Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Yule Blog 2008... Or...The cleverness of FC

Before I help Father Christmas each year, I always have a little tot up of what has been spent on each child. It is of course imperative that each child has the same spent on them. This is however quite a challenge, as I never actually count either numbers of presents or total up monies spent as I go along. So, come Christmas Eve it would of course be too late if it were wrong.

This though is when I realise that there is a Father Christmas. For every year, including this one, miraculously we have the same number of presents per child and the same amount spent almost to the penny.

"Oh the cleverness of me," from Peter Pan springs to mind: it being the play that my mother used to take me to see every Christmas when I was little. But, just like Peter Pan, I somehow think that it is not me, but my magical friend FC who is responsible. Hubby is not really involved too closely on the present front, so it isn't him. It is just pure magic. It's the sort of magic that happens in families. Like the magic that means that by some strange coincidence if you do a certain mathematical exercise with our children's DOBS, then they all add up to 27. And it's only in our family that that happens...

Meanwhile, we have seven children to entertain this Christmas. (Yes that's right, seven. We gained two that we are fostering, just last week.Two boys from Afghanistan.) Presents have all been dispatched to FC; and the children are nearly all in bed (Please GO soon kids! I need to go to bed myself, and I CAN'T until you do... if you get my gist.)

The thing is, with little or next to no English available, and no former understanding of western culture, let alone Father Christmas, how do you explain to the newbies that they need to go to bed now, otherwise, Christmas cannot happen as it should? One of the said guests is currently sitting at at Hubby's laptop with headphones on, singing along to Indian music in a voice that if it were based on volume it might just win him the Afghan version of the X Factor. Ever the tactful, Sensible, not wanting to draw attention to herself, has just sent me a text asking me to ask him if he could perhaps sing a little more quietly.... as he is keeping her awake.... Thanks Sensible....

In the meantime, just before I do some pigeon English explanations of why my new guests really should go to bed, I wish you all a very merry and very lovely Christmas.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Freddie's Mum

I blame Freddie's mum myself.

Her father was a GP we were told. Unfortunately he hadn't appeared to have passed on his medical knowledge to his daughter, and so when Freddie aged three got chicken pox, she sent him into nursery school.

This would have course have been fine, except for the fact that the nursery school that he attended was also attended by ED. Freddie's mum arbitrarily decided that it would be fine for the whole nursery school to get chicken pox in one go. That was of course very generous of her, but some of us were less decided as to the appropriateness of the timing.

For me personally, being heavily pregnant with Sensible, with ESOS aged just nineteen months, the timing was perhaps a little off.

ED went down with it first, just in time for her to not be allowed to visit me me in hospital with Sensible. She and ESOS had to stand outside with Hubby and I lifted Sensible to the window to show her to them. It wasn't my happiest moment of motherhood. My own post natal room was nice. Even if it was for isolation purposes.

Next of course came the injection. The Human Varicella Zoster vaccine - to build up antibodies, as neonatal chicken pox is very dangerous.

"It won't stop her from getting it, but it may help," explained the Doctor.

"Please could I have one of those too?" I asked.

"Why?" said the female military doctor.

"Because I have never had chicken pox, and I may give it to her."

The Doctor looked Heavenwards.

"You are breastfeeding." She said.

"Yes." I said.

"So you will give her your antibodies."

"But I haven't got any antibodies against it. I have never had chickenpox." I protested.

My mother was visiting. She adamantly confirmed that I had never had chicken pox. The Doctor smiled at me in that "sympathetic, poor woman, just had a baby" sort of way, that sort of "she clearly doesn't know which side of her brain is which any more" sort of way, and in that "don't be so stupid love, I'm related to Freddie's mum, and I KNOW that everybody is exposed to chicken pox" sort of way.

"Neonatal chickenpox is very dangerous." She concluded, pulling the needle out of Sensible. "If you get it, it is one of those things."

I started to protest again that I was likely to give it to her, because she was exposed to me, and I was breastfeeding her, and that therefore instead of giving her my antibodies, I would instead give it to her.......... My voice wasn't being heard. She had packed up her belongings into her military style doctor's bag, and was gone from my isolation room.

ESOS got chicken pox on my return from hospital.

I got it when Sensible was 10 days old. I wasn't offered an anti viral drug, because it was too expensive to give to someone in a non high risk category. Apparently, a mother of three children, one of ten days old, and the other two recovering from an illness isn't vulnerable... It's not a nice thing for an adult to get though, especially ten days after giving birth. That was an interesting breastfeeding experience...

When, at three weeks old Sensible was rushed into hospital, this time to Queen Mary's in Roehampton, so as to be given intravenous acyclovir, it was no great surprise. I had of course given it to her, lock stock and barrel and I was in a different hospital, so I couldn't even gesticulate at my Army miss who had told me that this wouldn't be likely to happen....

Sensible, having been born sensible and stoical, coped remarkably well with the prodding and poking and jabbings over the next ten days. The maternal viewpoint was less desirable. Once, I just couldn't watch the procedure of changing over the cannula yet again as yet another tiny vein collapsed.

I was angry. Angry that it had come into our family at the wrong time. Angry at Freddie's mum. Angry at the Doctor who had refused to help me avoid having it, or at least suffering so much. Angry that I was not able to be given a drug to suppress it, so that my bout would not have been so bad, and .......... most angry that due to all those things that Sensible at three weeks was being subjected to a form of torture.

We all recovered.

As you do.

The torture techniques did pay off thankfully, and Sensible was well and healthy again quickly, and apart from the fact that she was the youngest ever recorded case of a very minor case of shingles in Northern Ireland two years later, has had no side effects ....... we hope.

Personally though I put on loads of weight and suffered from TATT (tired all the time) syndrome ... for the next ten years. I probably have TATT written all over my medical notes much to my various GPs' annoyance.

And I do of course blame it all on Freddie's mum.

Luckily for her, not only do I not live near her or know her, I am not sure that I ever even met her. I was just TOLD that it was SHE who brought the chickenpox into the nursery school...

So, when last week this strange rash appeared on my tummy, my immediate thought was that it looked like chickenpox.

I've had chickenpox though, so that's all right I thought.

More blisters appeared. It itched and drove me crazy, small as it was. And, by Sunday afternoon I was ready to collapse. I went back to bed and slept..... all afternoon, all evening and all night in various feverish states. I NEVER take a day off from work. But even Hubby, who also never takes sickies, told me that I was too ill to go in. So, I slept again.

My funny patch on my tummy was still itching, had largely scabbed over and was in fact possibly starting to subside. Hubby looked at it.

"It looks like chickenpox." He said. "Do you think it's shingles?"

We looked it up on the Internet. At first we found some pictures that looked like roof tiles. I knew I wasn't suffering from those. Then we found some more pictures, and for a forty something, as opposed to a seventy something with shingles, it looked seriously likely.

"We've got some Zovirax in the cupboard." Said Hubby. Put some of that on it. Now Hubby is not a Doctor, but he is a Cambridge scientist, and unlike the Medics who I acted in plays with at university, he spent considerably more of his time at college in classrooms, and considerably less of his time out of his head. And um.... he was by no means sober all the time either....

Needless to say, when it comes to science, I trust his judgement.

I put some Zovirax on.

By morning, the rash had reduced so much, that by the time I went to the Doctor, he was dubious that it was indeed shingles. He did however listen to my self diagnosis.... and did concur that the other symptoms made it more likely, and that I should definitely be off work.

Just think, if it weren't for Freddie's mum I wouldn't have written this blog today.

So... thank you Freddie's mum.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

All we can do is to think positively....

We have always called him the"Milky Bar Kid" because, just like the traditional "Milky Bar Kid" he has blond hair, glasses and a very cute "butter wouldn't melt in his mouth look." And, just like the "Milky Bar Kid", he always has a twinkle in his eye that just says, "I might get up to some mischief later.... but mostly Ill just be a nice kid."

Until two year's ago, when they moved away from here, I would regularly meet his mum in the playground. Regularly of course because, like me, she was always running into school with the MBK. We would all arrive sometimes just before the bell, but often just after. They, like us, often had no real reason for being perpetually late, other than the fact that her mind, like my mind is often full of "other" stuff, and she just needed to do twenty things prior to going to school... and think about a further forty.... and each every every task and thought all just takes a little bit longer than you think it will......

But she was great company and as friends we could always have a laugh about our complete inadequacy in the timings department. In a strange sort of way we possibly saw ourselves as slightly superior to "seriously on time mums". Of course, that was then. Once they moved away, and everyone else was "on time", I had to change my routines so that the children got to school on time. You see, as a late person, it is one thing being "late", but it is a different ball game all together being "last". I reckon that my lateness stems from being born three weeks early. By the time I die I should have caught up with those three weeks. It must be getting closer of course because I am definitely becoming more punctual as the years go on...

We have all kept in touch since MBK and his family moved away, and every so often we talk on the phone or we get together.

So, it was an ordinary phone call to start with.

"How are you?" I asked.

"In what respect?" said MBK's Dad.

Immediately I knew something was wrong.....

He put me onto MBK's Mum.

As the conversation progressed, I was told about how three weeks ago he had collapsed at school and how he has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

He is just a normal, lovely, fun loving, easy going nine year old.

He has a wish list of things that he wants to do.....

It includes a trip to Legoland and a visit to the cinema to see the new James Bond movie. They are just ordinary requests for any little boy, because that is what he is.

A kid.

And that is what he should be allowed to be.

I went to the cupboard and found my Tesco vouchers. I calculated that I had enough points to send a normal sized family to Legoland, so I wrapped them up and enclosed them in a card. It's hard writing a card in such circumstances. You feel completely inadequate and... guilty for having completely healthy family members. But so grateful. So very grateful.

Hubby, a confirmed aetheist does every so often question the things that non aetheist's question. His questioning confirmed what I was thinking. My religious thoughts over the years have blown hot and cold. I believe, but what exactly I am not always sure.

"If there is a God," said Hubby, "How could he possibly be so cruel?"

"Not everything is perfect." I say. "Perhaps even God makes mistakes."

I cannot hold with the view that these things are done for a reason, despite my very Christian based schooling.

It puts everything into perspective.

All we can do is to think positively, and, if you believe, pray.

P.S. ...... If there is any possibility that you could tell others, please do..... So that we can have as many people as possible pulling together......... Thank you.... S

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Poor Banks....

"Mum, can you pick me up please?"

8.30 a.m.

The two night camping trip had lasted just 12 hours.... We had said of course. Camping on the coldest night so far this year is not exactly my idea of a picnic. But then being parents, of the older generation: those boring old and unfashionable remnants of society that we are.... how on earth would we know anything about what might or might not entertain a teenager? Of course, I hadn't quite bargained for what I was met with as three teenage boys piled into my car whilst their "stuff" was piled into the back.

As I drove along, I smelt a faint "whiff" of alcoholic breath. "It's a good job that none of you boys are driving" I said. "I am not sure that any of you would pass a breathalyser."

We stopped at the first drop off, and unloaded the goods and the boy........ looking seriously worse for wear.

After he had gone, the other two then proceeded to tell me the real reason for their early homecoming, and it seems that my son and friend, uniquely had managed to drink, well ..... shall we say, "slightly less" than the others. "Drinking sensibly" would be too strong in the circumstances. It did appear though that they had more or less saved some of the the others' bacon. Ten boys camping and drinking far too much...... Not a pretty sight.... I was assured as I did the washing later that day, that the "debris" shall we call it, on the sleeping bag, was out of others mouths and not my own son's. "So it's all right Mum, at least it's not my sick." As Esos's friend pointed out, from a domestic viewpoint, your own son's vomit is possibly slightly easier to deal with than that of AN Other's random teenager's vomit...... LOVELY!

So that was a good start to the day... Meanwhile, life should have been rosy in one respect, as it was payday. And so, I went to check my bank statement online, so that I could make a payment to someone.

But the bank wasn't playing.... it appeared my account had been made "dormant" for no apparent reason. It was very confusing. I have had a few run ins with banks over the years, but this was the first time that the account had been made dormant....

I picked up the phone.

"Oh yes, Mrs. Lomax. I'm really sorry, but it's because you have moved house, we need to check your identity at a branch."

"But I haven't moved house" said I. "I have lived in the same house for six years."

"Well it says here that a piece of post was returned to us, and so as such you need to go into the branch with a passport and address ID to verify your new name and address."

I muttered plenty about it being half term and having all the children home, and friends, and that the last thing that I had time to do right now was to drive six miles to the nearest branch. And that I DIDN'T have a new name and address.

Now.... ironically..... the "payment" that I needed to pay was to another bank account of ours. You see, Hubby and I are complete masochists. Not satisfied are we with the poor treatment of one bank, we spread our misery around and actually have a few accounts in our name.... for different purposes.... sort of.....

But, I digress... The reason that I needed to make a payment was because last Friday, we had been expecting Hubby's expenses into the "other" account, but by 2 p.m. they hadn't arrived. At this point panic mode set in, and I phoned our bank's branch. This particular branch is the NatWest, who uniquely amongst the banking fraternity seem to have worked out that customers are actually people. Well, mostly. At least, the manager at our particular branch has worked that out. So, as long as you phone in banking hours, and ask to speak to the Ross on Wye branch Manager you will get completely human treatment.

And so it was that I rang her last Friday. "One of our payments is going to bounce." I had said. "We need to cancel something quickly otherwise it will cost us £35.." She and I agreed a strategy to cancel something, and she meanwhile recommended that we also change our insurance company and managed to save us £40 a month into the bargain. Clever woman.

Roll forward to Monday...... the day that the said payment was due to go out. The money was in the account (late, but there) after all. I rang Mrs. Bank Manager again. "Don't worry she said. It's not too late. I can uncancel it and it can be paid."

But lo and behold.... Head Office Natwest thought differently, and despite there being funds in place, and despite Mrs. BM having "paid" the bill, they decided not to pay the bill.....

To cut a long story short, by the time I had caught up with this company and paid the bill, they had charged me extra for the privilege, and the bottom line was that we were just £3.50 short to pay our final bill of the month. We run a very tight ship in the Lomax bank accounts, despite what the banks actually think. We move Heaven and earth to try to avoid those £35 charges, but usually fail at the last hurdle.... It's a tough game they play. If we were in the days of Robin Hood, they would probably be the Sheriff of Nottingham....... but sadly there is no Robin to get those charges back. Yet....... (But just you wait Mr. Sheriff the law could be changing......)

The hassle that that £3.50 caused me....

I feel really a bit sorry for the banks really. It must be quite tough being overdrawn by
£40, 000000000. Their charges must be phenomenal.

So this is why I was in Ross on Wye at 4 p.m. this afternoon, literally running from one bank to another.

The first bank were sorting out if I was indeed a real person and if the passport that I was carrying was indeed me and if I had, as I said I had (although I appreciate that my word cannot be trusted without the robotic quoting of fifteen letters and numbers), lived in the same house for 6 years, and been married for 22. Or if in fact I was really a hologram with a false passport.... It must have its uses at times, being a hologram with a false passport, but um.... not in Ross on Wye on a Thursday afternoon................

I left them to it and asked them to phone me once they had decided if I was allowed to spend my salary or not this month....

Meanwhile, having raided the dog's piggy bank (the children's having been long since been spent out) for the last few coppers in the house, I went to the Natwest and paid in the necessary funds to allow the bill to be paid when it is requested very shortly......

And there I found out that not only had Friday's direct debit not been paid, but that that particular direct debit now remained cancelled and that the NatWest were unable to reset it up ............ because.................... the company that had needed paying had cancelled the direct debit themselves.

Que??

Confused?

You will be........

(Answers in a postage stamp (or in the comments box) please for which programme that last little quote came from, and when.....)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Star Treatment

"I'll get a coach said Hubby. Save the cashflow."

Cashflow is always a big thing in our house, and so even when someone else is ultimately picking up the tab for Hubby's "very important Government business.... shhhhhhh" we do still tend to take the low budget options at all times.

We are so boring.

So, he booked a ticket from Gloucester. £9.50 return "Funfare" from Gloucester to London on a National Express Coach. Fantastic. You can't really go wrong. Well... until he got a phone call, asking him to be in London an hour longer than previously expected. So... he booked an additional later single from London. That one cost another £4.50. We were still winning even on our tight budget.

As he left at 6.15 a.m. I dragged myself out of the bath and started to get on with the day. It all seemed relatively easy, especially as everyone had made an effort to get up early and get themselves organised. Quite the domestic scene really. There was I ironing (!) my skirt for work, Sensible was making a cup of tea, ESOS was working out how to bring himself into a compos mentis state for the day and Gymnast and Tinkerbell Mushroom were getting themselves some breakfast....

Then the phone rang.

"There's been an accident on the A40. I'm going to miss the coach."

Hubby was on the A40 to Gloucester. Traffic jams have been seriously common along the A40 for weeks. You see, what they are trying to do is to make two lanes and a bus lane into, as I understand it, two lanes and um... a bus lane. And, even without accidents added to the mix, it's taking six months, driving people semi suicidal in their attempts to get to work on time and costing the tax payer a fortune......

"I'll go onto the internet, and see if I can find out where the next stop is."

Crank up seriously slow computer... and eventually find out that it stops first at Longlevens and then at Cheltenham. Call Hubby back.

He aims for Longlevens... but misses it there.

"Where can I park in Cheltenham?" He says on his next call.

Having spent five weeks earlier in the year, acting in a play for minimum pay, I am, despite my serious navigational handicap disadvantages, actually an expert at where to park in Cheltenham for a day, for free. So I direct Hubby to my very secret free parking spots.

"No" he said. "I haven't got time to walk from there, and get the bus at 7.30 a.m." "O.k." I said, "go to the NCP and park there for the day. You can claim it back."

I go back to the business of getting myself and everyone else organised for the day. Sensible and ESOS disappeared off on the bus, leaving me with just Tinks and Gymnast. I needed to get out by 7.55 a.m., as I had to drop them off at school seriously early, at 8 a.m., so that I could get to work.

7.35 another call. "The driver wouldn't let me on the bus, because my ticket was to travel from Gloucester. I would have had to have bought a full ticket for £20." At this point, had it been me, I have to say that I may have said, "Stuff the cashflow. Take me away driver..." But Hubby is more prudent than me... and he knew that he had only £23 on him, of which he needed £14 for the day's parking, and that was his budget for the day without causing ripples for the Lomax financial front.... And so he was by this time walking back to the car, with a view to possibly going back to Gloucester to get the coach there at 8 a.m.

"No, don't do that" I said. "I'll ring National Express and see what I can do. You go and move the car to my very good and very free parking spaces and I'll sort out the tickets for you."

I rang the enquiry line. There would be no-one there until 8 a.m. Hubby would have to sort it out himself. I would text him the number. But ... it was one of my old friends, an 0845 number, which of course would cost dearly on a mobile... So I went in search of a new number on the "say no to 0870 website." I found a number, and just in case it didn't work (which sometimes they don't, because for some reason companies want us to use the lines that cost them more and put money into the phone companies pocket, and cost us more in the process) I checked the number by calling it, before I called hubby again. And lo and behold, my standard 0121 number was in fact a 24 hour helpline. "Oh said the woman" (imagine Birmingham accent here), it's a great pity you didn't phone before he tried to board bus at Cheltenham. I could have called them and asked them to let him board...." "Yes, but I didn't have your number then ... I started to mutter weakly... while storing the VERY USEFUL number in my mobile phone for future use. "The thing is, I said, I need to get him another ticket from Cheltenham, and really I want to get him another cheap fare, but you have to book those online, and I can't get the voucher to him...." "Oh you can" said my helpful Birmingham lady. "Ask to have the ticket sent by text to his mobile phone."

Absolutely brilliant.

It was by now however, quarter to eight and I realised that the lunches weren't finished for Tinks and Gymnast. I barked instructions to Gymnast. "There's one sandwich made" I said. "Can you put that into your lunchbag and get fruit and stuff organised for both of you? The bread is cut. I'll make the other sandwich in a minute." "Don't worry Mummy, said Gymnast, we'll do the other sandwich." I thought for second that I perhaps ought to tell them what to put in it, and then decided that for one day, it would be just fine ... whatever it was.

So..... I spent another £11......... By now the cheap ticket to London and back had actually cost £25...

I called Hubby.

"Right, I said. "You are on the 8.30 from Cheltenham. It's all paid for, and you will get a text in a minute or so to give you the details. If it doesn't work call me back and I have a number for you to ring, but right now I have got to GO."

I went into the kitchen to find Gymnast and Tinks struggling with the clingfilm for the sandwich. "It just doesn't seem to want to go round the sandwich" said Gymnast. I took over, got the last few bits together, threw some lettuce into what appeared to be a half made pasta salad from one of the older kids, for me, got two children into the car and went. I left all the cereal packets and used bowls out for the burglars.

I then drove the very long distance to the front of the school (across the road from our house) and dropped off Tinks and Gymnast. I looked down at my fuel gauge. Nought miles. (It very kindly tells me when I have zero miles left). 8.02 a.m. I had to be 37 miles down the road in 53 minutes, actually teaching. (That was having missed the early morning meeting... Given fact that I would not make that anyway on this particular morning...)

Drove into the petrol station. Waived to the cashier to start the pump. And helpfully, as soon as she had finished her conversation with her colleague, she turned the pump back to nought for me. I threw a minimum amount of fuel into the car, ran in, paid, ran out and back into the car. It must be a bit like being a racing driver... Sort of....

8.04 I was finally on the road. Sped into school at 8.50 a.m. It did occur to me that it had cost me more in fuel in order for Hubby to have a cheaper ticket to travel, which ultimately meant that I was spending more to save the Government money. How charitable of me. After all the Government needs to save money at the moment, having spent so much on the banks...

I looked at the salad had made for myself and realised that it was actually not a half made pasta salad, but a left over pasta salad from a few days before, got out of a school bag in a hurry on the way to a bus by one of the older children..... with lettuce added by me.

Nice.

Meanwhile I got a text from Hubby thanking me profusely. "I'm on the coach now. Thank you. You're a star." He said.

And for once I thought...... without being too conceited. "Yes...... Just for today...... I know."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Little Steps

I was in that sort of "drifting in and out of sleep, sort of waking up period," half listening to Sarah Kennedy. We always have her programme on. Hubby loves her. I moan that she was "clearly in the right place at the right time", and "what's she got that I haven't got on the broadcasting front?" And that: "Really it should be me doing the Dawn Chorus show on Radio 2." Hubby assures me that she really is indeed very good. His faith in me is inspiring....

Then I heard her talk about her headmistress .... and she mentioned the name... I did a double take. Good gracious. She went to my school. That's MY school! The school that wore a very strange looking brown uniform and was across the road from a racecourse, with a load of nuns present.

Immediately, all negative thoughts about Sarah Kennedy vanished. I decided that I had to "claim kin". I ran downstairs and went straight onto the computer. She did indeed go to my school, but as she is 12 years older than me, we didn't coincide. She would have been just about finishing secondary school, as I started Primary School - then in a different part of the country. Nevertheless, I just thought that I would still claim kin.... and send her an email. I was quite excited really. Little things.....

The BBC website let me down however, and try as I might I couldn't get a link. So, giving up, knowing that really the day had to "begin" anyway, I had a quick look at my emails....

And there it was.

Th opportunity of a lifetime.....

Well, it's all relative....

I had had an email from someone replying to a CV that I had submitted for an acting job. For a webcast company. Not only did they want to look at me, but all the children and Hubby too. How exciting. I told the children. "I'll arrange for a haircut for you for this afternoon ESOS...." I said, before I take some photos to send to them. This caused an uproar from Sensible, who at 14, and seriously in touch with her looks and her acting ability, decided that he didn't need a haircut from a hairdresser and that Hubby could do it with his clippers. Not wanting to look like a Home Ed crew, I made the decision however that ESOS needed a professional cut for the camera.....

Meanwhile.. I had to think about my diet. Would it be possible I thought to lose a stone and a half in four or five days prior to the audition? Probably not... but I decided that less carbs between now and then would definitely be a step in the right direction. They want a normal looking woman. At a stretch, I could probably do "normal." It's normal looks they want, after all.

And then, having caught it successfully for a week, once half an hour earlier indeed for Sensible.... the bus bus went past the house, and of course ESOS and Sensible were still arguing over haircuts....

Hubby got into the car. Got them to the next bus stop. I put the kettle on again.

He came back in: "I'm really excited about this" I said to Hubby....

"Pity it's not a feature film though" said Hubby.

"Yes, well, I'm not sure that Stephen Spielberg's "A list" includes someone who has worked for the Government for 25 years." Small steps Hubby....

Meanwhile, it was time to get Gymnast and Tinks to school. Tinks was coughing like there was no tomorrow. Hubby and I decided that she could have a day off, especially I wasn't working. At this, Gymnast saw red. "Just why exactly should SHE have a day off?" And "I don't want that drink bottle, it tastes mouldy."

My children are in good training to be prima donnas fortunately.....

Let's hope the web cast film comes through, and then maybe I might be able to go to ASDA or somewhere to buy a new drink bottle......

Friday, October 10, 2008

Not Quite Redundant

Of course I needn't have worried about the possibility of being a redundant mother.

Hubby thoughtfully decided to do a residential course this week, thereby ensuring that if I ever thought that I may no longer be useful in the parent department, that I wouldn't, so to speak.

It's quite tiring running our lot single handedly, so I do tend to fall into bed as soon as is manageable. When I am woken up from my comatose sleep by a call at 11.30 p.m. from ED, it is surprising that I actually register what is being said.

"Can you make sure that you call me at 6.30 a.m. please? I need to get a train, and I am worried I may not get up in time." "I was asleep" I moaned as I looked at the settings on the alarm clock and turned the light back off...

6.30 a.m. Called ED.

6.50 a.m. still couldn't get hold of her. Began to worry. Called Hubby.

"She must already be up." He said. There's no way she would miss her room phone. It's right next to her head".

The university has very kindly put room phones into the rooms. You can call in, but she can't all out. This means of course that she has two ways that parents can contact her. Well three actually, because I can still phone the university itself. And of course, I can email her, night and day. This is progress apparently. When I was a student I quite liked the fact that the only way that I could talk to my parents was via a call box. It would have had to be a dire emergency for them to call me via the college phones. And as a student that anonymity was possibly a benefit at times.

Meanwhile I was beginning to panic. It did also occur to me that I had dreamt the phonecall at 11.30 p.m...... Was I indeed going completely mental - as opposed to just a bit?

In the midst of getting other children up for school, making sandwiches and getting uniform sorted I kept calling her, alternating between her mobile and landline numbers. I ignored Hubby's advice, as my only thought was... she'll miss her train... By 7 a.m., I had just about decided that either she was sleeping eleswhere ( in which case WHY did she ask ME to wake her??!! ) or that she had left the room already and gone off to get an earlier train.....

I tried one more time...

"Hello?" said a very groggy voice. "Sorry, I didn't hear the phone..."

Your neighbours must have done though ED...

Sensible and Esos appeared downstairs, arguing, with Esos directing insults in both her and my direction. He accused her of suffering from PMT. "Your the one with PMT" she retorted. "That isn't actually physically possible, in case you didn't know", he replied in a smart alec type voice... to which I retorted that, maybe not, but that boys certainly had hormonal influence affecting them...... This wasn't a popular comment...

Finally they got on the bus. Rang ED again to check she had caught her train. Whilst she was talking to me the ticket inspector arrived to check her ticket. I heard mutterings. "No," I heard her say. "That's a return ticket."...........Except it wasn't.... the first half of the ticket was in the machine at the station.......

Made several phonecalls on her behalf.... And meanwhile she managed to persuade the ticket inspector to let her travel anyway on the basis that it was booked originally on the internet to be picked up at the station........

Progress again...... Do you remember when they had people at stations who passed you the correct tickets?

Roll forward two days. 7.30 a.m....... the school bus drives past the kitchen window. "Bye bye Esos and Sensible."

.... But no... they are still sitting in the kitchen.....

Into the car, coat over dressing gown and boots without socks. Drive to the next stop.......

Not quite redundant yet then.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pensieve

"Your blogs are like buses. You don't write one for months" says Hubby, "and then they come in threes."

This is of course true. And like Meredic, it's not because I haven't had anything to write about, because I have, but more perhaps that my mind has been so full of thoughts that I just haven't been able to separate them out and put them into bloggy form. One of these prepossessing thoughts is the fact that time has just gone. It didn't ask permission. It just left me standing and rushed on ahead.

Now you understand, I do fully appreciate that I am not yet old really. But I want to know why the last ten years have travelled past at lightning speed, without much thought in the process to the fact that those years were indeed "travelling past at lightning speed", all of a sudden leaving me here in my mid and a little bit forties - with children starting to go off to university.

I mean, when I last looked, I had five children. Only three and a half years ago for instance, just before the yearly round of birthdays started (and the round lasts a while in our house), I had five children aged 4, 6, 10, 12 and 14. And now, suddenly I have an adult of 18 who has just left for university, a 16 year old in his final year of GCSE's, a fourteen year old starting her GCSE's, a 10 year old due to leave primary school in a few months and an 8 year old also heading speedily towards the top end of primary school.

So, more to the point.... where did the last three and a half years go, and why am I so relatively old all of a sudden?!!!

It was a big shock ED going to university. Parents are very strange creatures. We hope, dream and wish for our children to grow up and be successful, and then all of a sudden, when they do grow up, be successful and go off, you feel completely bereft.

No-one prepares you for that feeling of loss. No-one tells you when you are changing the nappies that one day you will actually look back nostalgically on changing nappies. At the time you are so immersed in the daily drudgery, that you get on, you cope and you survive day to day.

And then it stops.




And it's lonely. And sad. You want it all back.

It's not that you want even more children. You want the same ones, but you want to do it again, more slowly. You want to take your time. You want to savour the moment. You want to not tell them off when they throw flour, ketchup and mayonnaise around a neighbour's kitchen in an attempt to bake you a cake with ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise. Or at least, tell them off, but not feel so cross about it.... Or to not feel embarrassed because - just because your neighbour has been put out.

You want to capture all the little moments and put them in a box. and look at them from time to time and relive them. In fact I need a Harry Potter style "pensieve". JK is indeed a woman of fine taste.

And maybe, once or twice I would take the "pensieve" back to a day when ED was 6, ESOS was 4 and Sensible was 2. At the time we were living in Northern Ireland, and I used to teach drama in ED's school, just one morning a week. It took HUGE organisation that one morning....

One the particular day in mind, Hubby was away doing important stuff in England, and I was singlehandedly in charge of the brood. It was a chaotic morning... as it always has been in our house, for as long as I can remember. I finally got all organised and dressed and ready to leave the house at 8.30. Hubby ordinarily at that time was taking the children to school en route to work, leaving me, with Sensible to have a more leisurely start. Except of course on the "ONE DAY A WEEK" when I had to put in army style organisation to get out on time.....

So... when the stress levels had risen on this special "one day" to the levels that they rose to on the work day, ED, quite sensibly thought that it simply must be Mummy's work day. After all, Mummy was taking them to school and Mummy was stressed.

As we were leaving the house she suddenly turned back.

What NOW? I thought.

She came back out with my (quite big and heavy) basket, full of books that I used for teaching.

"Mummy, you've forgotten your basket" she said.

I looked at her, and I wanted to cry. I gave her a hug and explained that I wasn't working that day..."

And I saw her at that moment, not as the very grown up and eldest child, but as a very intelligent, but still very vulnerable and very young little girl. And even at that moment I knew that it was a memory that I wanted to savour forever.

I miss you ED.... but I do want you to grow up and have the best possible adult life imaginable..... So have a ball!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Good Turn.

It was Tinkerbell Mushroom's enrolment at Brownies.


Do you know your "promise", I asked. She looked at me vaguely. "I didn't know I had to learn it." It was five minutes to going time. I called in some extra resources. Gymnast who was enrolled much more recently than me to Brownies was able to provide us with the right words for the "promise", and so then all three of us practised it whilst walking to Brownies together. So do you know the Brownie Guide Law too, I checked with Gymnast? "No" she said. I never learnt it. Someone else said it for me when I was enrolled." We got there and I went to speak to the Brownie Leader. (They aren't called Brown Owl now. Perhaps it's because such title shortened to BO. I know not.)


"I'm really sorry I said, but I've been really busy, and I forgot to help her with her vows. She knows her promise, but please may I have a look at the Brownie Guide law, so that I can show her?"

BL obliged and TM and I learnt it together very quickly, the whole thing being a total of sixteen words. Perfect for remiss mother. The ceremony started, minus hubby, who being on a course on the other side of the country, was still skating across Gloucestershire to get to the Brownie hut on time. Fortunately he made by the skin of his teeth, just before she made her promise.


And not to be smug or anything. Well... ok... a bit. But, having learnt it in 30 seconds flat, she said the BG law on behalf of all others present. Apparently she was the only one who had learnt that bit! She has a deep clear voice, and she made us very proud, and made me forget that I'd been a bad mother in forgetting to teach her said words. Brinkmanship had worked, clearly...


I then got home to find a phone bill, for an extraordinarily large amount. I had been coerced into returning to BT again recently, after numerous hassles with every other provider out there. Regular readers will remember only too well.


Well... apart from the fact that they had charged me for all daytime calls, despite having an "Anytime" line. And apart from the fact that there were £17 worth of 0845 calls, I was also seriously unhappy with the number of mobile numbers called to various teenagers' friends phones. I wouldn't mind, but they all have mobile phones, linked to the same network as ours, which WE pay for. "We'll have to have a word with them" said hubby.


"And I shall have a word with BT" said I. "I'm not working tomorrow. It can be my good turn for the day."


I dialled the number given on the bill.


After pressing every option available and then pressing star zero several, (many several) times, and still not getting through to a PERSON, I gave up and had another look at the bill. I found another number to dial. I still couldn't talk to a person, but did eventually get the promise of a call back via a machine operated voice.


"Mrs. Lommax?" "Yes" I said. And then, after making me jump through five hoops, stand on my head and say my alphabet backwards to verify that she was indeed speaking to the person that she had called, she eventually asked me how she could help.


So where did I need to start?


Well...


Clearly the mobile phone number calls were not their problem, but the daytime calls, and the 0845 numbers not being included in the "Anytime" plan were a different matter.


Not wanting to fall out with the poor girl on the end of the line I asked very nicely to be put though to the manager.


There wasn't one.


I finally managed to persuade her that perhaps she didn't own BT and she eventually agreed to put me through to someone else. I then had a serious rant about the inefficacy of 0870 and 0845 numbers and the outrageous charges for such.


He listened, and informed me that they were nothing to do with BT, and asked me why I thought that these should be included in the plan. I was very confused by this, because as I pointed out, in the days when BT were the only telephone provider in the UK, there was no-one else to invent the concept of the "local call for everyone line." But local call rates they are now definitely not, and what's more they are not included in your general calls, and so, whichever plan you opt for, such calls are charged for on top.


SEVENTEEN POUNDS worth of them!


He was having none of it, but he did nevertheless reduce our bill by a sensible amount, on the basis that obviously the person who had resold me back into BT had misinformed me. (Which of course really reads, "Because as one of our customers, you are clearly a little bit stupid, and so we will give you a stupidity discount...." Something like that anyway.)


In the meantime, no teenagers in the Sally household will be allowed to call mobiles from landlines ever again, and the "say no to 0870" website will be seriously encouraged for all at all times.


Oh yes, and he also took off the daytimes calls.... as that was a genuine error......


And to think that in days gone by I would pay bills without checking the items therein. Just think of the pounds we could have saved when we weren't so poor. I should have listened to my Dad all along.

p.s. Gymnast quite rightly reminded me that she too should get a mention... as that very evening she too was promoted - to a sixer at Brownies..... and we are very proud of her. Well done Gymnast!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Late Night Shopping.

Hubby had man flu.

"On your way home, could you pick up a few bits from the supermarket?" he asked.

It was late. I had been working all day and hadn't had time to get home in between, before going to my "every so often acting thingammy bob" in Cheltenham. We're all a bit luvvy with it really... but the company's great and I get the odd bit of acting work through it.

"I won't see you all day" complained Tinkerbell Mushroom earlier. "No" I reasoned, "but you will see me every other day this week, and you have got Daddy at home all day, and I am normally home by the time you get home, and I am not working at all on Wednesdays and Fridays, or at the weekends, at the moment, and I'm home for you every school holiday......." Unpacified she gave me the look which 8 olds perfect beautifully in order to make mothers feel just that tiny bit more guilty than they already feel.

I arrived at Tesco at 10.30 p.m. Naturally, as you do, you go in for a loaf of bread and end up with a full trolley. I arrived at the checkout at 11.15 p.m. It was a self scanning till. Not being my favourite pastime, I glanced around for an alternative version of paying device. There appeared to be no manned tills at all. An assistant walked past.

"Is this the only type of till available I said?"

"'Fraid so," She said. "They have taken us all off tills after 11 O' Clock. Trouble is, one of us still has to be around because there are always problems with these."

I smiled sympathetically, and grimaced as I did the self scanning. I think that I just can't be very good at finding bar codes because I clearly take longer at self scanning than other people. When I was a student I worked in various shops, but they hadn't invented bar codes then. It must have been a long time ago.

Eventually I got to the card payment bit. I put my card in. Then I remembered that I had some money off vouchers, and a club card to scan too. I looked at the machine and realised that if I were to pay first I wouldn't get my money off, or my Tesco points. So, I did the sensible thing, cancelled the payment and removed my card. Not wanting to have to rescan every item at another till I tried to put my various cards and vouchers in again, but the machine just beeped at me and flashed a warning signal. "Card removed too early, call for supervisor help." Thankfully it didn't instantly lock me into the till for non payment of goods, which was a bit of a relief.

I smiled at the attendant. "It won't let me finish my transaction I said, explaining what had happened and looking weakly." She put in her card and pressed the "override for stupid customers button." I'll be out of here soon I thought. Wrong....

Unfortunately, it was by now 11.20 p.m. and it appears the time when Tesco decides to add up its daily millions of pounds turnover. Well I suppose it might be many millions less one in the current climate, but it is undoubtedly still into the millions I am sure.

The till was having none of it. I was certainly not going to be allowed out of the store just yet. Supervisor called for fellow supervisor. More magic codes were put in. Still no joy.

"It's doing its banking" she explained. "It" being the till.

"I just want to go home." I said. "I'm tired. I've been up since 6 a.m." It was a slight exaggeration, as our alarm doesn't actually go off until 6.30... but it had been a long day nevertheless.

"Look" I said. "Can I leave you my card details, and you can take the payment tomorrow once the machines are all working again?" "No sorry." Clearly it said somewhere on the invisible card details that our cards can be on the um... shall we say...unreliable side...

It was 11.40 p.m........

11.45 p.m. She managed finally to free my shopping from the till and go to the customer service desk. But no.... that till was having none of it either.

I just wanted to pay.

Finally at 11.45 p.m. I had a brainwave. "I'll get some cash from the cashpoint outside, and I'll give you cash!"

Real money.

Ran outside. Got some cash out of the cashpoint and ran back in. I hadn't got the exact change, so, I got out the amount to the nearest £5, rounding up the payment by £1.50. "Please keep the £1.50" I said. "Here's my money. You sort it out. I'm going home." And with that I flounced (as much as a forty six year old with big trolley can flounce) out of the store.

As I was loading up my car, the assistant came running out after me with my £1.50. "Did you sort it out" I asked, surprised. "No, she said, but we at least managed to get the till open, so here's your £1.50." I gratefully accepted the changed and went home arriving home at 12.15 a.m.

Hubby grovelled. "I'm really sorry Sal. I could have nipped out to the shops. I'm not that ill....."

We share guilt lovingly in our family.

Meanwhile, if the tills are still not working at Tesco Gloucester...... then I suggest that Tesco put on some more staff for their late night shifts. We didn't ask you to open your stores 24 hours a day. We simply took advantage of the facilities provided once there...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Happy Birthday!

A very happy birthday ESOS!!

16 today....

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Barking!

(Started to write this on 27th June, but finally posted it on 3rd August... Catching up for the summer! See note above here, and the blog prior to this one, about ED's 18th Birthday, and have a click on her Spanish Orange Ad too...)

It had a been a long day.

I taught all day and then did a parent teacher evening. It went reasonably well. Well reasonably. Apart from explaining to one mother how the system works, in quite some "just one page ahead" detail and explaining to her that a reading paper is really what we would call a comprehension. She sat and listened, and then, right at the end of the conversation dropped in that she taught English at a neighbouring school. Oh... I groaned, covering my face with my notes to hide my discomfort. "Oh don't worry." She said. "You're doing fine." At least I was very nice about her daughter........

I finally got away at 7.15 p.m and raced down the motorway to collect German Exchange student from ESOS's school. Arrived in good time for the 8 p.m. pickup.

9 p.m....... the coach finally arrived. apparently the flight was diverted to Outer Mongolia first and seriously delayed, before landing at Stansted. Very close to Gloucester...

Got home and showed guest "The room." Switched on the lamp. "Oh sorry" I said, as the shade fell off in true Lomax "nothing in huge house with huge mortgage for huge family either works or is efficient" style. "It's broken." I'll find another one. Went upstairs to where I know that there were was one other unused shade. Brought it down to put it on.

"You can't use that." said Hubby. It's the wrong sort.

"I can put it on upside down." I said. "At least it will take away the glare of the bulb."

"He'll go back to Germany telling everyone that the English are barking mad."

"Well, not all" said I. "Just us."

I then realised that whilst I didn't mind the thought of being thought of as mad, I did mind the thought of reports going back to Germany that we weren't clean. The state of the bathrooms would have been great for your average rodent or teenager... but there was always a chance that this one was of the hygienic variety. So, I set to and cleaned said bathrooms, found some blue things to go into the loos to keep everything smelling vaguely sweet, and explained that he would have to use the baths, as the showers are both broken. Well... one decided not to work at all a few weeks ago and one, despite the new central heating system, is seriously on the cool side. German Boy looked very unimpressed at the thought of such a primitive way of keeping clean.....

Fell into bed, exhausted.

3 a.m. Little head apppeared in our doorway.

"They're having a party in the flat. I can't get to sleep said Tinkerbell Mushroom."

I went into her room. Thump, thump, thump. yes.... I agreed.

"I'll go" I said to Hubby.

Put on large winter coat over dressing gown and unglamorously appeared at the flat door. They agreed to turn down the music and I returned to bed.

Ten minutes later TM appeared again. "It's still noisy".

Not wishing to make another Nora Batty type appearance on the street, she was invited to climb into our bed and we all went back to sleep. Fortunately I am well versed in the "on the shoulder, nearly falling out of bed," version of sleep.

The next morning I thought I would be hospitable to our German guest.

"Guten morgan" I said, in my best school girl German.

"Haben Sie wohl schlafen?"

He looked at me strangely.

ESOS looked at me strangely.

"Mum, what are you trying to say?"

"I was asking if he had slept well," I said, a little put out that my best attempts at German were not quite appreciated.

They both laughed. It's not "wohl" Mum, it's "gut"......."Haben Sie gut schlafen."

Fortunately said German guest did speak good English...................... and has now safely returned to Germany away from the barking barking!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Happy 18th Birthday ED!


To our very beautiful eldest daughter............



Happy 18th Birthday Emily!!!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Speaking of telephones.....

Speak Speak ring me.

(Well, actually they are not really called Speak Speak, but, shall we say they are called something a little similar... They are of course the same company that I have had "dealings" with in the past, on a different telephone line...But that's another story)

A nice girl comes on the phone." I am doing a survey, and we just wanted to ask you Mrs. L, why have you decided to leave us?"

"Well", say I. "I actually find your service a little inefficient."

"Why is that?" Says she.

Where shall I start? I think.

"Well....

I ran a small business from home, running a part time theatre school, and I changed my telephone line over to "Speak Speak" on the recommendation of a friend, who also at the time suggested that we change our personal line over to you, but that's another story. Then you said that, as it was a business, I would need to have a business line. I couldn't really understand why, as it was only me making the calls and one person really can't make that many calls in a day, but nevertheless I went along with it and paid twice as much per month as I would have done for a private line. Then I sold the business back to my franchisor, but continued to run it for them for the next period as a manager, and my ex franchisor, who was by now my employer paid my bill.

Then I resigned from the theatre school, and we asked you to change the line back to my name and make it a residential line."

"Sorry" said you. "We can't do that, as you have signed a three year contract with us."

"If I have" said I, "I certrainly can't remember doing so, and if that is the case, then surely, given that in effect the business in my name no longer exists, that contract is null and void....

In the meantime", said I "please can you show me a copy of the contract?"

Silence.

And then.......

"It was a telephone contract", said you.

Great.

"Send me a copy of the conversation." Said I.

Nothing happened.... and then I got a letter telling me that the record of the conversation appeared to have gone missing, so therefore I was free to change my supplier.

I hadn't actually wanted to change my supplier necessarily, just the type of contract... but when the original of original suppliers came back to me and offered me an alternative far more atractive contract, I said: "Yes please" as, it seemed to me that you weren't too sure whether or not your left hand was speaking ....... or even talking to your right."

So, where were we?"

"Actually Mrs. L, I don't seem to be able to find any record of these converstions. Can you tell me when it was?"

"As I said, I closed my account because I found your service a little inefficient. I think that that is the only comment that needs to go on the survey really...."

Monday, June 09, 2008

Our turn?

They say that good things happen together.

Is it our turn yet please?

So far this year...............

1. Nearly died.

2. Walked out of a supply teaching job after nearly being killed.

3. Was put in a difficult situation and felt had to resign from much loved stage school after seven years as Principal, and have lost that income as a result.

4. Have managed to do all the things that I was cross with my mother for doing as a teenager and have therefore managed to cause a "situation" in relationship with ED.

5. Have run so badly out of money that we now have to borrow all the children's money to fuel the car just to get to work and eat.............. and have now just about used up all their funds too in a vain attempt to keep those miserable so and so s (who steal our money in bank charges anyway) at the bank and various other people happy. ("You really do have to learn to keep better control of your finances Mrs. Lomax." Yes, well I would.... if you didn't take your exorbitant cut. Just you wait Mr.Bank Manager. When I'm rich, you will know about it, and I won't be banking with you.)

6. Have been miserable for so long now that I now seem to fail dismally most of the time in getting Hubby to see things from my point of view.

7. Have failed completely in trying to find a babysitter for a day in July for the two youngest. A babysitter who would be able to drive them around the country to their various commitments that is. This was so that we could go to the Henley Regatta. A rare social occasion that we had been invited to by lovely long standing some of best friends in the world. So are now likely to upset said friends as have shambolically managed to mess up their arrangements as well as ours. Plus, even if we now found a babysitter we have such limited shekels currently that we wouldn't even be able to buy a round of drinks when we did get there.

8. Have failed to read any blogs for weeks or months, and so am now likely to have upset my virtual buddies too.

9. Have lost all sense of humour and ability to be funny, so can no longer have a career as a comedienne.

10. Have failed yet again to get off that excess three stone during the winter and so now even Hubby thinks I'm fat.

11. Have got a nice maternity cover in a really nice school, but have realised that I am too old to be a career teacher and am still not sure that that is what I want anyway, which is why I wasn't, aren't and haven't been to date. Also the school is 38 miles away, so although nice it takes far too much in ridiculously overpriced fuel.

12. On the fuel note, have managed to have my bank card rejected on three occasions at fuel stations, having filled up.

First time: cried and shouted at the bank, on my mobile phone, in the middle of the garage, asking them to refund offending bank charges which had caused lack of much needed funds on that particular day.

Second time, different garage: kept calm, and, when the cashier refused point blank to put through £67 on the card - the only available funds, and the other 66p in cash I insisted.

Calmly.

"Can you not get someone to pay for you?" He said.

At 38 miles from home, and 100 miles from any other family, quite frankly, the answer was no. I HAVE the money here I said. £67 on my card. 66 pence in cash. "There is no need to get stroppy with me Madam. We are simply unable to split the payment." Heckles rising slightly I firmly pointed him in the direction of the supervisor, who came back and allowed him to allow me to pay by manual payment. "You'll have to wait here though, so that I can check that it has been accepted by the bank. We will ring the bank to check that there are sufficient funds." He sneered at me.

I waited, patiently.

Another customer came and went.

Still I waited.

"Yes Madam?" he said.

Suddenly, the moment reminded me of "Dory" in Finding Nemo.

"I'm waiting to see if that money has cleared I explained in my 'patient but feeling slightly tested' voice. "Oh yes." He said. It has. "You're free to go."

There were lots of things I felt like saying. LOTS. I didn't. I simply withdrew, embarrassed and upset. I kept my dignity and then burst into tears in the car.

Third time was due to our wonderful British Banking system who believe they have the right to have the cheques that I pay into my account in their account for a few days first. It makes sense of course. It's another way for them to make a few quick million a day. Well not on my funds you understand.... but on the collective majority of funds. They will probably have made a million or two in bank charges to me though, by the time I die.....

So... back to the - third - petrol station... (That's gas for all you over there in the other side of the Atlantic. And actually I usually buy diesel anyway if we were to call a spade a spade.... But we aren't of course talking about spades. We are talking about fuel.)

I put my card through. "Sorry" said the cashier. "Insufficient funds." "No." I said. "There are definitely sufficient funds." I rang the bank. The cheque that had those sufficient funds was still being looked after by them. How kind...

"Can I write a cheque?" I asked.

"No Madam, we don't accept cheques."

"But, you see, the money is in the account, and if I write a cheque, by the time it gets to the bank, the money will be there, cleared, for you."

"It is company policy Madam. We don't accept cheques."

Fortunately, this time, it was a smaller amount. I gave them the sum total of the remaining cleared funds, and scraped around my purse, bottom of my handbag and bottom of the car and for an extra few pounds cash. I left, red faced and upset again.... with a promise of the remaining £5 to be brought to them by the following day.... once the funds had been released by the bank. And the children ate gruel again..... Well OK.... no, but not far off....

On the positive side:

I do now have a proper acting agent, as of today. I got my Equity card (British Actor's Union) ten year's ago. So at that rate I might get an audition for a soap in about 2020 or thereabouts....

So, I'll buy you all a drink when I get that part.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Tinks!

A very happy birthday to the one and only Tinkerbell Mushroom!!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

BHT

"You're blogging!"

Says ESOS.

"I'm going to write one." I say.

" About how I'm feeling." I add.

"What, about being depressed?" He says. "Then you'll be like every other blogger."

The vote of confidence is inspiring. It does however have a good effect, in that suddenly I see humour in what I am about to do.

"Say "hi" from me to all your bloggy friends." He adds. "Make sure you do." I smile again, and as I start to write, I remember BHT. Similar to BLT in its effect but quite different in form: Blogging Humour Therapy.

It is the first day back at my Stage School. We hurry all the children out of the door, as usual. We all leave at the same time as usual. And we all arrive, as usual.

It has of course been a very busy few weeks. Two parts and several performances in two shows. Easter. Some teaching. A surprise party from the stage school teachers for me. Masses of presents and thanks from wonderfully grateful parents. A positive whirlwind of events.

And now it is a usual Saturday again.

And there the "usuals" end. For in fact, I personally was never there usually when the others were getting ready. And, on a "usual" Saturday I was always already at my stage school when the rest of the family arrived.

But not today.

For it's finished. I am no longer Principal of my stage school. Instead I am a parent of attending children. The whys and wherefores are extraordinarily complex and far too emotionally draining to explain in detail at this point. They will of course be written about in full when I write my autobiographical novel. That will in turn require a modicum of fame and a little more money to allow such a luxury. Neither of such seem to be imminently around the corner - so you'll have to wait......

As I wait today. Sitting outside the stage school as Hubby follows the offspring inside.

Nine years of my life.

Nine years ago I had started. Teaching the 4-6 year olds. Seven years ago I had taken over as the School's principal. Hundreds of children have passed through the school, some briefly, some for quite a while, and some for the whole period that I was there... and now beyond.

ED goes in. She, as well as being part of the most senior set is now also teaching ........... ironically, the 4 to 6 year olds. She teaches brilliantly and fully deserves the job. I am proud. Very proud.

We return at the end of the day to collect. Some of the parents come up and hug me. Some of the children run up to me gleefully. One of the teachers Looks at me doefully and puts her arms around me. She barely speaks, but we both know what is being said.

"She's nice" says another teacher about the new Principal. "It's odd without you though." He adds, almost as an afterthought.

I think back to a few weeks ago, to a very emotional leaving party with everyone declaring undying allegiance to me.

Well........ of course........ they can't really, can they? They all need their jobs. The school still needs to run. The children need to adjust. The new Principal needs to do her job.......... and life must go on.

As the weeks pass they will all miss me less and be involved with the new routine far more.

As they should of course. That is how it should be.

I cry inside. I irritate the family by crying openly.

And then I decide to write a blog.

BHT.

And I start to feel a little better.......

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Supply Teacher's Walk.....

The agency called me.

Would I be interested in a full time long term sick leave?

"It's quite a challenging school though Sally." They warned.

Full time is a relative word of course, as, at this particular school they finished the day at 2.40 p.m. But, when you consider what you have to deal with on a daily basis this was perhaps fortunate... And of course I haven't actually worked full time, out of the house, for many years. So that was a bit of a shock in itself. Well actually. Big shock...

I had thought that the last school that the agency had sent me to was "challenging". It's ok I thought. I can do "challenging". How wrong could I be? By comparison the first school was, Heaven. The Head was on the boys case (it being a boys school) all the time. And when - and it was always when in that school, rather than if - they misbehaved, the senior staff dealt with the matter very quickly and efficiently and supported the teaching staff. On the whole they stayed in their lessons, did some of their work, and sometimes allowed you to get on with yours. The school had a very well designed central behaviour management policy - and it worked....

This one was a different kettle of fish.......A few days in to the job, already realising that I was not on a winning streak here, I was "teaching" a group of Year 10's. A student - a girl - started being abusive. I called the senior management and asked for her to be removed from the class. The deputy head arrived. She kicked and screamed, and eventually after a long verbal struggle, conceded. Thinking that the problem was solved I got on with the lesson. The next thing that I knew was that the girl in question was back in my class, giving me more abuse. Supposedly on her way home, she had called by my classroom. I suggested that she leave once more, and so she did, closing the door on her way out. She had though deposited (I realised later) part of a pencil into the door mechanism, thereby jamming the door. I was locked into a classroom, with a bunch of year 10s. I called for help via my mobile phone. "You're not allowed to use mobiles in class Miss". "It doesn't stop you", I felt like retorting. Help came and the door was kicked open by a member of staff.

The next lesson was with some year 8's. Drama. But the drama room wasn't available, so it was to be held in my classroom. Having heard what had gone on from their peers, one of the delightful team, a girl with a mission to destroy anyone in the teaching profession: "Evil Child", thought that it would be a good game to close my door again. "No, don't touch that" I started to say. Too late. She had already closed it, and (from reports that I later heard) had also videoed the moment of glory on her phone. The year 8's, being year 8's in a drama lesson, dived under chairs and tables in panic mode, as yet another member of staff kicked the door in, again. A fellow teacher offered us another classroom to resume the lesson..... Evil Child returned into the classroom, with an innocent look on her face. She had denied all knowledge of knowing anything about who had locked the door and nobody was able to take any action....She then continued to seriously disrupt the lesson, and it was at this point that I noticed a report card in her hand. "Should I have that EC?" I asked. She handed it over, as she knew that unless I signed it, she would be in bigger trouble. She then talked, ran around the classroom, threw paper across the room and generally caused chaos. I gave her an after school detention. At this point, she went to grab the report card back. I swiftly put it into my handbag. "I want it back". She protested. "You won't have it back until it has been via your form tutor.” I said. You can't do that Miss". She went towards my handbag. "You dare touch my handbag EC and you will be in front of the Head more quickly than you can say report card". Even EC realised that it was probably a bad idea to touch my handbag. So she stole another report card on the desk and ran out of the class. Realising that she could go nowhere, she returned two minutes later, demanded her report cared back and then continued to cause havoc in the classroom again, until, I had no choice other than to ask for her to be removed from my class. She was removed. I later wrote a report, telling all, but being unable to prove that she had also, quite significantly, locked me into the classroom....I went to find her form tutor at break time. Unfortunately, she did not have a current form tutor, because she too was off on long a long term absence.Therein lies a problem...

The following day, a child was kicking a football around my class.I asked him to stop. I tried to confiscate it. He refused. Eventually the ball got kicked into my direction and I swiftly grabbed it, ran down to the staffroom - thankfully just a few doors away from my room, and then ran back again, without the ball. I told him that he could have it back at the end of school. Later that day I went back into the staffroom, and saw that the ball had gone. Where is it? I enquired. "Oh, that belonged to the PE department," replied another member of staff. "The PE teacher took it back....... "

I removed the door mechanism myself, with a knife - no screwdriver being available. It was at then, with the help of a boy student who seemed to understand DIY that we found the bit of pencil jammed into the door.That in itself was not a deterrent to one child who grabbed the mechanism from my in tray on my desk and jammed it back into the door, causing a class and me, to be locked in, yet again.The door was kicked in for a third time, and this time I hid the mechanism in the staffroom..... I didn't see it again. Perhaps it's in the PE department. I wouldn't know.

The caretaker was called, for, by now, a new door, but no-one arrived, and so I taught in a classroom with the door virtually off its hinges.

I discussed it with Eldest Daughter. Together we decided that posters would brighten up the room. She went to the local theatre and asked for some for me, and I took them in one morning. I got there a few seconds too late however, and the desks were all over the floor (the wrong way up), with paper strewn everywhere.I straightened the room up. I put the posters up. I resolved to continue and to not let it get me down.

It was the Year 8 class again, with EC.....But it wasn't EC who got me in the end. It was a combination of a series of events that made me realise that some things in life are simply not doable....

Another Year 8 child walked into my class (not part of my set) and refused to leave. When challenged, she said: I'm not listening to you you f*****g b***h". I looked at her, with an apparently scary look. "You touch me," she said "and you'll see what will happen to you." I called for senior management, and the Head came. He thought that I had simply wanted to tell the ones present off. I explained. He started to walk off again. I explained that I had been verbally abused and that we didn't know who the child was. At least - no one was grassing..... He eventually established who the offensive child was and he asked me to write a report on it......After he left, the year 8's then started to throw aeroplanes (paper of course) around the room. The day before they had thrown the contents of an entire box of pens around the room. Two other girls thought it funny to draw felt tip dots on everyone, and went into the next door classroom to continue their mission.Meanwhile, yet another child appeared, from yet another classroom.... I asked her to leave and she proceeded to walk out at 1/2 mile an hour. Can you walk more quickly please? I said."No. I’ve got a bad leg". She eventually left, only to return two minutes later. "So your leg's better then?" I said. Yes she said, and then continued to walk out at 1/2 mile an hour again.

I went next door to ask the teacher there if she knew who she was. No, she said, but EC2 and 3 have been in here drawing dots on everyone. We went back into my class together. I awarded EC2 and 3 with a detention, and EC1 who had previously kept a low profile in this lesson started giving both of us some verbal abuse. The other teacher awarded her with a detention.

I tried to resume the lesson. We were now 52 minutes into an hour long period. I had an Irish story to read to them, and a comprehension to do. I started reading.EC2 piped up."I'm going to report you to Shire Hall." (The local Education authority). She said."Oh?" I said. "Why is that?""Because we have learnt nothing from you since you've been here. Have we?" She asked the rest of the class.

And it was at that point that I made the decision.I had tried, really very hard. I had given it three weeks. I had battled and struggled and mentally given it everything I had. I had taken it on myself to stop a child being bullied - two in fact. I had tried to organise a school trip. I had asked if one of the texts for another group could be changed to something more relevant to their way of thinking, and against the odds had tried to be creative and clever in the classroom. I was preparing my lessons. Marking the work. Doing a job far beyond the call of a supply teacher.But I was on a losing wicket. I am not a quitter. I have been married for 21 years, have worked at my stage schools for nine years....I always try to work thorough difficulties.I was being paid a basic supply rate. The same rate that I would get in any school....... It is not a rate that would take you to the Caribbean on holiday each year......But I could not teach with the constant interruptions from other classes. I could not battle an entire school. As a supply teacher I would be unlikely to get any respect for a very long time.

"Do you know what EC2? You are right. I have got better things to do with my time."

And I walked.

Out of the class.

Out of the school.

Home.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Angel Delight

They nearly killed me again.

They didn't mean to of course. They just didn't expect my blood pressure to drop so low. And nor did I really. I was in for an arthroscopy on my knee. Piers had been in a good mood prior to the op, and had explained the process of what they were about to do in sufficient medical detail to satisfy my medical curiosity. It was only after the op, when I realised that he wasn't to be seen for love nor money that it dawned on me that his good mood might have been due to a jolly weekend looming.....

So there I was, coming round from a general anaesthetic, feeling isolated, and gutted that I wasn't able to have a full breakdown of everything that they had done to me, with uncontrollable tears streamed down my face. "Are you all right?" Asked the nurse. "Yes fine", I said. I don't know why I'm crying. "Anaesthetics sometimes affect people like that." She said.

And it was after that that it happened.

I started slipping slowly into a land of furry indefinite lines and bright lights beckoning - and no-one realised very quickly, because nobody had been given any reason to supsect that this might happen.

I must have been looking particularly grey however as my friendly student nurse passed my bed.

"I think we'll take your blood pressure again." She said.

It was sixty eight over thrity six, which apparently is a bit on the low side, even for someone like me who habitually has low blood pressure....

She called over her senior colleague.

"It's that machine." I heard her say. "You're not feeling particularly faint are you Sally?" I lay back on the bed, feeling so faint that I was unable to answer. They took the blood pressure again and then decided to call for a doctor....

Of couse, it wasn't nearly as bad as the last time that the medical profession tried to kill me. Nearly seventeen years ago.. That time, in for a minor op, I had asked for an epidural so that I could return to my then nine month old not feeling too groggy from the anaesthetic....

This it seems was possibly a bad choice on my part.

The anaesthetist wanted to get home for his supper , and um... wasn't too keen shall we say, on doing an epidural...

As such, on completion of the op, he sort of forgot to tell the nurses in recovery to lay the bed flat again, instead of tilted up at the foot end, as it had been in theatre.

So... when the epidural started creeping slowly back up the spinal cord and caught my lungs, it did get a little tricky to breathe. That wouldn't hve been so bad, but for the fact that without the use of my lungs I wasn't able to speak either. This of course was a little bit of a problem in attacting the attention of those that could at that split second save my life.

I found that I could wave my arm, and fortunately, just before I slipped away forever I managed to attract the attention of someone medical, who tipped up the bed and gave me some oxygen.

Quite quickly.

Clever stuff this medical business...

Meanwhile... back to last Friday

There was a light on the horizon to my blood pressure incident.....

A doctor arrived.

An angel in disguise clearly.

She explained everything that had been done to me, showed me the piccies of my knee and made me feel completely happy again. The blood pressure righted itself thankfully, and I no longer felt neglected.

I had been saved by an angel.

Post Script.........
A sad irony in today's news.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Title

And so we set off from home....

Confident that everything was in hand.

ED, left to her own devices for a night, would definitely be locking up the house. The train ticket, for her to join us the following day, had been bought. We had a "talking book" playing for the journey. There was no arguing.

It was.......... bliss.

ED was going to her own New Year's Eve party, but was then to be joining us the next day, on New Year's Day, when we would be paying a trip to see a lady with an umbrella in the West End by the name of Mary. It was our Christmas present from my parents to us all, and ED was happy to forfeit all sleep after her New Year jollies rather than risk missing out on Miss Poppins.

I was confident that nothing would or could go wrong.


Then the phone rang.

"Mum?"

"Yes?"

"You know the ticket that we bought for the train?"

"Yes?"

"We bought it on your card."

I thought back. Yes, it was true. We had bought it on my card, as ED's bank card wasn't suitable it seems for an online transaction. They needed a card that took money out of a bank, as opposed to a card that took money out of a bank.

"We did." I said, wondering why there seemed to be an urgency in her voice.....

"You've got the card."

"Well.... yes....."

I was beginning to wonder by now if I was going mad. I mean OF COURSE I had my own bank card. There may never be any money to spend, but I guard my bank cards like the crown jewels. After all, you never know who might want to spend your overdraft for you, and you wouldn't want them getting up to the limit before you do would you?

"The thing is Mum, I need your card to validate the ticket tomorrow morning, at the station."

Silence.

"Oh."

Think quickly Sally. Think very quickly.

"O.K." I said. This is what we'll do. We are twenty minutes from Swindon. We'll call in at Swindon station. I'll explain the problem, and I'll sort something out."

I tried to sound like the confident maternal type.

I was bluffing....of course.....

I had no absolutely no reason to believe that I would be able to come out of this sensibly, without turning round the car, driving back home, taking ED to Gloucester station, validating the ticket, and then setting off once more.

Still, in the light of what could or might happen, what was a forty minute detour to go via Swindon and buy some time?

We got to the station, and within seconds of explaining the problem, the woman behind the desk triumphantly printed off the tickets for ED.

Silence...........Again.

"No" I said. Quite quietly.

"That's no good. My daughter is in the Forest of Dean. I am in Swindon. We are on our way to Kent for a New Year's Eve party in a few hours, and my daughter is an hour a way from me in the wrong direction..... I have the tickets. I can't get to her. She can't now collect these tickets. I came in to ask your advice as to who we could deal with this "problem." "

"Oh" said the cashier. "Well I'm very sorry, but there's nothing I can do."

"But this isn't my fault." I said. "What are we going to do?"

"Well I have apologised Madam."

It was one of those wonderfully superior moments, when you know that despite having started off completely in the wrong, by a trick of fate, all of a sudden you are completely in the right. In those rare moments in life you do of course rise to the occasion and take on a serene and calm approach to the problem.

As such I calmly asked to speak to the supervisor.....

"Surely there is something you can do?" I said. "A few minutes a go, these tickets were not printed off. They have been paid for. My daughter needs these tickets tomorrow morning in Gloucester......"

There were of course a number of things that they could have done.....

They could have for instance have stuck the tickets into an envelope and taken them via a guard and one of their "trains" to Gloucester..... by hand. Now there's novel. Direct human communication.......

No.... the answer was instead for them to suggest that the tickets were faxed over to Gloucester and that ED would be given a "permission to travel docket" there. She would then travel from Gloucester to Swindon with the docket, get off the train at Swindon, run down to the ticket office, collect her "proper" ticket, and then run back up to the train, and travel to London.

Now ED has many qualities. Many qualities.

She dances beautifully.

She is irritatingly clever.

She speaks excellent German and French - as well as English of course.

She can act.

She can sing.

She can cook.

There is however one thing that she doesn't do well.....

And that is "direction" as in "sense of".

If you asked her to get a train from Land's End* to London, and told her that she will need to change trains at John O'Groats**, she'd believe you. To put it into perspective, Hubby thought that my sense of direction was seriously bad, until ED grew into the fine young woman that she is today. Of course, Hubby didn't know me when I was ED's age..... It is a genetic problem that one learns to deal with a little better with age, and I do actually fully sympathise and understand why North, South, East and West merge into one. After all, a weathercock spins round happily enough.

I was, shall we say, "doubtful" as to whether or not getting on and off trains at a particular station and running back to the right platform, without time to think about where she would be going, was a good idea. Especially given that she would have had very little sleep to add to the problem....

"How long has she got at Swindon?" I asked.

They looked at the timetable.

"Not very long. She would have to be quick."

I was still calm.

I looked at the woman..... and in the words of another well known West End musical, I said.......

"I think we need to think this out again......."

Well... o.k. maybe not... but it was along those lines.

At that moment, I looked down at the printed tickets, and to my absolute horror realised just quite how embarrassing teenagers can be.

"Lady ED Lomax" it read.

"Lady??????"

"LADY??????"

Oh ED!!!!!!!

In her wisdom. In her teenagery prank mode. In her infinite stupidity.....

When asked for her "title" she had put in "Lady".....

She often drops hints about the fact that she would quite like to go to Finishing School, but sadly, the parents that she chose are short of a few bob, and a few titles for that one....

OH ED!!!!!!!!!!!

How could you do this to me? To your poor poor mother who's trying to sort out this little problemette, just for you???!!!

I smiled sweetly at the cashier, praying to God that she may not have noticed that my Eldest Daughter had been playing at "Lords and Ladies" when she booked the tickets, and still thinking frantically about how we could sort this all out.

"Hold on a moment, said the cashier. We'll talk to Gloucester and see what we can do."

A long time passed. Hubby came up to the kiosk to see how I was getting on.......

Then eventually, they came back, cashier and supervisor.

"What we'll do" she said "is this. "

I waited, with baited breath.

"At Gloucester, they'll give her a permission to travel docket for the whole journey from Gloucester to London."

"So, she doesn't have to get off the train at Swindon?"

"No"

And she can use the docket for the whole journey?

Yes.

It was amazing. They were going to give her, what we would have called in the "olden days" a ticket. Not a computerised one. But a paper one.

A ticket.

Technology is a wonderful thing.

"She will have to get off the train at Reading though. Said the cashier. "It's a New Year's Day Service, so there will be a bus from Reading to London. it will take an extra hour all together."

And so I rang "Lady" Lomax, and told her the good and the bad news.......

And errmm, despite the "royal" service eventually given.....she'll probably put "Miss" next time.....



*Farthest South Western point of England.
**Most Northerly part of Scotland.
(London is in the South East of England...)