Sunday, 29 May 2011

Matching underwear and shaven legs

Before we had children The Future HUsband lay in bed, watching TV, whilst I got dressed. I felt his eyes upon me, as I fumbled in my drawers for something clean to thrown on. "Miss P..." he said pausing before the question.
I turned, to face him "Remember when you used to always wear matching underwear and always had clean shaven legs?"
"Yes darling, it was an act." I reply flatly, looking down at my black lacy bra and pink and grey striped cotton knickers, and noticing, for the first time, two days stubble sprouting on my legs.
"Thought so."

That was before children, after children this...

"Can you just take the pile of washing upstairs?" he shouts from the kitchen. I don't reply, but go to do as I'm told. I stop in front of the washing, startled by what I see - on top there is a black satin bra with huge red flowers and matching knickers edged in lace. Oh they're mine, I just haven't seen them together since I opened them on Christmas day, 18 months ago.
"Hey come look at this" I shout.
He appears at the doorway. I point to the discovery.
"I know I was a bit freaked out when I saw them on the washing line. I thought you might be having an affair."
"I think it's just because we reached the bottom of the washing basket - coincidence they were in the same wash."
"Yeah. That was my second thought." he smiles.
No not having affair, just been doing lots of laundry - yes, I'm afraid I am that dull. Loyal though.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Warning signs: this ridiculous level of procrastination has to stop.

I have, after avoiding it for many years, decided to mark exam scripts. My father, has been an examiner/moderator for as long as I can remember. Summer months plagued with non stop parcels arriving, mood swings, the silent treatment and ridiculous man hunts around the house for missing scripts/important papers. It was enough to make me reluctant to join the queue to earn extra cash. But somewhere, recently, I thought it was a good idea.  This "good idea" has resulted in a lot of nervous energy that I have been unashamedly fuelling in the wrong direction. By doing nothing at all productive.
This is what I should have been doing:
  • Preparing myself for arrival of scripts to examine by completing online tutorials
  • Preparing my house for arrival of scripts by removing excessive, and unnecessary junk, and providing a sanctuary of cleanliness to mark in. (We all know life is better when the house is tidy; less things get lost, people wake in brighter moods,  little blue birds chirp on windowsills etc etc)
  • Writing a bestselling novel so we could move out of this tiny, two bed roomed terrace, leave all our junk behind and a note on the door telling the examining board to bog off!
This is what I have been doing:
  • Updating my status on facebook too often. Definitely a warning sign of high levels of procrastination. I had, in recent months, weaned myself away from the dreaded FB, using it solely as a way of increasing traffic for this blog and to remember friend's birthdays. This was a conscious decision after finding myself irritated with its degeneration to bork book (e.g. can I just say my hubby/wifey is the most amazing/beautiful/sexy/funny person in the world and I'm gonna give a big sloppy snog when they get home) or boast book e.g. (OMG! I just got a promotion/pay-rise/boyfriend/blow-job - I'm amazing - Don't you want to be me? etc etc). However, somewhere amongst this week I got a little bit carried away with my own self importance and decided a running commentary of my life was needed. I think one day I updated my status four times, I think that puts me up there with the top offenders. Yes , this week I am a facebook nob.
  • Listening to next door neighbours argue. I was actually asleep... early. I think bad TV had driven me to it. It was about half past nine and I was woken by the neighbours shouting. These are the neighbours who we rarely ever hear, through our paper thin walls, but who are  plagued by our heavy feet, booming voices and inability to close a door. A door must be slammed! However, this midsummer evening I was bought back to waking through hearing these words, in a welsh accent, "I told you to do this months ago". The welsh neighbour is actually pregnant with their first baby. There was a lot of mumbling and I was unable to decipher what "this" was. Therefore, I was left to spend a stupid amount of time coming up with my own suggestions:
    • cancel their holiday to Magaluf?
    • propose?
    • forget about having a social life, freedom and a life in general?
    • start saving for all the very expensive Christmases to come?
    • vacuum pack and put in loft the following, till child is a teenager: expensive clothes, dry clean only clothes and any evening wear?
    • stop smoking/drinking/farting/breathing?
    • wear a condom?
  • Pretending to be asleep. This is a particular skill I have developed to avoid getting out of bed. I lie there, "sleeping", till The FH shoehorns me out. Yesterday morning The FH was in the shower, whilst Little O was sat on the toilet. I hear their conversation clearly, but my eyes are closed. I'm asleep. Little O jumps down and assumes the "bridge" position, and shouts, full volume, "WIPE MY BOT-TUM!" I'm asleep, so I can't do it. The FH  tells him to wait a minute, till he gets out the shower. During this minute, Little O remembers about the toy* his sticky fingers lifted from School yesterday. "Can I play with the boy?". I want to shout through from the bedroom - no chance there O, but I can't, I'm asleep you see. Instead I lie there and listen to the screams and wails ensue as he is told the boy is staying where he is. Little O is then sent to his bedroom for throwing a tear tantrum. Then, sniffle sniffle, pitter patter of little feet, "but you didn't wipe my bottom." Cream carpets? White bedding? I think I'll pretend to be asleep a bit longer.
  • Familiarising myself with every house I can't afford to buy on and fantasising about the interior design I would create if I owned them. By the way, in my head, I do an excellent job.

Side effects of too much procrastinating:
  • got back from the doctor's appointment to be told by Mother that I had my maxi skirt on inside out (could have paid more attention to detail)
  • found 3 NEW grey hairs (could have dyed it)
  • birthday plants have withered to a very crunchy existence (could have watered them)
  • shadows the shade of magenta under eyes (should have been sleeping)
Anyway, the scripts arrived today, no time for procrastination anymore. The next three weeks' schedule will be filled with mood swings, irrational ranting, self-indulgent pity and the losing of scripts/important papers. He taught me well.

[the toy* This is well worn figure of a young boy, who has golden brown hair, just like Little O, a red fleece just like Little O and blue plimsolls, just like Little O. I have previously caught him trying to take him home  and made him put him back. But yesterday I didn't realise he had hi, till we were home and I spotted his feet sticking out of his school short pocket. The FH was very unimpressed and put him out of reach on our highest shelf  and said no one was allowed to play with him till he was returned. There were a lot of tears.]

Monday, 23 May 2011

Is there no mystery left?

 Apparently the new trend, amongst teenage girls, is to take pictures of yourself, completely naked, and send it to every teenage boy in your phonebook. I know this to be fact, as my old colleagues have to telephone their parents to tell them what their precious, beloved, 14/15 year old daughters have been doing. Also, to add to this depressing news, I was told a story of a teacher having to ring a set of parents to come and collect this birthday present a 15 year old girl had been given at school. Wait for it, the best is yet to come; in a recent poll at a local school teenage girls declared unanimously they would most like to be... Jordan! Depressed? Me too.

But it's not just school girls, as these trends rarely start at school, they are filtered down from their role models. Apparently, and my sources are pretty concrete, this is what young, professional, twenty something women do: send DIY soft porn pictures and videos to their boyfriends. And what do the boyfriends do? Show their mates. Show the rugby team! Or, if you're really lucky, they'll upload it to the internet: "I'm gonna make you a star baby."

So the girlfriend (the one who has a fragment of self-respect left) dumps him and weeps to her girly mates, "I can't believe he did this to me"  and the girly mates say, "I know men are such twats."

No! Men are men. There's good ones and there's bad ones, but most of them are pretty indiscreet (who do you think my sources are?). You, my dear, are the twat - what did you think was going to happen? And seriously, why would you do that anyway? Here it is on a plate, babe, you don't even have to buy me dinner.

At university a flatmate and I discussed the ladette culture that was swarming its way to popularity in the late nineties. He said he found it such a turn-off. "Yes, women should enjoy a drink, enjoy sex, curse if they wish, but the way they have become crass and obvious is the polar opposite of sexy." He talked about growing up on a Glasgow council estate where women were all about the mystery and men were made to work really hard to get a glimpse of a bra.  He said, and I will never forget this, how the women in the public eye left him reeling with curiosity.

There are a few choice examples in the public eye, which are devoid of mystery and intrigue, that parade their sexuality like it is an achievement and they make a lot of money doing it. This is their prerogative, but please, don’t let the next generation of young women celebrate them. Please let us celebrate Icons who embrace the mystery and intrigue like the starlets of yesteryear.

I have wanted to write this blog for a while, but have struggled with finding these Icons - as everyone has their faults and most of us a past that someone will disparage. Therefore, I thought I would suggest some women in the public eye, that I think, technology allowing, would not have sent soft porn pictures of themselves to their classmates

 Eva Green

I know - a bond girl! A bit of a cliché...
Jameela Jamil

I like her story, her past, her honesty.

Kristen Scott Thomas

I don't like to agree with Jeremy Clarkson on many things, especially politics, but the fact he uses Kristen Scott Thomas as a measure of good taste is his only redeeming feature.

Helena Christensen

The FH, tells me this beautiful woman is renowned for being as thick as brick. This I found very disappointing, "but she's so beautiful and she's a photographer now." He shrugged his shoulders. Clearly he has insider knowledge from when he mixed with supermodels, before he was mine.

Carey Mulligan

A young British actress aka 'The girl who hates the red carpet'. Well, the camera loves you Miss Mulliagan.

Who are your Modern Female Icons? Suggestions please.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

And, in their defence...

Having based my career in education, and The FH also the same, we are hardened to the antics of the youth. Or so we like to think. But still there are things that shock us. Things that have broken our hearts. Things we never forget, can't put behind us.

Between us, we've worked in the worst schools in the area. We've been told to "fuck off" a thousand times. Spent hours and hours helping one child and the next week watched them self-destruct. We've watched children die, written their eulogies, picked up their broken friends and realised we couldn't put them back together.

We've filled them with false dreams; we've tried to lift their spirits and we've tried to beat them down, just so they will survive the day. We've inspired and changed lives and we've felt the sting in our faces of hitting a brick wall. We've been hated, we've had formal complaints and, at different times, we’ve both just wanted to stop.

And I did. I walked away. I don't yet know if I'll ever go back. I walked into a bubble of love and nourishment, a place where I can control the outcome. Where I can watch my own children grow, make cupcakes and play dough, sing nursery rhymes, play pirates and make sure every day they feel loved and are happy.

My last post bulleted a day of supply teaching. Whatever I put up with in the classroom, most of those kids were going home to worse.  It's usually the ones who are loved that sit quietly.

Seven years ago I was placed in a school where Year 9 boys were pimping Year 9 girls. Yes, PIMPING! Not to their peers, to grown men. That stays with me now, like a gritty detective programme that set out to shock and disturb. But it was real.  I saw those faces, watched those girls leave the school, and prayed we could lock them in, keep them safe.

Where are those girls now? What will happen to their children? Will David Cameron's 'Big Society' help them? Because his failing schools and redundant teachers certainly won't.

The next generation… bred with skin of steel, encasing emotions that they don't understand, unafraid of anything. What will pain mean to them? Death is already just a word, 'To kill', a verb, a doing word - an action, not a consequence. And the question that frightens me the most: who will teach them the verbs to love, to respect, to dream?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Well, I've been called worse.

I dipped my toe back into the pools of teaching... and discovered the water was polluted with profanities and I really needed someone to throw me a life jacket!

A few months ago I signed up with a supply agency, for a bit of pocket money, but I didn't make it easy for them - "I can only do Mondays and Fridays" and "I can only do schools in a 5 mile radius of where I live." I hadn't heard anything for a while, I was aware the summer term was upon us and Exams and Year 11 leaving meant supply was scarce. "Oh well" I thought earlier on in the week "probably a blessing in disguise"

Then, Thursday evening, a phone call - "Hi Frances, just wondering if you're available for work tomorrow?" shocked, and taken unaware, I answer too quickly "Oh Yes I am." This, I now know, is an amateur mistake. In future, I will always answer this question with the question "Which School?"

But I'd already agreed, they had me by the balls, well they would have, if I had some. She told me the name of the school. My heart sunk. Said school is well known to be falling further and further into the dark pit of teaching hell. But I'd made a decision: try everything once, make your own mind up - then run like hell if you have to!
The next morning I stopped at the corner shop, bought them out of cheap biros and foxes glacier fruit mints and suddenly felt prepared.
So here's the day in bullet points:
  • They led me into a false sense of security - the first two lessons I taught poetry to year 11's, who sat there like little sponges, absorbing what they could.
  • Year tens spilled into the room like sewage. It took me ten minutes to get there attention. They point blank refused to help give out their books. 3 girls walked out, at different points of the lesson.  I told a girl to stand outside; she obliged and when I went to speak her realised she had buggered off.
  • A year 10 boy told me his girlfriend had finished him because he tried to "do her up the bum"
  • I tried to read 'Of Mice and Men' with Year 9. When discussing Candy's dog, a girl shouted out it was “a nonce dog who had aids”. I told girl to stand outside, she said 'hang on a minute, a little bit of wee just come out because I was laughing so much'  I lost my temper and shouted. "Get! Out!" and she replied with "Don't talk to me like a prostitute." ???
  • Prostitutes skulk outside of classrooms in this area, obviously.
  • Another charming young lady, told her support assistant "do you have to sit there, you've been getting on my tits all day".  At the end of the lesson, I refused to put a green light of the two mentioned girl's reports. So as they left the room they both called me a cunt!
  • I was charmed.
  • I got a last minute cover for P5 - Year 11 science.
  • A boy dressed up in goggles and white coat and did the first part of a (very bad) strip routine.
  • Informed, by the class, that the Head of Science had a "butt plug" in her classroom.
  • Had 2 boys removed from the classroom as they were "acting dangerously" with lab equipment - i.e. bashing each other with 2kg weights
  • Throughout the day, at different points, was told I looked: scary/ 40/ pregnant/ insane/ trippy and a lot more that was actually incoherent because their mouths were wadded with a week's supply of "chuddy" or because the skill of enunciation   had been lost generations ago through interbreeding.
It was wonderful to be teaching again – I have no idea why I ever left? As an NQT I was told. “You might spend a whole day in a classroom, and only change the outlook of one person. But it’ll be worth it.”
I think on this day that one person was me…
Previous outlook: try everything once; make your own mind up - then run like hell if you have to!

New outlook: For a £150?  Sod that!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

So what have we learned this week?

We're driving to see a friend. Little O is the front as it helps with car sickness. Radio One is blurting out its hip hop "music" blah blah bop bop. Next comes on JLo's new song, "I like this" says Little O and starts bopping in his booster seat, he pauses , compiles his thinking face, turns his ear to the stereo and looks very confused, "Why's she saying she wants to be sick on the floor?"
I want to say "because she's still Jenny from the block", but bad jokes only lead to more "why?"
"I think she's saying "she wants to get hip on the floor"
"Doesn't she have a hip?"
"She does have hips - some would argue very good hips, but I think she means she wants to do some good dancing on the dance floor."
What... like this?" bops in booster seat, thumbs circling each other.
"Yep. Just like that."

I later look up the lyrics, because I need to be "down with it" for my 3 year old

Steal it quick on the floor, on the floor
Don't stop keep it moving
Put your drinks up
Its getting ill
It's getting sick on the floor

I should have known he'd be right!

* * *

Yesterday I promised Little O we could make a cake after school, which was a stupid thing to say. I had dinner to make, downstairs floor to tidy, tutoring session to prepare for... and now a cake to make. I don't know why I agreed to it; I think I just wanted some cake!

Anyhow, he darts through the front door, rushes to the kitchen, assembles his step ladder and waits patiently at the work surface.
"I'll just tidy this room" I holler through to him. Tidying now includes a humdinger of a nappy change, removing squashed, brown banana from under the TV stand and retrieving a pair of earrings from the play dough.

I open the door to the kitchen, steaming nappy bag in hand, and Little O's feet are the only thing visible beneath the cloud of smoke.

"Oh my God! Get out! Get Out!" I grab the child, somewhere above his feet, which are poised in tiptoes on the orange step ladder. My panic screams send him into floods of tears; I grab the youngest en route to the patio doors and dump them on the decking. "Stay here!" I say to the two bundles, both of which are streaming with tears.

I return to the kitchen, the smoke is thick, but there's no flame.

I can hear ticking; tick-tock, tick-tock.

For a brief second, this is no word of lie, and I can only admit this here... I thought there was a bomb! (What a smoke bomb? Maybe? I'm not a terrorist). I can only justify this level of neuroticism with my recent fears about possible repercussions arising around Bin Laden's death. Why the prime target would be a full time mum, in a terraced house, in North East suburbia? I don't know, but this what I thought: "Fuck! A Bomb!"

Fortunately, A millisecond later and the toaster pops to display two squares of charcoal, so burnt they disintegrate at touch.

Tick-tock, tick-tock. "What the hell is ticking?" I scream at the charcoal.  Brrriiiing! The cooking timer on the fridge sounds its alarm. Wow, that has a loud tick I think. Maybe my hearing was extra sensitive due to being blinded by the smoke.

I open the window, return to the decking and remind myself I must check the smoke alarms. Little O, wipes away his tears " I just wanted to make you some toast"
"I know darling, but you burnt it." I explain pulling him into my arms.
"But I put the timer on" he sniffs

* * *

So what have we learned this week?

My eldest child knows how to use the toaster.
JLo wants to be sick on the floor.
Nobody wants to blow me up.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

This has got to stop.

"This has got to stop. This has got to stop." The Future Husband holds youngest child up to his face "This. Has. Got. To. Stop."

Youngest child Giggles

This was yesterday morning at 5.20 am, after the child has woken 5 minutes earlier, each morning, for the last fortnight.

At 9.00 am he got dressed and roared off to B  and Q. Returning with black out blinds for every window upstairs "This'll work" he says, drill in hand, DIY stance composed.

Do you want to know what time he woke this morning? 4.30 am.

Fish finger sandwiches.

Today I found myself eating a fish finger sandwich, off the work top in the kitchen, whilst staring at a sink full of washing up. "I've been here before" I thought.

In my mid-twenties if someone had mentioned a fish finger sandwich I would have said "Oh God - I haven't one of those since I was a student", believing it was a lifetime ago. It's nearly 10 years, this June, since I graduated from University. Now I watch little pockets of life creep backwards and forwards. Old enough to know how a motif from of a previous life can pop into a present - even a fish finger sandwich!

Some recurring motifs...

I'm in labour with my second child, it's as close to hell on earth I've ever been, I'm strapped to the bed with machines clicking around me like tutting tongues. The midwife says "I've just got to pop out, won't be a moment", this is the first time she's left us in 3 hours. The three of us squeezed into the NHS high dependency maternity room, on the hottest day of the year, with only Jeremy Kyle blurting his sanctimonious nonsense (on the hour of free TV) as a distraction from each other. The Future Husband turns to me "Sorry Fran, I need a shit" and darts into the en-suite. Contraction 144 starts, I pull the gas and air to my face, I breathe it in and I breath it out, bubbles rush to my head, the room spins and I lean over the side of the bed and vomit.

Then I'm back in 1987, my dad and I are leaving the dentist, I have a tooth in my left hand and my pink knitted cardigan in my right and just when we are in the middle of the road I stop, bend over and retch. Vomit splashes on my maroon patent, buckle shoes and my dad stands there, clad in chinos and a shirt and tie, holding my hair. "Done?" he asks. I nod. We cross the road.

The midwife re-enters the room, the contents of my stomach reign supreme on the floor. She turns to The FH, "Where were you?"

This winter, I stand at the bottom of a white hill, sledge string in hand, two boys on-board. The hill-top merges with the sun's long fingers, masking the rest of the view in beauty. I smell the rays as they bounce of the snow, "I want to go skiing today" I whisper.

I'm walking up a white hill, wearing last night's clothes, with last night's make up smudged upon my face. Each step thuds inside my head and in my stomach, red wine curdles with toffee vodka. I look at the deserted road, hoping to spot the bread van and a lift home. The road is white and empty and long. "I don't want to ski today" I groan.

"Come on Mamma" shouts a mouth emerging from the gap between hat and scarf. I start the journey up the hill. It's white and empty and beautiful.

A bottle of Calvin Klein’s' Eternity stands alone at a school fete. Just one sniff...

...And I'm wearing an oversized ski jacket that drowns a tee-shirt and jeans from Topshop. Cheap cider, from our breath, hangs in the air. The night is cold but full of possibility. We gather in the shadiest corners of the town, obscured by the darkness of winter nights. We believe we're justified. We're harmless. But from the outside we look dangerous; full of teenage hormones, rebellion and Electric White.

"Did you want that?" she points at the half full bottle, with a 50p sticker on its lid.
"No Thanks. Just the memory."

I sit at the lap top and try to conjure the words that sprinkled across my head when I searched for sleep. What to call it? My fingers flex and the words emerge on the blank screen.

I have longed for these cold keys, the smell of the ink ribbon, feeling the letters push back against my fingertips. Rolling the paper, click click click click, finding the centre, screeeech, pressing the ink onto the paper, staining the white, creating something.
"Where's Frances?" My Grandma asks from the kitchen.
"At your typewriter...again" My sister replies.

"Where's your Mamma?" the future husband shouts from upstairs.
"On the pooter" squeals the eldest child from under the youngest child.
"Coming!" I shrill

Sunday, 1 May 2011

A little bit awkward!

Two things you should know before reading this:

1) My Mum (Nonna) is a woman of the church, a lay reader to be precise.
2) My eldest child (Little O) has to feature in every story you tell him e.g Can you tell you the story of Little O and the three little pigs? (Where Little O is not the big bad wolf, but the eldest and cleverest little pig who built is house out of bricks)

So after a visit to Church with Nonna, Oscar had noticed the statue of Jesus on the cross.

He came home full of questions "Why did Jesus dies on a cross?" and "Why did the bad men nail her there?"

First, I explained that Jesus was a man (but found it interesting that his gender identification is based solely on length of hair considering Jesus’ near nakedness), and then tried to tell the story, in a very child friendly way, without scaring him senseless, of Jesus on the cross. (To be fair I haven't fully explained death to him yet, it's all a little bit dreary for a 3 year old isn’t it?)

After I finished Little O sped off at full speed, a wooden sword in hand, to kill (he doesn't really know what that means either) the naughty men. Moments later he returned, full of thought and poignancy, he snuggled into Nonna on the couch and pulled her comforting arm around his shoulders and said "Nonna,, will you tell me the story of Oscar and Jesus, when they die on the cross and came back to life?"

Nonna, who rarely says "No" to her eldest Grandson didn't want to upset him, but was also worried about tiptoeing into heresy!

We managed to distract him with episodes of He-Man on you tube. He’s been infatuated with princes and swords since the royal wedding – He man was the best I could come up with under pressure, even though he does keep calling him Princess Adam – must be the long hair!