sprezzatura: (Kinkaku-Ji)
I've just been to a lecture on what is effectively my last module of my degree course, about the American Civil War. I think it is unique amongst the seventeen modules that I've taken in the last couple of years, in that I knew absolutely nothing about the subject in advance. I must admit, it was a bit of lesser-of-three-evils choice that I didn't think would interest me very much, but it's beginning to capture my attention. The one piece of relatively trivial information I took from today's lecture was that the last survivor of the conflict died in 1959. This shocked me because the little information I had in the back of my head about the war was that it took place in the nineteenth century and was as far removed from the modern world as, for example, the Napoleonic Wars*.

When Harry Patch died I remember someone on my friends list saying it was a poignant marker of the passing of time, the way the First World War slipped out of living memory. When I was K's age many veterans were still alive, and all my grandparents remembered the war. It still felt like something within a lifetime's reach rather than "history", which it has now become. I'm quite struck by the fact that when the last American Civil War veteran died, my dad was only five years younger than I was last summer, so it would be reasonable to suppose it had a similar impact on his generation as the effect of Harry Patch's death on mine. I suppose for K's generation it'll be the Second World War, or Vietnam. Both felt almost tangible when I was growing up - both my parents talked about their World War II experiences and Vietnam was still going on when I was born. It's odd to think of them sliding into the abstract. It seems so disrespectful just to let such important things go, and if I were ever called upon to justify studying history I think this would be one of my main arguments.

On an unrelated note, I've just watched Caught In The Web with K. Children's Internet safety is all over the news today and it does worry me. I stopped K from using Moshi Monsters the other week when I found out people she didn't know could send her messages. She still uses Club Penguin, which has a system I rather like where other members can only send standard, pre-written "postcards" to people outside of their buddy list. It's hard to strike a balance between protecting her safety and frightening her. The programme we just watched frightened her a little and she said this evening that she didn't want to use the Internet at all any more. I can appreciate how she feels. I remember watching this when I was about the same age and it frightened the crap out of me. As I mentioned on Facebook, Internet Paedos are the new Stranger Danger.

I guess it all boils down to the same thing. The reason the 80s video frightened me was that I didn't entirely get it. At seven, I had no idea why dodgy looking men might want to lure me or any other kids into their cars, I just convinced myself there was one on every corner. Similarly, K hasn't got a clue why adults might want to pretend to be children in order to talk to her, but now she is afraid that everyone on the Internet is dodgy. I need to find a way of explaining to her why she needs to be cautious without worrying her unnecessarily and without going into age-inappropriate detail about The P Word. I'm not sure Caught in the Web got it quite right, but I'm confident it will be something that gets picked up by her school.

Anyway, I think that's quite enough nostalgic rambling from me, and three posts in two days must be some kind of record for me. What were your favourite terror-inducing public information films, viewers?

*Actually around fifty years apart.
sprezzatura: (Gabriel the Toad)
Bradford may not seem the obvious choice of destination for a day out, but in the company of some of my favourite ladies, I had an excellent time there on Saturday. The main purpose of our trip was a visit to Bombay Stores, where I bought fabric to turn into two dresses for various forthcoming weddings, and the others picked up various treasures in the form of make-up and sparkly things. In need of refreshment after a busy morning's shopping, we repaired to The Love Apple for lunch and gossip and cake. The nachos were as good as ever but I was a little disappointed by the chocolate and lemon tart and by the uncharacteristic absence of cheesecake from the menu. Saturday evening was spent in The Last Drop with various locals and one exile, thinking up new and inventive ways to annoy [personal profile] vin_petrol.

Ed and I had a rather different day out yesterday, making our way to the coast along with seemingly everyone else in the county. It was the first time in about a year that we've been inspired to go that way by the sunshine to find the sun still shining when we got there, as opposed to being cold and grey everywhere east of Fylingdales. We sat on the grass and watched the sea at Sandsend, having come to the mutual realisation that while it is very nice to be near the sea, beaches, at least in this part of the world, are almost always horrible. They would be so much nicer if they were not covered in sand, or at least, if they must have sand, if the sand were More Like It Is In The Brochure. It was still a very enjoyable afternoon though, and yesterday felt like the first day of summer. I love the way the night time smells at this time of year and insisted on going to sleep with the windows and the blind open, watching the sky change colour.

So far today we have been very useful and achieve-y, and between us have already cleaned most of the house, done two loads of washing and got them out onto the line. I even cleaned the windows in the kitchen for the first time I can remember, which is a little embarrassing seeing as I've lived here for almost four years! After lunch we are going to go through the bookshelves downstairs and take all the out of date atlases and IT books to the recycling centre. This evening we will reward ourselves by going to see Star Trek.

This week is half term for K but we're not going to be seeing much of her. She has been at her father's this weekend and is spending tonight with my mum so that she can meet up with a friend from her old school tomorrow. On Wednesday Ed's dad is coming to pick her up and take her down to London for a few days, where we will be joining her on Friday. Tomorrow night is pretty much the only time we will get to spend with her so we've just booked tickets to see Seth Lakeman at Buxton Opera House. I don't know how long this Liking Parents' Music thing will last: I wouldn't have been caught dead going to a concert with my parents when I was seven, although to be fair my dad's music of choice was usually military bands or opera while my mum favoured the likes of Cliff Richard! I shall make the most of it while it lasts anyway, and hope that by the time her inevitable rebellion happens, she will be old enough to go to gigs on her own so I'll never have to take her to The Pussycat Dolls or The Jonas Brothers or whatever it is children like these days.
sprezzatura: (Bad Things)
The following conversation took place as we were testing K on elementary grammar.

Ed: 'Which is the adjective in this sentence, K? "The lazy fox ran slowly"'

K: 'Um... slowly?'

Ed: 'Actually, that question was a bit unfair'

Me: 'That was the adverb'

K: 'What's an adverb?'

Ed: 'A word that describes the verb'

(Everyone comes up with several examples of adverbs)

Me: 'K, what sort of words are "catastrophically, desperately, hideously overrated?"'

K & Ed: *look blank*

Me: They describe The Verve.

Ed: *explodes*

Sometimes I crack myself up.
sprezzatura: (Cherry Red Girl)
I have just put three trays of pink cupcakes into the oven in anticipation of K's birthday party* tomorrow, reserving, as is my custom, a little of the mixture to eat raw, because I am a grown-up** and I can. Pondering on the fact that I still believe cake mix tastes better before you cook it even at my advanced age, it occured to me that this is just one of several youthful pleasures I have carried with me into adulthood despite being assured I would grow out of it. No doubt you lot have a few of your own, so with a little light Friday comment-whoring, we could probably compile a list. Here are a few to get us started:

  • Licking the bowl/spoon clean of uncooked cake mix
  • Swings
  • Unattainable crushes (though admittedly on different people)
  • Liking Monster Munch (my parents assured me that no-one over the age of sixteen would willingly eat any sort of pungently-flavoured corn snack, but I think they have already been proved wrong on that score)
  • Fizzy drinks (see above)
  • Sibling rivalry
  • Throwing myself wholeheartedly into celebrating Halloween
  • Kicking through fallen leaves
  • Leaving out a glass of sherry and a mince pie for Father Christmas, though I always insist this is for K's benefit

What else do you suggest?

*If anyone is thinking "didn't she just have a birthday a few weeks ago?" yes, she did, but we postponed her party until her granny got back from holiday.
sprezzatura: (Default)
I always wanted to be the New Girl at school. With exception of the mostly undesirable option of having a sick parent, there was nothing like primary school New Girl-hood to guarantee not only instant popularity, but access to privileges the like of which old lags such as I could only dream about. Being allowed to take in the teacher's coffee mug at playtime, for example, or attending the first sitting for school dinners were things that only New Girls got to do. As I got older, the idea of the slate-wiping that went along with New Girl-hood became increasingly enticing as the catalogue of social misdemeanours, fashion errors and embarrassing crushes began to stack up behind me. How lovely it would have been to start again at a new school and reinvent myself as someone interesting and trendy that everyone would want to be friends with, or maybe even fancy.

Unfortunately for me, despite their Forces careers which could normally have been relied upon to afford at least one unscheduled move during one's school years, my parents were mindful of the fatal disruption caused to my mother's education by being the New Girl a startling seventeen times. She left the RAF before my brother and I were born, and my father, approaching retirement, was able to make sure that his final posting would not involve relocating, so we stayed put. After seven years at the same primary school, my reward was to endure a similar and altogether less pleasant stretch at the same secondary school, watching New Girls come and go in a flurry of attention and social desirability while my own reputation as a fat and emotionally incontinent drama queen was scratched ever deeper into the battered old desk of familiarity by the compass of contempt. My fate, like my adolescent image, was sealed, and my parents remained depressingly resistant to the idea of emigration. Having witnessed the social anxieties and in some cases bullying experienced by some of the New Girls of my acquaintance over the years, along with the discovery at university that self-reinvention is a lot harder and less fun than I might have imagined, I ought to thank them for that, but I'm sure you will understand the grudging nature of my gratitude.

This morning, my daughter is the New Girl. She had already started nursery by the time we moved in with Ed, and because my hateful ex job was also in Horrorgate, near the school, we decided it was as well to let her stay where she was and join the infant school there rather than add the upheaval of moving schools to that of moving house. She would have had to have moved at the end of this school year anyway so even after I finished work, it seemed reasonable to let her finish that stage of her education where she was. Various things happened last term that made this option less appealing; the new headteacher was making what, in my opinion, were pointless changes like insisting all classes should be referred to by the name of a cute woodland creature rather than a number*, but more importantly K was getting too tired between the various extra-curricular activities she was doing and the long commute. Therefore, we arranged to transfer her to a primary school closer to home two terms ahead of schedule and today is her first day.

I had already visited the school twice before and, in a weird, nostalgic sort of way, fallen in love with it. It reminds me a lot more of my old primary school than her last school did. Like my first Alma Mater but in contrast to her previous one and most other schools in the area, there is no uniform, so today she is modelling proudly the High School Musical jeans she got for Christmas. Yesterday we bought her some enviable new boots the like of which I would have happily traded all my fanciest felt-tips for at the same age and, to be honest, would quite like even now if only I could find a pair to go round my fatted calves. She is pretty and smiley and friendly, and she went off to greet her new teacher and classmates with just the right mix of quiet confidence and endearing timidity. Finally, I was going to have the chance to live out my New Girl fantasy vicariously through her.

Perhaps not so vicariously, as it turns out. Because I was working, and subsequently at university, the burden of the School Run has, up until now, fallen largely on my mother. Consequently all the playground acquaintances and alliances were hers, and I was just an occasional hanger-on. This morning it was up to me to take K to school, see her into the classroom and create a first impression by which we will both be known for the next four and a half years! I made a point of getting up early, doing my hair, applying what I hope was just the right amount of make-up to look as though I had made an effort but not at the expense of getting my daughter's breakfast, and carefully selecting my outfit (easy on the black!) I swear, as we approached the school gates, I was ten times more nervous than K who maintained the air of calm enthusiasm she has had for her new school all the way through the holidays.

Having been shown into the classroom by the teacher, K settled quietly in to the "Early Bird Activity" of a maths worksheet as though she had been doing the same thing every day of her life. It was I who hung around not knowing quite what to do, grinning nervously at anyone who happened to glance in my direction, enthusiastically returning the "hello"s of those parents - several of them, actually, it seems like a very friendly sort of place - kind enough to speak to me, and watching with whistful hope of joining them as they all greeted one another. The teacher finally rescued me and suggested that as K had relaxed immediately, there was no need for me to hang around, so home I came, being sure to offer a winning smile to other school-runners I happened to pass along the way.

Forced at last into the role of New Girl, I am determined to take advantage of the opportunity to refashion myself, or at least the bits that others see. It is time to stop slobbing shambolicly about and start living up to my new username. If I look like the kind of woman who has an effortlessly tidy house, organised life and nice hair, then I will become that woman, right? If I pretend to be the sort of Proper Mummy that juggles mature studenthood with domestic goddessery, looking fabulous and welcoming an endless procession of my daughter's friends in to the house for home-made beefburgers and organic orange squash, no-one will notice that I'm not, will they?

Will they?

I'd better go and clean the kitchen.

*Entirely counter-productive. There was no sense of numerical superiority attached to the old system, class names reflecting only room numbers, while as any fule or six year-old no, foxes totally kick rabbits' butts. And more than likely eat them as well, but I don't want to think about the implications of that.

Sick Child

Jan. 26th, 2007 11:16 am
sprezzatura: (Mood Puking Pumpkin)
K has tonsilitis, which effectively renders us housebound for the second day in a row. As tradition demands, I have made her up a bed on the sofa and she is currently reclining pallidly infront of Cinderella. She doesn't want to play games, is feeling too feeble to draw and is uninterested in listening to stories. Thanks to Ed's dawn raid on the supermarket, she has a plentiful supply of apple juice, though she claims to be too frail to lift a glass or carton to her lips and keeps summoning me every time she wants a drink. I don't think she's up to dealing with the logic that her throat will hurt all the more if she keeps shouting, and the table is not that far for her to stretch. Perhaps I should get her a bell?

So far I have been unable to tempt her to eat anything beyond a bowl of dry cereal, from which she will take the occasional nibble, and some cheese on toast yesterday lunch time. She has turned her nose up at my childhood comfort food of choice: a digestive biscuit spread with butter and/or Dairylea and a mug of "watery tea". I can't actually remember watery tea tasting any different to the tea we drank the rest of the time but it, along with the old-margarine-tub-featuring-cartoon-of-the-Green-Cross-Code-Man sick bowl and a thermometer under the tongue, became an accepted part of the paediatric malady experience in the house of Caustick.

At the risk of this becoming a tedious middle-aged whine about how kids today have it so much easier than we did, kids today have it so much easier than we did. There was no dawn-to-dusk CBeebies in our day, and until my parents finally succumbed to the purchase of a video early in 1986, we had nothing but the likes of Pebble Mill and an inadequate half hour of lunch time 'programmes for younger viewers' to distract us during times of illness, at least until we learned to read. K's only complaint is that I won't let her watch the advert-dominated cartoon channels for hours at a time, when back in our day the most exciting thing my brother and I had to watch was the specks of dust dancing in the tiny strip of sunlight visible between my parents nasty seventies living room curtains!

If K will allow me to switch on the hoover without complaint, I plan to spend the rest of the day cleaning. In the mean time, let's have a nostalgia-fest. Tell me what you remember about days off school sick as a child, viewers!
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