Category Archives: school life

Be happy now

I saw one of those annoying pictures on Instagram or similar recently, one of those ones with a summery beach background and the words in italics across it “be happy now”. I normally scroll on past those pictures, because they are everywhere you look and they can be a touch saccharine, especially if you’re having a bad day.

But this one made me stop for a moment, because it tied in with an article I read a few weeks ago, about the pressure to be happy all the time. All the time! That’s just not realistic is it? I did the 100 Happy Days challenge when I first started this blog, in fact it was the reason I started it, and I enjoyed it immensely – so much so that I repeated the exercise several times – because it made me think about one thing each day that had made me happy, even if only momentarily. But, it didn’t make me feel I had to be happy ALL THE TIME. Small moments are great, and should be acknowledged, but if they happened all the time then they would not be worth noting. However, it would be nice not to go through each stage of life thinking “when X happens I will be happier”. For example, when I was little I thought it must be so much nicer being an adult – you get to choose what food you eat, you get to choose your own clothes, you have your own money, etc etc. But, as we all know when we grow up, choosing your own food invariably means shopping for the ingredients and cooking it for yourself (and probably others) too; don’t get me started on buying clothes; and yes having your own money is great but no-one mentioned mortgages when I was seven.

When I was in my twenties, I thought that when I lost another half a stone I would be happier (we’re back to the clothes thing again) and when I met the man of my dreams and had a family I would be laughing every day. It took a while to meet K and although I quickly realised he was the one for me, it took us a while to get sorted (mainly due to the logistics of living 90 miles apart) and then it wasn’t always a laugh a minute. When we had T and he was colicky and then the reflux kicked in we were told “things will be better when he is walking”. When he wouldn’t sleep we were convinced life would be better when he eventually slept in his own bed. By then we had A and we started all over again with the “when she is 3 she won’t have tantrums anymore” (still waiting on that one). Life always seemed like it would be so much better when……

As it turns out this mentality is hard to shift. I said only yesterday as I was darting back out to the garden office in the pouring rain “it will be so much better if we get that extension built!”

Be happy now, eh? Hmm, well perhaps I need to repeat the 100 Happy Days because there are so many things to be happy about and all this wishing time to pass, because life will be better then, is just a waste of time. Time is passing all the time. That little colicky baby sat his first GCSE yesterday (short course PRE – not full fledged GCSE’s yet but nonetheless we are on that train and it seems to be a high-speed one) and the little tantrummy madam was dressed up and going to her first proper gig on Saturday night. And yes, life is easier in some ways now, but it was good then too and we were happy, I just didn’t always realise it.

Sitting in my garden office I can see fields and farmland and trees and open countryside stretching out. It’s beautiful. I didn’t have to sit on a train to get here or in my car for hours on the motorway. But, the sun is shining today and I didn’t get soaked just walking across the patio. It will be so much better when…….

 

Maturity, Determination and Expansion

Three completely unconnected words, but ones which have meant a lot in our house since the last blog post.

Maturity

Last week, T was on a break from school doing work experience at a local tech company. He hadn’t originally been selected to do work experience, as this is now only offered to year 10 students who are not deemed to be working at the level that they would need to be in order to do A’levels. (Quite how the school determines this after only 6 months of the 2 year GCSE course I can’t tell you but I guess they know what they are doing..) Anyway, T was not selected  – which I suppose we should be pleased about on the basis that he must be doing OK in his chosen subjects – but in actual fact we as parents and he as a student were all a bit disappointed. He is pretty sure that he won’t want to stay on at school to do A’levels. He has a keen interest in tech, as I have mentioned on my blog before, and he thinks (this is all subject to the teenager’s right to change his mind numerous times in the next 18 months and so is not set in stone) that he is more likely to go onto college and do a more specialised computing course. Regardless of his future intentions, we all thought that work experience would be of benefit to him. After some discussion we agreed that there was no harm in him approaching the Careers Officer at school to see if there was any possibility of him getting on the list. The answer was”yes” and he was given the details of how to apply. He found an IT Support company on the database and applied via the school to go there. He had the placement confirmed by school and was told to contact the Director of the company to make the necessary arrangements. I thought he might baulk at this and would, at most, fire off an email (perfectly acceptable, but the easier alternative to calling). Wrong again, mum. He called straight away and although he got the guy’s voicemail he left a message and followed it up with an email. We worked out the logistics of getting him to and fro and he started last Monday. He was a little nervous going in, but had a great first day and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the week. Among other things, he went out on site one day with one of the technicians to install laptops for a client, spending the whole day in the company of a complete stranger twice his age but he didn’t bat an eyelid, just took it all in his stride. The report back from the Director at the end of the week was brilliant. To quote a few lines “nothing was too much trouble”, “didn’t have to be shown anything more than once”, “showed maturity beyond his years”. Fab. These flashes of real maturity totally outweigh (for the time being) the bouts of nonsensical behaviour (texting me 27 times to ask for a later curfew, despite each reply being “no” being the most recent example and most frustrating, resulting in the biggest row we have ever had).

Determination

At our Secondary school the PE department requires the students to run a set course once every half tern. The students lovingly refer to this as “The Death Run”. The idea is that they endeavour to improve their time each half term and outrun their last Personal Best. A, like her mother, is no athlete and was dreading The Death Run way before even starting at the school. The first time she had to run it she “felt ill” and had to walk most of it, coming in very close to the back of the pack. She wasn’t overly bothered but the run had lived up to it’s moniker in her eyes and was firmly established as A Big Deal. She dreaded the next one and performed equally badly. Just before the end of the Christmas term she announced over dinner one Tuesday evening that she had been to Fitness Club at lunchtime. We were all pleasantly surprised and wondered if she would go more than once (she is very much her mothers daughter). She surprised us all and probably herself by sticking to it and last half term she ran The Death Run and made such an improvement in her performance that she received a postcard at home from the PE department congratulating her on her improvement and attaining a new PB. Today, she has run it again and taken another 6 seconds off her last time, earning her a place on the latest photo of PB smashers on Twitter. Her time may well be 3 minutes behind the faster runners, but as I pointed out to her this afternoon, the idea of a PB is that it is yours and yours alone and all you have to do it better your own time. She is proud of herself and rightly so. She may be her mothers daughter but she has way more determination.

Expansion

Every summer, when the weather permits it, K and I like to sit outside in the evening and drink wine on the deck and talk about what a waste of space it is. Don’t get me wrong, we love sitting outside but we only get to do it for about one month every year. And for that month every year we talk about how much better it would be if we could use that space all year round. It’s always been just talk, over a bottle or two of wine, and punctuated by lots of “if only”s and “if we had more money”s and “wouldn’t it be great if”s. Nothing has changed in our financial circumstances – we haven’t won the lottery (we wouldn’t be thinking of extensions if we had; we would be moving to the posh part of town) or had massive pay-rises (remember those?). We have just decided that this summer we won’t sit outside and talk about it; we are going to make it happen. We’ve talked to the bank, rather apprehensively. They asked a LOT of questions, and eventually said yes. We have a budget. We have an architect on board. We have an idea of what we would like to do. The architect has suggested other things that make much more sense – that is why he does this job – and we have got the beginnings of a plan (not actual plans yet as we have to make a few more decisions first). We may actually be able to spend this summer talking about something real rather than a pipe dream. There are planning hoops to jump through first and neighbours to talk to, but for once I am allowing myself to believe that this might actually happen. Watch this space.

Status update

Since Making myself unpopular (again)  was a while ago now I thought I would check in on how it is all going.

So, initially the teenager was VERY resistant. For the first few days we had a bit of moaning but he reluctantly gave in; then on the 4th day we had an all out slanging match. He didn’t understand why. WHY? I refused to be drawn on it and stood my ground. I think he believed that I would soon forget all about it like I do so many other things: diets, exercise regimes, chore lists. We repeated this pattern over the course of the next few weeks and eventually I finally ended it with an all out “I AM NOT BACKING DOWN. GET OVER IT”.

The pre-teen was less bothered. She is not quite so invested in the social media scene yet and so is less concerned about having access 24/7. I am sure her time will come soon enough. This plan of attack is for both of their benefits and it makes me feel better. I’ve spoken with a few other parents about it and annoyingly most responses I had were along the vein of that I was an idiot to let them have them in their rooms in the first place (thanks) and that it was a given in their houses that all devices live downstairs. Smug much? Only one friend had had to take the same route as me and it was nice to know I’m not the only idiot out there.

Joking aside, I found this quite annoying. I’m not actually an idiot. I’m pretty sensible and on the ball. I know I don’t really get recent technology – well not the technology as such, but the platforms that kids use and the way they use it. I mentioned in Birthday, poo, shopping and the hostess with the leastest that I found it a bit off that one of A’s friends was ‘live-streaming’ during the back at the house bit. I do find the idea that our kids are living their lives so publicly quite hard to fathom. I don’t get Snapchat and ‘streaks’ – what’s the point in messaging someone just an X or an emoji just so you can say that your ‘streak’ with that person lasts 120 days? Am I really that old that I am missing something amazing here. Is it a test of friendship? Surely not, as T will ask another friend to do his ‘streaks’ for him if (heaven forbid) he is going to be off the grid for more than 24 hours. This is not a friendship thing, it’s just a Thing. I don’t object to sharing photos, or updating statuses or, here’s an idea, chatting with a friend (albeit online), but do we have to have it in our faces ALL THE TIME?

I worry that  anything that happens in this online world (because there’s no escaping that this is their world) is seen as less real somehow, less accountable for – that you can slag someone off online and it’s not as bad as saying it to their face; that you can post an awful picture of a ‘friend’ and because you have added a crying with laughter emoji or some hearts after it then that’s OK? You didn’t do it to be unkind, it was just a joke so that’s OK? No parent could fail to be moved and horrified by the poor, poor mum who went on This Morning a matter of days after her daughter’s funeral to make other parents aware of how insidious and secretive this bullying is. Her daughter was to the world around her a popular, bright, sporty, confident young woman with no worries other than the next test or the next match. In truth she was being relentlessly hounded on social media culminating in a message asking her why she didn’t just hang herself. She did. It was only after her death that this all came to light. Her parents were completely in the dark about it because she kept it from them. She could see no way out of it. She could see no end to the constant stream of abuse and so she killed herself.The person who sent her that last message – did they mean it as a joke? Did they think that because it was sent online that it wasn’t real and wouldn’t hurt her or affect her? They have to live with this for the rest of their life – they tipped her over the edge. They were the catalyst that made her end her short, beautiful life.

These cases are few and far between, thankfully, and are so shocking. More close to home recently a large number of girls at a local secondary school have been groomed by a man online purporting to be a teenager and many of them have taken the next step and met him. Luckily none have been harmed but this is by luck more than anything else.

But the overriding message of this is that these kids’ parents DIDN’T KNOW this stuff was happening. When I was a teenager, I had to call my friends on the phone from the hallway. The only other way we had of being in touch was to write each other letters, which we did – we would pour our hearts out on paper and give it to our friend the next day at school. If someone didn’t like me I usually found out by them not hanging around with me any more, or a friend of the friend would tell me. If someone was calling me names I usually heard them, out loud in the playground. Of course, I didn’t tell my parents everything that I was worried about or everything that went on in my life, because that’s not what teenagers do and that’s just they way it is. Teenagers are making their own way in the world and learning to deal with stuff by themselves so that they are ready to leave home and go off and be adults. They have secrets and they have a right to privacy. But the difference between bullying when I was a teenager and now is the other worldliness of it. It happens in a world which we parents can’t see and have little control over.

I know the pass-codes to my kids phones. I treat them with respect and only look at their messages/social media accounts/photos etc if I am concerned about something. Luckily, I think we are still at the stage where A tells me if anything is going on with her. She had a small bust-up with a friend in the half term holidays and she wanted to know how to sort it out. She took my advice and she didn’t try and contact the friend by phone or WhatsApp. She wrote her a letter and put it through her door. The result was positive and the issue was quickly resolved. But, soon she will ask my advice less and less. She will tell me less and less. But for now all I can do is keep the channels open. I tell them my fears, I tell them about things I read and the horrific things that other parents have been through and I tell them to please keep talking to me. Please tell me when someone is hurting you. And, almost as importantly, if they know someone is being hurt please tell someone. But it all comes down to hope and the small amount of control that I still have.

So, yes the new rule is going OK. It’s still being adhered to and I’m not backing down. Not on this one.

 

Birthday, poo, shopping and the hostess with the leastest

On Friday we celebrated A’s 12th birthday. It is astonishing that she is twelve already (to me at least, in a mad moment one day last week K was convinced she was going to be 13) although on some days she behaves more like a 16 year old than the age she actually is – and this is not always in a stroppy, teenager-like way. She is mature for her age and pretty sensible most of the time. I think it is hard for all of us to cope with her when she is in turn silly and childish, until we remind ourselves that she is, er, well, a child.

She was fine with being at school on her birthday. She has a good bunch of friends now and they were messaging her in the morning before school with birthday wishes. It was non-uniform day which was a complete bonus for her. We then planned for G&G to come over for cake and present opening before a meal out at a local  Italian chain restaurant that we frequent from time to time.

School was great – one of her friends in her form had decorated her locker with a collage of photos of her and balloons and presented her with a lovely gift. She had cards from other friends and generally had a Good Day. Her request this year was for a shopping trip instead of presents so most of the family, including K & I, gave her money which meant there was only a few smallish gifts to open, but it was All Good. My attempt at a rainbow cake was also not too awful so the cake part was also Very Good.

In fact, the whole evening was perfectly lovely except for one small moment – unfortunately, one which will be remembered by me for a while. We were getting ready to leave the house, T going out the door in front of me. I noticed as he walked out of the door that there was a small clump of mud on the mat. “Oh you’ve walked mud into the house” I groaned at him. I picked it up and chucked it onto the grass verge. It was then that I realised IT WAS NOT MUD. I repeat: IT WAS NOT MUD. I had picked up, in my bare hands and with no question, a piece of dog poo. DOG POO! IN MY BARE HANDS! Anyone who knows me even a little bit will know that this is Not Good. After 4 hand-washes, 3 squirts of antibacterial hand gel and a lot of disgusted whimpering we were able to leave the house to go for dinner. I would like to say that it put me off my food but, again, anyone who knows me even a little bit will know that NOTHING puts me off my food. We had a lovely meal and the birthday was a great success.

The next day, we had arranged to take A and four of her friends to the cinema to see La-La-Land (initial choice was Beauty and the Beast but selfishly the film company did not release this in time for A’s birthday) followed by pizza at our house (being on a bit of a budget and not able to fork out a further 50-odd quid for dinner for them all at a restaurant). Believe me when I say that any type of hosting of anyone other than family fills me with a sort of dread. I like having friends round, but find it stressful. I am not a natural hostess and constantly question myself – will they eat what I have cooked? Will they think the menu is boring? Will they think the music is rubbish? What will we talk about? blah blah blah. It’s no different when the kids have friends round. Some of them I have known since they were tiny, others are new friends: unknown quantities. It’s all quite stressful.

So the idea of four girls in the house (two I know pretty well, two I don’t) was nerve-wracking. I worry that kids, like dogs, can smell the fear, or, in my case, the desperation for it all to be over. I worry that they can tell that my smile is a bit forced and that I am a tad nervous. Kids don’t expect their friends’parents to be shy and nervous. They expect them to be fun and in control (but not a control freak) and nice. I am nice. I am not fun. I hate mess. I hate excessive noise. Five girls in a small space are loud. They squeal a lot. We got through it though. K was dreading it as much as I was but was kind and didn’t desert me. It was fine. I don’t know if they had a good time – I think they did. One was constantly “live-streaming” the occasion on some form of social media which struck me as slightly odd but then I am OLD so what do I know? Perhaps I should be flattered that she felt it worthy of trying to induce some FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in her other friends who had not been invited. In reality it made me shudder at the thought that the other girls may then question their new, tentative friendships with A and wonder why they hadn’t been invited too. I was that girl. I would have not survived my teens if social media had been around – I would have cried a lot (more than I did).

The final day of the Birthday Weekend was the big shopping trip with Grandma. Three generations of women out shopping together could be a bit of a gamble. My dad always used to say (and still does, in fact) to mum and me when we were heading out to the shops “Be nice to each other – no fighting”. I am not sure what this was based on – I don’t remember any one particular occasion where we had a disastrous outing but I suspect there probably were some. However, we had a great day – A spent her budget wisely and bought some lovely clothes and accessories, announcing in one changing room that she has definitely “found her style” and loves shopping. We had toasties in M&S and hot choc in John Lewis and she ended up with tons of bags so all in all it was a Very Good Day.

Happy Birthday my beautiful girl.

 

 

 

Too much

I don’t like to stress out. I don’t like rushing. I don’t like having to do things at the last minute. I try to organise my life so that I don’t have to do any of these things but sometimes the universe conspires against me. As the kids have got older life is less hectic, less last minute and less rushing around. But there are still things that make life stressful. Revision for one.

Revision. For exams.

I thought we were a way off this yet as T won’t sit his GCSE’s until May 2018. I knew there would be Mocks in early 2018 but I was oblivious to Mock Mocks. Mock Mocks. Is that even a thing? Apparently so. And they are doing them this March. Yes, barely 5 months into the course and they are doing Mock Exams. And is it serious or what? I’m pretty sure that Mock Mocks have been a “thing” for a few years. Friends with older kids seem surprised when I mention that I knew nothing of this phenomenon. I didn’t think I was that out of touch.

I think the reason it feels like a big deal is that the teaching staff seem nervous. At parents evening in October the resounding feeling I got was that the staff were worried.  The new curriculum that the knob-head Gove dreamt up one night over a large bottle of gin (it’s the only excuse I can think of) – i.e. lets get rid of coursework and make them try and remember EVERYTHING in the exam so that if they can’t then they fail, oh and let’s chuck some stuff in there from the A’level so that the gap between the levels isn’t so blindingly obvious  – doesn’t seem popular. Funny that.

For someone who was the guinea pig for the GCSE’s (probably the only reason I managed to pass most of them) with the joy of coursework taking pressure off us exam-phobics with the knowledge that the exam was not the be-all-and-end-all this is horrifying. Yes, when I then went on to do A’Levels I struggled. I can see why the A’levels and GCSE’s need to be brought more in line. But to revert to the purely exam based way of testing, from nigh on thirty years ago, seems bonkers.

And T’s teachers seem to be putting on a brave face (not very well, some of them, it has to be said) and hoping for the best. They have no past papers to offer up, until the current year 11’s – the first ones to sit the new exam – take their exams in May this year. They have no benchmarks, they can’t really offer much advice other than “let’s wait and see”. They’re nervous and I am worried.

T was instructed to devise a revision timetable that he has had approved by his form tutor. We had a parents meeting about it. About how to help them through the stress of revision. Where, how and when they should revise. How long for and how they mus factor in some down time. It feels like he is studying for his finals (not that I have ANY clue how full on that is) not just his Mock Mocks. Today was Day 1. Half term Day 1 and Revision Timetable Day 1. And the day when I can feel stress building very slightly but very insidiously into our lives. T seems OK. I am already feeling resentful on his behalf and wondering how we will all be feeling when he is revising for the exams to end all exams. The be-all-and-end-all exams.

A on the other hand has done a bit of homework and is now baking cakes. I hope beyond all hopes that the madness that is Gove’s legacy is reversed before she has to go through this. She is a very different creature from my laid-back boy who takes it all in his stride and the stress levels when she comes to take her GCSE’s might just tip me over the edge!

 

 

Making myself unpopular (again)

I’ve never tried to be friends with my kids,because I’m not their friend, I’m their parent. I don’t try to make them like me, I hope they just do because I try to be fair and reasonable and treat them with respect, in the hope that they will do the same. I say TRY because I’m not superhuman and I’m far from perfect. I get tired, I get fed up, I get sick of saying the same bloody thing all the bloody time (apparently I say bloody a lot).

I think tonight I am going to make myself very unpopular with the teen and nearly teen in my life. I have got K on board so hopefully we will both get equal dibs in the unpopularity stakes but I suspect that I will be seen as the ringleader, mainly because I’ve got form. K doesn’t shout much: he gets annoyed when strange black marks appear on the staircase wall (he painted it so he feels aggrieved when it gets messed up); he gets a bit cross when he sees the state of their school shoes on a Sunday night when he comes to clean them; he gets a bit annoyed when T starts banging around in his room at 10 pm because he’s suddenly remembered to back his school bag. Generally, I’m the shouter. As I said, I’ve got form. I’m not going to be shouting tonight, at least I don’t plan to, I just want a chat.  I’m not going to broach it as having a chat in inverted commas as that will set alarms ringing. I’m going to just drop it into conversation over dinner.

Sounds ominous doesn’t it? It’s not really. It’s not actually that big a deal. I just want us all to switch off our devices by a certain time and leave them downstairs overnight. It’s not been prompted by any specific incident, and this is where I am wavering slightly. I have ALWAYS told my kids I would give them a reason for my answer or actions. If I say “No” to anything I will always tell them why – it’s got me in some tricky situations over the years, where I’ve had to have conversations that I would much rather not have – so this one is going to be a bit difficult. I suppose I have quite a few reasons for it, but they are all going to be deemed lame and “old-person” concerns and mum having another hissy fit about devices and screen time. And I suppose they are right in some respects. I don’t like the amount of time the kids spend on devices but I also feel that K and I are slightly obsessed too and that we could benefit from this blackout period as much as the kids. It’s too easy to fill five minutes while waiting for the kettle to boil by looking at Twitter or Instagram and we both respond to texts or messages in lightning fast time. I want to be less of a slave to it and less addicted and I want some sort of enforced separation from the culprits (the devices). It’s easy for the kids to say they won’t go on their phones after 8pm but still have them in their rooms. The temptation is too great and although I have never caught either of them online at an ungodly hour, I can’t say with hand on heart that I believe them when they say they won’t. I find it hard to not look at my phone and I’m old – how hard must it be for them?

I know this is going to be very unpopular as we’ve tried various other strategies in the past – I went with T not speaking to me for a whole 24 hours after I installed a curfew app on his phone a while back – but I’m not going to back down on this. I am made of stern stuff and I can deal with being a bit (OK a lot) unpopular if it means we can be a bit more engaged with each other and do other stuff, even if it’s just watching TV together. Maybe, if the devices are downstairs and switched off, the kids will come downstairs a bit more often and actually have a conversation. Maybe. Watch this space.

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I’m a potted plant

“A cactus?” I hear you cry. No, cheeky. I can be prickly but the actual type of plant is not in question here. I just am. A potted plant sits in its pot and it’s just, well, there. It doesn’t do anything -some flower, some have big leaves, some have long spidery bits that dangle down, but that doesn’t matter. The point is that the plant is there.

I read an article yesterday (I like reading articles about teenagers and how to deal with them. I think that forewarned is forearmed and I need all the help I can get) about teens and what they need from parents. Money? Well, yes of course that is the main one, but we’re talking emotions here. What do they need emotionally from their parents? To shout at them sometimes? to slam doors in their faces? to make them feel like the worst parents in the world? No, they just need us to be around. Like a potted plant, not saying anything, not doing anything; just being there.

This article centred around a study of teens and their parents work patterns and the effect this has on their emotional well being. It all sounds a bit touchy feely and I am not stupid – I do take a lot of what I read with a large pinch of salt because we can all read into these studies what we want to and make them fit our own outlooks and lives so that we don’t feel that we should start wearing a hairshirt because clearly we are the worst parents ever because we don’t do A, B or C. Anyway, back to the study. The teens involved were reported to say that they didn’t really want much from their parents, they get a lot of their emotional support from their peers, but they just want to know that their parents are around and available if they should need them. It also said that some parents are baffled when their teen comes into the living room and flops down on the sofa, sits for a few minutes not saying much maybe just looking at their phone or chat for a few minutes before buggering off upstairs again. This happens to us a lot. And it is a bit baffling really. I always feel bad when T goes back to his room, worrying that I should have instigated a conversation, engaged him in some way or, when I have tried to do so, he goes anyway and clearly I failed some test. But apparently they are just “checking in”. They just want to know that we are there and that we are available to chat if they want to, even if they don’t want to. It’s not a test; it’s not an opportunity to start a massive discussion; they don’t actually want anything from us. Phew! What a relief.

It went on to say that even where parents work full time, it’s not a disaster. Phew again. It is not important for parents to be there ALL THE TIME (this is where the potted plant analogy falls down a little – a plant doesn’t nip out to the pub, as far as I am aware) but so long as the teen knows they will be there at some point and available then they adapt to that. Being around at dinner time, eating together more often that not – ALL GOOD. Being there every day when they come home from school – not essential, as they really only want food and normally do not want to talk about their day until later on, probably dinner time.This makes sense. I work from home 2 days a week so I am there when they get dropped off from school and on the days when I am in the office I pick the kids up from school so am home with them from that point on too. But I don’t see them. We don’t talk (at least not very often and my enquiries about their days are generally met with “alright” unless some drama has kicked off). They get some food, they sometimes make me a cup of tea and then they disappear off to their rooms only to emerge again when I shout them down to lay the table for dinner. Sometimes they chat over dinner. Sometimes they wolf their food down whilst barely making eye contact with anything other than their plate and then they’re off upstairs without so much as a “that was nice thanks”. IT’S ALL QUITE NORMAL.

So, I am a potted plant. I am here, I am available just in case. Please water me occasionally and pick off my dead leaves. (Ok that last bit was slightly weird, ignore me.)