Tag Archives: funny

Family history

What a Friday I’ve had! Fridays are generally always brilliant but this one was super special. I have spent the day with my lovely cousin S. She’s really my second cousin – our dads are cousins; her grandma and my grandad were siblings. She lives down in Surrey and before this summer I’d only seen her a handful of times in the last two decades – at her wedding, at funerals and a couple of family gatherings. It’s one of those situations where because we’ve only ever met up via Family Events we’ve never thought of meeting up alone. This summer she got on a train and came up to St Albans and we spent the day together. Her dad is ten years older than my dad but he spent most of his childhood, up to his teens, living in St Albans so they share a history of more than just being cousins and consequently the city means something to both of us.

The visit in the summer was more about us catching up and getting to know each other a bit better – we are related and we send each other Christmas cards and think the world of each other but we needed to spend some time reconnecting. And it was lovely and I felt like we’d seen each other only a week before. She’s funny and kind and caring and lovely. We’ve got lots in common and we laughed a lot – a family trait – her grandad was always laughing and made everyone around him laugh too. He used to tease my dad, even when my dad was well into middle age, that the milkman was his real father!

Today she came up again (I’d offered to head down her way but she insisted that St Albans is far nicer than anywhere near her, so could she please come up again?) and we’ve had a magical family history mystery tour.

We’d both grilled our dads for the lowdown on places of significance and I came up with a plan. I picked her up from the station just before 11am and we headed off. Our first stop (well, drive-by as there was nowhere to stop) was the building that used to be the school where her grandma went as a young girl, in Catherine Street, now the Jubilee Centre. My grandma used to go there in later years for company – a sort of day centre for elderly people. Then we drove on to the school that her dad and my aunt attended, now Garden Fields school but formerly Townsend.

Next stop, and we did stop, was the house in Marshalswick that her Dad lived in as a boy before the family moved to Surrey when he was a teenager. My dad just about remembers them living there but he was only 5 when they moved away so it’s only a very vague memory.

From there we drove to my dads childhood home in Marshall Avenue where he was born. S’s Dad and grandparents lived there with my grandparents and Auntie for a while during WW2 and my dad was born during this time. Her dad remembers the midwife coming to help deliver my dad and thinking that he must be in the big black bag that the midwife had with her! She chucked the bag down on the floor and he was worried that the baby would be hurt. My dad was a tiddler, weighing just over two pounds, which in those days (with no incubators or special care baby units) would have been a big cause for concern, could easily have fit in the bag so he could be forgiven for his mistake!

We got parked up at the Verulamium museum car park and headed off for a coffee at the Inn on the Park. The place was packed with mums and toddlers so not a great choice for a chat but the coffee was hot and we didn’t plan to be there long – we had more places to visit!

Now on foot we headed round St Michael’s to Portland Street where our grandparents lived as children. I’ve never been up there (as far as I know) and S definitely hadn’t so we were quite excited to see the house- until we realised we weren’t quite sure which number it was! A quick call to my mum confirmed we were outside the right house. The houses can’t have changed much since the early 1900’s and our house (as I now think of it!) still had an old boot scraper outside and we gave the handrail a little stroke in the hope it was the original (you never know). We were both amazed at how such a big family had managed to all fit in such a small – two up two down – house. And we complain about not having enough room. Lightweights.

By this time the pub was calling us so we stopped for lunch. As the Verulam Arms (where S’s grandad liked to drink) is now a Forager food pub we opted for a more traditional lunch in The Six Bells, as recommended by my parents. And very nice it was too.

Properly refuelled and after much more chat and laughter we set off again on foot to the Gorhambury Estate where S’s grandad worked as an apprentice gardener when he first come up to St Albans in his late teens. It was during this time that he met my great aunt, S’s grandma, and the rest, as they say, is history.

S and I both feel so strongly that our family history mustn’t be forgotten. Her dad didn’t have siblings and she is an only child. I am lucky to have my brother and our cousin P, and we need to all make sure we keep the family bond going strong. We’ve got shared history passed down from our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles and we’ll make our own history going forward. A truly special day, with many more to come.

Our grandparents’ home in Portland Street.

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Christmas, poppies and fireworks – in that order

I’ve had a busy day today but because it’s Friday it’s been a good busy.

I’ve been out to the shops with Mrs F and I’ve added to my stash of Christmas presents for the children’s stockings (and one for K’s). I LOVE buying stocking presents almost more than the other presents. Stocking presents are small and fun and lovely to buy – harder for T, dead easy for A and not too bad for K. I like squirrelling them away (after I’ve written them in my Xmas book – anyone who knows me should not be in any way surprised at this) and imagining peoples faces when they open them. A good mornings work.

This evening I’ve accompanied Mrs Lovely to the kids old school in our village to man the Poppy stall at the annual firework night. Mrs Lovely did it singlehanded last year as no one was able to assist but this year I had the pleasure of joining her. And it was a pleasure. Seeing young children, older children, parents and grandparents donating for poppies, wristbands and other merchandise was brilliant. And as an added bonus I got to spend the two hours with Mrs Lovely. She’s great company and we always laugh a lot. We even had chance to see the firework display. I love fireworks but really only at organised displays – they scare me when done in back gardens! The display was brilliant! For a small village school it’s always a great show and this year was the best yet.

I’m knackered now, sitting with a G&T. A happy day.

“That’s very nearly an armful”

I gave blood last week. I try and go as often as I can and it makes me feel good about myself for a few minutes. I don’t mind the process – I’m not bothered by needles and I’m a “quick bleeder”* so it doesn’t take long and then I’m off back to my day to day life. I don’t really give it much more thought other than the fleeting feeling of doing a good deed. But I received a text yesterday telling me thanks and that my donation had been sent to the Queen Hospital in Romford. I had a similar text last time I donated and I sceptically thought it would be just randomly sent, that they couldn’t possibly track my donation and then tell me about it. It seems I was wrong and I should not be such a doubter. What a great feeling.

* I also have very shy veins so although it can take ages for them to get me started, I don’t take long once it’s underway. Not sure how helpful being a “quick bleeder” or having “shy veins” would be in the event of an injury to myself but let’s focus on the positives.

Title courtesy of the brilliant Tony Hancock in The Blood Donor. If you’ve never seen this classic sketch you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEUvyaNu0uw

Boring/perfect

I’ve had a boring day working and not much about it has made me smile, until I went out for dinner with my lovely old friend. (She’s not old, I’ve just known her a long time, that sort of old friend.) As always, we’ve caught up on family news, swapped moans about work and husbands and most of all we’ve laughed. Not just a chuckle here and there – proper laughing that makes your tummy hurt. And stuffed our faces whilst telling each other how badly our latest health kicks are going. And home in time for the ten o’clock news. Perfect.

Planning, Being Human and Revision

Good news! We have finally been granted Planning Permission. So all we need to do now is choose a builder (we’ve whittled it down to two – it’s difficult because they are both really nice, both have quoted around the same price and both are available when we want to get started) and get booked into their diary ready to start in the New Year. Exciting times ahead. Also ones full of dust and noise and horrendous disruption but…..it will all be worth it. I see this fast becoming my new mantra. (I don’t have a current mantra but it may catch on.)

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Last week A was asked to write an essay on What Makes Us Human by her PRE (Philosophy, Religion and Ethics for those, like me, who aren’t familiar) teacher. She asked me to read it over and give her feedback. I’m always a bit on edge when anyone asks me to do this. I am more likely to pick up on spelling errors (I’m not so hot on grammar) and typos so I’m better suited to proof-reading than critiquing. I was pretty impressed; I went a bit misty. She’s 12 years old. She never fails to surprise me – some of the points she made were pretty mature. I quote: “Being human means we mess up from time to time. How can you be human if you don’t make some mistakes? Nobody is perfect. ALL of us have flaws.” (I’m a bit disappointed that she doesn’t think I’m perfect but she’s wrong). She’s not great at taking constructive criticism (one of her flaws, but she get’s it from her mother – OK, I admit, I’m not perfect) so I had to be careful with my wording: she needed to work on some of her ideas a bit more but other than that I told her how mature a lot of her thoughts are and that she should be proud of her work, as she had clearly spent some time thinking about it. Oh, and that it made me a bit misty eyed. She liked that bit.

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Last night, K, T and I attended an info evening at school ahead of the mock GCSE exams starting in November. I thought the intention was to give us ideas on how to help our child through this process and the proper exams in the Summer. I thought we would be talked through strategies, given useful websites, suggested revision guides to buy, etc. We were to some extent but it was really just the core subject heads telling us how difficult the exams were going to be, how much pressure was going to be on the students and (in the case of one teacher) way too much detail on what the exam was going to cover. If I was finding it all a bit daunting, I can’t imagine what the students were thinking. The only positive note came from the head of Maths, and coincidentally T’s teacher, who said that, after hearing his colleagues speak, he felt quite relieved that he taught maths as it was pretty easy to revise for! Top man. He was upbeat and honest – if you want to revise, you need to do some maths. Just do some maths: pick the topics you struggle with and practice – twenty minutes a day. Great.

The funny thing for me was K. He hated school; he gets a bit antsy when we have to attend anything like this – he can’t sit still; he just can’t wait to get away. Last night I felt like I was sitting next to two 15 year old boys. T’s leg was jiggling away and he was looking at his feet for most of the talks. K was “busy” looking at the handout and whispering silly comments to me, when one of the speakers said anything daft. I nearly choked on my Polo when one of the teachers said that the students “need to get on the game”. I think he meant get their heads in the game but it came out wrong, I met another mum’s eye and we both nearly had to gag ourselves to stop from laughing. There’s always a highlight to these evenings.

Stress, Social and Smooth

Stress. The kids went back to school nearly two weeks ago. Last Monday, T had a mini-meltdown. When I say meltdown, he was mildly stressed out. T doesn’t do meltdowns. He does calm and laid back so when he gets stressed it is unusual but not insurmountable. He doesn’t have to tell me when something is worrying him, it is obvious – he goes quiet and in turn becomes argumentative. And anyway, I just know. Before I had kids, I didn’t really believe the whole “mum spidey senses” thing but it is actually a Thing. Anyway, we had a chat after the argument and he admitted he was feeling a bit pressured by the whole GCSE thing and the pressure to do well. We had spoken at length during the summer about how much effort he has been giving so far and how it is not enough to just do the bare minimum. The failed RE GCSE seemed to spur him on, but have I created a monster? Have I made too much of it and now he is stressing out? Anyway, we talked a bit more and it transpired that the homework app wasn’t working (see, technology is NOT always a good thing – what was wrong with writing things down into a homework diary?) and he didn’t want to get behind with his homework………….because he wanted to watch the Apple Conference live the following evening. I don’t need to worry, he clearly still has his priorities in a different place.

Social. On Saturday night, A went to a friend’s birthday party. I am finding it increasingly hard to keep up with her social life and the way it is organised. There’s no invites any more. Parents don’t contact parents any more. Your child gets a text (or Whatsapp message, or Instagram DM, or Snapchat PM….etc) invite from their friend and they ask you if they can go. You say yes or no and if in the affirmative the details get passed to you as and when your child gets them. You don’t have to text a parent or call a parent to say that your child can attend and “hi” I’m J, A’s mum”. None of that. On this particular occasion I had not met the girl whose party it was, or her parents. I just knew she lived in “the big house on the corner of the road that goes down to the school”. She was being dropped off by another friend’s step-dad (again all organised child-to-child but at least we know the friend in question and have met the mum and step-dad) and we were picking them up later. I had an address and a time and the knowledge that they were going to watch a movie at the house and then dinner out at a local pizza place. That was all. Now, I don’t know how you feel reading this, but I felt a little lacking in my parental duties. However, knowing that I could see her whereabouts on my lovely app, I felt slightly less nervous than I could have done. And I knew two of the other girls she was going to be with who are both pretty sensible. She was being dropped off and picked up. Nothing to worry about. And there wasn’t, it was all fine, she had a lovely time; they were even left unsupervised in the restaurant while the birthday girl’s parents went to the chip shop (it’s classier than it sounds) and so she felt very grown up (which I suppose she is becoming). I went to pick her up at the designated time with K as chauffeur. The idea of the “big house on the corner” made me slightly nervous. Meeting a new person made me slightly nervous. Meeting a new person who lives in a VERY big house…you get the idea. I was nervous. Especially having had ZERO contact with her previously. She was perfectly nice, they had all “been fine” and so after collecting all their belongings (why do girls have so much stuff?) we left. I have no idea what the mum’s name was. We made small talk while they were getting their stuff but other than that she has 2 older children and one younger one and that her house is MASSIVE I know nothing more than that. It’s not a problem, it just feels weird. Up til now, I have pretty much known the parents of A’s friends, because I have seen them at school and probably chatted to them in the playground. I haven’t had to worry about this stuff with T, he still hangs around with the same mates he had in nursery. He has other friends, new friends from secondary school, but boys don’t really do the whole “tea” at each others houses thing. Or parties really. Well, T doesn’t anyway. It’s a whole new world and one I am finding hard to adjust to. We have a “new friend” coming for “tea” tomorrow and another one for a sleepover on Saturday night (I have met her before so it will be fine) – I might need therapy by Sunday.

So, that just leaves Smooth. I have not been sleeping brilliantly for a few weeks. When I say not brilliantly, I mean I can get to sleep no problem (in fact probably too easily, i.e. in front of the TV most evenings) but I have started waking up around 4am again. I don’t know why but it is annoying. What is even more annoying is that when I am lying there awake all I can think of is a bloody song that I can’t get out of my head. Not always the same song, but normally one that I don’t even like. I have realised that it is probably down to listening to Radio 2 all day.  It’s not their fault but they do play the same records over and over again – their playlist is pretty limited – and it can get a bit repetitive, and one of the songs will get stuck in my noddle and at 4am it decides to start blasting out. So, I have decided on a change of station. I started out this morning with Classic FM – no lyrics, no catchy tunes, was my thinking. After ten minutes I couldn’t take any more. I need lyrics. I need a catchy tune. I scrolled through the list and Smooth caught my eye – billed as “your relaxing music mix” I though it worth a go. Ooh I like it. So far not one repeat of a song. Nothing current, I grant you – I’m not in danger of being Down With The Kids – but nothing repetitive that could get stuck in my head, not so far anyway. Some old classics, actually only old classics; DJ’s whose voices are not too annoying, so far; a few adverts, could get annoying; but mainly just easy listening background noise with a few “oh I LOVE this one”s thrown in. Let’s see what happens tonight.

 

 

List-less

For years, whenever we have been going away – even for just a few days – I have written lists. One year I needed a list of all my lists, there were so many. I've always seen lists as a saviour, as something I can't live without. With lists I was in control and knew exactly what I needed to do. I had lists for other people so THEY knew what they had to do and I thought it was all a brilliant way of going about it.

In recent months, I have been making myself challenge the way I deal with things. Not Big Things, just Small Things that I get stressed or annoyed about and that make me stress other people out in the process (or annoy them, which is far worse). For example, cooking dinner every night. A Small Thing, but I used to get so wound up by having to decide what we were going to eat, decide what I needed to buy from the supermarket, actually do the shopping, the cooking. Deciding, shopping, cooking. And on and on it went. So now, we agree what we want to eat as a family (I still order the stuff we need – I can't change the world overnight – slowly slowly catchy monkey) and K cooks a few times a week now (and seems to be enjoying it mostly). Over the summer I have announced that one night each week a child will cook. I say child. They're not kids anymore really, young adults. And very capable of knocking up a dinner for four people. So why did I get so stressed and annoyed if it's not difficult? Because I don't want to be the one making ALL the decisions ALL the time and it's very nice to have dinner cooked for me now and again. Thank you.

So, back to the lists. I still write a shopping list, I haven't got that good a memory, but I have decided to ditch the lists for other things. Like to-do-lists and holiday lists. I realised that the lists were actually making me more stressed. By writing a list I was taking responsibility for it all. I was saying "look, I've got this, I am in control and if we get to our holiday destination and we don't have something important then it is all MY fault". And believe me, it's happened. And the consequence is me feeling terrible, other people feeling annoyed and the holiday loses it's sheen of loveliness. So, instead of saying "I've got this", I've said "pack what you want to take". Job done. I realise this is easier now that the 'young adults' are, well, young adults and can decide how many T-shirts they want to take. T has packed his own bag for at least the last 4 trips that he has been on and I haven't even asked him how many pairs of pants he has in his bag. See, progress! So, if someone doesn't have a phone charger, well then they will be very sad but they will be annoyed at themselves and not me. If they don't have enough pants, well, er, they will have to wash them or go commando. But it won't be MY fault.

(N.B. I've jotted down things like 'cool box' and 'picnic blanket' because they are in the garage and I don't rummage around in the man cave.)

I have NOT made a list of places we MUST go to while we are away. We have a map that a lovely friend has lent us and some leaflets; we have the National Trust app; we have our brains and the internet if we get stuck. I started to write a list of places and forced myself to throw it away – for so many years I have had my list and it's rained and the list sat there making me feel sad that we were not going to get to these lovely places I had planned to go to. Not this year. I am going to wake up each morning, check the forecast and as a family WE will decide where we are going and WHAT we will do and WHERE we will get food, etc, etc.

I'm not saying that this is going to be the best holiday we've ever had; equally I'm not saying that every holiday that has gone before has been a disaster; but I am saying that I am NOT going to be in charge.

So I may be list-less but I feel quite free and quite excited by the idea.

Another N.B. I am not going to be 'online' while I am away. I am not going to be checking in, or checking other peoples check-in's. I am going to take some lovely pictures using my camera (if I remember to take it – ha ha!) and I will post them when I get home, if I want to.