Category Archives: teenager

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

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Ch..ch..ch…changes…..

…turn and face the strange….

It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it?

For a good 18 months at least, I have been thinking about work, home, and how I can change things a bit to make my working life a bit more interesting. I’ve looked at other career options – limited, with no formal qualifications in anything and I don’t relish the idea of studying or attending training courses. Not really knowing what my ideal job is makes it difficult.

As you know, if you’ve read my previous posts (presumptuous of me), I had a “review” at work at the beginning of the year which, while positive and comforting, didn’t really change much.

Then, one morning, two weeks ago, before anyone else arrived, my boss “D” (the less misogynistic one) told me he wanted to give me “the heads up” (I’ve never really understood that phrase) that changes were afoot and things would be “getting a bit more exciting” and that there was an “opportunity” for me to do something “different”.

My initial reaction (in my head, the outer one was all smiley and faux-excited) was not to get too excited as I have heard similar things before, albeit less enthusiastically and said less certainly. I was to wait until the other boss came in for us to “have a formal chat”. Luckily, unlike the review, I didn’t have time to stew on the formal nature of the chat. I cracked on with some emails from ratty customers and waited.

Luckily, I wasn’t in for a long wait and pretty soon they were both sitting at my desk and they offered me a promotion. They’re expanding the business, diversifying into another product line (very different) and want to be able to free up D so that he can concentrate on the new stuff. They want me to take over the existing stuff and they are going to employ someone new to take over my current role. They want me to do it and they think I can. They’re happy for me to continue doing a 4-day week. They’re happy for me to still go off to pick the kids up from school. Basically, they will do whatever it takes to enable me to do the job, because they want me to do it.

I haven’t had such a confidence boost since T reached 2 years old and I realised that I was a good enough parent not to have killed him, and that maybe we could have another one. It’s immensely flattering. It’s exciting (it really is, this is not my faux-excited face). And it’s going to be a challenge. I haven’t had a proper challenge (apart from parenting stuff) since I joined the company 7 years ago and went back into the working world. It’s just what I needed to happen and it means I don’t have to have an interview for a new job, get to know new people, realise I was happier where I was.

So, it’s starting to happen and I’ve already taken on some of the new stuff – it’s making by brain hurt a bit, but in a really good way. Good changes, confidence boost and challenges. Love it.

 

 

 

 

Open Options

Last week, T received his Mock GCSE results. Based on his predicted grades he didn’t fare brilliantly: low passes for most and some below. He is predicted high grades of 7’s and 8’s (A’s and A*’s to anyone on old money) which we have always felt are either optimistic or, in the case of some subjects, completely unrealistic. He has always been a steady, level-pegging student. We have only ever asked that he tries hard and does his best; we want him to achieve the best he can for him, to give himself the best chance of being able to do what he wants in later life. We are also not naive enough to think that his entire future happiness hinges on what grades he gets at GCSE; so long as he gets the passes he needs to do what he wants after GCSE’s, we will be happy for him.

So, what does he want to do after his GCSE’s? From the age of about 3 years old, when he first understood what a Police Officer was, he has wanted to join the Police Force. This ambition has not wavered over the years and, in fact, has only been fuelled by the last year as a member of the local Police Cadets. Over the last 6 months or so he been looking into how to take it further, after school. He has asked some of the older cadets and has established that those who are looking to pursue it further are all studying a Public Services BTEC at college. We attended the Open Evenings for the two most local colleges in the latter part of last year and quickly narrowed it down to one. He seemed set on going this route and subsequently signed up for the course, starting in September, and had an interview last week (the day of the Mock GCSE results). He was offered a conditional place – he needs 4 GCSE’s at level 4 or above. Easily achievable, we think.

The following day, his school held a Post-16 Evening to look at the options available to students after GCSE’s. T’s initial response, when I suggested we attend, was that there was no point as he knew what he wanted to do and he didn’t want to stay on and be made to feel he should go on to Uni. My experience at his age was exactly that: I did A levels and for the two years of study I was primed for Uni. I didn’t want to go to Uni. I left school with 2 mediocre A’levels and  started working. Nothing has changed much since my time, so I was inclined to agree with him. However, my parent hat went back on and I persuaded him to at least go along and hear what they had to say. We’re not anti-Uni. Uni is important and necessary for people wanting to do jobs that require a degree. But not all jobs require a degree and not all kids want to go.

For the first half an hour, I wondered why I had dragged him along. It was like deja vu and I was 15 again, being told that this number of students went to top ranking uni’s last year and this student went to Oxford. It’s a great school, you can’t get away from that. However, I would also like to have heard about X student who had struggle academically throughout their school life but had achieved Y and has gone on to do Z. There needs to be more balance. The school produces a map of it’s leavers destinations – uni’s and colleges. There is a box at the bottom showing students who haven’t gone on to uni. They don’t make it on to the map – they are in a box. I say no more. Needless to say, by the time we left the hall I was ready to go home and skip the subject talks we had booked in for. We stayed, because I am an adult.

I am glad we stayed. The first talk we went to was Business Studies. T’s Business Studies teacher is awesome. I don’t use that word often or lightly. But she is. She’s engaging, lively, she connects with the students on a level that I have never seen before. I would almost consider going back to school if I could have her teach me full time. She’s that good. The school offers both A’ level and BTEC Business. BTEC Business can result in the equivalent of 2 A’levels after the 2 years. No exam, just coursework. My heart did a little skip and I nearly clapped. Some of the current year 12 students spoke and they talked about one of their modules requiring them to create a business. They have gone one step further and are running a business. They are making money, running a business while studying and it goes towards their coursework. Sign me up now. T seemed equally enthralled. And the best bit, Mrs T teaches BTEC Business, not the A’level. She went on to say that they have as many students go on to do further study as they do go on to get jobs, apprenticeships. It’s not all about Uni. Hurrah.

Similar feelings for ICT. We went to the Computing talk but it was clear from the start that it was not the course for T. He is doing Computing GCSE but this was all whole new level. Not beyond his capabilities, just beyond his interest. The clincher for me was the 3 students who were there as “ambassadors” for the subject – they appeared to be 60 year old men. I suspect they have always been this way but I can’t risk it happening to T.

As we left the event, I asked T what he thought. He has decided to apply for both college and Sixth Form. There has been talk for some time that the Police Force will soon only recruit graduates. This has been bandied about a lot, but we can’t guarantee that it won’t happen. If that is the case then T needs to be prepared to take that step. Or change direction. Doing Public Services may end up narrowing his options, but also may lead to his dream job. Doing Business and ICT BTEC’s may broaden his options, and make him look at other avenues. It also won’t stop him going to Uni and applying to the Police as a graduate if necessary.

It feels good that he has made some sensible decisions. It feels good that he is keeping his options open for now. And he has some goals to reach in order to do either, which will hopefully keep him focused.

 

 

 

Review Relief

The Work Review took place this morning. I was in the office incredibly early thanks to very little school traffic, and I found myself getting increasingly nervous. I don’t know why – I have known D, my boss, since secondary school and we get on really well as employer/employee. He’s a very relaxed person and we have a good laugh. But, there was something about the formality of having a Review that was making me a bit sweaty-palmed. And for someone with perpetually cold hands that’s quite some achievement.

He arrived in the office about half an hour after me and we chatted about Christmas, family, etc.  I made a cuppa; he did some paperwork; I answered some emails. I knew he was due to leave at 10 a.m. for a meeting and I started to wonder if he had forgotten about The Review. But no, with plenty of time to spare, he said “shall we have this review then?” and laughed. I laughed (a tad more hysterically than necessary) and he came and sat down at the desk next to mine. With his notebook. Palms sweating even more, I wondered if I should get my notebook in case I was expected to take notes. I looked across my desk and noticed my screen was still on my Gmail. Gah! not a great impression to give. I managed to flick it on to a work screen and by then I forgot all about getting my notebook.

I didn’t need it. As formal as it felt, and sounded, to start off with – ” we (the other boss was away, thankfully, so this was the Royal “we”) want to talk about your role, make sure everything is going as it should from both our perspectives, talk about how we can measure your performance and then look at new ideas we have for how to expand your role, does that sound OK?” it soon emerged that they are very happy with what I am doing; they think I am hardworking, conscientious; they are happy that I put in the hours; they have lots of ideas for things I can get involved in; and so long as I keep the required performance levels up on the accounts then they are happy. I squeaked out lots of “OK”s and “oh good”s and “thank you”s steeling myself for when it was my turn – what on earth was I going to say? Why was I being such a dribbler? The best part was that the other boss (the grumpy one) had allegedly said a short while ago that he wished they had come across me ten or fifteen years ago when they were first starting the business, as I am a superstar. I don’t think he said superstar, but I like to think that was what he meant.

My turn.

“Er, I’m happy with the work, most of the time. I like the flexibility and I like coming into the office a couple of times a week to break the week up”.

So lame. Think, think.

“I sometimes find some of it a bit mundane”

OK, I didn’t know I was going to go that route but I’ve started so I’ll finish….

“so some new stuff to get involved in would be great”…..

He’s already said that….THINK!

“I know it can’t all be interesting all the time”…..

“…..had lots of jobs so know it can’t all be fun, fun, fun”…..

“…..really like working here”…..”….happy to do anything really”…..

SHUT UP  – NOW!

I stopped. He smiled, “Great, so that’s all good. We’re going to give you a pay-rise starting this month.” I don’t kiss and tell, but suffice to say it’s not enough for us to start eating caviar every night (why would anyone want to?) and it’s probably going be hard to spot it on my payslip, but it’s the thought that counts and I didn’t take the job expecting to earn megabucks.

I have to admit to being on a little bit of a high after that. It was nice to hear nice things – it’s nice to know they know I am conscientious, and that I am capable of doing more. And, of course, that I am a superstar.

 

Decisions, Decisions

Just before the end of term I received an email from school, entitled Year 11 Prom and Yearbook. T started in Year 11 in September. It was December when the email came through. It was asking him to decide before the 17th January whether he wants to attend the Year 11 Prom, which is held towards the end of…….June!

June! A whole six months away. Six months is a long time when you’re fifteen. I asked him when the email arrived and his answer was “er, no thanks, why would I want to go to Prom?!” How do I know that he won’t change his mind in a month, 3 months, 6 months from now? We have to pay a £25 deposit, which is non-refundable. Do I risk writing off £25 if he still decides it’s a no? A lot can change in six months – he may have a girlfriend by then and she may be a tad annoyed if he’s not put his name down for prom. He may become a total party animal that wants to go and strut his stuff (OK that won’t happen – he is the offspring of two perennial wallflowers). I’ve asked him if any of his mates are going to pay the deposit (something I hate doing, as it really bats against the “I don’t care what your friends are allowed to do” mantra that I have used over the years when he insisted that Insert Name Here had been bought a new phone or had been allowed to go to London for the day alone at the age of 13) he mutters that they don’t talk about stuff like that. Sometimes, and only sometimes, girls are easier in this regard. I’m pretty sure when A is in Year 11 it will be ALL she and her friends will talk about for the whole six months after the email arrives.

I’ve stopped asking, but the email is still in my inbox. I can’t file it away under ‘School – T’ until the date has passed and the decision is made – either by default because we haven’t done anything about it, or because by some miracle he has a conversation about it with his mates and he decides one way or another. (I hate emails sitting in my inbox; it’s so untidy.) I really want him to make the right decision. If he decides that he is going to go to college and not Sixth Form it may be the last school event with his friends that he has made over the years. If he doesn’t go will he spend the entire evening wishing he had? He’s not really one for FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and I am probably hugely overthinking this (Who? Me? Never.) But it seems like a big deal. I have seen photos from previous years – girls all lined up in their pretty dresses, hair and make up all done especially for the occasion; the boys in new suits looking uncomfortable (apart from one, there’s always one) – that’s the other thing, if he goes to college he won’t need a suit apart from for Prom; but they all look excited and happy and their exams are all finished and they are going to PARTY.

Decisions, decisions. I think I might just pay the £25. Then I can file the email, stop thinking about it and IF he changes his mind then I can say “well, good job I paid it then” and I will be a HERO. Again.

 

Review

It’s human nature to reflect back and look forward when one year ends and another starts. Ditching resolutions was one of the the best things I ever did (along with ditching the scales and ditching Facebook) but I still like to take stock and this new year was no exception. 2017 wasn’t too bad on the whole. Unlike 2016, there were no sad losses of loved ones; no broken bones; no upheaval of starting secondary school – nothing to throw off the general equilibrium of life. It was all pretty plain sailing and we made some happy memories and had some lovely times. Of course, there were rows, down times, frustrations and upsets but nothing major in the grand scheme of things. A Good Year.

As we start 2018, I am feeling almost calm and – dare I say? – positive. Last year I took up a photo challenge and this year it is being done again and I am fully on board. It ties in so well with the “no resolutions, no mad diets and no crazy exercise regimes” philosophy and I loved it last year. It’s under the hashtag #SavouringJanuary2018 on Instagram – you get a different word each day, which you interpret as you see fit and post a photo if possible. Not every day if you don’t want to but, by using the hastag, other people can follow your posts and you can see theirs. It makes me think about January in a different way and it’s a great way to start the year. It’s not a brag-fest, not showing off how wonderful your life is, just taking a simple word like “Still” and thinking about a relevance in your day and taking a picture to represent it. Simple but really effective.

That’s not the reason why I am feeling calm and positive. I don’t know why I am feeling this way, I just am. For now. The pessimist in me is muttering that it won’t last. Let’s ignore her, she’s a pain in the arse. I think that taking things easy this Christmas has helped. We normally have family here both days (as we did this year) and then also end up travelling up to the midlands a couple of times in the space of the week. This year we did that early and the rest of the time we have been at home, pottering about, not doing much. Not trying to fill every spare minute DOING SOMETHING. The kids still have another day before they go back to school; I am working from home and K is home early. It’s all still quite chilled (that word again). Mealtimes are still whenever, whatever; no-one needs to be anywhere by a certain time; there are no deadlines. The calm, positive feeling may change when school starts again on Thursday. Watch this space.

Not only am I thinking about my world at home – my real world, the only thing that really matters – but on Thursday I have a Job Review. My boss emailed me before Christmas suggesting it may be a good idea to have one as we haven’t had one for a while (more like never before), just to talk about my role and the good and the bad from both perspectives. I’m not sure how I feel about it. In Creature of Habit I talked about feeling a bit tied to my desk and wanting to make a shift in the way I work. I can’t deny that I find my job a bit tedious at times, that I wish for something to happen to shake things up. But I don’t know how to get this across, or even if I should, at a Job Review. Does a boss ever really want to hear that their employee is feeling a bit stagnant? Especially when it’s in a company of 5 people where there’s not much opportunity to diversify or try something new. I don’t know what to expect or what is expected of me. Of course, I have had plenty of Annual Reviews over the years, and have been on both sides of the table. I’ve helped K fill out his appraisal forms, to ensure he gets the tone right (and sometimes his spellings – he’s terrible at spelling. Mental maths – almost genius, but spelling, uh-ah) and I was never scared to put myself forward for more responsibility. But, this is different somehow. I will let you know how it goes.

Looking into 2018, we have things to look forward to. There are, of course, things to ponder* on: T sitting his GCSE’s; the extension; the Nan situation. There will be obstacles. There will be upsets. There may be be sad times. But if I can keep calm, stay positive, worry about the big things (and only the big things), keep laughing, then it will be OK. Here’s to a New Year.

*notice I said “ponder” and not “worry”. I’ve spent too long worrying about stuff that often didn’t happen or when it did it wasn’t such a big deal after all. Let’s try and have less of that.

Just “chill”

T has been going out a lot in the evenings to a mate’s house, to “chill”*. It’s mainly to one mate in particular as they have a second living room downstairs where they can sit and “chill” without disturbing anyone. But they sometimes go to another friend’s house where this is not the case – they “chill” in the friends bedroom. I queried why they don’t come here, to our house. They used to come here when they were younger during school holidays but this stopped a while ago. Being the over-thinker that I am, I started to worry that it is because of us. That we are too strict/too boring/too uptight/too whatever for them to want to come round.  When I asked T why they don’t come round here he muttered something about having nowhere to go other than his bedroom and there was nowhere to sit in there etc. It was one of those non-answers where you don’t really get anywhere. I replied that maybe when we get the extension done it will be easier for them and they will be able to come and “chill” here instead. He mumbled something that sounded vaguely positive.

Today is a working day for me and K is in the office. I asked A if she would like to have her friend O over for the day (she went to their house before Christmas so it’s nice to reciprocate) and I would take them to St Albans to look at the sales (using my new way of thinking about work and being Flexible) for an hour or so. Which we did. I left them to their own devices and went off to run some errands. While I was in the bank I had a text from T asking if two of his mates could come round. We have erred on the side of caution to date and not allowed friends round while we’re out. But with the “why don’t they come here” conversation fresh in my mind, I agreed. I called him when I finally emerged from the bank (why was the man behind me in the queue insistent on standing SO close to me? every time I tried to edge slightly away he edged too. And he was quite snuffly and I did NOT want him to sneeze on me) I called T and muttered a quick reminder about not being idiots and breaking anything while I was out. He said they would leave when we got back, to which I replied that they didn’t have to as the girls would be upstairs in A’s room and I would be working out of the way in the dining room, therefore they could carry on playing on the Playstation in the lounge.

We got back at lunchtime and they were still here, which made me feel stupidly gratified. Boys have really smelly trainers and the girls moaned about boy smells as soon as they walked in the house. O has a sister and no brothers so was particularly vocal about this. Keen not to scare them off with squealing and annoying female behaviour I ushered the girls off upstairs with promises of food. The boys, it transpired, had just ordered pizzas which were due to be delivered shortly. Trying to be cool and “chilled” I didn’t worry too much about where they were going to eat the pizzas (the lounge, obviously) but did wonder what K would say if he came home to a massive grease/tomato sauce/coke stain on the carpet. Let’s think positive – these are sensible, mature boys not 5 year olds (or teenagers who have bouts of being sensible and mature but with the regressed brains of 5 year olds).

The pizzas arrived and, still trying to be cool, I muttered to T about being careful not to make a mess – he had preempted me and was already fetching plates and glasses. It was all fine – well I assume it was, I haven’t ventured in there yet. He even took the empty cartons out to the recycling bin. The next I heard from them was shouts of “thanks for having me” (they really are great lads) from the open front door and then silence.

I say silence – they hadn’t been noisy, just deep voiced chat and the odd shout of laughter through the stud wall. I say silence but the girls were still here and they were far noisier upstairs than the boys had been in the next room. What is it about girls and not being able to speak slowly or in a normal voice? I don’t remember being that way, but I was probably not a stereotypical ‘girl’. I mean, I was a girl – just not a girly girl. I don’t know if girls with sisters are noisier than girls with brothers? Do brothers make them less hysterical; make them more rounded off because they don’t listen to silly voices and don’t respond to shrieking with more shrieking? Don’t get me wrong, they’re not like it all the time, they have bouts of being calm and quiet, and that’s nice. And O is the perfect friend for A as she makes her be silly and she has A LOT of fun with her.

As much as I want the kids friends to want to come to our house, to like being here and to feel welcome and at home here – I’ve always wanted to be someone they’re happy to chat to, not nervous of – I also love our house when it is just our house. I like the peace and quiet. We’re a quiet family – which I know can be misconstrued as boring or dull or too straight or uptight – but that’s who we are and we can’t change that. All I can do is try and be “chilled” and calm when they are here and know that they won’t be staying forever.

 

 

*I use the word “chill” in inverted commas as this is what I am told they do. I don’t know what it means. I assume they sit and chat and laugh about whatever 15/16 year old boys chat and laugh about. I don’t really want to know. I expect I would be bored or disturbed. Hopefully bored. It’s hard to be interested without looking like I’m giving him the third degree, to be aware of what he’s doing without policing him all the time. We’re in that halfway stage where he needs privacy and his own life but, conversely, he’s still a child that needs looking out for and guiding. Just “chill” mum.