Summer Holiday


This Thursday the GCSE results came out and amid the usual furore of news headlines, analysis and debate about the state of the nation’s education system, DS opened the brown envelope we had been waiting all day to open and I held my breath for longer than I am accustomed to. The news was good. Phew. He has done well and I am happy and relieved, particularly with his B in maths thanks to – I am a proud mummy on all counts. So when he asked if ‘ a few ‘ of his mates could come round for pre-Motion ( pronounced Moshun? as if it were a question if you are a Bristol teenager ) drinks then I could hardly say no. How many I enquired? ‘ Oh, just the usual, you know, J, J, K, you know ‘. I don’t in fact know how many ultimately turned up as I lost count of the loud, ebullient youths going in and out the front door as they arrived, departed to get beer, returned, took over the kitchen, lounge, bedrooms and bathroom with their newly large man bodies, but what was probably no more than 12 seemed like 50. They’re so BIG. ‘ Is it ok if H stays tonight? ‘ asked DS. ‘ Just H? ‘ ‘ Well maybe J as well, but that’s it ‘.

The GCSE celebrants left in taxis about 9.30 and I began Operation Clear-up which lasted about the same time as the visit, ie. 2 hours, opening windows to get rid of the particular and clingy smell that is the combination of testosterone, beer and deodorant, before finally falling into bed shortly before midnight. Only to be woken at 2am by a collection of voices and laughter and tugging sounds at the back door. I stomped downstairs and let in what seemed like about 20 boys but was in fact upon a head count 7, drunk but all capable of speech, normal movement and good manners and no one looking like they might be sick. So I set about finding sleeping space and bedding for them as they moved from room to room deciding who was sleeping where and with whom, climbing in and out of the various bedding options on offer like large, tipsy puppies, their loud young men voices filling the air with the same jokes and insults about each other’s physical attributes and sexual orientation they have been making for the past 5 years. They were still jubilant, but tired and so asleep within the hour, not a problem if you are a 16 year old facing a long lie-in. I on the other am some considerable distance from my youth and not so blessed. At work by 9, I spent the day drinking strong coffee and avoiding looking in any mirrors in case I caught sight of the bags under my eyes.  And of course telling everyone I spoke to how proud I am of my son and his GCSE results.


Sunday, I’m In the car with my son on the way to the tip – 10 more bags of garden rubbish, another back breaking but eminently satisfying afternoon in the garden watched calmly by two stretched out cats and a sleepy dog – and he’s on the phone. ‘ Hey, you’re fraping me, I know you’re fraping me, get off now I’m coming round! ‘. Turns out Fraping means facebook raping, ie. he has left his facebook open at his friend’s house and K is now happily updating DS’s status with a series of what I imagine are typically incriminating and disgusting messages. Teenage boys are many things good and bad, and one of those things is definitely disgusting, a conclusion arrived at after years of close proximity with said creatures and recently captured so well by telly drama, The Inbetweeners. I watched both series with my son, avoiding any eye contact during scenes of a sexual nature, in particular those involving frantic teenage masturbation and we both laughed a lot. They really got it right, the awkwardness, cruelty and pain of adolescence mixed in with some truly, stomach churningly disgusting behaviour and the odd dollop of sweetness.

In case you didn’t know The Inbetweeners movie has just come out and both my teens and most of their mates have already been to see it – unlike my good self who is reluctant to drop 20 quid plus in Vue on nearly 2 hours of four drunk 18 year old lads on holiday in Malia even if it is funny – and it’s a hit. When DS and his mates returned from watching it he said ‘ It’s so funny, seriously funny. ..but I couldn’t watch it with you…’ Why not?  I enquired, we had after all watched 2 series together. ‘ Oh you know, it would just be really embarrassing being at the cinema with your mum watching it…’ ‘ Because of all the w…ing and stuff you mean? ‘, asked his friend J – nervous laughter and much looking at feet from everyone present apart from me. ‘ I don’t need to see it ‘ I say, “ I can just watch you lot. Well, some bits, others I hope I never see. Goodnight, be quiet and don’t make a mess ‘, and I leave my own gang of Inbetweeners to it.

DS has been back from schools rugby tour in S Africa for three days and he is bored.  Most of his friends are away and he has no transport and no money and apart from daily visits to the gym – you should see his muscles, in fact, if you come to our house you can see them all the time as he never wears a top indoors, preferring instead to lope  around topless, occasionally feeling and flexing his muscles or looking at his reflection in anything he can find – he is passing the time eating, facebooking, watching TV and eating a bit more.  I was in the garden where I have been solidly for the past few days, cutting back, clearing and weeding like the new convert to the church of gardening that I am, when he appeared on typically silent feet and started whacking a tennis ball against the fence with an old hockey stick I had unearthed from under a large bush which I found under  a small tree which I didn’t know I had.

‘ I’m bored ‘, he announced in a bored sort of way. Whack. ‘ Why don’t you dig out some roots? It’s very therapeutic ‘.  Trust me, wrestling stubborn bramble roots out of the ground with a large garden fork in a Herculean battle of woman versus root  – I lay back fully on the fork at one stage using my entire body weight as leverage – is deeply, deeply satisfying. Whack.  ‘ I don’t need therapy ‘.  I balance on my trusty garden implement, pushing it far down into the soil.  ‘ Not yet ‘ I say wobbling slightly but he is already gone, back inside to the safety of the TV and away from annoying mothers who are deluded enough to think that a 16 year old might want to do some digging.  Through DD’s bedroom window I can hear Helen Reddy singing from her laptop, “ I am strong, I am invincible, I Am Womaaaaaan ‘ and I feel the roots tremble on the points of my fork.

It’s probably a good thing my daughter came back yesterday as I have started to live like a student this past week, neglecting domestic duties in favour of watching telly and eating bowls of cereal and biscuits because I can’t be bothered to cook. We had a sweet reunion DD and I, lots of hugs and kisses, then a lunch at Wagamamas where we talked about her Majorcan sojourn and definitely out of left field this one, her new interest in becoming a WAG.   The catalyst for this ambition was the handsome and talented foot balling, Majorcan Moroccan lad she had met -‘ I didn’t get with him or anything obviously, because I like, have a boyfriend, like‘ – and her eyes widened in wonder at the thought that if she were to become single again she could pursue the relationship and ‘ I could be a WAG! ‘. Hummmm, not really my ambition of choice for DD but I fear rich husbands will never go out of fashion so long as there are handbags to be bought.

Then we went to see the latest and final Harry Potter movie, something DD has been both anticipating and dreading since The Deathly Hallows part1.  She is an avid and passionate Harry Potter fan, which has not lessened with the onset of teendom and although she loved the film, burst into painful tears as soon as we were back home because, ‘ It’s the end. I’ve grown up with them and now it’s over ‘. I really felt for her as she cried like the little girl she still sometimes is for the end of Harry Potter and because without yet knowing it, she was also crying for her own scarily fast growing up these past few years. It’s tough being 15 and not knowing if you want to be a WAG or a wizard.

I write these words in a house empty of teenagers. No music, voices, slamming doors, trails of large, adolescent forms up and down the stairs, clothes, make-up and damp towels strewn across floors. No requests for lifts or money or both, no last minute sleepovers or late night meals required because ‘ I am a teenage, bottomless eating machine that needs 5 meals a day and I’m starving. Again ‘. Tonight the house is quiet and I’m off duty.

They are both away, she in Majorca with her dad and he on schools rugby tour in S.Africa and I have a whole week off parenting. Bliss. One of the mums at the S.Africa send off said ‘ I’m going to miss little Jonny so much, I hate it when he’s away..’ and though I nodded with seeming empathy the truth is, I love these rare periods without my darling pair. It’s not just the massive reduction in my domestic load, down by, oh I would say, 85%, but also the sheer relief of just not being responsible for them. Not worrying about where they are, where they’re supposed to be, whether they’re drinking, whether they’re drunk, why they seem upset, why they won’t eat, why they won’t stop eating, why they’re not answering their phones, what will happen if they don’t do enough revision – for one week only, Not My Responsibility.  And it feels good, I tell you.

Then my iphone beeps, incoming text from DD. ‘ Miss you a lot xxxxxxxxx ‘. Curse the wretched, digital umbilical chord that is the mobile phone, now I know that she’s missing me I feel bad about not missing her. But the feeling passes quickly when she texts me that’s she’s on her way to the square for a night of traditional Majorcan festivities which include large amounts of sangria being consumed and children tying fireworks to their heads before running around amongst the crowd – eat your heart out elf and safety – and it’s Not my Responsibility to keep her safe.  Thank God under the circumstances. So I text her the usual warnings about strange men and the perils of alcohol and then I turn my phone off and head for the sofa, free for once from sprawling teenage bodies and occupied only by one small, neat tabby cat.  Budge up Boo.

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