some strength training (weights and lunges; that sort of thing) for half an hour, not too sweaty, at home on my own last night. It seems that there is some truth to this idea that moving your body makes you feel better. Who knew?

I branched out a bit again today. I normally just walk around the fields a few times and then home but last week I got carried away and rather than circling the fields I carried straight on and into Flamstead, the same route that AMJ and I often take. Rather than heading back in to the fields, I walked through the village and back along the A5. Not a great last part to the route as it can be pretty noisy but it’s exactly 3 miles door to door and suits me. There are a couple of sections in there which are a bit – what the 5 year old in me would call – spooky. If anyone was going to murder me on my walk they would be hiding in one of these spooky sections. I know, it’s ridiculous and I don’t know where I get it from. It’s just a thing. But, I was “brave” and went through, head high and not looking behind me. Ha ha. Everywhere smelled lovely, fresher and cleaner somehow after all the rain. The mud was not great though!

I’ve seen other people whilst out on my travels today: a neighbour on her way back from a run “you off out for a walk?” she said. Er, yes. Clearly. “Yes, I don’t have enough energy to go running like you”, I replied a little defensively to her back as she trotted off. (Yes, I still feel like walking might be seen as a bit of a lame form of exercise by some. She was just being polite and passing the time of day. I am overly sensitive); a group of 3 women running through the fields (in all that mud) with dogs attached to them via ropes or leads tied around their waists – like huskies pulling a human sledge. One woman had two dogs! I pulled into a gap in the crop to let them through. They all puffed a quick thanks. Not one of them looked like they were enjoying themselves, not even the dogs; and finally once I was back in the lanes, an older couple having a walk. They were smiley and said hello. As I passed the recreation ground in Flamstead I heard the (I suspect encouraging but to my sensitive ears positively terrifying) shouts of the boot camp leader geeing the group on. You may remember, I went once with Mrs L (she’s a self-confessed boot camp addict and loves it) but I have not returned, although I enjoyed it at the time. I was happy to keep walking. Me and my very muddy boots. I may not be running (with or without dogs) or boot camping it but my fitness is improving and, more importantly, my mood has improved hugely.

It seems that it is true that when you find something that works for you, it’s a Very Good Thing.

Work Experience

The boy has a weeks’ work experience, starting today.

He organised it himself via one of the leaders at his Cadets group, who managed to work some magic and get it authorised by the Chief Inspector (quite a feat, apparently). We expected that maybe he would get to spend some time at HQ or at the local station – making tea; sitting with a civvy and watching them fill in forms; and, if he was lucky, another ride-along for a day. However, the week could not be more packed with different things. It seems the CI was keen to make the week as interesting and varied as possible, while working within the restraints of Health and Safety and public liability – not an easy task, I should imagine.

I dropped him off this morning for Day One. He’s meeting the CI this morning and then spending the day with the Safer Neighbourhood team, getting an overview of the role they play and the sort of issues they have to deal with.

On the journey over in the car I asked T if he was nervous. He seemed confused, why would he be nervous? He’s met the CI before on a few occasions and, I quote, “she’s lovely” and he’s been to the station loads of times for various events and outings. He’s not nervous, he can’t wait to start. However, in typical ‘mum’ fashion I had to say a few words of wisdom/advice. “Listen carefully to what people are telling you or asking you, and remember to look people in the eye when you talk to them”. Not sure why I felt it necessary to say this, but I felt I had to say something.

He’s had a Very Good Day. He didn’t meet the CI – she was on an incident from the night before, but, as he said this morning, he’s already met her so it was no big deal. He’s had a good day out with the SNT Officer who was chatty and got him involved in various things. He bumped into a classmate while he was on his lunch break and came away feeling a bit smug – the classmate is working in Waterstones (my idea of HEAVEN!) for the week – the result of a last minute form handing in situation. T thinks he is probably one of a very small group of people who were actually looking forward to their work experience week. And the icing on the cake is that he is not allowed to complete the work experience journal that he’s been given due to the sensitive nature of some of the work – something he is more than happy about!

Let’s hope the rest of the week continues so well.

Little things

It’s funny how sometimes it’s the little things that can really get you down or, equally, make you feel better.

This weekend has been a bit of a come down. We had a lovely time away (apart from the sleeping side of things, obviously) and although it was nice to come home and sleep in our own beds; to have lovely sunshine still (helped with the washing); and to have 2 more days before the dreaded return to work and school, it was all just a bit flat. T was working on Saturday, K and I got on with chores while A finished some homework/revision and I just seemed to get grumpier and grumpier as the weekend progressed. Little things, like forgetting to serve the carrots with the Sunday roast (discovered in the main pan of the steamer when K started the washing up – far too late!) to name but one, just seemed to make things worse.

This all meant that I didn’t go to bed in a great frame of mind last night, and it wasn’t much better when I woke up. But, as the day has gone on, I have started to pick up.

I’ve coped with work (so far) which is great, as it’s my busiest day of the month again – end of one month with all the reporting to do and a new month to start buying more stock again – and I always get a tad worked up about it. But, so far so good.

I have managed to get in a walk before it gets too warm. I treated myself to a new Fitbit with some birthday money and it’s really helping to keep me motivated. I can monitor my heart rate with this new one and I can see on the app if I am in the right heart rate zone for fat burning. I’ve been disappointed lately that the increased walking, along with calorie counting, hasn’t seemed to help with weight loss. I’d started to get disheartened but am hoping this will get me moving the right way. I don’t plod along, but I do tend to go at the same steady pace. I’ve realised I probably need to alternate steady sections with a few faster pace sections and hopefully this will start to help!

And then an email dropped into my mailbox from a local hospice charity. I donated some clothes a few weeks back as I was having a cull and getting rid of anything I didn’t feel good in (my wardrobe has way more room in it now!). The email says that my donation has made around £60 for the charity, so I am well pleased. The old adage of doing a good deed to feel better about yourself has some truth in it. I’m not completely saintly, I did eBay some other stuff and earned myself around the same amount!

And, finally, Google has just asked me to look at some photos from this time last year. How thankful I am that I am sat here working, with the garden looking lovely outside the doors (my peony is about to bloom for the first time ever) and the kitchen is fully functioning and relatively tidy. This time last year, the garden was a mudbath, we had no sink, no worktops, no flooring and I was not a happy bunny. At least this year, I am not washing up in a bowl under the outside tap!

Little things.

Family time

The campsite we stayed on wasn’t busy. There were two other pods occupied and three sets of “proper” campers. They had tents and everything. Even children.

Their children were much younger than ours, the eldest probably no older than ten. They had bikes and cricket stumps and footballs and they played. They weren’t noisy or annoying. It was quite sweet.

On Thursday night we sat outside our pod and had a barbecue and, later on as it started to get colder, we had a fire. It was nice. T and A sat with us. They chatted a bit, but mostly they were listening to music through earbuds or Snapchatting with friends. It didn’t bother us. I did, at one point, briefly wonder what the families with young children – the ones on bikes and playing games – thought of us with our teenagers spending family time on their phones. It was a brief, momentary thought because, as you know, I no longer worry about what other people think (or something like that).

What they didn’t know about or see was the 5 mile walk we’d been on earlier that morning, when we’d chatted and phones were in pockets (until T needed to GoogleMap us back to the car) and they weren’t being teenagers. What they didn’t know or see was that we’d been to our favourite beach in the afternoon and talked about the future and what we all wanted to be doing ten years from now (retired and living by the sea – luckily both K and I had that one, not just one of us) and phones were only out to take pics.

Because a bit like my post Snapshots people only see what they see at that moment in time. Those other parents looking across at us (if we were even vaguely interesting enough for them to wonder about us) may have tutted to themselves (the way I sometimes do very quietly in my head when I see a baby in a pushchair with an iPad – I know, it’s judgy of me and I’m not proud) and said they won’t do that when their kids are older- they will BAN phones and family time will be family time.

(Well, good luck with that.)

Like eating cake, exercise or watching Netflix – it’s all about balance, isn’t it? The walk, the beach – that’s the trade off right there to then be ok to say, “yep, you being on your phone chatting to your friends and listening to the music you like and – thank the lord – not asking us to listen to it too, is alright with me.”

Family time, it’s all about balance. Frankly, who wants to spend every waking moment with a teenager anyway?