Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Other people's children

Ooh I'm feeling bad now. But bitter past experience just let the words fall out of my mouth. I will have to grovel later when I see her. Explain the circumstances. It's just what you want to hear when you're having a hard day at work, some smug fester at home mum mentioning that your child kept her waiting for 5 whole minutes when there was at least half an hour to get to school. I just wanted to nip it in the bud, you see. Not that ad hoc lifts to school constitute a major delivery contract, on the lines of royal mail and amazon, no, just a child being picked up for the five minutes drive to school.

I've been lucky enough not to have to pick up too many children in my time. There have of course been the inevitable times when I would drive around London in my pyjamas in the middle of the night, rescuing teenage girls and delivering each one to a different address, and those days are certainly not over. Those I don't mind. It's only every so often. What gets me is the regular week after week grind of having to wait for a child who clearly doesn't want to go where we're going and explain at the other end why we're late. A situation I put up with for about two years.

"Please tell whoever you've got looking after them that I need them ready on the doorstep when I turn up" - there are only a number of times you can say that to a harassed parent who's already feeling indebted to you for taking their children to whatever activity, picking them up afterwards, giving them supper ("we're vegetarian, so no meat please. Oh, and organic") and waiting for parent to collect, whilst trying to keep said children from destroying your house and really annoying your own children. "Mum, we hate them. And they smell."

Mercifully, everything comes to and end. Including after school activities. Yet this arrangement left me deeply scarred. Thank goodness I now drive a very small car. And the secondary schools are just nearby.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

School Scrum

This time it was going to be easier. After all, this was my third round of secondary school applications. I'm defintely a been seen and done it type on this score.

If boring everyone witless with my knowledge of London secondary school transfer were an olympic sport, I would have more gold medals than Steve Redgrave, I really would. The whole business has to be the most stressful thing that parents have to go through - at least childbirth doesn't last that long!

Of course, we bring the stress on ourselves - whether it's the state or private system, we're all running round like headless chickens on those open days, hyperventilating at the thought of whether or not we're in the catchment area, how many times a school is oversubscribed, mixed or single sex, and so forth.

Then there's another factor a parent has to take into account - the opinion of the child! Since when did they have the right to choose anything? Well, in our case, it's since birth. And they all have different opinions, desperate to get away from the shadow of an older sibling, to do their own thing.

well the forms are in. All we have to do is wait for March 1st and pray that siblings still have priority over everyone else....

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Watching paint dry at the RA

When I go on outings with my friend G, we normally just eat and shop and talk. Sometimes we venture into the Royal Academy to view the latest exhibitions only because I have a Friend's Card and we rather get tired of the shopping. The other week we ventured into the Anish Kapoor Exhibition.

I can't paste the link here - I suggest you all google Royal Academy and Anish Kapoor and see what comes up.

Although technically brilliant, frankly it really was like watching paint dry. I haven't laughed so much since the Gilbert and George retrospective at Tate Modern. I also had the urge to touch everything. Was that the point of it? the squidgy red wax left in the corners by the huge lipstick thing trundling up and down the galleries on rails, the anticipation of the cannon being fired (we gave up on that and went to look at the mirrors) the concrete pooh sculptures, the huge rusty cave thing that had me hooting into it for an echo. My friend G was only pleased we hadn't had to pay to get in. We thought we would bring our husbands along for the comedy value, just to see their reations. G's husband nearly had a seizure at the Rothko at the beginning of the year. She's still laughing at the memory.

Later, in the members room, we didn't find anywhere to sit, but I spotted Francesa Annis chatting to two old blokes at a table. Gorgeous woman and fab actress to boot.

At least there's Van Gogh to look forward to in the spring.

Monday, 19 January 2009

They'll never eat toast again!

Like many houesholds throughout the country, we have had to host the occasional unwanted guest. Yes, mice have been regular visitors for some time now. We have tried all sorts of ways to get rid of them and all have been a resounding failure.

Until today.

This morning, Baby came to tell me that she'd had heard noises from behind the TV in the breakfast room. By the time we both walked into the room again, there was no sign of anything. Then the TV went on as my girls are hooked onto CBB. I went into the kitchen to make Baby's toast. The smell wafting from toaster was rather odd, but it all came out OK and Baby ate her breakfast. Rosa Klebb's toast was OK too, although the smell was rather stronger now. Girl from Ipanema reported that she'd just eaten bread and butter as smoke and a very nasty smell had poured out of the toaster.

It was the single mousedropping in the crumb catcher tray that alerted me to the horrible truth.

I opened up the bottom of the toaster - it's a Dualit, so I can do that - and switched it on to see where the smoke was coming from. The little line of smoke led me to the Horrible Truth. From the side of one of the elements, a tail and two back paws poked out.

Now what do I do? My brother has kept that toaster going for me for years now - after all, it cost a fortune. Should I simply chuck the whole think in the bin, and select a replacement from my newly acquired Argos Catalogue? Or should I dismantle it, scrape mousy remnants off, and start all over again?

Dear Reader - what would you advise?

Friday, 16 January 2009

Brave People at the BBC

I paid my first visit to the Royal Court Theatre yesterday. I didn't go to see a play, but to attend a presentation by the staff at the BBC Writers Room. There was a power point presentation, lots of tips, questions and answers, and general encouragement from a very brave bunch of people. In response to an email to everyone on the mailing list, I reckon about 300 writers showed up.

The mix of people was very interesting. Older men, younger women, young men. Middle aged women not much in evidence, but I suspect that's because most of them were dealing with their children. Very few people knew eachother, so there was little chat in the audience. There was the usual old git at the front with An Issue, as is usual at such gatherings, but the lady running the event obviously had plenty of experience in dealing with old gits with issues.

They very clearly explained what was required, what to avoid, and what the procedure was. They also downplayed the fact that out of the 10,000 scripts that they received every year only about 5% got any further than the NO pile. They were encouraging, enthusiastic and very open about what they wanted.

On departure, they whipped out sacks and asked for any scripts that people had brought along. I did see a few people with parcels, but I think many took them home for revision following all the tips that we were given.

Much of the audience, like me, raced home, but I suspect Nice Lady and Old Git had a good chin wag in the bar. I got home about an hour later - wonder if I was the first one!

Monday, 5 January 2009

Another year bites the dust!

Having a birthday in the hinterland of christmas and New Year is very good. I certainly appreciate more as I get older. When I was young, it was very irritating as there would be this double present thing going on, people were all partied out, and I would not have a mid year window of opportunity to stock up on items I didn't get for Christmas.
Nowadays, the sales are in full swing , so I have over recent years collected some very over budget gifts, and more recently, the whole birthday thing has certainly faded away so that now I have a non birthday - and never get older.

I find birthdays very awkward - there's no sense of achievement, only emphasis that I've let another year slip by without getting thinner, fitter, rich or more scintillating. Just another layer of dust on the ornaments. No gratitude or positivity there!

So let's try again. Today I can look back on a year in which lots of good things happened and forward to a year in which lots of wonderful things will happen. So there. Feeling better already! I did the Moonwalk, remember - all 26 miles of it! I have just about recovered.

As part of the Lake Wobegon empire, Garrison Keillor is involved in a project called the Writer's Almanac. Here is today's offering. Who knew that Umberto Eco and I shared a birthday!

More GW news - there was a get together last Saturday organised by the wonderful Kim in a great pub near the embankment in Central London. A group of women gathered to indulge in their passion for GW, but actually were more interested in catching up with eachother whilst sporting yellow post it notes. We also played Spoon of Destiny and Chocolate Towers. You had to be there.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

All The Rage - January 2009

Some little pixies have been working overtime to bring you the January 2009 edition of All The Rage.

I hope you enjoy it. Leila has worked very hard to bring it all together.