December has begun and I have started my Christmas shopping – online only so far but I have to build up to Actual Shopping at this time of year. The teens want clothes mostly with theatrical and baking supplies for DD and ( much more expensive this but his dad is doing the honours) a car for DS who turns 17 at the end of the month. Aside from the inevitable fears about young men on four wheels I am also sad that we will now lose one of our most consistent chatting areas. Kids open up in cars – I don’t know why exactly but tongue tied teens will suddenly rediscover the power of speech when in transit within a small space with their mothers, to say nothing of the intelligence gathering opportunity and entertainment value of eavesdropping on a group of them talking in a semi-unguarded fashion while I pretend that I’m listening to the radio – I have learnt many things about my two and their friends on various car journeys. But it’s the boys’ banter I will miss most. I have been transporting my son and roughly the same group of his mates around for years and rarely do they fail to lift my spirits. True, they are all idiots, but they have that simplistic, blokey, nothing too serious approach to conversation that can be very soothing in a stressful day. I return to trusty old Amazon before premature nostalgia engulfs me and wonder if DS would like a personalised key ring with a picture of me on it to go with his new car?
Monday night and we are all tired. DD spent yesterday rehearsing for the school’s upcoming production of the Sound of Music – she’s a nun, I would post a photo but I doubt she will let me – and is badly missing her normal crash-out Sunday. DS spent the weekend accumulating love bites and training for his first post-injury rugby game tomorrow and is already in bed in his rabbit onesey. I am about to follow his example and catch a sneaky episode of Bondi Rescue from the comfort of my bed ( will Maxi make it to fully fledged lifeguard, will Kerbox find love, will an unsuspecting tourist drown in the dreaded Backpackers Rip? ,) when the clothes dryer attached to the kitchen ceiling by pulleys falls down on my head as I am loading it with wet washing. Closer inspection while standing on tip toes on the kitchen table reveals a minor engineering job is required and I know just the man – my very nice neighbour A who lives over the road with his partner C. They are in their 60’s, free from the demands of work and childcare and spend their days travelling the world by plane, boat and camper van, which they park in my driveway when not on the road in France or Spain or some other driveable location. In return for housing this bright red freedom wagon A does odd jobs for me – last week it was the drains. Safe in the knowledge that I can survive one night without drying facilities and in need of my own brand of travel free escapism, I head upstairs to catch up with Bondi’s finest. Maxi gets the job, Kerbox fails to find true love, nobody drowns and as the credits roll up over a spectacular Antipodean sunset I feel altogether more relaxed until DS yells from his room ‘ I forgot to say, I need my rugby kit washed and dry for tomorrow, I wore it training today..Did you hear me? …Mama? ‘
My mum has continued to impress with her attitude towards Monday night’s break in. Although naturally a bit shaken up by being burgled while she was downstairs watching TV, she is simply ‘ not going to think about what might have happened ‘ if she’d come out of the sitting room when the intruder or intruders were there and has decided instead to put her energies into praying for the little b…….s who did it – she’s much nicer than me. When I tell DD about her grandma’s prayers she clutches her heart, and says ‘ OMG, she’s so cuuuuuuute! ‘. DD loves both babies and old people in equal measure and we have on occasion followed particularly adorable examples of the latter around supermarkets as they myopically pick out their favourite biscuits, entirely unaware of the teenage girl cooing ‘ Ah look, they can’t read the packet, that’s so cuuuuuute!’ a few feet away. This week there will be few opportunities for stalking old people as DD has her second batch of GCSE language exams – French and Spanish. She is sat at the kitchen table with me now, trying to learn her Spanish and refusing to listen to my advice as to the best way to remember things you are studying. ‘ Say something for funny for my blog ‘ I ask. I won’t repeat her response.
I spent last weekend exhibiting http://www.stuckonhomework.com at the Independent Schools Show in Battersea Park with T, my business partner and friend of more years than either of us cares to remember. The most surprising thing about the weekend was the mother who wanted to subscribe to the site so she could help prepare her son for his Maths GCSE. Her son is two. The least surprising thing about the weekend was that at the end of it I returned home to an assortment of tired, hungry and emotional teens, cats and dog and a kitchen full of washing up, a scenario that greeted me upon my return from work most nights last week. But after a relaxing weekend things were calmer last night and DS, DD and I settled on sofas for an evening with ITV – X Factor followed by the opening show of I’m A Celebrity. I had said I wasn’t going to watch this series but one programme does not a new reality TV habit make. Someone called Mark from TOWIE overcame his fears to jump out of an aeroplane, Lorraine Chase was sick in a bush and I failed to convince DD and DS that Fatima Whitbread is a woman.
But tonight brings fresh drama as about 2 hours ago 2 burglars broke in through the kitchen window of my 82 year old mum’s house while she was watching TV in the sitting room. They ransacked the upstairs drawers before letting themselves back out through their entry point. My mum is highly amused that nothing was taken ‘ because they couldn’t find anything they wanted! ‘ and asked if I wouldn’t mind calling back as the two ( loud stage whisper ) ‘… Very nice and strapping policemen ‘ would be leaving soon and she wanted ‘ to say goodbye properly ‘ before my sister arrives to check on her. I say I’ll call in to see her tomorrow evening but she says not to bother as she’s off to the cinema with her prayer group but Wednesday’s good if I’m around?
Half term is at an end and I am still standing, though the same cannot be said for DS who remains dependant upon his crutches. His lack of mobility has meant more teens coming to us as he can’t get to them and because he is so fed up, I have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the noise and mess which invariably accompanies small groups of large teenage boys and greets me upon my return from work each evening. This is compounded by the array of ‘ soaking’ ( ie. left to stand with a splash of water in the bottom ) baking tins, bowls and utensils used by DD as she provides her brother and his pals with a steady stream of home baked cakes and chocolate brownies. Baking is her new thing and despite the resulting chaos in the kitchen, one I am keen to encourage, being a useful practical skill unlike visiting nightclubs which she has also been doing rather a lot of this week. Thursday night she went to Motion with her usual posse of similarly clad half naked teenage girls prompting me to yet again repeat the parental cliché ‘ You’re not going out in THAT are you? ‘ as she rolled her eyes and removed money from my wallet in one smooth and practised motion before calling me a few hours later to come and get her as ‘ I’m not really feeling it tonight ‘.
I turn out in my pyjamas so I can head straight back to bed on my return, which I do, safe in the knowledge that DD is now tucked up in bed, DS has managed to make it to a sleepover at his friend’s house and the day is finally done. Leaving the house for work the next morning I almost trip over the shopping trolley lying on it’s side by the bin – ‘ bloody students ‘ I think to myself. It is not until Friday night when I am chatting to J and J’s mums over a takeaway curry that I discover the trolley was left by J when DD let him and another of DS friends in for a nocturnal plate of fairy cakes as they drunkenly wended their way home, none of which I knew anything about because I was asleep. I inform DD the next day that The Bakery closes once I am in bed and that cake is not the only thing on a teenage boy’s mind when he comes a callin’ at 2am. She rolls her eyes and delivers a blisteringly nonchalant ‘ …Whatever..’ while deftly removing two pounds from my wallet because ‘ We’ve run out of icing sugar ‘.
DS has invented a new word – ‘ crutching’ to describe getting around on the crutches he has been issued with following a nasty injury sustained during last weekend’s rugby tournament. X-rays examined by a rather young looking doctor ( well, young to me but these days many people in positions of responsibility are ) after a long, typically purgatorial wait in A and E revealed no bones were broken and analysis by the Bristol physio later in the week diagnosed a tear of the muscle in his hip, very painful and resulting in a 6 week break from his beloved game. He is handling the situation well so far but this may be due in part to the high doses of pain killers he is taking plus the fact that he is not alone in his temporarily disabled state. Right now he is in the lounge with 4 of his mates, 2 of whom are also on crutches ( more rugby injuries ) and as half term has just begun and bedtimes this week therefore flexible, I am issuing stern warning about not drinking whilst on medication as beers have magically appeared to fuel the evenings get together.
DD is with them and noise levels are high, though I suspect she is not detailing them with her latest thoughts on Careers For Girls we discussed earlier this week following a discussion with her friend R during a clearly less than absorbing Physics lesson. ‘ Just get pregnant with a fit person’s baby, no matter how old they are, then they’ll have no excuse not to see you ‘. ‘ Who are you thinking of? ‘ I enquire calmly as I am hoping she is winding me up and am not about to oblige by entertaining her with a feminist rant about pregnancy no longer being an acceptable career choice for girls. ‘ Bradley Cooper, Channing Tatum, Aron Johnson, Alex Pettifer, Zac Effron or Daniel Radcliffe. What do you think?’ ‘ Well…’ I wrack my brains for a response….’ They all seem like nice young men but let’s wait until you’ve got your GCSE’s and A Levels out of the way before deciding which celebrity should impregnate you. Speaking of which, have you done your homework? ‘. DD frowns at me but heads upstairs without protest to her books and I am left shaking my head and asking the dog, not for the first time, ‘ What is she like? ‘
My birthday this week and after a small teatime celebration at home with a few family and friends I head off to Zizzi’z with the teens. They often eat with their dad at the Clifton branch of this popular restaurant chain and are greeted with enthusiasm by the staff who quickly find us a table despite the place being very busy – there’s a two for one offer on at the moment, something I have rather irritatingly failed to take advantage of by not bringing along the requisite online code. DD is off to Stratford to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the school on Friday night and the conversation turns to Shakespeare. I remind them that ‘ I did A Midsummer…’ ‘ Yeah, you did it for O’Level, we know and you did The Crucible for A level ‘. DD is irritated when I inadvertently repeat myself but I point out that given my advancing years she had better get used to it. DS did Macbeth for GCSE and after inhaling his pizza ( he eats incredibly fast but with little noise or obvious motion ) comments ‘ Macbeth is stupid ‘. ‘ Why? ‘ I ask. He shrugs ‘ It just wouldn’t happen… ‘ Before I can launch into a stalwart defence of the great man’s fictions DD jumps in. ‘ I liked his wife, his wife’s really good ‘ …‘ But it’s all her fault, she’s the one who makes Macbeth kill Banquo which starts the whole situation ‘ responds DS and they’re off, rowing happily about the interfering habits of Lady Macbeth while I look around at the other diners, hoping they are listening in to our unusually highfalutin dinner chat, resisting the urge to point at my pretty pair and say‘ Look, they’re talking about Shakespeare, see how civilised we are! ‘ By the time dinner has finished they have returned to more prosaic topics, ie. the merits of Made In Chelsea ( she’s a fan ) versus Jersey Shore ( his reality show of choice ) and what time she requires picking up on Friday night ( midnight ). ‘ Have you had a nice birthday? ‘ asks DD as we step outside into the drizzling rain. ‘ Yes, very, it’s not so bad being 42…’ DD snorts in disbelief but as I always say – It’s my birthday and I’ll lie if I want to.