Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Everything you need to know about primary school.

Youngest dancing at the Year 6 Leavers' party last night

Here we are limping to the end of the school term like walking wounded. Totally exhausted and strung out by school/work/home/family/social life.

But it's not just the end of the school year for us, it's the end of primary school forever, the end of 13 long - "Here's your book bag and your P.E. kit, not forgetting the packed lunch and oh my God why have lost your swimming kit again!" filled years. 

All this has been well documented in this blog already, so here instead are my top tips to parents who are ABOUT to embark on the primary school years...

1.) When you arrive it's like freshers at uni. Don't rush into friendships you may later regret, bide your time, watch the lie of the land. Don't be tempted to talk to that extrovert mother with that crowd around her, she'll be the fruitcake (there's always one) or the sociopath. Or both. You will make lots of mum-friends in due course and they will be the very best ones you ever have.

2.) Don't be the one at the front of the queue in the morning always telling teacher little Johnny has a cold and might need some extra TLC. The other mums will hate you. And so will the teacher.

3.) Keep well clear of the PTA. Even if you only plan to volunteer for the first few years and then slip quietly back to work - or a life - they now have your email and your mobile phone number so you can NEVER ESCAPE.

4.) Make friends with the head teacher. If he is a man flirt like hell, flatter his ego, laugh at his jokes, buy him coffee, dance with him at the PTA disco. Up close. Those Golden Awards don't come out of thin air you know. 

5.) School trips. Pick wisely. Some are all day long and involve taking public transport. They will give you five boys under six to supervise, two with behavioural difficulties, and one will pull the emergency cord on the Tube. When you finally get home you will be so traumatised you have to lie in a darkened room for the rest of the evening as your offspring jump up and down on top of you demanding fish fingers. 

Some, however, are only for half a day, involve an air conditioned coach to whisk you there and back, you get to sit next to an adult (or even your own child!) and upon arrival you picnic on the lawn at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Pick that one. And don't ever say, "Oh excuse me, I don't think you saw when my son had his hand up to answer that question."

6.) School projects. Do them yourself. I've experimented with both approaches over the years. Leave it all to him and he will fail - no accolade, no called-in-to-see-the-Head-for-a-sticker and no show in assembly. Do it yourself, stay up all night, slog your guts out and the stickers/accolades/shows in assembly will rain down upon him. The Head will say, "Wow you really worked hard on this one, Johnny," when both he and you and everyone else in the room knows full well Johnny was sound asleep last night while you were up slaving over a gold spray paint can, getting high on the fumes.

7.) Never complain. Your child isn't in the swimming team? The athletics team? The debating team? On the school website? Showing in assembly? The school play? Ever. Tough. Bury your bitterness and smile. No one likes a whinger and some teachers can be vindictive. You'll never get the Golden Award that way (did I say 'you'? Freudian slip there.)

8.) Book bags. Look in them. A lot. There is ALWAYS a crumpled letter at the bottom telling you that tomorrow is an inset day, or that your child should come dressed in pyjamas, or wearing a red nose, or walking on his hands (last one is a joke, others are not).

9.) Packed lunches. Try and avoid making them at all costs. School lunch might be slop but someone else does it and it doesn't sweat itself to death in a plastic container all day. 

10.) Last but not least buy the teachers presents. Lots of them. God knows they can be a miserable lot at times, sending home endless missives and instructions at the drop of a hat so that you want to kill them, but really, it's a tough job for paltry pay and would you want to do it? 

Would you heck.

P.S. The very best thing about primary school is the friends for life that you make there. Here's me with one in the playground.


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Friday, 12 July 2013

Driving around south London with a bit of the Sistine Chapel.

All this week I've been driving around with a piece of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in the back of my car. Adam, to be precise. A large framed print, you understand, not the actual fella off the ceiling. I've nearly been decapitated by him on more than one occasion when braking suddenly at lights.

When I collected three boys from the school playground on Tuesday after play rehearsals and before taking them to tennis, I had to remove Adam, with his teeny willy on show to all and sundry, and prop him up against our knackered old Vauxhall Zafira in order to rearrange the rest of the contents back there so I could squeeze in the boys. 

The contents included (and at time of writing still include, because I haven't got round to taking them to a charity shop yet): a rusty Gaggia coffee machine, a tiny portable non-digital TV and a bag of lacy old bras (now too small for me, ha!). 

This is not how I saw my life panning out, I thought, as I tried to reach into the back of the car and cover the bras with an old Ikea car blanket, while strategically placing my leg in front of poor Adam's privates, or maybe I should call them his 'gentleman's ends'? as a small child famously once described them in front of us in the queue for the bungee jump at Legoland (he was worried about what the harness was going to do to his bits). 

By now I should be driving brand new red soft top mini round south London, or even Wiltshire, having just sold novel, or even second novel, about to buy villa in Italy, or even second villa, where I will overwinter in order to write newly snapped-up-by-Hollywood screenplay...

I didn't envisage driving around south London in knackered old Zafira with unsold remnants of mildly successful car boot sale in the back (it was in Battersea, Sunday afternoon, we forgot the Wimbledon mens' single finals would be on when we booked it).

On the upside we're not so broke that we have to buy all our clothes - and our children's clothes - from a car boot sale in a car park in Battersea, as many of those poor sods we were selling to apparently did. 

They really were walking away from a pair of jolly nice only-slightly-out-of-fashion-trousers because they were 50p over budget, and didn't come back when we called out we were willing to haggle. (Come to think of it, maybe that large man with the acne didn't really like my discarded purple GAP bootlegs in the first place, and was only feigning interest out of politeness?) 

Mind you, he/they could have got the whole bally lot for free if they'd just hung about in our street for a day or so longer. When I got back from delivering the boys to tennis, I failed to realise all the back windows were down - and left them like that all night.

Strangely, not a single hard-up person, strolling down our street over the next 24 hours (and believe me there are many) was minded to reach in and relieve me of Michelangelo's Adam... or a rusty Gaggia machine... or a battered TV set... or even some sexy old bras. And they didn't want to relieve us of the knackered old Zafira either. Funny that. 

And quite a big shame.

Here's all the tat we were trying to sell in preparation for kitchen clear out. Builder coming a week on Monday! Yikes.


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Friday, 5 July 2013

I think I'll try internet dating, or maybe sexting...

Husband and I are watching TV when an advert for the internet dating site eharmony comes on. 

"I'd like to go on a date with a man," I say. 

I look round at Husband who is sitting on the chair behind me. 

He looks up from his paper. 

"I'd like to have a man sit across from me at a dinner table and ask me about myself...." I add. 

Husband looks at me. He is smiling. Which is good. 

"How would you describe yourself on a dating site?" I say. 

Husband continues to look at me... he is waiting for the sting in the tail... which is coming... 

"You know, apart from saying that you're 6 foot tall, of course." 

There it was. 

You see, Husband famously told me he was 6 foot tall when I first met him (I had a rule about this) and I remember thinking he was the shortest 6-footer I'd ever met.

Husband picks up his phone. 

"Are you just going to ignore me and text someone?" I ask.

"No," Husband says, "I'm texting you."

Ten minutes later I get a text. I wonder who that is from? I think. (I have a very short memory.) 

It says - "6 ft, fitter than he looks, professional, ruggedly handsome but somewhat moody, solvent for the time being chap, seeks busty blonde MILF for fun and good time. Discretion assured."

So I send one back. 

It says - "Slim, looks younger than she is, looks bustier than she is, professionally frustrated, totally broke, blonde, can't promise much fun and good times, more like drudgery and lots of argy-bargey but cooks a nice dinner and keen for chats and affection. Discretion not necessary."

I think we might be incompatible.


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