Friday 6 September 2019
September marks the return to school in our household and by Thursday, all the teens have made it back to school or college. To A levels and GCSES, news courses and classmates, new PE kits and pencil cases, new timetables and teachers, new dreams and possibilities. If you’ve not already guessed it, I am usually quite a September fan and relish its sparkle of energy and optimism.
It’s back to school for me too and here I find, maybe it’s my age, that along with the promise of new opportunity, a few of last year’s loveliest ghosts still haunt my thoughts. There’s a definite buzz at work and staff, tanned and refreshed by the long August break, seem different people to those exhausted colleagues who crawled home on their knees at the end of the Summer term. I exchange cheery greetings, news and smiles on the way to my office. As I open the door however, I am surprised to find that the wall of ‘Thank you’ cards from last year’s leavers makes me wobble. I can now match their beautiful words and carefully chosen sentences to the very highest examination grades. And, of course, I am thrilled by their success and I cannot wait to see where they go in life, but I do feel a wave of sadness that I won’t be working with them anymore. In addition, some of my favourite work friends have also moved on and, as I look around our morning meeting and take in the unfamiliar faces at the table, that feels a little odd too.
But the busyness of the first day; my staff presentation, running mini-workshops, meetings and yet more meetings, all manages to push the nostalgia away … at least for the time being. Or maybe it doesn’t and maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe I learn from the memories to get re-inspired and fired me up for the year ahead. To quote from one of my ‘Thank you’ cards,
“It’s not really about the grades for me . The lessons I have learned from you in your classroom are far more important than that ….”
You know what, my amazing class and fantastic workmates, that goes “right back at you” !
And before I know it, it’s home …to an unusual barrage of news from the teens. Give that a few days and they’ll be back to their customary grunts of “It’s just school!”, whenever I am reckless enough to enquire about their day!
Well September, month of 30 days, you will bring us to the season of ‘Mists and mellow fruitfulness’. What else will you be serving up though? Now that is an interesting question…
The Job Interview
Wednesday 11 September 2019
Today is my scary job interview. It’s in town. It’s in a new location. I find that without any of my trusty trio to guide me…I get a little lost!
I am awake by 5am, my bag is packed, my reflection is looking groomed and professional and I am on the road before seven. My interview is not until nine and the SatNav tells me it’s a 36 minute journey, but I am not taking any chances. To say that I really am “not great” at navigating in unfamiliar places, would be an understatement.
The traffic is horrendous but nonetheless, feeling rather smug, I am parked, within half a mile of my destination, by 8 am. And not just parked in any of your usual car parks. Oh no! In an unusual moment of travel-inspiration, I have discovered Just Park and for the bargain price of £3.40, I find myself manoeuvering, my loyal Toyota Winston, into a space on a quiet road, having avoided the stress of Manchester’s ominous one way systems and endless ‘Bus and Taxi only’ zones.
“This is all going perfectly” I am foolish enough to think, as I step out of the car.
Now the rain often ‘falls hard on this humdrum town’, and today is no exception. As I pause to load Google Maps onto my phone, I am regretting the decision to wear my hair down. In the relentless drizzle, my interview-straightened locks are beginning to spring their way back to a cheerful frizz. I tell myself it just adds a bit of personality to my look, twirl my phone around a few times, trying to fathom what on earth those little blue arrows on the screen have to do with my route, choose a direction and set off. After 5 minutes, my screen informs me that my 12 minute walk is now a 17 minute walk and I deduce that I am probably not going the right way.
I decide to abandon the phone and fish a paper map out of my bag. I am squinting to read crumpled road names when a lorry rumbles by, through the puddles and, in a moment reminiscent of that famous Bridget Jones scene, drenches me from top to toe. I am now very soggy. I am now visibly bedraggled. But it’s still only 8.10 am. Plenty of time… hey, I can spruce myself up in the Ladies upon arrival!
Several wrong turns later, but with my watch showing a timely 8:37 am, I am joyfully outside the building with the perfect amount of time to spare. Through the revolving doors I go and into…a very quiet and deserted lobby. Rather oddly, there is no reception, but looking around I find a lift showing the floors for several different companies. Mine is found on floors 2 and 3. I start with 2. There’s a glass walled office here, with a few people tapping away on computers. It doesn’t look too promising, so I am back, riding that lift to floor 3. This takes me to a corridor, where a man in an anorak, who tells me he is from ‘IT‘, helpfully stops to find out … what, in the name of goodness, I am doing wandering, unsupervised around his place of work! He has never heard of the man I am supposed to report to and looks puzzled when I explain that I am here for an interview.
“Did they definitely tell you to come to this building, not our main site ?’“he asks.
“You .. you have more than one building?” I hear myself whisper hoarsely, a wave of panic beginning to take hold.
Listening with grim determination, I take in Anorak-man’s instructions on how to find the main site. I hurry to the exit and then I run , as fast as my heels can take me, to the correct location. Damp, red faced, frizzy haired, and gasping for breath, I fly into at Reception with four minutes to spare. There’s no time for sprucing-up, there’s no time to reread my notes there’s no time at all before I am called in.
How does it go? I’ll tell you in a week …
Balancing equations….and emotions
Sunday 15 September 2019
Gosh the start of this school year is a brain stretch for me and the teens! And amidst the cerebral stuff, I worry that I miss the beat at little with those trickier heart and soul matters…
As Prom-dress daughter settles into College life, I find that, whilst she may have sailed through GCSE mathematics, I am in sudden daily demand as she faces the mammoth transition to A-level. Now mathematics is very much my thing and, even when I am very tired and ready for a cheeky glass of red and a pleasant hour of Peaky Blinders, I find it quite easy to cast these treats aside for a dose of quadratics or a few fiendish surds!
For my eldest, the focus of half term one, is all about preparing to apply to Higher Education. With medical school as her aim, its already been quite a journey, but this weekend the UCAS form actually appears. We hunt down old certificates, we reminisce about eventful music exams, we check dates and we face the ‘personal statement’. It is quite a task and takes several drafts and many cups of tea, but we finally have a statement that we are happy for her college tutor to review. And again, I love words and writing, and enjoy supporting my daughter in thinking about the best ways to put her thoughts, ideas and motives into sentences.
At least Small Boy appears to be on top of his school work! And indeed he is. But fighting for attention against all this brain work busyness, I learn that he has missed his basketball trials and I feel sad, because this is just the sort of event where my lovely boy needs a bit of encouragement to push himself forward and give it a go. And although Prom-dress daughter may now be more adept at algebra, boosting her confidence in coping with other aspects of new college life has also fallen a little by the wayside. One thing is for sure at the moment, she is definitely not her usual bubbly self.
It’s a parental balancing acts that seems particularly tough when there’s only one of you, but I am veering towards thinking that my main mum role should always put emotional support ahead of academic help. Much as I may love the school work, other people are able to intervene here. A writer for The Conversation UK, echoes my thoughts
“Back-to-school time brings mixed feelings, as do most important events in life. Our jobs as parents and educators should be to help with the social and emotional development of those in our care so that they can more easily do the reading, writing and arithmetic that they need as well, not the other way around.…”
So as we start school week two, it’s time for me to let those college tutors do their work and remember that my job is to be a mum first and foremost at home…
Saturday 21 September 2019
As Saturdays go, that was a pretty perfect one!
The morning sees the resumption of Saturday activities for the teens freshened up with a change of location. And this, in turn means exploring a new run route for me. I swap my well-trodden tracks, through a scenery of urban streets and sassy bars, for parkland and lush greenery. It is glorious in the warm September sunshine, the oxygen coursing through my veins and fuelling my heart with energy and optimism.
The afternoon takes me to a rehearsal for a performance of the dream-like Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz. Mine is a small part, the ‘off-stage’ oboe player in Movement 3. I find myself positioned in a dark dusty side room for my solo, with only a partial sight of the conductor and totally hidden from audience view. One of my GC (Group Chat) friends makes me laugh out loud with the comment that this sounds like a metaphor for her life, and I think that it many ways it probably is for mine too. Perhaps all parents feel that, much as they strive to play a beautiful part in the symphony of life, their contribution can feel a little invisible at times. But I don’t feel unappreciated this afternoon. The solo may be written to sound distant but it is so haunting that I absolutely love it and many member of the orchestra are kind enough to compliment my playing very generously too.
The additional bonus, of only appearing in one movement, is that my rehearsal time is very short and frees up the afternoon for catching up with the teens, doing the laundry, sorting out the weekly shop and doing my share of ferrying to volunteering … and to parties. I experience an usual sensation of being almost on top of things.
And tonight I am relishing a chilled glass of white after an awesome concert. My little moment goes well, but above all I am blown away by the Symphony itself, which I hear in full for the first time this evening. It’s testament to a great orchestra , where players commit fully to a truly emotional performance, but it’s also the music itself . Bernstein describes it as “a first musical expedition into psychedelia“ and it certainly sends me home on a real high.
Feeling ‘fantastique’, long may it last…
“Did somebody say…”
Friday 27 September 2019
“Anyone fancy a Dominoes for tea?” is all I innocently ask at 7am this morning. The house goes wild with joy. Smiling faces appear at usually firmly shut bedroom doors. My eldest starts belting out “Did somebody say…”, the well known refrain to Just East’s ad campaign, at the top of her voice. And before I know it, we’ve all joined in. There are harmonies, there is a congo and there is a lot of volume. Gosh they are easily pleased … or is my cooking really that bad?
Actually .. .it probably is. And I do try. In truth, I feel huge societal pressure to try. It began with the weaning years, when the ‘alpha mothers’, waving their Annabel Karmel bibles, briskly steered me away from those lovely, neat rows of supermarket food jars and persuaded me to embrace the messy, lumpy and thankless world of mashed sweet potato and spinach and potato goo. Ever since then, I have felt a huge pressure, not only to cook for the family ‘from scratch’… but to enjoy it too! And do you know what, “I dont!”
Ooooh, I’ve said it out loud. Might say it again. “I don’t like cooking! It’s a dull, dreary, chore sent relentlessly to ruin the loveliest of days.
“What’s for tea mum?”,
“When’s dinner ready mum?”
Is there any breakfast mum?”
It just goes on and on! One of the worst suggestions I ever listened to was ‘batch cooking’. Now there’s a day, of the Autumn half term of 2015, I’ll never get back! Lasagnes exploding all over the oven, seething pots of curry bubbling madly on the stove, triumphant vegetable bakes, collapsing into mush, as I tried to portion them into tupperware containers. Simply hell on earth! My children never have forgiven me, (and never should), for a hideous creation known as ‘vegetable crumble’. As for my recent pea and mint risotto, well the only place for that bowl of gloop was as the food recycling bin!
Oh, fear not foodies and responsible parents of the land, I will, of course, continue to try. I accept that we cannot survive, nutritionally or financially, on take-away meals alone. But this Friday, which will drag on until 8 pm with various after school activities, I feel justified in casting my cook books aside and joining the teens in joyful song …
The End of September
Monday 30 September 2019
As the sun sets on another September, it’s a good time to reflect upon the last 30 days.
Now I use the term ‘sun’ metaphorically, because the skies have actually pelted us with rain for most of the last 30 days and there are flood warnings in place across much of the UK, as the ninth month of the year comes to an end. I also read that 2019 has been the wettest across the USA as well. Is it a result of global warming and the alarming acceleration in the impact of humankind on the plant? Greta Thunberg would certainly say so, and September has seen this remarkable young woman deliver her passionate address to the UN Climate Action Summit, supported by further waves of, predominantly youth Climate Strikes, across the globe.
Closer to home, my young people have also has a productive month. My eldest has finally completed her personal statement, applied to Uni, started partying with avengeance, as the entire year group begins to turn 18, … and booked her driving test. Prom-dress daughter has made an impressive start to College life, joined the Production, re-joined the gym, signed up for various trips and blows my maths-geek mind, as she ponders her philosophy and history at the dinner table. Small Boy has ambled on quietly, possibly a little lost, as the girls have taken up a lot of my attention, but he seems okay.
As for me, well I did secure one new work opportunity but wasn’t successful with the other. So, whilst 1 out of 2 isn’t bad, I search on for a substantial change in my working life. Maybe my fortunes will change in October 2019? It’s a month when Mondays all fall on multiples of 7, which is always a bonus for me. I resolve to apply for at least one new job per month, pour myself a glass of wine and bid a fond farewell to a pretty good September, for the young people of the world as well as three I live with…