The shellsuit in my head

When I leave in the morning, it is generallly darker than when I return in the evening.  Some people I know would find this incredibly depressing and the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder are well-documented.  I know, because I convinced myself that I had this once and even bought a lamp to help me, but I don’t really. Have SAD, I mean; it turned that I was always grumpy and tired and that actually, I had anti-SAD.  I’m at my best in the morning and I genuinely (sort of) enjoy being an early riser


Larks and owls and what kind of person are you and all that stuff aside, I derive pleasure from getting up early, because when I was young, getting up early was associated with a big adventure or treat; like the pre-dawn shufflings of Christmas day or the strategic planning of a trip to the airport before going on holiday.  My dad took this part of the trip very seriously.  The car journey to the airport would normally take about 3 hours and if it was an early flight, parental discussion for weeks beforehand would revolve around such crucial topics as optimum positioning of luggage in boot and the necessity of a centralised bumbag holder for the placement of passports and tickets. The night before we set off, my sister and I would be charged with making the back seat of the car as comfortable as possible.  This was the most exciting thing ever for me.  As a 7 year old, the backseat of a car is huge and ripe with possiblities (particularly in the pre-seatbelt era), so I would spend hours deliberating on where to put my pillow and blanket for the journey.  The car was my house – thrills!  


The possibility of sleep the night before an early start diminishes with age, but even at seven I remember being beside myself with aniticipation at going in the car to the airport in the middle of the night!  I don’t recall being enthusaistic about the holiday to follow and nor can I remember which country we ended up in afterwards.  But I do remember being lightly shaken awake, forced into my ‘travelling gear’ and carried to the car.  I normally slept throughout, which suggests that anticipation of travel is better than travel, which in turn is better than arriving.


A note on travel attire.  One winter, my father booked us a last minute jaunt to Spain.  The weather in England had been pretty terrible, which added spice to planning our voyage to the airport.  Assuring us that it would be ‘white hell’ on the motorways, dad fretted, cogitated and formulated on the additional time that we would need to catch our flight.  He decided, and we agreed, on leaving at 2 in the morning for a 10 o ‘ clock flight, giving us an extra five hours.  Travel kit became even more essential; it’s one thing to dress for comfort but what about durability?  What if we became stranded on the motorway in an avalanche or blizzard or something and have to rely on our wits and survival instincts to get by?  Once you consider these questions, there’s really only one answer for a family of four of varying ages, sizes and genders:  we’d all wear our matching shellsuits!  That way, the helicopters or SAS rescue soldiers would know that we were a team and we’d get airlifted out of the snowdrift together, of course.  At two in the morning, the atmosphere in the car was tense, but by the time that we arrived at the airport, a mere two hours later, two hours during which we hadn’t seen so much as a flake of snow, , we felt a bit like dicks. Prepare to fail?  You betcha!  The phrase ‘white hell’ is still used in my family to imply that someone is overplaying their part.  But that trip also had its uses.  Sometimes, when I’m dozily and reluctantly pulling myself together before the crack of dawn, I like to don the shellsuit in my head and relive that jolt of excitement that I felt as a kid.  The adventure begins ….  



Notes on a Parent’s evening

I’m a teacher.  You probably gathered that by now, if you read my blog; it crops up from time to time.  Despite this, I don’t wish to come over as didactic in this post.  The following is merely some general advice to you, parents, on why and how teachers handle the annual frazzle-fest which is parent’s evening.

Firstly, if we look like death, it may be because we’ve had the honour of spending an entire day with your child, plus some worse and some better, children.  Governed as we are by bells and break duty, it is unlikely that we have had time to check our faces, or even pee.  So if I greet you with mascara down my face, a bogey on my nose, or food on my cheek, there is a reason.  Accept this as a sign that I am dedicated to my job, and try not to look on me with horror.  Chances are that whatever alien body is clinging to me as been there the entire day and has already been remarked upon by numerous teenagers as a sign that ‘Miss is gross’.

Secondly, at Parent’s Evening, do not be offended if we fail to shake your hand.  This is the one day of the year that I consciously emulate Donald Trump and avoid the casserole of hand-germs that will befall the novice teacher.  Would you rather I immediately reached for the han-i-tizer as we sit and talk, or would you rather that we got on with the matter at hand?


Thirdly, don’t hover in the periphery of my vision as you wait for your appointment.  It tells me a great deal about your kid if you fail to respect the privacy of your fellow attendees and I WILL HOLD IT AGAINST YOUR CHILD FOREVER.  Not really, but it is hella annoying.


I hope that clears a few things up.  What to do during a parent’s evening appointment is a whole other post, however.  But most teachers  will thank you if you follow the guidelines set out above and it should get you off to a good start.

There – public service announcement over and out.

50 Shades of Grey

Picture courtesy of the Guardian
Practically new.

I can’t do the laundry.  It’s ingrained in my family legend, along with my father’s inability to make a cup of tea without the top being splattered with tannin scabs, my mother’s compulsion to apply blusher before even the simplest of tasks and my sister’s joy at her own farts, like an indulgent mentor.  What on earth would the modern reworking of our coat of arms look like?  We no longer have recourse to deer hunting, fishing and jousting; rather, our chivalric codes involve minor acts of failure or the need to keep up appearances (very English of us).

Our shield would bear a grey bra, a pot of cream Rimmel, a teabag with a sad face and a gust of yellow wind.  The background design would consist of a gigantic unisex ‘meh’ face.

So my incompetency with the laundry is part of what defines me.  I gave my mum the opportunity to list  all  my failings recently (spoiling for a fight, anyone?) and the first one, off the bat was ‘you’re crap at washing’.  If you’re interested, the rest of the list went:

You sniff too much.

You don’t wear enough make up (predictable).

Sometimes you’re very sharp with me.

I refute the last, especially as I had just given the chance of a lifetime, a free pop at all my insecurities:  surely every mother’s dream?  How is that the gesture of a sharp daughter?  I knew she was clutching at straws by then.  I digress;  the point is that laundry is the first thing that comes to mind.  Even my husband, in a bid to artificially bond himself further to my clan, knows to drop the L-bomb in the right circumstances, such as a party, an intervention, or a funeral, to lighten the atmosphere.  How they all laugh  (It’s true!  She can’t!).  My reaction over the years has ranged from the immature and defiant (“well, you’re shit at …being attractive!”) to a gentle and resigned nod of acceptance.  I have found my defining fault and can settle into it, like a retiree with a well-tended garden.  Enjoy the fruits of my hopelessness.

Naturally, there’s lots of way to be shit at ding the laundry; mine is greification.  This is a word I made up, but it sums up very well what I do.  I turn everything into a greyer version of itself.  You’ve got a nude T-shirt bra?  No problem, let me make that taupe-ish for you.  That red and white striped tunic would look better, IMHO, if the colours bled a little, till the over-all tone was elastoplast.  I’m also a wizard at transforming fluffy new towels into strips of cotton Ryvita and have recently discovered a new power for turning bra cups from convex to concave.

On business cards, I could introduce myself as ‘Laundry destroyer, specialism in underwear and towels”.

If you have failed to find your niche family identity and would like to give try laundry inadequacy a go, here’s how:

Separating colours, darks and whites is a waste of time, and politically incorrect.

Likewise, don’t segregate ‘delicates’ and the rest.  Those dainties need to toughen up a bit!

Leaving it in there overnight is fine.  If you can’t be bothered to take it out, that is.

Put EVERYTHING on at 40, regardless.  The dial is too confusing otherwise, like the device in Stargate.  Leave well alone.

Sometimes I like to spice it up a bit by not checking the pockets of trousers for coins or tissue residue.  Once the cycle is done, who knows?  You might be greeted by a White Christmas in that drum, where everything is dusted with a fine layer of soggy snot rags!

To be honest, I have always had guaranteed results with this system.  I hate the machine and the machine hates me, so it feels good when I make it suffer.

Until today that is, when the persecutor became the saviour (or something like that).  The machine has not been happy for some time.  It whines, it struggles, it fails to drain, like it has an excess of tears.  I tried everything you could think of, by which i mean I hit it quite hard and then walked into another room.  Despite my best efforts,  nothing eased its plight.

I knew what I had to do.  I had to open up the weird little socket-y thing at the bottom and purge its sodden soul.

You may have noticed that the Olympics is on at the moment, so you may have a similar condition to me.  All mundane task are accompanied by a commentator style voiceover generated by my brain and played into my ears by my head space.  So, as I laid down the first towel and loosened the valve, John Inverdale intoned: “This is a tricky one, as she can’t be sure what she’s up against”.  2 minutes later, shifting from knees to crosslegs, Sue Barker chipped in “Well that’s tactical, if ever I saw it”.  5 minutes later as I was running out of towel and had to make a mad dash for a (naturally) grey oven mitt to mop up the overspill,  Gabby Logan declared it “her first real error and one she may live to regret, if the competition keeps up this pace”.

And all the time, the water kept seeping out, darkening the various grey porous cloths that were drafted in to soak it up, like an endless cycle of that bit that they always used to put in sanitary pad commercials, where the blue water would disappear completely into the bulky white strip and be locked in for eternity.

I was beginning to think that my nemesis had the better of me, as I stretched in desperation for the semi absorbent sheath of a discarded sleeping bag when the rain stopped.
It was over.  I had won.  I rooted in and pulled out the cause of the obstruction: a pair of grey knickers and a 5 pence coin.

To the victor the spoils.