Thursday, 26 January 2012

Playing Favourites

Would you admit to having a favourite child?

Both my girls’ godmothers claim I favour the other child so I’m hoping that means I’ve got it right, but how do I know?
I am currently engaged in trying to be proud when Youngest comes home to announce she’s got a B grade… I am not doing well.
I don’t want you to misunderstand! Youngest is an adorable child whose greatest need has always been to be regularly hugged. She is bright, articulate, beautiful and artistic. She is also surly, determined she is right, shockingly untidy and not interested in personal hygiene but likes make-up, nail varnish and perfume. At our first parent teacher meeting at Secondary school we were told that she had scored highly in aptitude tests and was thus expected to be in top sets with top target grades. Thus I can only conclude that, were she at either of her parents’ schools, she would receive reports that stated ‘could do better’. (She does not: her reports are glowing.)
She is not helped by her scary academic sister. Eldest is good at everything – well, if she isn’t good at it she doesn’t try. I believe I have previously recorded the tears over Art homework in Yr 7 because she couldn’t draw realistically (she draws wonderful cartoony concepts for birthday cards). Eldest is in her final year of school, engrossed in A levels, dance and baking. She is on target to achieve good grades and has received offers from all the universities to which she has applied to do Maths. She is pretty, getting better at showing affection and can join in amusing conversation when she chooses to leave her tidy room.
They are my pride and joy. They are my pleasure and my biggest worry. I love them both but recognize that I like different things about them. Inevitably I feel I have probably treated them differently, after all, I learned from the first one, and adapted my methods for the second! Each thinks I favour the other – Eldest’s activities get first dibs on my taxi and use of the front seat; Youngest doesn’t have to eat vegetables, or finish her main course in order to get pudding; and I tidy her room for her (when it all gets too much for me!)… All this is true and, I would argue, shows balance, though others might say I am being unreasonable. Certainly I am guilty of different expectations of their behaviour. Isn’t that what we do with everyone we meet? The relationship is an interactive one informed by previous interactions. I don’t suppose I treat anyone like anyone else. How about you?

Friday, 20 January 2012

Missed opportunity

I left work nineteen years ago. I had a career in management in the clothing industry, first in production and later in sales. To get there I went to college and studied Clothing Management, a four year Diploma recognized by the industry and becoming degree equivalent after a further two years in a ‘responsible management position’. I was a career girl for eleven years and didn’t consider other possibilities before I met Husband. Having spent our first two years of marriage living in different counties we decided not to live in two different countries. We took the view together that we would want to bring up our hoped for children ourselves and we wanted to share a home. I gave up work as the one of us who would have said children and followed HM Forces directions to Germany.

While I have occasionally set out to explain just how much parity I had with Husband at the time I chose to stop paid work, mostly I haven’t regretted my decision: I am lucky to have a busy and happy life and a family of whom I am proud. Despite gentle teasing from Husband and Mefromafar I have found no motivation to return to paid work.
I remind you of this because I recently applied for a job! A Textile Technician at the local comprehensive: no pupil contact, just supporting the Textile Teacher by tidying and advising on ordering her fabric and commodities, threading machines and filling bobbins, setting out the classroom , cutting out fabric as required and being very flexible for a whole five hours of employment on two days. It sounded like something right up my street that I could do standing on my head and that would fit in with all the other things I do, so I applied.
I was invited to an ‘informal interview’. Unsure what such a term meant I concluded that either I was the only applicant, or there would be some sort of practical test of my sewing machine and fabric knowledge. I was wrong. Five ladies turned up at the same time with the same invitation. We were divided into two groups taking it in turns to be told about the job by the Head of Department and given a tour by the Textiles Teacher. There was no test and no individual interview. The other woman in my group had also been in the industry, as a Fabric Buyer. Younger than me I think, and less managery, so, if I’d been the teacher choosing between us, I’d have picked her as qualified but less of a threat (cynic!). I didn’t get a real impression of the other three though the teacher implied they weren’t from the industry, but capable crafters.
Apparently school had been surprised to receive ten applications and called in five of them. They remarked that they didn’t know how they were to decide and we should all be proud to have got this far… I don’t know how they were going to decide either, but I haven’t heard anything more and must presume they selected one of the others.
My armour is undented: flexible hours may have been me being flexible, i.e. required on Mondays and Wednesdays when I currently volunteer in the primary school; a behind the scenes job that would still need me to change out of my jeans for a couple of hours but into something I could climb in (lots of high shelves to sort) and not worry about fabric dust; little contact with the rest of the DT staff because of working when the students aren’t there; debatable whether there would be opportunity to expand the role… I sound relieved don’t I? I am!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

May I recommend?

I took the girls to The Artist at the weekend. The cinema was almost empty for a Saturday afternoon showing. We loved it! It is a black and white ‘silent’ movie set in the late 1920s and early 1930s at the point when films are becoming talkies. There is music and there are occasional speech frames.
The subject has been done before, memorably in the pairing of Judy Garland and James Mason in A Star Is Born – but please, not Barbra Streisand and Chris Christopherson! - the rise of  new young stars and fall of older ones. It also has shades of Singing in the Rain where a silent film is made over for the new talking era but not all the actors are up to the job. My girls and I have all been brought up on old movies – though sadly they’ve not seen a  A Star Is Born – and we were completely spellbound. It is difficult to judge whether you’d love it if you’d never seen an old movie, but I don’t see why you wouldn’t: it was laugh out loud funny but also poignant, beautifully dressed, perfect entertainment. Go see it!

I have just finished reading One Day by David Nicholls. It was a requested gift as I had heard so many good reports. I feel mean saying it was OK, but for me it didn’t live up to the hype. I liked the idea of it, but got annoyed with both characters. I could see the plot coming, though I shall refrain from giving it away. I neither laughed nor cried. Sorry!
But I’m loving P.D.James take on Jane Austen: Death Comes to Pemberley. A fan of both authors I thought I’d better try it. There is a perfect summary of the plot of Pride and Prejudice before she gets down to her own story, and I haven’t finished it so I can’t tell you if it works out in a believable way, but so far I am enjoying the pace, the gentle humour, the characters and the plot.

(The heron was on next door's roof on Christmas Day.)

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New Year Adventure

I can’t now remember who had the bright idea that we would go and look at the fireworks on New Year’s Eve, but we were visiting my parents in south east London and it seemed like it ought to be done.
We left their home in time to catch the 7.42 to Charing Cross. The train was packed and we got only one seat. At Charing Cross itself, the fact that there were barricades everywhere – not to mention police - should probably have warned us of the evening to come…
We set off round the corner into Whitehall heading for Westminster Bridge and the river. Various lighted signs warned us that, once full, access to the river watching places would be closed. As we went through the narrowed (barricaded) entrance to the road beside the Houses of Parliament and leading to the bridge we found ourselves funneled into single file, holding hands, desperately trying to keep together. No more than fifty yards from where we’d entered we decided to retreat: it was too crowded and there didn’t seem much chance of actually reaching the river and the view. We had been advised that if we could see the London Eye we’d see the fireworks, and that meant getting to the river.
Walking back up Whitehall we stopped just beyond the Cenotaph with our backs to a barricade and, looking between two buildings, a perfect view of the Eye lit up like a Christmas tree. It was 8.45. We were packed together with little wriggle room and a line of mounted police to our right directing people around the back of the barricades, though this didn’t stop a seemingly endless stream of people pushing passed us hoping for a better spot. We played a half-hearted game of I Spy but otherwise amused ourselves by people watching. There was a DJ from ten, but we couldn’t hear that. The evening was interspersed with the excitement of everyone putting hoods and umbrellas up because we were being rained on. Three hours later the muttering about whether it was going to be worth the wait had gone as the crowd was getting excited and the Eye lights were getting more varied and changing more frequently. At 11.50 the family next to us popped a cork: their eldest was about to be 21. We could just about hear the music now.

If you’ve been to a major firework display, or saw New Year ones on the TV, you may be able to imagine just how spectacular the 15 minutes of fireworks were! The noise was immense and the sheer size of the display was staggering. We were entranced! I have written before about enjoying the moment at the time of the moment. A surprising number of the people around us were filming the display on their mobiles which meant concentrating on holding the camera pointing at the sky: mad!

We agreed that the fireworks had been well worth the wait.

Walking back up Whitehall we found ourselves stopped by mounted police while they ‘emptied’ Trafalgar Square. We were eventually released to walk around the corner only to find that the entrance to Charing Cross was blocked off and we were being directed to a street entrance further down the Strand. The drunken crowd were getting bad tempered about missing the last train (at 1.30am) so we decided to see if we could get on a tube to Waterloo East or London Bridge. Well, of course, the queue for Leicester Square tube was ten deep and a hundred yards long… Ok, we’d head for Victoria.

The streets were heaving with people: cars were diverted all around the area. There were only four trains left on the board at Victoria, and none of them were going our way. We studied the bus timetable and headed back outside to join a queue for the bus to Lewisham station. No chance of the bus making rapid progress, not even once we were south of the Thames. It was clearly the rush hour whatever the actual time. At Lewisham we looked for a bus to Eltham: there would be one in 25 minutes and it would take 12 minutes to get to the High Street… we grabbed a taxi from outside the station and let ourselves in the front door of my parents home at 3.45am.

It was the soberest New Year’s Eve Husband and I can remember in recent times. It was the latest to bed too. The wait or the journey home was probably worth the fireworks: but not both. It was however an adventure! And, despite not getting a T-shirt, we don’t feel we need to do it again!