Friday, 29 June 2007

Harper Valley PTA revisited

Here is my son in his school play. Obviously, he looks more human than the fellow at left, but I must say he is the Best Damn Squirrel ever in a school play. He should win an award.

Last night was a bit melancholy because it's the last school production either of my children will be in in primary school. But on the other hand, I thought, Hurrah, I don't have to see those Bitch Mothers anymore. You know the sort. Very cliquey. They rule the PTAs of the world. I used to be one of them till I was frozen out. Then I decided, Fuck 'em. I can't stand the PTA anyway. I can't help it if my children are so gorgeous and intelligent that they just naturally outshine the BMs' children. I can't help it if I'm just naturally so gorgeous and intelligent that I outshine the BMs.

So I sat next to one of the Bad Mums who still speaks to me and we had the most fascinating conversation. She's just had her nose pierced, and she regaled me with stories of the piercings of other bodily parts that she saw or heard about. Body piercing, apart from ears, is something I only ever saw in National Geographic. Foreskin and clitoral piercing are way outside my league. I remember when having two piercings in each earlobe was daring.

Anyway, after the piercing conversation we moved on to gossip about the male teacher who has been off for two months because of a bad back. The other mum reckons it's from too much shagging (he's recently become engaged after losing his wife to cancer). And we had a good look at the boyishly handsome new head, so different from the old head who didn't believe in shaving her legs. I always thought a sponsored leg wax would have been a good fund-raiser.

All in all, it was a good evening, despite one of the Bitch Mothers trying her best to blank me (she couldn't because she would have tripped over me otherwise). I do so enjoy being one of the Bad Mums.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Falling down but getting back up again

I've just finished reading Don DeLillo's "Falling Man." Actually, I finished it two nights ago but I find myself thinking about it in odd moments. The beauty of "Falling Man," I think, is that it takes a world-changing event and scales it down to the effect on two people.

Like most of us, I witnessed 9/11 on TV. I still find it difficult to talk about. And if it affected me so deeply, how much more could those who lived through it, who witnessed it, who lost loved ones to it be suffering? Here is DeLillo's brilliance as a novelist: he allowed himself to imagine the horror of that day for those trapped in the buildings and wrote about it in non-emotive language that is all the more moving for its simplicity. He didn't make any political statements for this event didn't affect politicians; it affected people. The most moving part of the book for me is the last portion. I don't want to give too much away in case others want to read it. I will say that it is well worth reading. It doesn't contain any hokey patriotism, which I feared it would. It's not about America the Great and Beautiful. It's about how ordinary lives are changed by extraordinary events.

It's been six years since I last visited NYC, a mere two weeks before the planes flew into the Twin Towers. My children and I stood on the Jersey side while my husband had a meeting with a colleague. We ate hotdogs and I pointed out the Twin Towers and other landmarks to them. I told them about when their father and I met 10 years before in South Street Seaport. Later, we ate Italian food in the Bronx and my children fell asleep on my lap. Two weeks later I sat in my living room in tears as I watched this loud, brash, cocky city brought to its knees. My son, only 5 years old, laughed. I asked him why he was laughing. "I've never seen a woman cry before," he answered.

Much has happened in our world since then. A war that had to be started. Another started to take attention away from the fact that the first one was being lost. More bombings, more people dying, more people hurt. More people scared. Useless and annoying security checks. And who is winning the War on Terror? I think the terrorists are, for whenever and wherever there is terror, they have achieved their objective. Far better to carry on as before, to live ordinary lives as ordinarily as possible.

When looking for a photo of the Twin Towers as they were, I came across this website: Very interesting. Very disturbing.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Interlopers, Part II

I went to the gym today looking for the Interlopers. Permatan was there snapping her gum (who chews gum while they're working out?) with her saggy flesh mate. SFM got out two steps, two sets of weights, two mats. I wanted to ask if she was setting up for everybody, as some of you may recall I wrote about in a previous post. But I chickened out. Anyway, being at the back gave me the vantage point of looking at Permatan's bum as she stuck it waaayyyy out doing squats. So not pretty. Permatan must be my age at least and wears pale pink lipstick. So not a good look.

Did I go in front? Did I hell! My back is killing me and for some strange reason I thought going to the gym would be just the thing. It is just the thing -- for doing my back in even more. I took half a Valium last night hoping that would relax the muscles. It relaxed me to the point I got up half an hour late. My daughter was NOT happy with me.

Lawrence the Lothario was at the gym as well. He is a gentleman (?) well into his sixties whom I used to talk to on occasion. I stopped when Lawrence started invading my personal space while I was using one of the weight machines and making suggestive comments. I think he thought I must be one of those lonely weekly widows who goes to the gym to pick up sixty-something men. If I were to pick up anyone, it would be the well-muscled, handsome personal trainer. He's a bit like David Beckham though -- the magic goes the moment he opens his mouth.

When my husband first start working away, my friends made a big deal about how I would have the opportunity to have an affair now. Except I haven't found anyone I'd want to have an affair with. If I were attracted to 60- and 70-year-old men, I'd be in clover because there's a lot of them around here. But sadly I'm not. And I realise now that some of the men I find attractive could be my sons! So I'm sticking with hubby. Extramarital affairs are just too much hassle. I'm all for an easy life.

Monday, 25 June 2007

A New Look

Here is my 51st post and a new look for my postings. I think it's a little easier on the eye, or my eyes at any rate. I am still endeavouring to figure out how to put a photo in my About Me section. I will keep trying.

And we need this like a hole in the head

So the government is getting ready to tinker with the secondary school curriculum again. They're starting a pilot project in which 11-14-year-olds no longer take lessons in subjects like history and geography and replace them with month-long projects on global warming.

What drugs are they on?

They think this will make the pupils more enthusiastic and more willing to come to school. This is a Give Them What They Need vs. Give Them What They Want debate. Have they learned nothing about young people? Have they learned nothing from their last disastrous attempt at this type of teaching? There is a whole generation out there that never learned basic punctuation, maths, history. A whole generation that was failed by the trendy philosophy of some wankers in suits. And they want to do it again.

This holistic approach will work only if the pupils have a working knowledge of each of the fundamentals. My daughter takes ballet. She learns each step first, then puts the steps together for a dance. If she didn't learn the steps first, she would fall flat on her face. And that is what will happen if this experiment goes ahead. What self-respecting teacher thinks this is a good idea?
What self-respecting head teacher thinks 16-year-olds should be paid to help out in the classroom?

I read this article in yesterday's Times( ) and I was speechless for more or less the first time. Apparently, the timetable idea is a bad one because that's the way it's always been done. Sometimes things are done the way it's always been done because that is a good idea that works.

But these "thinkers" from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority are getting paid a lot of money, no doubt, to come up with something different. Why not show some respect for teachers and pupils instead of pandering to popular topics (cultural diversity?). Why not just have standards that teachers and pupils are expected to meet? Like producing work that is actually literate. My daughter brought home a worksheet for IT that was littered with spelling errors and typos. If that's the example they're given, why should pupils aim to be any better?

Wait, I've just come up with a brilliant idea: Send them all to Glastonbury. There they can express their creativity in the mud, learn about global warming and our local climate (hello rain), experience cultural diversity (Kate Moss in black vs. Lily Allen in maxidress), practice their knowledge of chemistry by ingesting various substances. Who needs a timetable? Glastonbury has it all.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Back off, Boys

Tonight my daughter is at a disco. With boys. Tomorrow night she goes to a party. With boys. Am I worried? Just a wee bit. She's quite attractive (in my opinion), nearly my height. Fortunately, she towers over the other 12-year-old boys, a frustration for her. I know how she feels. I was the height I am now when I was her age. I had a huge crush on Andy Livingston. He was several inches shorter and only went for the cute, short girls. His loss, I say now. Back then, it was a tragedy.

I worry about her and boys because boys were a huge disappointment for me. Then when they became men, they were even worse. I didn't get my head straight about men until I was 31. I slept around a lot. Well, they were always there. And I drank a lot in those days, so my inhibitions were down. And I got myself involved with guys with substance abuse problems, mostly alcohol. My boyfriend in college was an alcoholic. My first husband was an alcoholic (though he got himself off the booze). Finally, I asked myself what it was about these alcoholics that was so appealing because they sure as shit didn't treat me right. The answer was absolutely fucking nothing.

Why the reminiscing? Well, not that I've been tagged, but I've read other people's blogs about the music they listened to when they were 18, and it brought back memories of when I was 18 and involved with College Boyfriend. We were on, we were off when he went back to his law-school girlfriend, we were on again when he realised just how gorgeous I really was, we were off when I cheated on him, we were on again, we were off again when he cheated on me, we were on, then off, then finished when I turned 21 and got my first job and lots of male attention.

Oh, my checkered past. I really don't want my daughter to have one. But I have to let her discover what she likes and doesn't like. I hope that by marrying a man who respects me and her, I will have ensured she has enough self esteem to get her through the next difficult years. I hope she stays well away from alcohol (and will tell her that) and drugs (because I did a lot of them too, though I have fond memories of them). I hope her sexual relationships are few and loving. I am ashamed to admit this but I can't even remember how many guys I had sex with. I was talking about this with my friend at my reunion. Most of us were having sex by the time we graduated. Ideally, I'd like my daughter to wait till she's at least 18 to have sex, though hormones might make her behave differently. My friend feels the same about her daughter (the other daughter is already married). We don't want our kids to drink to excess as teen-agers (something we did all the time) or to try drugs (we also were getting high all the time). I'm surprised we're still alive.

So I'm ruling out a lot of fun for them. But only because I know better. And I do KNOW better.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Our local cross-dresser has a new look for summer. Gone is the 1950s-housewife-Norman Bates' mother's wig, pastel cardigan, floral housedress, opaque tights, wool cap, and sensible shoes. This season's look is more Valley of the Dolls, or in his case, Valley of the Balls.

I saw him yesterday working at one of the many charity shops that make up our village. There are coach trips to our village just to visit the charity shops. So you know he must be getting ready for the summer flush of tourists looking for a bargain. And he is a living example of that in his long, nylon, blonde wig, blue babydoll dress, electric blue eyeshadow, and big, fat, gold wedding ring. I mentioned in an earlier post that he put an advert in the post office looking for a wife. Guess he found one.

But here's what I don't understand. He's not one of God's better-looking creatures, even as a man. He has a prominent nose, hairy arms, and legs, and beer belly, though his hands look rather soft. You'd think if he wanted to dress like a woman, well, he would try a bit more to actually look like a woman, rather than an ugly man in ugly women's clothing.

I do admire his chutzpah because he is The Only Cross-Dresser in the Village. And he gives us something more to talk about than just the weather and what footballer was spotted in the local supermarket. Our lives would be in danger of terminal blandness were it not for Amber (not his real name, but then the name he goes by is not his real name either). Still, it isn't too much of a stretch of the imagination to picture him in a slasher film. Think the dwarf in "Don't Look Now" only several feet taller.

I just wonder what compels him to dress this way.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Creatures of habit

Amazing what creatures of habit we all can be. And how out of sorts we can get if someone comes along and gets in the way of those habits. Today, I went to the gym as I normally do on a Tuesday. I went at the same time, parked in approximately the same place, headed to the same section of the changing room to use the same locker. Ah, but someone had gotten there before me and taken number 88 (two fat ladies). Now, there's a method to my madness because at least I remember where the car is and which locker I've used. But I coped with this hiccup and used 91 instead.

I attempted to run 5K on the treadmill, then headed for my tone class. Now here's where I've trodden on someone else's habits. I've belonged to this gym since it opened. I've gone to this class for a pretty long time but quit going when the lazy fat cow (or should it be fat lazy cow) was teaching it. I always had my spot on the front left. But while I was gone some interlopers had come along and taken the front left. When the LFC left for greener pastures, I decided to return to the class and immediately went back to my front left position. But the interlopers weren't happy with this and would squeeze me out whenever they could or leave their weights in dangerous positions. No matter, I thought. And I persisted in reclaiming my spot. Till a few weeks ago.

I got to the class early and claimed my spot, yanking a mat out from underneath a pensioner who had gone to the Pilates class before and was a little slow leaving. I gathered all my weights, and thought I'd do the same for my friend who goes to the step class that always runs late. So I set myself and my friend up in my favourite spot. Along came the interlopers. The perma-tanned, newly divorced one was setting up her friends as well. One of them assumed my friend's spot was hers. I politely but firmly set her straight. The perma-tanned one wasn't happy and let me know that she sets up for everybody, not just her friends. Funny. I'd never noticed that before or since. Anyway, it was a wee bit awkward, to say the least. After laughing about it with my friend, I decided life was too short to let the interlopers get me down. Maybe the back of the class was just as nice. And so today, I came in determined to show these ladies and their sagging flesh that I could be flexible. I set myself up in the back in the class. And they didn't come. What a disappointment.

I was a bit on autopilot today anyway because hubby informed me yesterday that he could be made redundant by Christmas. Part of me is glad because then he'd be home for a change. But of course we do need someone to make some money around here so I can continue to go to the gym and torment the interlopers. I tell myself that I know people in far, far worse situations than ours. Our house is paid for. My son didn't get into the expensive, snooty, private school. We didn't move. We're both at that age, though, late 40s, that employers don't seem to know what to do with. They're in the habit of employing younger, less experienced people who don't need to or want to or know that they can earn more money. Some creative thinking might be in order here as we try to work out what to do. And we might have to let go of some of our habits.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Having a Heat Wave

Hey, if you want to see one brave lady, go visit Pixie's blog. Pixie, I'm just getting to know you, but I respect the hell out of you already.

I'm debating with myself whether to go on HRT or not. I know there are lots of pros and cons. And I know people who swear by one way or the other. My symptoms are night sweats and hot flushes. Plus my brain seems to have gone on holiday. I really need to go see my GP, but I hesitate because he's a guy and what do guys know?

See, there's always somebody who knows somebody who got cancer after going on HRT. Or someone who knows someone who didn't take HRT and now has osteoporosis. It's like the MMR vaccine. Somebody knows somebody whose child became autistic after the MMR. But I was not immune to Rubella during my second pregnancy and what would have happened to my son if I'd been exposed during the pregnancy. The more complicated and advanced medical science is, the more complicated our choices for our bodies are. And where do we find professional, neutral advice? My impression of doctors is that they want to shove pills down our throats for everything. There are times when that is appropriate, but there are times when that is lazy. That is why when I was in the depths of depression earlier this year I didn't go see my GP. I was afraid he'd just diagnose anti-depressives, and I got myself out of it anyway on my own.

So I don't know about HRT because I don't know my chances of getting osteoporosis or cancer. My mother doesn't appear to have osteoporosis, but my grandmother, I am sure, did have it. I'm built more like my grandmother than my mother, but I do a lot of weight-bearing exercise. And I take calcium. What about the cancer? I took birth control pills for about 10 years. I have no immediate relative who has had cancer. I had my first child when I was 34. I breastfed both for about six months each. I eat healthily and don't smoke. I do drink but not during the week usually.

I am very tired because I wake up EVERY night with the night sweats. The hot flushes are a bit amusing because I've always been so cold-blooded. Now I alternate between really, really hot and cold. I'm rarely comfortable. My daughter would tell you I have mood swings. Unfortunately, that's nothing new for me, and I blame it on the tiredness. I actually think I'm better now that I don't get PMS every month.

I just don't know what to do. Does anyone out there have any ideas?

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Rising Son

Today is my son's 11th birthday. Seems like only yesterday that I was having the little guy. He was a bit of a surprise, a little too much fizz on my daughter's first birthday. I never dreamed I could get pregnant that easily. I wasn't happy about it at first. I come from a family with big gaps between the children. And so I thought I would probably have the same, not 20 months. I nearly cried at first. How would I ever cope with two small children? I suffered more with tiredness, sickness, and swollen ankles the second time.

The birth took me by surprise too. He was due on June 26. I wanted him to be late and be born in July because June is littered with birthdays in my family. But I had a chest infection and was coughing quite violently. I'm sure that's why he came early. I didn't even realise my water had broke but a friend suggested I go to the hospital to be sure. Once there they wouldn't let me go home because I'd been leaking amniotic fluid for a while. They put me on an oxytocin drip, and my neighbour, who'd taken me to the hospital while my husband put our daughter to bed, went home. I was by myself for a couple of hours while my husband tried to get things together for my bag. My mother was due to arrive later in the week. I sat in a rocking chair and felt very sorry for myself and started to cry. When my husband got to the hospital he wasn't much help because he had an ear infection. I refused an epidural because I'd had one during my daughter's birth and didn't like it. So it was gas and air, which was useless, and a pethidine injection for the last moments.

The cord had become wrapped round my son's neck. Not out of the ordinary, the midwives say. But that had happened to my brother too, and had cut off his oxygen supply temporarily. Then they detected a heart murmur in my son. Again, not out of the ordinary. They made me stay in over night to see if it would go away. It did, and we took our beautiful boy home. He was so placid those first two weeks, sleeping almost nonstop. I'd have to wake him to feed him. Then he met my mother-in-law and became a different baby. My husband was much more hands-on with our daughter, but because of the ear infection and sheer tiredness, he left most of the parenting, particularly at night, to me. At the same time our daughter, who'd been a very good sleeper, decided waking at night was a good idea. I remember staggering from one room to the next, breasts heavy with milk as I tried to interest my son in feeding. He still doesn't care too much for food.

What was easy with my daughter was a huge struggle with my son: feeding, potty training, school. My daughter has always been a social person, even as a baby. My son is quite happy with his own company or just me. We discovered his sense of humour on his second birthday as he took delight in amusing us all with rolling his eyes back in his head. He found he liked making people, especially me, laugh. He learned that if he made me laugh, he would be far less likely to get into trouble. He's quite the comedian at school too, and earns detention points as a result.

I mentioned my brother earlier. My son was actually born on my brother's birthday. This upset me to begin with. My brother and I weren't close growing up. He has learning problems, dyslexia certainly and possibly some others, which were never diagnosed when he was at school. I have worried over the years that my son would be the same. When he was in Year One, his teacher at first said he was Mr. Average. Six months later, she said he was struggling across the board. Remembering my brother's struggles, I immediately sent him to an education specialist for observation and to Kumon Maths. I should never have done that. It gave him the message that he was slow, thick. It knocked his confidence for years, and I'm to blame for that. What I've learned about my son over the years is that he does things in his own time, and you can't force him otherwise. He taught himself to ride a bike last year. He was ready for it. After years of refusing to play football, he finally joined a team and loves it. He passed the 11 plus despite all my fears. The day we got the results I was so ecstactic. I waited till he got home from school to tell him. His nonchalance upset me and I cried. "I thought you'd be happy about this," I said. "I am happy," he replied, crying with me.

He's quite a sensitive boy, hates being shouted at, will cry if someone does shout at him. My daughter thinks he's being manipulative because he knows I melt if he cries. Maybe he is, but I don't think so. He actually cares about my feelings. My daughter is in the throes of hormonal hell, thinking only of herself most of the time. But my son still thinks of me. The day I returned from Florida, I picked him up from school. I could see him walking towards the car. When he saw me, his face brightened and he started running. "I missed you!" he said as he gave me a great big hug.

All that pain 11 years ago was worth that.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Back on the chain gang

I want to write about something near and dear to my heart: housework or actually my hatred of housework. Boring subject, I know. Like talking about brushing your teeth or changing your sheets.

The reason I'm writing about this is because when I turned the key yesterday and walked into my house, the first thing I saw was filth. The same filth I'd left, only more of it. My husband would argue that at least it was tidy. Not much. So today I've spent a bit of time defilthing my bathroom and the kitchen floor. So much more needs to be done, but here I sit writing this. That's because I consider housework to be something to do in between everything else I do.

How can you do that? I hear people say. Aren't you a housewife? Yes, and a very bad one. I'm a better mother, cook, and gardener. I used to have cleaners when the house was up for sale, two women who came once a week and started at the top of house and swished and wiped their way down for 2 hours and £30. When we took the house off the market, I decided to get rid of the cleaners because I realised I was cleaning the house for the cleaners. Now I hardly clean at all, but I'm £30 better off.

Part of the problem is that I live in a largish house. I just look at all that needs doing and go and hide. And the irony is that I was a better cleaner when I worked because it was a pleasant diversion from my job. No hassles and you could always see the fruit of your labours. Then I got married, stopped working, and had children. And pets. Children and pets are a bad combination. What one brings through the front door, the other brings in through the back. I have a cat who brings in half the garden on her tail, then flicks it all over the kitchen. I have a son who believes in wearing the same clothes all week long (boy time, he tells me, is different from girl time -- he's wise beyond his years). I have a daughter who clogs up her bathroom sink with hair -- lots of long, yucky hair. My husband can't get blamed much because he's hardly here. However, he has a study that I don't even go into because I can't open the door for all his junk.

I guess if I didn't care about having a clean house, it wouldn't bother me. But I do care actually. I watch that How Clean Is Your House? program, and get up and clean a bathroom afterwards.

And now that's what I have to do -- go clean a bathroom! Someone has to do it, I suppose.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

I'm baaaack

Sometimes you have to go back to where you were to see how far you've come.

"Let's ask that man with the three rat dogs if he knows the way," I suggested.

"Yeah, you can get there, but it won't be easy," he told us in his thick New Jersey accent.

Ten minutes later we stood at the door of our former classmate's home. Should we knock or just walk in? Heart pounding, I swallowed hard and pushed the door open. I saw two vaguely familiar women deep in conversation. With trembling hands, I put my nametag on.

Any trepidation I felt was quickly eased when someone shoved a frozen margarita in my hand. The party had begun.

As in any high school, we had various cliques: the cheerleaders, the Hispanics, the popular girls, the geeks, the study nerds, the athletes, and the floaters. I suppose I was a floater, a bad girl who didn't fit into the other categories. After 30 years, the barriers between the groups have blurred. We are all women now, with 30 years of life between us as we are and us as we were. Hostilities are forgotten. Kindnesses are remembered. Respect is the order of the day.

My 30th high school reunion, which many people thought I was brave or stupid or both to attend, was a highly emotional experience as I was reunited with women I believed I would never see or speak to again. There were 68 of us bright young things in the Class of 77. We terrorised the nuns at our small all-girl Catholic high school because when we did things we did them in concert. Even the good girls. We were guilty of lots of things, but looking back at our yearbook, our biggest crime was one of fashion. Lots of stripey tops and dresses. Questionable hairstyles. Wide-legged, high-waisted trousers made of polyester that wouldn't melt in a fire.

The statistics

One of us has died, in a motorcycle accident. One of us is a widow raising an 8-year-old on her own. One of us is still trying to get pregnant with the last egg in her ovaries. Two of us are grandmothers. A few of us have gone through or are going through menopause. Many of us are mothers. Some of us have lost one or both parents. About 20-30 percent have been divorced. That same percentage or more have been married 20 or more years. Two or three have never married. No serious disease that I know of (e.g. cancer) has struck any of us. At 47-48 we are at a good place in our lives: still healthy, many with grown children, the struggles of the past resolved.

The party

On Friday night we gathered at our former classmate's lovely home. My friend and I were late because we'd fallen asleep after drinking a couple of beers in the afternoon when we got to the beach. We'd talked and talked and then slept and slept. About 40 women showed up at the party, including the two women I thought I'd never see again. Six of us went back to my friend's beach house and proceeded to stay up and talk and talk and talk. The next morning we got up early. My friend made bacon and eggs and we all talked and talked and talked. Cliques represented were athletes, cheerleaders, Hispanics, and floaters. By afternoon, my cheeks hurt from so much talking and laughing.

That night we were to meet at a local restaurant for drinks and food. Husbands and partners were invited to this event. Those of us on our own commandeered one table, from which I never left the entire evening. Others would drop by the table for a chat, some introduced their husbands. But the husbands and partners were mostly left to their own devices. The only sour note of the whole event was a drunken guy from the boys' school who crashed the party. In high school he'd dated one of our girls. She spent the night hiding from him. He thought it would be cute and clever to tell my friend what her drunken ex-husband has to say about her. It wasn't. I tried to tell him to shut up about the ex, in the nicest way I could muster. But drunks don't listen. We all scattered at the end, forgetting to tell each other goodbye in an effort to escape the drunk. But we have plans: a cruise to the Bahamas to echo our senior cruise (during which we ran riot through the ship, causing the nuns all sorts of heartache), and a joint 50th birthday party.

It all went too quickly. I wanted to stay and talk and talk some more. We've calmed down a lot, which is a good thing because otherwise we'd be dead. No more sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. Our eyesight is going. Our hearing's kaput. Drugs are illegal and sex is very risky. It's a different world for our children. And we want to keep it that way.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Heading Home

Now to continue this tagging game, I'm supposed to tag 8 more people. However, the bloggers I follow have already been tagged. But if anyone out there reading this wants to be tagged, either for the first time or once again, consider it done. And let me know so I can read them.

I'll be heading back to my home town on Thursday for my 30th high school reunion. This is an American ritual in which we go back to see the adults our peers became and to see if we look better than they do. So I've been dieting (lost a bit of weight), got a spray tan (I AM going to Florida. I don't want to look all pasty with everyone else looking tan). I'll be staying on the beach for two days with my friend J., who is the only one I've kept in contact with from those days. No kids. No husbands. Just the girls. I'm looking forward to it. Then I have to see all my family, which expands by the year. They all keep reproducing. I told them there's such a thing as birth control. Hubby will be holding up the fort here on his own. It'll be interesting to see how he gets on. I'm back on Wednesday and will let you know all about it.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Somebody likes me!

At last I've been tagged, by Debio. I've read other blogs and felt quite left out that I wasn't tagged. But never mind. So here are a few tidbits about moi:

1. I have a phobia about driving over long bridges in cars with electric windows. What happens if the car goes over? How do you get out? When I first met my husband, he confessed to the same phobia, and I knew we were soulmates.

2. I once got back together with a guy who had cheated on me just so I could dump him later. Yes, I can be that ruthless. But he deserved it.

3. My dad and I hated my sister's husband (now ex). He was a jumped-up, philandering bastard. But my sister wouldn't hear a bad word said about him. One Christmas, after encountering my nephew and him with his latest girlfriend, we decided some revenge was in order. So we went to K Mart (cheapo store) and bought the ugliest, nastiest shirts we could find. When we got them home, I cut out the K Mart labels and carefully sewed in Christian Dior labels. We would snigger every time we saw him wear those shirts (oh yes, he wore them). We still laugh about it to this day.

4. I'm not all that bad. I cry quite easily at sad films and advertisements.

5. I was a bit of a wild child, but really don't want my children to turn out that way. So I've taken them to church since they were little and I'm now a Sunday school teacher, but a very bad one because I'm still a bit of a wild child. I hope God and my children forgive me.

6. I grow vegetables every year and have done so since before it was trendy. There's nothing like the taste of home-grown cucumbers (no jokes please) and carrots and tomatoes.

7. My most embarrassing moment involved the window cleaner. I'd been to the gym and come home for a shower. When I got out, I thought I 'd try out my "There's No Business Like Show Business" number in front of the mirror. Naked. With blinds open. Next thing I knew I heard this noise. What are the cats doing upstairs, I thought. Then I saw a shadow. I screamed, ran to the wall and pressed my body to side of the window, not having enough time to grab the towel. I waited till he finished the window and climbed back down. I ran into my bedroom only to see another ladder going up. I still had no clothes on at this point. The only refuge was the hallway, where no windows are. I waited till I thought I could dart downstairs to the utility room and grab some clothes. When he rang the bell, I was fully clothed but with pretty wild hair.

8. For my 50th birthday I want to climb down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (and back up again obviously).

I think you're only supposed to do 8, but here's another one for extra credit:

9. I hate for people to think of me as vulnerable and needy, but sometimes that's exactly what I am.

The business of schools

Snuffleupagus has stirred up a hornet's nest on her blog with her post about treating schools as businesses. Everything she wrote made perfect sense to me. She concluded, "Schools are not businesses. It is because the government insists on treating them as such that we have the disastrous comprehensive system that we have. That's what makes education so fascinating. It is a hell of a lot more complicated than a business. And it is seemingly too complicated for those in power to deal with realistically."

I responded, "I HATE this idea of making pupils into clients (like patients at NHS hospitals). Schools and hospitals and governments are not businesses and should not be run as such. I went to private schools, but have refrained from sending my children to them. Why? Because I don't have particularly good memories of how I the customer was treated."

Colin, who frequently comments on Sunffy's blog, disagrees entirely and has many publications to back his opinion up. He's obviously a learned man, and I'm way out of my league probably even trying to comment. But I will.

Colin, my gut tells me that it is wrong to run schools as businesses. Why? Because businesspeople don't run governments, which run schools. Politicians do. Politicians are dependent on votes to keep them in office. They answer to all the people, not just the shareholders. If schools truly were run as businesses, what would they be like? McDonald's, offering up fast food education, high on easy subjects, low on intellectual nutrition? Microsoft, drumming out any competition until they were the monopoly and there was no choice but for parents to accept whatever they produced? Tesco, located in supersize schools away from the heart of communities, allegedly offering value for money, but more interested in taking over the world?

What sort of business model should schools follow? And who runs the schools then? Because then there's no need for politicians to run government. There's no need for government. Capitalism takes over everything, and the shareholders are the true leaders. But what if you can't afford to buy any shares? Where and when does your voice get heard? What rights do you have?

We in this country are extremely fortunate. We live in a democracy. We are not tortured for having different views. We have the right to send our children to publicly funded schools. Our children do not have to go out to work at a ridiculously young age to bring money into the household. In fact, it's against the law. There is a down side to this, which Colin mentions in one of his many responses. It's taxes. Colin doesn't like taxes. Nobody likes taxes. It's one of the two certain things in life. Taxes, however, are what pay for schools and other public services.

I think it is dangerous to allow business in to run what should be government-run (the train system is probably the best example of bad privitization). The best societies should have a balance between capitalism and socialism. To allow an uber-capitalist state is as dangerous as allowing an uber-socialist state, in my opinion.

So, Colin, I don't have the intellectual vigour you have. Probably the result of my private-school education. There were many gaps in it, you see, which I'm now trying to correct because of my children. My argument probably has huge holes in it, but it's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Race for Life

Today was the Race for Life. I ran it with four friends and my daughter and three of her friends. Three of us finished in 30 minutes, the last finished in 40 minutes. I ran it in honour and memory of far too many friends and family who have or have had cancer. My husband, bless him, flew in from NYC yesterday after a four-hour delay and still managed to make it to cheer us on and to host the BBQ afterwards. When I was growing up, I don't remember any of my parents' friends getting or dying from cancer. One of my mother's friends died on the operating table having the bags removed from her eyes. One of my dad's friends died from heart disease. But no cancer. So how come it's so prevalent now? Is it that detection is that much better? Is it something in the environment? All I know is that it leaves children without parents, men and women without spouses, and me without friends. I will post pictures when I figure out how.

Last night was my quarterly torture of taking my daughter to a dance competition. I got to sit in an airless auditorium and watch dozens of girls smile and cavort about on stage. My daughter's group took home a fourth place. I didn't envision this when I decided she'd like dancing when she was 2 and started taking her to dance lessons. Yes, she loves dancing, and I have the bank account to prove it. Still, it's good exercise and good for her in many other ways. She will appreciate me one day when she grows out of her rebellious phase.

Back to hubby coming home, I awoke Saturday to a text saying he would be delayed possibly by a day. I didn't know at the time about the terror alert at JFK airport. Well, I had myself as a widow within one hour. I had to go out and do some serious gardening to calm myself down. He obviously did get home, but goes back to London in the wee hours of tomorrow. This wonderful job of his takes him away from us all the time. Omega mum, take note.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Oh Poo Hoo Hoo

Peace and quiet for the moment!! Much needed after a day spent at one of those adventure playgrounds that are a health and safety nightmare. The goal for many of the urchins there today was to see how muddy they could get. When my friend R. and I gently reminded our lot not to get too muddy, one dad commented rather loudly that that's what they're there for. Bet he doesn't do the laundry. His boys were the shoeless ones. I wondered how long it would be before one of them bloodied his toe or worse.

Now you would think after a day spent running around in the hot sun, getting filthy, and sweating profusely, these children would want to sleep on the way back. You would think wrong. They entertained themselves with a game, What Would You Rather Be? My son's contribution was "What would you rather be, a man who shoveled poo for a living and made a lot of money or a woman who worked in an office but didn't make much money?" And "What would you rather be, a man with poo on his shoes or a woman who wore high heels?" And "What would you rather be, an animal's poo or an insect's wee?" Do you think he has a bit of obsession?

On the whole, today was much better with my daughter than yesterday. Sometimes she can speak to me in such a condescending tone of voice that I almost want to slap her. After reminding her several times that I didn't like her tone of voice, I went upstairs. My son followed and we had a lovely cuddle. After he went to bed, I called down to my daughter to go to bed. She came in my room a few minutes later and said her curtains had come off the rail. Let's go back a couple of hours when I was at my neighbour's sharing a bottle of wine. Now I didn't particularly feel like putting the curtains back on the rail but thought I'd better have a go. Alas, I was too short (I'm not short, just not tall enough) to reach the rail. And I swore, cried tears of frustration and lost my temper and said a few choice words to my daughter. See, while hubby is away, I try to take care of these domestic crises so I don't burden him when he is home. Also, he moans and groans and huffs and puffs, and I'd rather not hear it. So it was tears at bedtime again.

I awoke at 4 a.m. after another night sweat, let the cats out, then remembered what had happened between me and my daughter. I thought about the best way to tackle the problem. I could get the heavy ladder out and carry it up two flights of stairs. Or I could stack some books and stand on them. Which would be best? Well, I highly recommend the following: the Next catalogue, Argos catalogue, Beatrix Potter (complete stories) and Children's Thesaurus (never used before). I completed the job in no time, and not a tool was needed. When it had happened before, my daughter said hubby needed his tool box. And that, my friends, is the difference between men and women. Men always like to get their tools out, and women are quite happy to do without them.