Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Taking Precautions ...

We've discussed it for a while now, in late night chats in the quiet minutes when everyone else is out of the way. We've talked about it, considered it, debated it, argued (a little) over it, laughed about it and, eventually, decided it. We've decided we're ready to go to The Next Step. Yes, we have. *Brave look*

Well, The Daughter has decided she's ready. I'm NOT entirely sure that I am.

When I gave birth to The Daughter 17 years ago, I wished several things for her and her twin sister. All the usual things that all parents want for their children obviously; intelligence, good looks, talent, personality, a sense of humour, untold riches and a quick rule of the world.

But I also wished that A) They would NEVER get into Barbie and B) They could talk to me about ANYTHING. Anything at all, and everything. Their lives, their worries, their desires, passions, happinesses and sadnesses....
What? I was overwhelmed I'd just had twins.

But sometimes wishes do come true. Not the one about Barbie obviously *looks darkly at Grandma* but we talk and they share. Lots. Which is why when The Daughter decided that she was ready for The Next Step, she discussed It with Him and then she told me.

And then she probably told Him that she'd told me......

Anyway, what we're all agreed on is that if she HAS to do that kind of thing *rolls eyes* then she should be taking suitable precautions while she's doing it. So today I went with her to the fitting of her brand new shiny contraceptive implant.

Not a good contraceptive method
Not because I needed to: she's 17 and doesn't need my permission for very much anymore. Not because I felt I should do: she's 17, capable of making her own decisions and doesn't need anyone to speak for her. I went because she asked me to. She's 17. And sometimes she still needs her mummy.

I held her hand while they implanted the implant and I wished for two more things.
 A) That she never tells me when. Or where. Or how long. Or if they high fived afterwards.
 B) That if she does ever have a baby, she doesn't ask me to be her birth partner

*Tries to shake feeling back into hand. AGAIN*

This blog was written with the full co-operation and editorial approval of The Daughter or whom I (and the Nurse at the Doctors) are very, very proud. 

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Talking Rhubarb ....

We live, for our sins presumably, slap bang in the middle of the famous Rhubarb Triangle. What do you mean you've never heard of the Rhubarb Triangle *Tuts*

The Rhubarb Triangle is a nine square mile patch of West Yorkshire famous, yes famous I say, for forced rhubarb. Forcing it to do what puzzled me for a long time until we got our own allotment and inherited the rhubarb plants thereon.

Forced rhubarb is grown in the dark and does it so fast you can hear it (yes, really). Harvested between January and March, it's stalks are more slender and it tastes sweeter than your everyday common or garden outdoor rhubarb. 

And once a year (this weekend coincidentally) the city of Wakefield celebrates it's eminence as the forced rhubarb capital of the world with a festival that celebrates all things rhubarb of which there seems to be an entirely worrying amount. Because, and don't tell a soul (at least not in Wakefield).... Rhubarb is bloody horrible, shhhh. 

Rhubarb is probably best described as an acquired taste but I've not met many people that HAVE acquired it. Apart from my mum who will happily reminisce about halcyon days wandering through the then fields of Wakefield munching on a rhubarb stick dipped in sugar even if, or possibly because, the TeenTwins are pretending to retch in a corner. 

We, though, have ordinary rhubarb on the allotment but it grows indecently quickly and in astonishing quantities apparently impervious to the vagaries of both the weather and inexpert allotment owners AND we have found a use for it. ... We turn it into WINE ! *It's a miracle face*

It's even more of a miracle that, thank all gods, it doesn't even taste like rhubarb (much) and even if it does, you get so drunk, YOU DON'T CARE! *Beams*

Monday, 18 February 2013

Other People's Children, Pt II

Every so often Other People's Children give you a timely appreciation of your own off-spring and The Tween's sleepover guest this weekend was one of those.

Don't get me wrong. She, unlike SOME Other People's Children, was lovely. Not a bit of trouble. One might go as far as to say THE ideal house guest. She requested nothing, demanded nothing and was entirely and happily entertained by anything she was presented with or offered. She was also unutterably, painfully shy.

I didn't hear her speak all weekend.

Ok, so maybe that's unfair. I DID hear her speak but only because I was obscured by a shelf in Sainsburys at the time while she chatted sotto voce to The Tween who chatted sotto voce back.

That'll be The Tween that has stead-fastedly, stubbornly and totally never learned to whisper ever. She has NOT learned to whisper in church services, school assemblies, family gatherings and on buses consistently, but put her behind a shelf in Sainsbury's and she suddenly turns into Whispering Bob Harris.

If our little house guest was asked a direct question she answered with either enthusiastic nodding or a sad little shake of the head. Asked a question that required her to actually speak and she immediately looked alarmed and beseechingly at The Tween who, demonstrating an un-hitherto discovered ability to apparently mind-read, answered for her.

In the end, it seemed best to let the pair of them get on with it and listen to their giggling and sudden gusts of laughter as they ploughed their way through their own body-weight in Haribo, through the closed door.

The Tween was entirely gentle with her shy friend. She was protective, encouraging and kind ALL weekend. That'll be the stair-stamping, stompy, shouty, door-slamming, sulky Tween that we've come to know and dread. That'll be that Tween, that will.

*Heaves a sigh of relief*

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

A Child, Absent.

At 10.30am today my heart stopped.

It stopped for a beat before racing on, out of kilter and aching. The reason? An automated text and automated phone-call (almost simultaneously) from The Academy where The Tween was supposed to be. Only trouble was, the automated text and the automated phone call informed us, she wasn't in school at all.

I'd waved her off at five to eight in the morning, as always. I'd checked she'd got her lunch-box and her bags, as always. I'd tucked her phone (in case of emergencies and switched off, of course) into the inside pocket of her blazer and told her to have a good day, as always. 

The last words I said to her were "I'll see you at tea-time" and then I assumed she walked, as she does every morning, the 100 yards to the next street and her best friend's house where she got a lift to school, as always.

So if she wasn't in school, where was she?

We rang the school. It clicked, like it always bloody does, to an automated answering system. 
"Press One if....," it began listing options. Nine of them.
We tried one option and got bounced to another automated system that asked us to leave a message. We hung up, rang again, tried another option with the same result. And again. And again. And ..... Eventually we got through to the finance department and a real live person. The real live person knew nothing or what to do, so tried to put us through to somebody who would know and, of course, we ended up listening to yet another automated voice asking us to leave yet another message.

While my husband left increasingly bad tempered messages on every department's answerphone in the school, I ran around the corner to see if The Tween had got mysteriously got lost on the 100 yard journey to her friend's home. She hadn't, of course. There's a groove in the pavement marking how many times she and her friend have walked between their home and ours.

It was now well after 11 o'clock. If The Tween was not in school, she had been missing for nearly three hours.

So we went to the Academy, driving slightly faster than is probably recommended in the flurry of snow that had started to fall. Twenty yards from the gates, the mobile rang. She IS in school, said a real person on the end of the line. She'd been in school all morning. Sorry, they said.

We went to the school anyway because an hour of our lives had been spent worrying and wondering and panicking, apparently needlessly, and we wanted to know why. We also wanted to know why it was so damn difficult to get someone, anyone, to answer a bloody phone.

It was all, of course, a silly misunderstanding. The register had been taken and The Tween marked absent because she'd been at the back of the class and spoken either too quietly or not at all. The register was then sent on an automated journey through the school system that noted in it's efficiently automated way that The Tween was marked absent and The Tween was not supposed to be absent. Wheels whirred, cogs ground and the automated messages were sent, well, automatically.

We didn't get a straight answer why The Academy, one of the largest schools in England with nearly 2,500 pupils, didn't answer the phone, unless you count the receptionist who just said they were busy but I'm sorry, that's not really excuse enough.

IF The Academy is going to send out automated messages requesting parents to ring to confirm whether their child is supposed to be in school or not, I suggest they get someone to answer that call when they do ring. 

I thought my 11 year old daughter was in school, because of a human error and a computer led system, the school thought she was not. BUT it took two hours for the automated contacts to reach us, another hour for us to find out where she was and for all that time nobody might have known where she was or what had happened to her. 

I sincerely hope that the next time an automated message is sent to some other parent who KNOWS their child left for school the same as they always do that she, or he, is also just a mis-mark on the register because I don't think "We're busy" will really cut it if they're not. 

And I'm NOT* going to mention that The Academy logo is "Students First" OR that the opening sentence on their website is: "The whole point of schools is that children come first and everything we do must reflect this single goal." ... Oh no, not me.

*I am

And breathes

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Trouble With Beyonce

I should, by all rights, intuition, intelligence and common sense despise Beyonce. She represents everything I hate about the popular music industry and, in particular, women in the music industry who are perpetually under clothed and then over hyped by an hysterical media *tuts*

But the trouble with Beyonce, despite all my huffing, puffing and sighing, despite the "You should have put a skirt on it" commentary running in my head every time she's on stage, is that I bloody love her.

I do. And I can't help it.

I don't as a rule approve of pop chanteuses strutting around in little more than sparkly pants and a basque  on stage. I have tutted comprehensively at Rhianna and Lady GaGa and, yes, even Madonna. (You're in your 50s woman! Put it away). But Beyonce is ALLOWED because, well, she's Beyonce and she probably does everything from the washing up to giving birth in a sequinned leotard and six inch heels. Probably.

TeenTwin1 and TeenTwin2 set their eyes to permanent roll if I attempt to gyrate my way through the "Single Ladies" dance on kitchen disco nights, while the Tween raises hers to heaven and goes off to Google the number for Childline. But still my love for Beyonce is undimmed.

When it was said that Beyonce mimed the Star Strangled Banner during the President's inauguration, I was incensed enough to metaphorically roll my sleeves up and defend her. I managed a ten minute rant at The Man that ran roughly along the lines of "The cheek of it" steered through "EVERYONE does it" veered past "I bet they'd bloody mime as well" until I was abruptly derailed by The Man who asked: "Who's Boncey." *Tuts*

And now a couple of unflattering pictures have emerged from her half-time performance at the SuperBowl, a bloody brilliant performance by the way, and this happens....YOU MADE HER LOOK LIKE THE HULK, YOU BASTARDS.

Alright, it's not a good photo and her publicist ill-advisedly asked for it to be removed from wherever it appeared which set the whole meme off in the first place, but really? Asking for a godawful picture to be removed is not a crime. It's the entire reason they invented the private message on Facebook. So can you all just leave Beyonce alone now. She's had a tough couple of weeks and it's about time everyone just put a sock in it.

*Fierce face*

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Happy Birthday Comic Relief!

Can you believe that Comic Relief's first televised comedy fund-raising Red Nose Day marathon was on February 5th 1988? No neither can I.

In those past 25 years over 600 million pounds has been raised to help out hundreds of projects at home and abroad. Because of Comic Relief:
  •  160,000 young people have been given the chance of an education
  •  52,000 people now have access to clean water
  •  118 projects have been funded to work with sexually exploited young people
  •  15,000 projects have been funded to help people here in the UK
  •  In total over 50 million people have been heard and helped
As part of the 25th anniversary celebrations, three bloggers - Annie from Mammasaurus, Tanya from Mummy Barrow and Penny from Alexander Residence - collectively known as #TeamHonk have been in Ghana visiting projects that have benefited from Comic Relief's work and all the money that you've raised over the past 25 years.

But it doesn't stop there. This year's Red Nose Day is on March 15th so check out for ideas how you, your family, friends, school or workplace can join in with the fun and fund-raising. No doubt Annie, Tanya and Penny will return from Ghana with a whole raft of ideas of what bloggers can do to contribute too.

In the past I've gone to extreme lengths in support of Comic Relief's good work such as appearing half naked in a Red Nose Day t-shirt in the local newspaper I worked for way back in 1995 ...

My actual naked legs, never knowingly exposed since 1995.
.... there was a rush to the newsagent the day this was published I tell you. Mostly by me trying to buy up every copy and burn them. *sighs*

But I promise* I'll keep my limbs covered this Red Nose Day.

*No, not really.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

A Level Education

In 1981, against all the odds and mostly because of a bargain struck with a supportive headmaster, I was allowed into the Sixth Form. As a fifth former I barely tolerated school and rarely turned up at my least favourite lessons having mastered the art of truancy but I rediscovered, in the Sixth Form, that education is a marvellous thing and should be embraced with a passion.

I embraced it so much that I went on to be a proper student and fully, utterly and splendidly threw myself into the student lifestyle. Not THAT much into actual learning though having also discovered proper students could get away with truancy without a letter getting sent home to your mum. *Tuts at self*

Nevertheless when the TeenTwins reached the Sixth Form or, as they will insist on calling it, Year 12 *rolls eyes* I was thrilled for them. I extolled the joys of the Sixth Form as I remembered them. Not having to wear a uniform, the free periods, the common room WITH A KETTLE and (after becoming 18 obviously *cough*) hanging out in the pub with your friends at lunchtime. *Nostalgic beam*

Clearly though I went to school in a more halcyon era because, five months into Year 12, the TeenTwins have been on an assault course of a learning experience with work, more work, extra work and half a ton of homework and then it got worse. This week was the deadline for course work in Art (TeenTwin1) and Photography and Drama (TeenTwin2) and it, my friends, has been hell.

Not for me obviously, I've just stood on the sidelines and cheered them up and on, occasionally rung my hands and worried. I've worried about overly lengthy schooldays, the lack of sleep and the effort they've expended.

On Tuesday, I worried that TeenTwin1 had been at school for twelve hours then came home and carried on working for a further four.

On Wednesday, I went to the Drama BTec Level Three's performance of  Antigone, a Greek tragedy adapted for a modern audience, where I worried because A) It's hard to concentrate on anything when you've got everything crossed and daren't breathe, smile or move for fear of distraction and B) TeenTwin2 glows under a spotlight. 

The only photograph I managed to get of the cast of Antigone.
TeenTwin 2 is the one with the longest legs and the  bestest bottom.
She takes after me, obviously

On Thursday night I worried because the picture frame TeenTwin2 needed for her photography project had broken. She didn't mention it until the evening though, so The Man and TeenTwin had to set out to find another. Oddly enough 8pm is NOT the best time to buy an A2 clip frame. I never thought I'd say this but thank all gods for B&Q.

And Friday morning I just worried. I worried about TeenTwin2 breaking the new frame in transportation. I worried about TeenTwin1 collapsing in a tearful heap because she'd had an hour's sleep, a cold and swollen glands. I worried they'd forget where they were going and what they were doing. I worried they would miss the 2.30pm deadline and I worried the examiners wouldn't appreciate what they had created. I wanted to write a note to the teachers that simply said: "YOU BASTARDS" 

But I didn't*

It occurs to me that being-in-the-sixth-form might have changed a bit in the intervening 32 years since I was there. Sadly, the lounging around in the common room and having water fights on the stairs part seems entirely absent and appears to have been replaced with intense pressure, surprise deadlines and a vicious beating if you don't get your work in on time. 

TeenTwin 2 and 1 by TeenTwin1 .

Alright, so maybe its not true about the vicious beatings.

*I still might

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