Monthly Archives: October 2011

Pumpkins

“I wish I had a dad.”
“Sorry about that, I don’t know what I can do.”
“You could find a boyfriend who could be like my best grown up friend.”
“If any man was going to come into our lives, he would have to be excellent.”
“Excellent?”
“Yeah. He’d have to be kind and funny and clever and honest and good at cleaning and even though being handsome isn’t the most important thing, it would be good if he was a little bit handsome too.”
“Like a man version of me then?”
“Sort of, but he’d have to be modest.”
“Mum?”
“Yes.”
“Where can you get a man like that from?”
“Good question.”
“How about Salford?”
“I can’t just go out into Salford and look for man.”
“Can you get men on the internet?”
“As it happens, there are websites where you can go and choose a man after looking at his photograph and a list of his hobbies but it all seems a bit silly.”
“Yeah Mum, don’t do that. It does sound a bit silly.”
“Let’s carve the pumpkins.”
“OK.”

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I went to Spain last weekend…

Toledo was sunny..

Madrid was wonderfully occupied...

Retiro Park was just the place for a lazy Sunday...

I saw this on the wall in my friend's flat (and I remembered why going home wouldn't be so bad...)

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The apostrophe

All over the country (and particularly round here,) there are rogue apostrophes. I often wonder: is it the signwriters who throw them in or the shop owners themselves – and why doesn’t either party intervene before it’s too late? Also, why do people seem to think that a noun ending in a vowel requires an apostrophe: Pizzas, photos, potatoes (or potato’s?) Why do people still not get the difference between you’re and your? Why does no one remember the rule about ‘its’ not needing the possesive apostrophe and ‘it’s’ meaning ‘it is’?

Yes I’m a geek, but I can’t help but spot misplaced apostrophes at twenty paces.

Yesterday came my proudest moment as a mum so far.

It was better than the first wobbly steps, better than the inaugural “Mama” (which came after “dada”, should any further proof be required that “dada” is simply a noise.) It was better than the first tooth (which is not an achievement, but is treated like one in certain mother and baby circles,) better than the first full potty (for obvious reasons.)

Yesterday, while I was sitting at the laptop working, Tom did a piece of writing that included a beautifully formed, correctly placed, possesive apostrophe.

“How did you know to put that there?” I said.

“I dunno,” he said, “I just did.”

My work here is done.

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The slug catcher

When I am not hunting for head lice or hiding from massive spiders, I am cursing the slugs. They slither in through gaps somewhere in the skirting board or the ventilation brick thing at the front of the house and leave their sparkly trails all over everything in the middle of the night. I see them when I’m up late writing. Once I got in from a night out and stood on one in the living room and had to clear up its guts afterwards. They get around everywhere and I hate them, all yellow and speckly and fat. If reincarnation was real, the world’s worst would come back as slugs. At least snails have little houses on their backs and don’t invade mine. Slugs have their horrible corkscrew slug sex somewhere and repoduce and never really go away. There are more of them when it’s been raining, which is frequent – this being Manchester and all.

I don’t like doing the salt thing. It seems horribly cruel and leaves behind a right mess afterwards. I don’t want to do the beer thing because it would seem a complete waste. I am not using pellets because they kill hedgehogs. I love them, they’re getting rare and once we found one in the alley when I was putting out the bin.

We’re not the only ones on the street with slugs. Our neighbour is keener on us than he used to be (now that we have been living here four years and he’s realised we’re alright.) Before he started being civil towards us, he shook a giant white line of salt (I think it was salt, anyway) in front of three houses on the terrace, neatly stopping when he got to our doorstep.

Anyway, Tom’s got a new habit of getting up at six in the morning, taking himself downstairs and drawing loads of pictures. He keeps shouting up to me when I am asleep that he has seen a slug slithering in the house and I tell him, half asleep, to leave it alone.

This morning, he said

“Mum I have made you an amazing invention.”

“Ugh,” I said.

“You’re gonna love this Mum,” He came into my room and shook me.

It was this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What is it?”

“It’s a slug catcher.”

“Wow.”

“What you do is you use it to scoop up the slug and take him away.”

“It seems like it might be a bit messy.”

“No it isn’t, I made one like it for myself and tried it and it worked.”

“What did you do with the slug?”

“Well.. don’t shout at me..”

“What?!” I thought he was going to tell me he had put it in the fridge or his bed, or fed it to the gerbil.

“I flushed him down the loo Mum. But don’t worry, he’ll have a happy life at the sewage works.”

I don’t reckon that slug is smiling like the one on the slug catcher now. I was though, even though it was six in the morning.

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The Guilt

I was crying as I raced to school on Friday afternoon.

I had received a text message from the school office the day before, inviting me to come and see Tom receive an award in assembly.

I was angry. Not with the school for giving me the opportunity to share Tom’s proud moment, but with myself for not being able to just drop everything and go.

This is rubbish I thought, looking at the clock on the church and seeing that I was over half an hour late I’m not going to be there for him.

I never felt any guilt about being a working parent when Tom was small. His nursery was open until six and I had three days a week to work and the rest to spend with him.

Suddenly, when your child starts school, you’re expected to have a load more time on your hands. Last week, I missed Harvest Festival because I couldn’t afford an hour out of my working day and the week before that, I missed a parents’ meeting with Tom’s new teacher because it was in the afternoon. In summer, Sports Day clashed with an important meeting but luckily my Mum was off work and able to go and cheer Tom on.

The wind was blowing against me as I hobbled across the road, wishing I had gone upstairs and found my flat shoes instead of throwing on the high heeled boots that were strewn in the hallway.

I know this must be why some parents stay at home. I don’t want to get into a working mum versus stay at home mum debate here, it’s all about what works best for you. I need to make money as I’m the only breadwinner and I love my job. If it wasn’t for work, I think I would get bored on the other two hundred and odd days a year that Tom is at school but not winning awards, singing or running races.

I thought about turning back. Surely not going to the assembly at all would be better than walking in having missed the crucial moment?

It had been a busy day in work. I work from home but I can’t just get up from my desk when I feel like it. Surely I am not the only one who struggles to get to these things. I certainly couldn’t have taken time off at less than twenty four hours notice if I was working in a shop or an office or a school or a hospital.

This is why people stay at home I thought, pressing the buzzer on the school door.

“I think I’ve missed it,” I said to the receptionist.

“You might not have done…”

I walked into the hall as quietly as I could, but parents and children still turned and stared. I slipped into a chair on the back row as the headteacher started reading out house points and the older kids said “Yesssss!” when they heard their scores (remember that?)

After that, it was awards time. I had made it. Tom was presented with a Headteacher’s Award for “being the kind of child about whom people only ever have positive things to say.”

He stood at the front, smiling, certificate in hand. And I cried. Again.

At home time, Tom came bounding out of his classroom, award in hand.

“Mum! I won a tushstificate!”

“I know.”

“How do you know?”

“I was there, watching in the assembly.”

“Oh, were yer? I didn’t even notice.”

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The wonder of books

One of my favourite parts of being a parent is story time. I love having the excuse to revisit the books I read as a child; from the forties pictures in the Ahlbergs’ baby book Peepo to the wildly imaginative world of Roald Dahl.

Children’s Book Week began on Monday and it got me thinking about how much joy books bring to mine and Tom’s lives. That time when I have finished bathing and feeding him and I am reading to him is magic – and has been since he was a baby. It’s as much escapism for me as it is for him, given the fact I have to try to get my head engaged to clean up the kitchen and do the washing and get stuck into my own writing when I go back downstairs. Tom chooses a book then clambers up the wooden ladder into bed and I lean against the high sleeper and read it to him.

It’s not just bedtime stories that are special; last Friday, when the summer made a surprise return, I bought Tom a copy of Just So Stories from the charity shop. Our back yard was in the shadow of the house but the sun was beating on the front door until it creaked. We sat on the doorstep in the sunshine, our feet outstretched on the hot pavement as I read How the Whale Got His Throat to Tom.

When he was elected to be on the Pupil Council* a couple of weeks ago, I took Tom to the charity shop and let him choose a book. He came over with a pristine, hardback one called Are You A Ladybird? In the summer, Tom and I discovered scores of orange and black spiny insects crawling on a rock outside his school. Google told me that they were ladybird larvae and we watched with amazement as they turned into cocoons and then full-grown ladybirds. I had never thought about how ladybirds came to be ladybirds before. I love it when I learn new things because of Tom. Are You a Ladybird?is a beautifully illustrated account of the life cycle of the ladybird and I couldn’t think of a more fitting book to buy him to mark that day.

Books are integral to our family life, but it’s a real shame that in an age when everyone’s short of cash and books are so cheap, not enough children have access to them at home. A teacher friend asked her class whether they have stories read to them or watch them on DVDs and they all put their hands up for the latter. Look at the fancy dress costumes on World Book Day at many primary schools and you’ll see hardly any book characters, but plenty of Disney Princesses and Ben Tens. What happened to using your imagination to picture a book in your head? Why spend hundreds of pounds on games consoles and new games when you could just walk your child to the nearest charity shop or library and let them choose a book for pence or even free?

There are lots of ideas of how to celebrate Children’s Book Week on the Booktrust website. If you’re a parent, make some memories: buy your little one a new book this week and take some time to sit and read it together.

It’s simple and old fashioned, but it really works.

*In more insect news, Tom had his second Pupil Council meeting today and put forward an idea for Insect Club, where children have to hunt for and learn about insects whilst dressed as insects. I wish I could see the minutes of these meetings.

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