Archive for October, 2007|Monthly archive page

What’s with Facebook?

I felt quite hip starting a blog, after all I’m new to this world wide web thing. As you can see my initial enthusiasm has waned a little – partly due to the fact that my Internet access keeps crashing at home and logging on at work is a bit cheeky. But now my fellow course mates on the MA have launched an Alumni blog and a Facebook group.

My only knowledge of Facebook to date has been checking up on Lovely J and her page. Several ‘young people’ here at work use it – but it just seems odd to me.

For a start there’s this option where you enter your status – eg. ‘Sally is pre Halloween’ or ‘Rachel is asleep’ – then there is the fact that you can ‘poke’ people or indeed be ‘poked’ by them. Then people can say they are your ‘friends’ just because they happen to know your name. Very odd. I find it all a little disturbing. Am I just an antisocial old fuddy duddy?

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D.I.V.O.R.C.E.

Freecycle is a wonderful thing – I have just had a spell of giving away stuff. It never ceases to amaze me how in a short space of time I am privy to the private lives of the people I meet  through giving and taking. I know all about one lady’s childhood – she is expecting her second child you see and tells me how she was so lonely as as a youngster, brought up by her mother and wants her child to have company whilst he’s growing up. Another lady it transpires finds herself newly unattached – her husband walked out three weeks ago – so there I am, in the dark, helping her load stuff into the back of her car and giving advice on what to do when you find yourself at 47, having spent the past 20 years with one man, working, raising a family, everything in joint names, suddenly alone. Perhaps there should be a self help book out there on the subject – council tax reductions for lone occupancy, Working Family Tax Credit, EMA for those over 16 still in full time education. It’s a mine field and at a time when most people are left reeling (I’m sure some men too, when the walker-out is wife not husband) the practical things I think are a way of regaining control of a situation. Another lady was asking for stuff for a small dog as she had found one the day before – she lived quite close to me and I emailed asking whether it was a shitzu as one of our neighbours had lost theirs the day before – and strangely enough it was – so dog and owner were reunited. Freecycle is a real community after all, a bunch of disparate odd bods with similar goals, just muddling along with life. Not a bad thing to swap advice as well as stuff.

Everything’s coming in twos

Not a good start to the day – the postal strike over my letter box was bursting this morning – and in the pile of letters, two in my own hand writing – you know what that means? Two rejections from agents. Oh well – plenty more to send to and I did start with the big names first. No feedback, just polite negative response.

Then on up to the allotment to check on the birds – and there I discovered that two of the boys are missing. No signs of death or destruction, breaking or entering. One of the cockerels does seem to be more assertive as the days go by, so I wonder if he has seen off two of his rivals. Laurie said just at the weekend that one had managed to get himself up on top of the coop – from where he could make his way onto the roof of the building adjacent I suppose and so make an escape. I had clipped their wings, but today when I looked they have all but grown back again – time for a round-up and mass clipping.

All was not lost – I had arranged to meet an old friend from the MA (she graduated last year) at Bromley House Library. We had a chat, some coffee and biscuits, made to an ancient recipe (the librarian is writing a book on recipes from the 17th and 18th Centuries and is trialing all the recipes on the members – the result is rather like something the kids would cook though I’m afraid!) Later I took Curly Boy to the allotment and we had a good hunt round for the missing boys, without success.

Back home, spag bol and cups of tea, when another MA buddy called to say that she had received an email with her results – distinction. I rushed to the computer to check my emails – I am over the moon because I passed with distinction too -well done us! I felt quite weepy for a moment.

I must say I couldn’t have done it without My Lovely J (unofficial unpaid babysitter) or Zannee(official unpaid babysitter) and all those long suffering readers (you know who you are) or Middle Sis who coughed up for second year fees until the Access to Learning Fund provided a nice contribution and I could pay her back.  Not forgetting Big Sis (and Middle Sis actually) who did a degree late in life and inspired me to do the same.

I would urge anyone to have a crack at it if they fancy it – I managed to get through a degree and an MA whilst working and raising a family (including the untimely birth of Curly Boy in my final year of the degree) and I’m not alone either, many fellow students were in the same boat – it seems to me the more you take on the more you are able to achieve. For me it allowed my brain breathing space from the daily grind and I think it has also showed my daughter what it is possible to achieve at any stage of life. I recently attended a reading of a paper by a lady from the Open University who cites that in single parent families in the UK boys exceed their parent educationally but girls do not – horrendous! Let’s hope that by watching me My Lovely J will be inspired to go as far as her heart takes her.

Chickens in the house…

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Here’s one of the new girls making like a bush. This particualr hen spends a lot of time just standing here. Now I know you can’t expect miracles, but I thought that they would have got the hang of it by now. The new hens have learned to walk and stand and eat, they even dust bathe and preen themselves a bit. I was over the moon when after only two days they seemed to have grasped the concept of putting themselves away at night. The first few nights we helped them (lifted them in actually) but slowly they seem to have twigged that inside is the safest place to be at night, they leave it a little late for my liking, but they did seem to be going inside. Each night I count them, peering through the pop-hole or through the nesting box hatch. A couple of nights one of them had managed to find herself a spot outside under one of the trees and I would carefully lift her up and stick her in the hen house instead. Tonight there were only four of them inside and I was forced to tippy toe around the garden in the dark with a torch looking for dark brown hens in the dark brown undergrowth – I found them behind a stack of bricks which are waiting to be built into a new porch for the front of the house (as the old one is in danger of falling down with every slam of the door). I know I have to be patient and keep at it and eventually they will learn the way to behave to keep themselves out of trouble. I do wish the same were true of Tall Boy. Admittedly he is in no danger of being eaten, but I have to say if he continues to misunderstand the every day ways of domestic living he may well be in danger of having his head bitten off. My latest tactic is to let him be. God it’s hard! I shall concentrate on training my chicks and leave the young male to his own devices for a while. Wonder how that’ll pan out?

Got a space shuttle in your boot?

Now all the students are back it’s been pretty hectic at work. The day flies by and we seem to be on our feet for most of it. Last night as we reached our cars, Al and I (we park a good fifteen minute walk from work) she turned to me and said, ‘Oh by the way I’ve got that space shuttle in my boot.’ We often speak in riddles to each other so I said nothing, but quietly waited as she unlocked the boot of her car, leant in and pulled out a coal scuttle. I seem to recall she offered this to me several months ago (possibly last winter) as she knew we had a multifuel burner at home. Laughing to myself, I drove home, hoping she’d manage to get a bit of peace and quiet that evening and recharge her batteries. At home I flicked the switch on the kettle and started to make a mug of tea. Tea in, water in, milk in, then calmly lifted the kettle and placed it inside the fridge. So who’s over tired now?

Lovely, Lovely Bones

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Well – I’ve finished it – and it didn’t take long at all. The start was a bit gruelling and I wasn’t sure I really wanted to know the detail of events  – but I kept going and was rewarded with a gentle, honest story. Alice Sebold clearly remembers exactly what it is like to be a young child, and a teenager and understands how it feels to be a parent and married and alone. Even Mr Harvey was written with tenderness and clarity. Each character’s reaction was thoroughly believable as was the community they moved around in. I do hope the film (whenever that gets made) can capture the delicacy of it all as well as the book -if only Frank Capra and Tim Burton could co-direct I would be happy. I will definitely be reading her new book now. And from a writerly perspective, her prose is simple and uncluttered – right up my street. If you haven’t yet read this – give it a go.

School Reunion

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Well here we are – some, not all of us. Our old school building is now home to the junior school and the head teacher had kindly opened up to let us have a wander round for an hour or so. Some of us found our way back to the old rose garden and we took a few photos on the bench. We wandered around the old grounds and marvelled at how we were expected to play rounders on such a steep hill.

I had not returned with trepidation at all, but it is fair to say that some of the girls had. Whilst I was happily drifting through my school years (well not happily all of the time, obviously, a good helping of teenage anxst too) some of my fellow pupils were agonising over home, school, exams, life in general. My demons were well and truly dealt with as they appeared, for others they lay in wait within the walls of the old school building. That aside – we had a massive turn out and the general concensus seemed to be that it was a good day. A fair amount of verbal teacher bashing went on, although some were very fondly remembered. Frau F the German teacher joined us for lunch and she was just like one of the girls. She, along with one of my school friends who is now Director of Public Health for a health authority, helped form my vaguely feminist/political ideals. Frau F’s oral lessons often comprised of translating the Guardian Women’s page into German – I thank her for that!

The day went all too quickly, but was exhausting. We hope to meet up in London sometimes to have another catching-up session. The general topic tended to be ‘you haven’t changed at all.’ The most remarkable thing for me was to discover that for the most part we slipped straight back into our school girl roles from 25 years before and that despite the years it was really as if we had only been apart for a few months. Some of the friendships I formed then have never been equalled since and I sincerely hope that this time I don’t let them slip away.

And how about that thing ‘success’? The main topic was family or partners, whether we were settled after all these years – quite a few girls have packed in the high powered jobs and started new ventures, a dress shop, art degree, homeopathy, pure and simple parenting, even the ‘oldest holiday rep in England’ and the Lovely J-A, our old head girl, has packed it all in to be a writer so I hope to rekindle that friendship and have some long talks with her. Writing? Have I done any? Not for weeks. 

Old girls, new girls…

Too much this weekend – my school reunion with the old girls and the collection of the new girls (battery hens).  I was torn. The very day that I am due to travel to Bath to meet with the girls from school an emergency batch of battery hens were being rescued from a farm in Shropshire, the lovely BHWT called to ask if I would like some. Of course I would! That would mean that Laurie would have to pick them up without me and I’d miss out on the fun.

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This poor old girl hangs around by the fence all on her own. Her bum is pretty bald and she seems quieter than the rest. I called Laurie on Saturday night to find out how the collection had gone. He told me that there were 200 hens in all and he, Curly Boy and Un-Wicked Step-Daughter were third in line for choosing. “We chose six of the best ones!” He proudly announced. I was secretly afraid that he had left some poor shabby girls behind, who were far more deserving of a new home, in favour of strapping chickens. As you can see that is clearly not the case! If our six new girls are the pick of the bunch, goodness only knows what the worst ones are like!

They had no idea how to walk at first and also seem to drop off to sleep every now and then. They have begun to scratch and eat and drink and have even flapped their wings a bit. One of them only has one eye, “didn’t notice that!” Says Laurie. I am secretly pleased, what’s the point of having rescued hens if they don’t look the part? Although I’m not one for naming hens, I quite fancy calling her Bette (eye patch? The Anniversary?)

As Laurie set off to take Un-Wicked-Step-Daughter home, I rounded up the poor girls, showed them the pop-hole and shoved them inside the hen-house. Until they work out that’s where they should be after dusk I am going to have to round them up and stick them in every night – that should be fun as the nights draw in!

So the Old Girls – the Reunion? Well that was interesting and I think I need a good night’s sleep before launching into it. Last night was a late night and I spent an hour or so at the end in a hot tub, in the open air (‘daahling I know its’ chavvy but with my knees it’s the only thing that helps at the end of the day!’ My ex gymnast school chum explained – and who am I to argue?) with a nice mug of tea and a lot of swapping stories of how the day had gone!

Let’s just say that although I harbour no demons from way back then, some of the other girls do!

Lovely Bones

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I noticed today that Alice Sebold has a new book out on 16th October – The Almost Moon. Such cheery topics she writes about! Why then do people urge me to read her? So – armed with a copy of The Lovely Bones I picked up in the local charity shop during the summer, I am off to bed to start to read it. It seems to be one of those books that ‘everybody’ has read and yet when I mentioned it earlier today nobody actually had. I seem to recall Dovegrey Reader mentioning it sometime last month. I’m not too keen on reading gritty stuff, Lucky is a memoir/account of her rape and recovery, Bones about a murder and now Moon about a daughter’s struggle with her mother’s dementia. It’s not that I deny that atrocities occur, or don’t believe they should ever be discussed, but I do find that writing/airing such events can trivialise the impact they have. If Ms Sebold can handle this like Toni Morrison, I’ll be fine, but if it’s a bit of a Dave Pelzer I won’t. I’ll just have to get stuck in and see. Anyone read it?

Norton Antivirus needed…

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Do you know what Graham Norton said on ‘Just A Minute’ (Radio 4 Sunday 30th Sept)?

“Bloggers are people that don’t wash their hair, have no friends and think that someone might want to read what they write.”

Well, so Big Sis tells me – she was listening on Sunday night. Is Mr Norton confusing Bloggers with Saturation-TV-Presenters? STPs are the ones who start off doing one programme, then they do another, then they get a regular slot and then they end up doing the same-old-same-old EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK.  Was it Congreve who said ‘Hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned!’

I am constantly amazed at what I find out from reading other people’s blogs, not to mention being comforted to discover that other people suffer domestic drudgery and come through it brain in tact. Reading blogs is a bit like chatting to a stranger on a train – okay there may be a few nutters and orange eaters out there, but sometimes what they say is funny/valid/touching/thought provoking/worth repeating.

Today for example I have learned that there is a project called Chance UK which organises volunteer mentors for vulnerable children (aged 5-11yrs). I had a crash lesson in the strategy of the 3 for 2 and BOGOHP offers in the booksellers world. I saw a great photograph of colour ordered book shelves. I also learned about a ‘library without a roof’ where homeless readers can borrow books – but can I find the link now? Perhaps if anyone knows where I read about this they’d let me know!

All in all I think blogging is great and I’m fairly hooked. I just don’t meet so many people nowadays, it seems to be work/home/sleep/ with huge dollops of TV, where I am battered with the wit and wisdom of the likes of Mr Norton. If I do meet interesting/funny/odd people I usually have to rush off to work/home/sleep before I get a good chance to have a proper chat. So long live the blog I say! I do have real fleshed out friends but I also enjoy the company of strangers.

(Good old Big Sis – has since added a comment which shows link to library without a roof – click on comments if you want to read it.)