Monday, 30 July 2012

A View From The Hill ...

And not just any hill but the one that rises like a green amphitheatre around from Wakefield's Clarence Park bandstand, home, for the past 21 years, of the Clarence free live music festival....

I have blogged about my own history with the festival already but these days my involvement is minuscule. This year my complete contribution to the two days of live music, that took place this weekend and has taken the usual countless man hours, sweat and tears to arrange, was writing the introduction in the programme. *Tuts at self*

So my view from the hill is not what it's like to throw a festival, but what it's like to spend two days in a park with some bands, some beer and four kids. And my view is, er, don't. At least not with my kids.

It's said familiarity breeds contempt and all the kids have been to the festival every year since they were born. Even the jolly announcement "We're going to Clarence" is met with a collective groan.

Clarences past
But last year, the TeenTwins suddenly realised that Clarence meant spending two days mucking around with their mates in the park and there was a resurgence of interest. 

This weekend they and their friends, spent 95 per cent of their time playing something they called Ninja under a tree which basically looked like hitting each other, four per cent wandering off to the nearby McDonalds for a wee and one per cent watching the bands. Or one band. The last band of the entire weekend.

But they did enjoy it. So much so that TeenTwin1 felt the need to dress in a penguin onesie on Sunday for no immediately definable reason. They even managed to return home, as celebrants traditionally do, dripping wet despite there being no accessible water feature at the festival. They solved this by pushing each other in the city centre fountains on the walk home.

Clarence 2012
This year's "We're going to Clarence" announcement co-incided with the Third Girl's sudden desire to go to a sleepover at her friends, not that her friend was actually having a sleepover until the Third Girl suggested it. So she managed to escape the first day, but not the second.

On Sunday, she didn't want to come. She was tired. She was bored. She stood around the park a bit reading Jacqueline Wilson pointedly and looking disapproving. The brief flicker of interest ignited by a trip to the festival's stalls didn't last long. I bought her ice-cream, she cheered up for the duration of the ice-cream. I bought her an improbably coloured lollipop thinking the application of a few e-numbers might buoy her mood but still she wallowed. She smiled eventually though. I think it was when we said: "It's time to go home now."

The Boy, though, had a fabulous time, an ace time, the bestest time ever. The TeenTwins and friends he treated like one giant bouncy castle every time they rested from a particularly strenuous bout of Ninja. He ran up the hill. A lot. He ran down the hill. A lot. He danced. A lot. He asked for chips. A lot. He wanted to go over the other side of the hill to visit the miniature railway. A lot.

Both days, The Man took The Boy over the hill to the train for half an hour. They were the quietest half hours of the entire weekend. Even with the bands blasting away.

And me? Well, I had a great time. It WAS ace. I discovered some new bands and rediscovered those old friends I meet once a year at festival time. I did get emotional, hysterically at a TeenTwin2 dance move that spectacularly failed to come off, but I didn't cry this time. Not EVEN when I was asked where were the kids and I had to point out the one sulking with a book, the one whirling like a dervish and the other two yes, yes, that one and the one in the penguin suit...

The Clarence festival, it is widely believed because of it's longevity, practically runs itself. It doesn't and it never has. Like the swan that gracefully glides along, there's a hell of a lot of furious paddling going on underneath. So thank you to all the volunteers that are Wakefield Music Collective for a great Clarence 2012. See you next year.
Check out Wakefield Music Collective at

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Gallery ... Street Photography

I'm joining in with The Gallery and this week the theme is Street Photography....

I live in a northern town and have been led to believe that everyone "Dahn Sarf" believes The North mostly looks like this *rolls eyes*....

Not my actual northern town, this is where I go on holiday *sighs*
And to the particular Southerner who originally asked me, back in the late 80s, whether it really was all back to backs, sheds and whippets 'Oop North. Well, yes OBVIOUSLY sometimes it is.... but then again it isn't. Oh and I was really pleased to hear of your subsequent, successful career as a travel journalist. *sighs*

But *KLAXON* sometimes, the streets of the North are paved with golden moments .....


And, sometimes those moments are priceless...


Please check out everyone else's Gallery entries at Sticky Fingers

Monday, 23 July 2012

Once Upon a Time ...

Clarence Park FestivalOnce upon a time I had a music festival. It wasn't a massive music festival. It wasn't wildly successful. It wasn't, ever, Glastonbury but for some period of time it was the biggest free live music festival in Yorkshire.
 But then Leeds started doing Party in the Park. *Tuts*

Nevertheless MY festival, or as it is more generally know by those who know no better, Wakefield Music Collective's Clarence free live music festival (held annually on a bedraggled and previously unloved Victorian bandstand in the city park on the last weekend in July) is now in it's 21st year. TWENTY ONE YEARS ... That's a lot of bloody years.

The festival was once a drunken conversation in a pub with a friend in 1991 but he was, and is, one of those people who Gets Things Done. And he got funding and people and ideas. I had enthusiasm and a pair of breasts but you should never, EVER underestimate the power of a pair of breasts.

Ian Hawkins The Deal Clarence Park FestivalAnd so Clarence festival was born and it has been a fixture in my life longer than anything, jobs, children and *cough* husbands. Though I did meet my second (current and better) husband because of the festival in the first place. (That I met him the same year I met Husband1 we'll just brush over as insanity on my part and wilful ignorance on his.)

Of course I'm not as involved in the festival now as I used to be when I was the, mostly self-styled, Chief Queen of the city's music scene (Yes. Really.). Those were the days when I would get emotionally teary when the first band of the weekend took to the festival stage because we'd made it happen.Then, of course, I'd get emotionally teary at the end of the weekend because it was all over for another year. I would sometimes spend bits emotionally teary in between too, but that was mostly the drink.

At the, because of, and during the festival I have danced and drank, sometimes drunk-danced and occasionally fallen asleep under the trees. I've erroneously called an ambulance, broken up fights and gone nose-to-neanderthal-forehead with a knife-carrying chav at 2am in the morning. I also spent the whole of 1995 festival laid down in a caravan pregnant with twins, nearly gave birth to the Third Girl at the back of the bandstand in 2001 and *blushes* conceived The Boy on a festival morning. In a hotel adjoining the festival grounds though, because I DO have standards and I DON'T do camping *rolls eyes*

Oh, and I danced barefoot on my wedding night in front of the empty bandstand stage at twilight because we'd had the foresight to get married the day BEFORE that year's event. Though I WAS dancing to AC/DC's Touch Too Much because I can, sometimes, be a little bit rock and roll.

It's the Clarence Festival this weekend. These days the festival committee are other people who get things done and have ideas of their own and I'm mostly content to stand around saying irritating things like "In my day..." and "When we were young.." And sometimes I get emotionally teary all over again ..... I think that's my age though. *Big sigh*

Clarence Park Festival, Wakefield

But really, if you're around this weekend, you should come ... if only to buy me a drink at the bar *hopeful face* :)

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

"And Now, The End Is Near"

And now, the end is near ..... the end of the school term that is. Only another two sleeps, Hoorah. Another two mornings of dragging The Boy from his bed, through a bowl of Weetabix and to school, Hoorah for that too. And just two more days of primary school for The Third Girl..... Oh *Stifled sob*

The Third Girl is moving on to secondary education and up to the local Academy, the Academy happens to be the fourth largest in England with over 2,000 students, her current school has less than 200 pupils in total. There will be nearly 400 new year sevens starting in September and one of them will be my little girl. And she is little (even though paradoxically she's also tall) she IS still only ten years old. She won't be 11 until a couple of weeks before the new school term starts.

I've spent a large amount of time through the seemingly never-ending induction to the Academy's rules, regulations, requirements and regimes wailing "BUT SHE'S ONLY TEN" at sometimes inappropriate moments earning myself several looks of utter contempt from the said ten year old because she can NOT wait to spread her wings.

Clearly she has decided that once she is at The Academy, the freedoms currently enjoyed by the TeenTwins will be hers to enjoy also. Never mind that the TeenTwins are six years older, about to start sixth form and are, to all intents and purposes, almost fully formed adult people. Almost.

The Third Girl is, I have no doubt, already planning Saturday shopping trips to town and a bit of hanging around in the local park with her mates. I'm trying to think of a way to break it to her gently that that kind of thing won't be happening for a good few years yet. Though, on second thoughts, as she has already completely mastered the art of the teenage strop, the stomp and the door slam, I might just write her a letter and hide in the cellar until she calms down or grows up, whichever comes first.

Last week, it was the Year Six school production which was emotional. Tomorrow is the Year Six Leavers Assembly which will be even more emotional. Friday, the Third Girl's very last day of primary school EVER, will be just one long wail of emotion from dawn to dusk, guaranteed. 

When I'm waiting at the school gates to walk my little girl home from school for the very last time, I also will be shedding a tear or two ...... But MOSTLY because I know that in six months time she'll be blathered in irresponsible amounts of black eyeliner, chewing gum (strictly forbidden) and ignoring me in the street.

The Gallery ... Planes, Trains and Automobiles

I'm joining in with The Gallery and the theme this week is "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"though I am mostly, for reasons that will become clear, picking trains *Sighs*

We are a family of train enthusiasts apparently, steam engines obviously but to be honest we're not fussy. Ever since The Man brought The Third Girl a Thomas the Tank Engine DVD with a FREE Brio Thomas The Tank Engine engine for her first birthday, trains ... big and small and inbetween .... have been a CONSTANT, and I do mean constant, presence in our lives .....

Inevitably, because there ARE only so many family sat-on-a-train, near-a-train, playing-with-a-train, stood-next-to-a-train, with-a-train-in-the-background pictures you can take ...... and believe me the above is a mere snippet, a morsel, an i-o-ta of the amount of pictures that I have ...... one develops pretensions and mine is that I take the BEST TRAIN PHOTOS EVER

And then I did....

Well, okay, it isn't the best train picture ever but it IS the best train picture I'm ever going to take. *Hangs up anorak* *curtsies*

Please check out the rest of The Gallery over on Sticky Fingers.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Lion King, A Year Six Production.

There is just one production per year at The Third Girl's school and it is, traditionally, the leaver's performance put on by that year's soon-to-be-departing Year Six. This year, The Third Girl is in Year Six and the production was The Lion King.

                  The primary school has one class per school year from Class R to Class 6 each containing, on average, 30 children and it is a church school. This means:
A. By the time Class 6 get to be Class 6 they've done almost EVERYTHING together as a group: they've learned together, gone to each other's birthday parties, had playground fights and flirted together, holidayed in Hornsea together AND sat exams but they've never, ever put on a musical before....
B. None of the parents dare swear in the playground.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The School Report: What They Say and What They Mean.

The Boy's 
School Report, July 2012
National Curriculum Year 1.

General Development.

General behaviour, attitude to work and school life.

The Boy has recently taken on more responsibility for his own work He has started to find his own pencils (see here) and what a difference it has made! It has made absolutely no difference at all. After thinking what he would like to write about  After staring out of the window for three hours, he is keen to get going and make a start  he MIGHT scribble something down. His handwriting has also improved and is now neat and legible Possible anal retentive 
He has worked hard in numeracy Oh God, I've got to find something positive to say and with a little more effort He's not worked that hard to be honest should show progress I THINK I've got away with that. The Boy is still quite quiet in whole class discussions Too busy messing about and needs to make sure he is listening carefully he doesn't pay any attention so that he can maximise his learning. learn anything. He should also try to contribute during these carpet time sessions. Because he NEVER shuts up the rest of the time.
The Boy enjoys keeping his table tidy Possible OCD and works well with his talking partner  NEVER EVER shuts up The Boy is a popular member of the class HE TALKS ALL THE BLOODY TIME and thoroughly enjoys playtimes Has to be dragged back into class. He knows right from wrong He's very charming and must not be swayed into the wrong choices But he can be a right little bugger He needs to show strength of character and be his own person YOU ARE AN OVER-PROTECTIVE MOTHER 
I hope that The Boy's new and positive attitude will continue into Class 2, so that he can build on the progress made so far. Keep working! Thank God, he's not in my class next year!

This translation has been brought to you courtesy of a sense of humour and a deep understanding of my darling Boy. The fully translated three page document is available* on request. *No, not really.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Sex Education Lesson

Last week, the Third Girl had THE Sex Education Lesson. You know the one, the one about "bits" starting to stick out and up and, subsequently, in and out.

The obligatory letter asking parental permission for pupils to watch the videos - one for girls, one for boys and one for both boys and girls - was sent home, signed and returned. Though I failed to take up the invitation to join the pre-lesson screening planned for anxious parents, mainly because I'm not mentally deranged....

And I also wasn't that anxious, I felt I had no reason to be and I've blogged before about the importance of being open about sex and relationships. The Third Girl is, after all, the third girl and with 16 year old twin sisters, she is FULLY up to speed with hormones and the havoc that they can wreak, menstruation is not the mystery it might have been because the twin sisters are, essentially, in the end, very communicative drama queens. *Sigh*

She also has a younger brother so is more au fait than she would probably like with, at least, the mechanics of the male and, because she was four when he was born, she endured repeated readings of Babette Cole's "Mummy Laid An Egg," so she knows where he - and everybody else - came from as well.

I've always tried to answer any questions with as much honesty as is age appropriate too, and before Christmas we'd had our own "Chat," where I attempted to clear up any confusions, speculations and forebodings she might have. And, lastly but by no means least, we've never had a lock on any door in the house.

"Well?" I asked as she and her BFF, arms interlinked, emerged from school. They both pulled a face like a horse sniffing vinegar: "It's disgusting," they announced and shuddered and then sneered at any adult within a 50 yard radius: "Disgusting." And they marched off casting disdainful looks hither and thither with a "Well, I'M never doing THAT" set about their shoulders.

Turns out though, on chatting with The Third Girl when the BFF was not attached to her arm, it wasn't the content but the context that appalled them so. The having to endure the videos together as a mixed class was an agony of embarrassment made even more acute by the class's familiarity with each other. (The school is small with one class for each year so class 6 have been together as a group since class R and some of them from pre-school.)

They've only JUST started gently flirting with each other, mostly for the lack of anyone else to flirt with, and all of sudden they have periods, unexpected hair and dropping balls thrust, so to speak, in their faces and, to be honest, I can see why they may not have been entirely comfortable with that. I suspect Monday morning there'll be at least a whole hour of shuffling and not looking each other in the eye before they remember that in two weeks time they never have to look at each other again. 
Until September.

Thankfully *wipes brow* The Third Girl has not been scarred for life by the experience, hopefully because she knew what was what and who did what and *crosses fingers* even why, before the Sex Education Lesson began. She was admirably disdainful of the sniggerers at the back of the class, she didn't believe the boasters (because who would?) and she thought, in the end, a whole lot of fuss was made about nothing that was new.

Oh. Apart from wet dreams. I'd not mentioned wet dreams because, frankly who would *tuts* and those she did find disgusting.

Silent Sunday ...

Friday, 6 July 2012

When Twins Collide

Last night I sat through one ALMIGHTY TeenTwin argument, a proper humdinger with tears and huffiness and lots of Oh My God-ding going on. Shoulders were shrugged and arms waved about, there was rather a lot of shouting and exclaiming and several disbelieving snorts.
It began with what was supposed to be a treat. They were invited, as pupils who have excelled *proud mummy beam* at maths during year 11 .....worked hard and met their targets and, well, just generally not burnt the maths teacher at his desk during break-time ...... to a theme park.A FREE trip to a theme park, no parental contributions, no begging letter for the coach driver, all free, gratis and for nothing, as a reward for all their hard work.
So they went to the theme park and one twin had a marvellous time, a time to remember forever, exciting and brilliant and fab and all those special things that make up a REAL treat of a time. Probably just like that bit at the end of Grease, but with more rain and less 1950s. The other twin DID NOT have a good time and she totally blamed the first twin for her not having it.
Cue: The Fight.
Usually they don't fight. Or they don't fight like that. Or they don't fight like that in front of me so it shocked me, a lot. They came in and, at first, it was fine. But then there were grumblings and rumblings, then a chat, a discussion, a heated debate rapidly followed by a small world war (though no actual violence was exchanged *wipes brow*)
I dropped out as the argument escalated to def con 2, it being one word and one view against the other's word and the other's view. Clearly they wanted me to take sides and, even more clearly, I couldn't because there was no right or wrong in what, to all intents and purposes was, really, a bit of thoughtless mis-understanding and, quite frankly, childish excitement, M'ludThe fight didn't last long and, within the hour, sulks had been sulked, tears dried and they were all fine and dandy. The anger all gone, if probably not entirely forgotten.
Me? I was still the shaken wreckage of a disaster with my arms wrapped around my head, hiding under the kitchen table with a hardhat, sandbags and ear-defendersBut as they left the room, together, I did manage to say: "And don't do it again."
I think it helped. 

Who? Us

*Crawls from under kitchen table*

Monday, 2 July 2012

Home Is Where the Art Is ...

You don't, when you're a child, choose the place where you live. It's the dust you want to cast off your feet when you leave, but if, like me, you spent your first 18 years living in the same small town and your parents live there still, it never really stops being home however far away you move.

And I didn't move very far in the end, just about three miles. Regular visits with the children to Grandma's are generally accompanied by me pointing out "where mummy went to school""where mummy used to live" and "where mummy first threw up in an alcohol-related incident," none of which has ever threatened to interest the little buggers at all. It's just the place where Grandma and Granddad live and the town's attractions lie solely within their four walls and, more specifically, in the cake tin therein.

Ossett, near Wakefield, is almost exactly in the middle of the east and west coasts of England. It's been a mining town, a mill town and, for a brief optimistic period in the 19th century, a Spa town. It's most notable sons are the novelist Stan Barstow and the pop group combo *cough* Black Lace.

The town motto "Inutile utile ex arte," or "That which is useless is made useful by skill" recalls the town's heyday as a recycling centre for wool in the 19th and 20th century, making Mungo and Shoddy (differing qualities of reclaimed wool) for use in cloth and felt mills.

It's the motto and Ossett's place in the history of wool that inspired Flock to Ossett, a community-based arts, ukulele, yarn-bombing and, um, sheep parade event in the town centre held at the weekend. Driven by one-woman dynamo and ukulele-toting songstress Jacqui Wicks, Flock to Ossett fired the imaginations of not just the Arts Council but local schools, businesses and the town's residents too.

It also fired the family's imaginations. My mum, a woman who usually only reaches for the knitting needles under threat of an imminent birth, has been knitting and crocheting away to add to the yarn-bombing. We also, several weeks ago, spent a happy afternoon helping to decorate a sheep, yes really, with the Third Girl and The Boy. Though me and my mum did most of the work if we're honest.

Excellent sheep decorating skills aside, I can't and don't knit much, or well, or often, so I donated one of the children's old bikes to make up for it. Like you do.

So on Saturday, I took my flock and we flocked to Ossett for the first ever Flock to Ossett. And, on the basis of every picture tells a story. This is what we saw.....

And we visited our formerly old rusty bike to find it utterly, and rather surprisingly, transformed into a really beautiful work of art

And, of course, the kids all joined in the sheep parade with the family sheep, Lolly. EVEN the kids who were far too cool to do anything so infra-dig as parade around with a load of sheep *eye roll*

"Oh God, do I have to? As if I'm going to carry a sheep in a parade..."

Maybe if I'd seen the Ossett I saw on Saturday when I was a child, I might never have wanted to leave. I might have also thought I'll have to stop taking the LSD, because the old home town was just not the same; it was bright, it was colourful, it was happy, it was exciting and it made me proud to be just a tiny part of it.

And thanks to Flock to Ossett my home town now means that little bit more to both me and the kids than just That Place Where Grandma Lives. We'll be back because, well, we were always going to be (got to visit the grandparents when they're getting on a bit *ducks*) but we'll enjoy it and appreciate it much more than we ever did before.

Love your town

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