Part 1

January 4th..

I am not a fan of Americana and that's PROBABLY the best - and most diplomatic - way of putting it. Just one part of this antipathy is our (the UK's) eagerness to adopt American traditions as our own

Trick or Treat might be an adventurous wonderland of fancy dress, excitement, real wild times and free candy in the Good Ole US of A, but it is EXCRUCIATING on the streets of Yorkshire where handing out free sweets to winsome children is more likely to result in an arrest than a celebration of a national holiday.

And The Prom? THE PROM ... what on earth possessed us to transport that event into our lives. WHY? FOR GOD'S SAKE, WHY? 

What was wrong with the traditional school disco ...  a school hall, a sixth former with an extensive record collection and a teacher in the corner doling out plastic cups of orange squash. You wore what you wanted, smuggled cider into the toilets and got a lift home in your Dad's bright yellow work van with "Climax" emblazoned down the side .... It never did me any harm.
(Disclaimer, I have no official paperwork to prove that).

But no, the schools and academies of England in the 21st century are all about The Prom and so The Prom it is. And although I am opposed to The Prom, I will be sucked into The Prom because the schools and academies of England have seen fit to hold out The Prom as the carrot at the end of the very big stick that is current educational standards.
Personally, I blame John Travolta.

Get good grades in Year 11! Win a ticket to THE PROM! ... Wear huge dresses, glittery dresses, massive meringue dresses that sparkle like the stars of a 1,000 nights. Arrive in a limousine or a 50ft pink Hummer or on a London bus........

The Teen Twins are in Year 11. The Teen Twins are exceptionally bright, even officially Gifted and Talented in several subjects. *quietly proud beam* The Teen Twins ARE going to be invited (for that read; be allowed to buy tickets at £30 a pop) to The Prom along with their equally bright, gifted and talented friends. They are all VERY excited about this.

The Prom is in July, yet today Teen Twin 2 came home from the first day back at school in a bit of a, well, strop. She HAD been sitting her French Oral GCSE exam, but the horror of that was forgotten in the trauma of the What Bus To Hire For The Prom argument currently raging among her friends.... A cream one? A camouflage one? A double decker red one? Teen Twin 1 has yet to join in the argument, but I'm guessing she'll suggest ditching the bus and hiring a hearse instead.

I think there might be quite a few strops between now and The Prom to be honest. I'm not looking forward to the But-you-don't-NEED-a-£300-dress "discussion" that is BOUND to happen at some time in the near future or the You're-not-going-to-sit-on-a-roundabout-with-your-friends-'til-6am-because-that-happened-at-last-year's-Prom "chat" we'll have to have either.

So thank you educational establishments of England for the unrivalled opportunity to have a couple of humdinging arguments with my offspring (of whom, most of the time, I am justly proud) during their final months of study for some of the most important exams of their lives.
Yeah, thanks for that.

I wonder if my dad can still get hold of one of them bright yellow vans with "Climax" written down the side.

Part 2

January 9th.

We got a letter from The Academy today. We don't often get letters from The Academy as the staff prefer to communicate through the foolproof (not) method of Telling The Pupils Things in Assembly, so we knew this one was of great importance and/or asking for money.

And it was both - it was THE letter about the Prom *fanfare.*

The venue has been decided, it announced; naming the banqueting suite of a local Football League Championship team's stadium ten miles away. Not the same venue as last year apparently because the Prom was barred from the usual venue for irresponsible fountain jumping and mock sword fights with real, museum-exhibit, swords last year. Oh hum.

The letter continued: "Although I am unable to give the exact cost at the moment it is expected to cost students approximately £30.00 each. I will shortly be asking students to reserve their place by paying a non-refundable £10.00 deposit which must be received by 31 January 2012."

And, without mentioning fountain-jumping AT ALL, the Year 11 Learning Manager stressed that the school expects a high standard of attendance and behaviour: "Only those students who meet these standards - the high ones, NOT the unmentionable fountain jumping ones I'm guessing - will be permitted to attend the Prom. Any student with an unacceptable level of consequences/ poor behaviour or with poor attendance will not be able to attend."
I'm not even sure what an "unacceptable level of consequences is" but it sounds like an excuse for not letting certain pupils go to me.

And, just in case anybody was in any doubt: "The Academy will not be responsible for any cancellation costs for suit/dress/transport purchase/hire if we deem that your child does not meet the criteria now or later on in the year. Please note, the Principal will ultimately use his discretion to make any attendance to the Prom decisions and this could be made at any time throughout the year."
No pressure then kids.... *sigh*

Not quite the invitation to the event of a lifetime I was expecting to be honest, particularly the bit on the bottom which says: "Any unauthorised review, use, disclosure or distribution (of this letter) is prohibited"


Part 3

February 2nd.

The Prom is five months away ... FIVE whole months away. But Teen Twin2 is already having a big what-to-wear panic only matched by my how-to-pay-for-what-she-wants-to-wear panic.

She's already been on lengthy shopping trips and tried on several (hundred) dresses. I can only be thankful that she is so hard to please that she has yet to find THE dress. There's been nearly dresses and some nearly-there dresses but they're either not sequinned enough or sparkly enough or have the right amount of 'zhush' in the skirt.

A failed Prom Dress 

Everyone else has already got a dress apparently ... which is clearly untrue because Teen Twin1 hasn't got her's yet though she's got her eye on a short black number with a tasteful skull pattern *deep sigh.*

No, declares Teen Twin2, EVERYONE else has got a dress and some have had them for more than a year. Which just makes me think: "Well, that's going to be so last year" .... and then I have to go and reprove myself for unnecessary bitchiness towards 16 year old girls.

And tonight, on the phone, Grandma mentioned shoes. SHOES ... I hadn't even thought of shoes though Teen Twin2 assures me she would be perfectly happy to wear her slippers because she's going for a long dress so no-one will see them, right, AND she'll be comfy too. *Reaches for headache pills*

Teen Twin1 probably wants a brand new pair of Dr Martens. I do hope (don't) they make them with a tasteful skull pattern. *Knocks headache pills back with gin*

"And the good news is Mum," *deep breath* "Is the transport is sorted," *big smile* "And it's only going to cost £40," *moves quickly towards door* "Each."

Aaaaargh *glugs from bottle*

Part 4

February 27th..

It's been a bit quiet on the Prom front recently, too quiet. I might have been tempted towards complacency, but I know the TeenTwins too well and I know TeenTwin 2 better than she knows herself.

She has been biding her time, arming herself and this weekend she dropped the bombshell.

"Muuuuum," she said (the longer they stretch the syllable, the worst is the request to come) "Muuuuuuuum, I've made us an appointment next Saturday at two o'clock at a bridal shop to look at prom dresses."

*OOF* A heavy blow, but she wasn't done.

*KAPOW* "They've got a new delivery in this week and NO ONE at school will have seen them yet."

*BLAM* "And can you tell Grandma so she will come too."
(And you've got to hand it to Grandma because when she was informed her presence was required, she sighed and asked if she should bring her bank card.)

TeenTwin 2 had been to the bridal shop on Saturday and mooched through the racks on display and when, with some trepidation, I asked what kind of prices this particular bridal shop might be charging, she blithely replied: "They didn't have price tags on."

"I bet they didn't," I muttered and stomped off for more mutterings and grumblings. I don't want to be in a bridal shop with my daughter while she tries on fouffy dresses.... That's supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime champagne and tears experience when she's an actual bride, not something to do for the, well let's face it, end of term school disco.

But TeenTwin 2 is not one to let her mother's prejudices get in the way of a good excuse for a big dress, she has a Plan B if Plan A fails to work. She has discovered a dress-maker who will make her a dress of her own devising for a "reasonable remuneration" and all we have to do is supply the material.

This might sound tempting to those uninitiated in the way of TeenTwin 2 but I know that in her head she sees herself in something not entirely unlike the pink wedding dress as worn by Katie Price at her wedding to Peter Andre. *Puts head in hands*

Not my actual daughter

Meanwhile TeenTwin 1 is failing to exhibit any interest at all in what she might wear. I fully expect her to turn round three days before the Big Day and wonder why she hasn't got something black, lacy, decorated with skulls and barely there to wear.
And then she's going to blame me. *Sigh*

Part 5a

March 4th

Yesterday was The Big Day for TeenTwin 2 ... not the actual Prom which, quite frankly, seems to have receded in importance as opposed to The Dress for The Prom, which has become all vitally, all-consumingly, EARTH-SHATTERINGLY important.

On Saturday we trotted off for the appointment she'd made at one of the city's bridal shops which offers a prom dress service. When she made the appointment she had been told to make sure when she returned that "the person who will be paying" would be coming with her.

Now, I can't help it but I can sniff a hard sell out from at least a mile away and coupled with an aversion to salespeople that can only come from once being married to one of the buggers, I was not, shall we say, looking forward to the experience. TeenTwin 2 was, with huge enthusiasm, and by the time we'd got 300 yards from home we'd already had three arguments.

By the time we got to the shop we had reached an accord: TeenTwin 2 was JUST trying dresses on; We weren't going to buy something there and then; Or agree to buy something there and then; We were not in anyway to show any excessive enthusiasm; At no point was a lip to be stuck out, a foot stamped or the words "Muuuuum, can I have...." uttered

Fully briefed we met with Grandma, invited as the extra eyes and an extra barrier of resistance against the hard sell (I'm nothing if not prepared), outside the shop. And TeenTwin 2's friend (teenagers can't go anywhere without another of their number in close proximity) and her mother. We met as all mothers meet everywhere, a roll of the eyes and an exchange of gossip; this particular gossip centering on all the negative things anybody had ever heard about the shop we were just about to enter.

We rang the bell and they unlocked the door to let us in. In some circles shopping by appointment in a locked emporium might smack of glamour and expense. But not on a run-down street in Wakefield, they were just making sure we wouldn't be able to leave.

Some of the
The prom dress selection wasn't EXACTLY 'Big Fat Gypsy Wedding,' but it did a very, VERY good impression. Colours were predominately loud. Netting was plentiful. Sparkles, sequins, glittery bits and bling shimmered. There was ruching and layering and floaty bits, flappy bits and drapy bits. There was a selection of  'sample' dresses from which you could choose a style and take your pick of 250 colours to have it in, 227 of which were probably variations of pink.

actual dresses
There's not many women confronted with a full Disney Princess dress-up box with extra-added sequins wouldn't have a go at trying them on but I held myself back and we rummaged through the racks to amass a selection of dresses for TeenTwin 2 to try on. And she tried them on.

 And, under the changing room's dim lights wearing the slightly tattered, battered sample dresses, she did look beautiful.

not actual daughter
She looked beautiful in the plain, shimmering silvery one that she only picked because I liked it. She looked beautiful in the odd two-tone one with the crossed sash decoration. She looked beautiful in the hot pink one with the pink roses and the net skirting and the emerald one with the lacing up the back. And she looked like a really beautiful, real Disney Princess in the other hot pink one with the hooped Beauty and the Beast ruffled skirt studded with jewels.

By dress three I was idly wondering what other events she might be invited to so she could wear it. By dress five, I'd decided she could just wear them around the house to cheer people up. The saleswoman also thought she looked beautiful because she said it often enough, which was odd because I'm sure she didn't actually look. She  moved from "oohing" and "aahing" towards the Nitty Gritty of price and costs and, er, extra costs, like a seal crawling to the shore.
But my mother *salutes* leapt to the Nitty Gritty much faster: "So, how much are they?" she asked.

Cost: £300. Three Hundred Pounds. Three. Hundred. Pounds. For a dress. A dress for a, I'll say it again, school disco. A dress that, to be honest, wouldn't stand up to scrutiny in a quality comparison with a J-cloth *bangs head on table*

Even the saleswoman could feel the magic break...... She cunningly deployed Saleswoman2 (Difficult Customer Division), who delivered what she probably hoped was the killer blow but only served to raise hackles that were already waving in the wind: "This IS the last day it's possible to make an order for a prom dress soooo....." (Meaningful look towards TeenTwin 2).
"Not that we're trying to pressure you or anything." (Bright smile)

Oh, yeah ....

We left. Without a dress, of course, and fully convinced that TeenTwin 2 would look beautiful in a ruched bin-bag with a sacking trim.

And TeenTwin 2 is fine, since you ask, not sulking at all. And we'll still be looking for that perfect Prom dress (at a perfect price I hope) for a bit/ while/ forever yet ...

Next time, shops and more shopping with extra added shopping and TeenTwin 1 finds her perfect dress on eBay for sixty quid *hurrah*

Part 5b

March 9th


We have found THE dress ... well, two THE dresses actually, one for TeenTwin 1 and one for TeenTwin 2 *faints.*

TeenTwin 1 found her own dress, without fuss or faffing, after a couple of hours of not so much surfing the net as stomping on it. At no point in the process was anyone else involved or consulted. The listing details of the dress include the words "Goth, Victorian and Bride" but that was only to be expected. And *relieved sigh* it's actually a very beautiful dress and "Very Her," if you know what I mean (contains skulls).

And TeenTwin 2 has also chosen THE dress with a reasonable amount of fuss and a certain amount of faffing. We've had several Very-Nearly dresses, one I-Need-It dress and quite a lot I-Wouldn't-Be-Seen-Dead-In-It dresses. We've even had the Have-A-Bit-Of-A-Sulky-Strop-In-A-Debenham's-Changing-Room Dress.

TeenTwin 2 belatedly discovers dresses have price labels
(Disclaimer: This is not THE dress)

Strangely THE dress is just entirely, completely and exactly the opposite of the dress she was looking for in colour, cut, shape and design BUT it is very definitely THE dress. A respectful silence fell on the dressing room when she tried it on. There might have even a little bit of caught breath...

So basically ..... Hurrah and, verily, thank f*ck for that.

Part 6

May 7th

Over two months to go to the Teen Twins eagerly anticipated Prom Night and it's all kicking off in Year 11 ... because it appears a Prom is NOT JUST about the dress, the limo and a sit down meal for 400 souls.

Of course there HAS to be a dress, a limo and a sit down meal for 400, BUT there was also going to be an after-party .... A party for after the Prom which I understood to be a bit of a party all on it's own anyway. But no. *Sigh* 

The "official" school-organised after-party has been abandoned since the school's chosen venue inconveniently shut it's doors and stopped taking calls a couple of months ago. An enterprising year 11 set up her own after-party, sold tickets then abandoned the idea causing *cough* some consternation. And now, not one, but two "official" after-parties are warring with each other for guests.

But that trauma is not a patch on the sudden scandal that has engulfed Year 11 after a member of the Prom Committee allegedly leaked information on a series of awards which were to be handed out at both the Prom and the after-party.

There was to be.... and so far still is..... a Prom Queen and King who will be crowned during the main event, but any further awards have been banned  by the school presumably not because "Top Siblings," "Cutest Couple," and "Cutest Smile" were too controversial but maybe because "Shortest Skirt," "Biggest Nose," and "Forever Alone" weren't exactly being made in the right spirit.

Last week the students were arranging who sat with who at which tables at the actual Prom, a process that involved handing out forms and letting a load of 15 and 16-year-olds pick the eight or ten people they wanted to share a table with.

If you've ever tried to table-plan a wedding, you might be able to imagine how difficult it is to seat your own relatives without offending someone, forgetting someone or getting into a fist-fight with someone. Add adolescents with hormones firing on all cylinders and I suspect the Principal was stood outside with a hard hat and sandbags.

But everyone is STILL eagerly anticipating The Prom .... just with teeth ever so slightly gritted.

*Thanks all deities I will NEVER be 16 again*

Part 7.
June 14th

It's The Prom in just two weeks time. Did you know that? I do, I know this because every other sentence uttered by TeenTwin1 or TeenTwin2 contains the phrase: "The Prom".

Two weeks to go and I am ALREADY totally Prom-med out. Two more weeks and I could be the first ever victim of Prom-Related Stress Disorder. It's been going on so long. So very, very long but now it's all but done.
The TeenTwin's dresses (the frighteningly expensive one and the still quite expensive, but not so much, one), are at the seamstresses having the obligatory last minute alterations. Footwear is chosen and in the process of being broken in (got to avoid those blisters, girls) and we're sorted for bras and bags.

And it's all paid for *turns out empty pockets* including the tickets and the APPALLINGLY expensive stretch Hummer that will deliver them in style to the Prom venue, even if it doesn't think OVER SIX HUNDRED POUNDS is enough to bring them all back home again.*Tuts*

Thank all Gods That Be we have an old, battered police transit van in which to pick them back up again *tries to avoid TeenTwin2's dirty look* I AM thinking of putting a blue light back on it's head just to give their departure from The Prom some style though because I am The Mother Who Thinks Of Everything.

And because I am The Mother Who Thinks Of Everything, we appear to be hosting The Prom after-party for a select FEW *meaningful look* of the TeenTwin's friends. Well, it was either that or them joining the other couple of hundred Prom-mers cruising the streets of Leeds after midnight with fake IDs looking for a club to take them in because that's going to work, right? Er....

But I'm not Draconian, I know you only live once so I WILL be purchasing a bottle of cider (for them) and three bottles of gin (for me) for the after-party festivities *happy smile.*

In two weeks and one day, The Prom will all be over and all I'll have to show for it is the pictures in the Yearbook (already paid for) to remember it by. 

*Surprised sad face* 

Sometimes, just sometimes, I really, REALLY wish we'd had a Prom when I was at school *sighs*

*Waits for 2015 and The Third Girl's Prom*

Part 8.

June 27th

Now we're really getting down to the nitty-gritty of Prom night. The who's doing what with who where and why and when. Yes, they've hired the improbable limousine to deliver them to The Prom but the getting home again is down to the individual Prom-goers initiative. The TeenTwins, having plenty, have organised, cajoled, bribed, battered eyelashes and sulked enough to get The Man to fetch them.

And they're SO good at initiative they've persuaded The Man, in our beloved battered ex-police transit van to fetch not just them but five friends too. And they have more friends, so these friends are being brought home by a family friend who VOLUNTEERED *puts away stout stick* out of the deep goodness of his heart.

When I say brought home, I mean to our home for the required after-party which is, I've been told, de rigeuer. Rather that than having them sitting in a graveyard, or a field, or the roundabout (all of which have been previously mooted as after-party alternatives). Or trawling the streets of Leeds looking for a pub or club to take them in. Dressed in Prom dresses. After midnight. At 16. Well ... 

Okay. Maybe TeenTwin1 wants the after-party to mostly be vodka shots, pizza and "bangin' tunes" (in that order) and TeenTwin2 is just looking forward to chilling out in her slippers with a cup of tea and her mates but we'll just have to let them sort that out on the night.

Note to self: Hide the vodka.

Anyway, sounds like a plan? Or it would be if anybody had any bloody idea when The Prom ends or could remember where it's being held so we could pick the buggers back up in the first place.

APPARENTLY, the gospel according to the TeenTwins (they were told in assembly) is that The Prom ends at some time between 10.30 and 11.30 "probably." Entirely helpful, I don't think. We do know that The Prom is at  Leeds United Football Club, we also know Leeds United Football Club is really quite large and has numerous entrances, exits and car-parks.The TeenTwins talk vaguely of a mysterious pick-up point as a meeting point for the journey home though on investigation it seems to be a part of the club known only to limousine drivers, and they probably call it the drop-off point anyway.

I had to go back to read a previous Prom Diary blog to find out The Prom is being held in the club's Banqueting Suite and, to my knowledge, the letter that I gleaned that from was the last official communication from the school with any Prom information in it at all. That blog is from January. Six months ago.

But The Prom, by the time I publish this, will be tomorrow. TOMORROW *shriek* and there's not a lot else we can do. The TeenTwins and friends will climb in the improbable limousine at 6.15pm and at some point as yet unknown and at some place currently unconfirmed will be met to be brought home. 

Thank god for mobile phones.

Part 9.

June 29

WE ARE POST PROM! And it feels not un-entirely like being post-op, tired and a little woozy and I didn't even go to the bloody thing.

And finally I've got a handle on what The Prom IS. After months of bafflement that an American tradition has been adopted so wholeheartedly by our education system, it turns out The Prom is, more or less, an old-fashioned, very English, dinner-dance for teenagers instead of members of the Rotary Club. They even serve rubbish dinner-dance food.

Big stuffing, little chicken

The TeenTwins both had a fabulous, brilliant, amazing, fantastic, ace and best-night-in-the-world-ever time EVER though. And they both looked fabulous too. I won't tell a lie, there were a few tears and they were all mine.

My Prom Queens

This morning, after a whole, whopping one hour's sleep they got all dressed up again for the traditional walk-of-shame to school where there was the traditional red carpet and the traditional cheering crowd of schoolchildren and the traditional FREE bacon sandwich in the school canteen and I really wish I'd have been there to see that.
If only because they must be the most expensive free bacon sandwiches ever *sighs*

The End.


  1. I've just found your site via #Sundayphoto (I initially left a comment there then had a browse). I was enthralled by your Prom diary...brilliantly written btw, made me laugh out loud in many places but also opened my eyes as to what's to come! Really?? All this at year 11?? Like you I thought it was a disco in the village hall and some handmade sandwiches. At least I have a few years to prepare for the hellish onslaught of the school Prom - mine is just 6yo! Thnx for the heads up & a jolly good read !x

  2. Halloween is not an America idea
    In England, from the medieval period,[117] up until the 1930s,[118] people practiced the Christian custom of souling on Halloween, which involved groups of soulers, both Protestant and Catholic,[84] going from parish to parish, begging the rich for soul cakes, in exchange for praying for the souls of the givers and their friends.[68] In Scotland and Ireland, guising – children disguised in costume going from door to door for food or coins – is a traditional Halloween custom, and is recorded in Scotland at Halloween in 1895 where masqueraders in disguise carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips, visit homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money.[101] The practice of guising at Halloween in North America is first recorded in 1911, where a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported children going "guising" around the neighborhood.[119]

  3. I think the commercialism of Halloween and the subsequent way that we celebrate it in the UK is entirely dominated by the American modern interpretation of the festival. Naturally America has adopted customs over history from it's many and varied immigrant populations, but have given their own Stateside twist which we have in turn subsequently re-adopted over here. The date was originally a Pagan festival that was, like most Pagan celebrations, re-named and re-purposed by Christians.


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