Monthly Archives: January 2005

Clean at last

Well, so much for getting up early to pamper myself with a luxurious bath. An actual weekend at a health farm would have been rather nice, it has to be said, but as that was an impossibility, an hour soaking in a deep warm bubblebath with all the trimmings (courtesy of my sister who bought me a “do it yourself spa” kit for Christmas) seemed just the pampering a woman’s weekend should begin with. Especially after all that exercise yesterday. (What do you mean, I only got there for the last ten minutes? It’s the thought that counts!)

The boys were going out at 9.30 so a seven o’clock start to the day made that quite achievable. Until I went round to Dad’s, that is, and discovered that he’d had a terrible night and needed some drastic help sorting out the kitchen floor and hall carpet and the clothes which had somewhat suffered. So the foaming water I had been looking forward to was suddenly replaced with a bucket of Flash and a mop.

I bustled the Smudgelets up the hill to the bus stop, nagging en route about untidy bedrooms and lack of music practice and towels on the bathroom floor as you do, and bustled myself back thinking, this is it. Perhaps it is better to luxuriate in total peace and quiet with the whole morning at my disposal, even if I have got housework to do. A quick cup of coffee and then….. drat, the phone. It’s Dad. “I’d like you to come round at 10.30 because the woman from Wightcare is coming round to show me the emergency pendant”. Bother. A luxuriating bath in half an hour? Nope, it had better wait until she’s gone.

Round I go, dutiful daughter that I am, to await the arrival of the Wightcare warden. Dad’s quite relaxed about it – I’d arranged for her to visit against his wishes reallyas he’s adamant he’s not going to have one of these pendants because £250 a year is just too much money to pay out for something he hopes never to use. The service is brilliant – an emergency phone and emergency pendant which contact a control centre and put you through to someone immediately who’ll either contact next of kin, phone for an ambulance or send a warden round to help you. Everyone recommends them and almost all the elderly people I know use them. But dad? Oh no, he doesn’t need something like that.

Typically there’s a phone call. The warden has been delayed by a call-out but is on her way. We wait. And we wait. And we wait. It’s actually quite pleasant, sitting there nattering over a cup of coffee. Eventually she arrives – an hour and a half later. It’s not her fault. It was a serious emergency which she had to go to at the other end of the Island – an ill and elderly lady had fallen and her carer couldn’t lift her – and the message should have said that she’d be there as soon as she could rather than that she was on her way. She sits down with a cuppa to explain their service to Dad and suddenly her mobile rings. The old lady has tried to get out of bed and fallen again. The warden is needed elsewhere. She’s very apologetic and makes an appointment for this afternoon – poor woman.

Dad, of course, now feels fully justified in refusing to have a pendant. They’d be far too busy to respond if he were in need. They just don’t know how to prioritise. If she’s showing him the pendant, she should be showing him the pendant and shouldn’t go dashing off doing other things! And if that old lady was going to keep falling, she should be in a home! You know, it’s really strange to see my Dad, who was always such a diligent carer for others, become so self-centred in his old age, although I know full well it’s a natural part of the aging process.

Bath time? Not a chance. It’s now only half an hour until the Smudgelets need picking up from the bus stop. No time for anything much, except to type out the order of service for the LA service I’m leading tomorrow. Then home to get another five loads of washing on (where do all these clothes come from?) and prepare the lunch. But at last the time has come. A wonderful hour of deep relaxation (including a rather interesting hot charcoal facemask which I had visions of being a permanent feature!) and now I feel ready for anything…. just in time to go round to Dad’s and meet with the Wightcare woman.

Danger, woman at work!

I always said ironing should be banned! I am sitting here in great pain and personal distress after a severe ironing injury. IN fact, I’m probably bleeding to death as I type – sacrificing my own health in order to bring you this safety announcement. The attack was brutal and without warning. I mean, I only lifted the ironing board up to move it out of the way of the gas fire, and it by-near sliced the top of my little finger off. Blood everywhere. Ever tried to remove the paper cover off a plaster while losing pints of blood through the end of your little finger?

The latest news at school is rather dire… least said, soonest mended about a deficit in the budget of, apparently, £30,000 and a form to fill in to justify why it shouldn’t be our job that goes….

Perfect opportunity for exercise – a group of us teachers are meeting together after school on a Friday afternoon (I have to nip back, but at least it isn’t far!) and are going to do the “Salsacise” video together. It was rather good tonight, with the DVD playing on the interactive whiteboard in one of the maths classrooms and the four of us cavorting around the desks and chairs trying frantically to coordinate the dance moves and look rhythmic and supple. If nothing else it exercised the stomach muscles of the cleaners trying desperately not to laugh too much!

Answers on a postcard…

OK, why do I love teaching so much? More to the point, why on earth do I enjoy teaching in a school where the kids just don’t want to learn? I must need my head looking at. Honestly, if the authorities really think that the reason our results are so unimpressive is simply because we have a three-tier system, they should come and listen to some of the kids we teach and see how their barriers to learning are so difficult to break down.

Take parents’ evening, for example. I requested to see thirty sets of parents. How many came in? Five, only one of whom was one I’d requested to see (and typically my appointments were spread out with an hour between each, so I had to spend my entire evening in school!) I set homework and, when I come to collect it in, I am greeted with “I haven’t done it”. Then, when I set a detention after the third such event I get letters from parents saying that they won’t allow me to pick on their child like that. And the latest game – believe it or not – is for half my year 8 class to declare that they don’t intend to come to my maths lesson because I expect them to work and get cross if they don’t. So we start every lesson with a debate on who precisely would like to come and learn something and who doesn’t see why they should.

For a moment or two the boot was on the other foot on Tuesday as I found myself getting increasingly nervous before my massage class. I have finally decided that my Tuesday night treat is too difficult to organise with it becoming less straightforward to leave the boys with Dad overnight, but instead of letting me simply drop out of the course, the college were fantastic and organised for me to have 1:1 tuition with another tutor on a Tuesday afternoon instead. All hunkydory until I go for the first session and she announces that the best way forward is for me to do a complete massage unaided and for her to watch and assess me! Oh, the nerves! The pressure! As the day drew nearer I felt more and more nervous and, if a reason had cropped up why I couldn’t actually go, I am sure I would have been nothing short of delighted! I couldn’t remember the routine at all, and couldn’t even make any sense of my notes.

Needless to say, all my worry was totally unfounded. I could remember most of it and the tutor was brilliant at giving me guidance on the bits I’d forgotten. (She was actually quite complimentary, but I think she was just making me feel a bit better!) I thoroughly enjoyed it, and learned more in those two hours than I had learned in the weeks I’d done before Christmas. Hmm.. the only trouble with this 1:1 teaching, mind, is that I don’t actually get a massage myself!

Fixed or variable? Who cares?

I thought I’d see whether I could do anything to reduce my mortgage payments just to help out now that my salary is reduced so I launched myself into the great mortgage morass where everyone is vying to outbid the other in attractive yet incomprehensible deals which lure you in and then slam the door shut behind you while laughing malevolently at your foolishness.

When I first bought, I took out a fixed rate mortgage at.. believe it or not… 13.7% … just months before a slump in the market took interest rates down to around 7%. Then when the time came that I needed to move home, the value of my flat had dropped by £10,000 leaving me in negative equity (and that was 1/3 of the total value of the flat!!!). Now, apparently, the endowment mortgage I was advised to take out is looking likely to have a shortfall of about £20,000 which means that my planned early retirement at 55 is completely out of the window, and my hopes of lowering my mortgage right now is non-existant. Great! The additional payments I put in to increase my pension are also, apparently, now worthless – enough for me to retire about five minutes early! I love playing with finances. So now the decision remains – fixed rate or variable rate? My sister put her finger on the answer – that I already knew which was going to prove financially most profitable (or least disasterous)…… whichever one I don’t choose! Maybe I could make my millions selling this foolproof method of judging the future market 😀

Another rather unsettling piece of news has broken this weekend which has rather made it clear how difficult it is to plan ahead. The recommendation has been made (and first we heard of it was reading it on the front page of the local paper, of course!) that the Island should change from the 3 tier to the 2 tier school system. The Island’s poor results in the SAT tests are blamed on our middle school system – no mention of the Island mentality towards learning, of course, and a populace who are primarily unmotivated by education per se. So apparently within the next four years the Middle school – a system which I wholeheartedly support as a really good one for the all-round development of children – is probably to be phased out. And with it my job as a part time special needs Maths teacher. Hmmm… would I rather work with the extremely rewarding but less challenging (and harder work) primary age range or the differently rewarding and more challenging secondary age range which would let me specialise and work part time, but would involve less of the building of relationships which makes primary teaching so special? Or do I give it all up and go for something else? Massage? Could do, though would it cover my increasing mortgage and would I cope with the lack of security? Or… oh no, no, no, God … that little thought just isn’t even remotely funny…..

I’ll keep you posted on my decision regarding the mortgage, just in case you want to make an investment and need to know which way the market is going to go!

Ahem

Two days ago I was feeling somewhat miserable because I was missing my Dad.
He’s been back two days now.

Naturally he’s going to feel a bit of anti-climax coming home to the old routine and the old loneliness. He’s been pampered and looked after for a week and a half by one daughter and a week and a half by the other. For that time they’ve cancelled all their commitments (apart from their part time work, of course) so they can be with him and give him a good holiday. He’s bound to come down to earth with a bump.

But it has made him realise something. They are doing all this for him simply because they want to. They had all the time in the world for him. Me? I am always dashing off and he has to make an appointment to see me. When I go over at 6.45 to take him his cup of tea and help him get up, I am only willing to stay for a quarter of an hour and I don’t make his breakfast. When he wants to talk his finances through with me just ten minutes before I am due to go to church where I’m playing the organ, I don’t make time for him, I put him off till later that day. And I only care for him because I’m paid to do it*

I was a good girl. I resisted the temptation to say “Well, why don’t you go and move in with them, then?” and remembered how much I love him and how horrible it was to think of him being gone…. but it was a tough call 😉

*I have to admit my sister was right. She said that if I let him give me a weekly sum to cover the cost of his groceries and the cleaning lady who comes weekly rather than me work out his precise percentage of the food I buy and giving him a bill for it, he’d come to see it as him paying me a wage as his carer rather than him contributing to our expenses as a family.

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By the way, I had to giggle at you being drawn into my “Dream romance”. It caught me out too – the dream was so realistic that several times during the day I had to stop myself phoning my sisters to tell them about this wonderful man I’d met on holiday! Silly really – I knew it couldn’t be true. After all, I can’t afford a holiday in a luxury hotel in London 🙂 Hee hee hee

Exciting news

OK, I am going to let you in on a big secret. I have finally met the man of my dreams.
We’re very much in love. It started as a holiday romance – he accidentally mistook the room I was sharing with my sister on a treat of a trip to London as his own room and, to apologise for accidentally walking in and disturbing us he offered to take us on a tour of the city. And it all progressed from there.
He’s not exceptionally handsome, but handsome enough for me, and definitely handsome in character. He’s witty and generous and kind and romantic and, in a word, just perfect. And last night he proposed to me…

Shame the alarm clock had to go off, really! 😉

Emptiness

Funny how things build up inside, isn’t it? For me and for the kids.

Tiddles had a tantrum tonight. I reckon it was the after-effects of his weekend away when sleep was not at a premium, followed by Scouts on Monday night (my mistake – and one I keep making too!) and my parents’ evening on Tuesday night meaning yet another late night for the boys. Smudgelet’s tiredness manifested itself in tears last night as his sorrow for his birth family came to a head. (How precisely do you tell a seven-year-old boy that some of his siblings just don’t want to have contact with him, when he’s so desperate to cling to anyone who has special meaning in his life? Last night demanded the wisdom of Solomon) and tonight Tiddles’ came to a head with a spectacular tantrum – the worst yet and quite scary.

The reason? I wouldn’t let him stay up late to watch his Harry Potter video (the one Smudgelet isn’t allowed to watch yet because it’s too scary). He took his anger out on his little brother, then on me and his room and it escalated to the point where I took the little one next door to Dad’s empty bungalow to sleep and had to leave Tiddles trashing his bedroom and screaming blue murder… at least until the emtiness of our own home got to him and reduced him to tears and wanting his mummy to hold him tight and keep him safe from all the accumulated anger and misery. I wish I could handle his anger better, without getting angry myself – but it’s so difficult when it’s my little one who’s having to witness his outbursts. A bit of a scary night for all three of us.

A strange parallel, though, as we sat in my Dad’s bungalow. Smudgelet was fast asleep in bed, Tiddles was lying on the sofa by my side, trying to go to sleep through the tears (lovely moment when Charlie crept in and curled up by his side and let him stroke him) and I was sitting in a chair with the lights dimmed and the radio on. The same emptiness filled me. I know where it had come from, mind. My elderly neighbour is in hospital and his wife is unwell (through the stress of caring for him – please remember them both in your prayers) and she’d been talking about how unpleasant it is sitting alone and feeling so vulnerable. And today I face the task of writing to my friend in Scotland after the death of her husband – a vibrant man full of life, my brother’s best friend, a man who just simply cannot not be. And as I sat there in the semi-darkness in the unlived-in bungalow, it suddenly felt as though my Dad had died and I was sitting in an empty home to which he wouldn’t return. It was no good, I had to wake the children and return home to my own bed as I couldn’t bring myself to sleep in his. I am so so glad he is coming home tomorrow.

Boring decluttering blog #5

It’s a bit of a shame the Smudgelet’s have to come home – even more of a shame that I have to go to school tomorrow. I’m doing soooooooooo well. Mind you, I’ll grant you that part of the progress is because I have dumped about six box-loads of stuff in Dad’s kitchen, using it as a temporary spare room while he’s away. And I’ll grant you that the place currently looks an absolute tip as my entire lounge is scattered in various piles around the room and the hall, and my kitchen is swamped with washing at various stages of clean-and-dryness. In fact, having just returned from the tip, I can assure you that it is a lot tidier there!

But two loads of junk have gone from the garage to the tip so that is now clear of everything apart from the childrens’ garden toys and some tools and tins of paint. There’s just the floor to sweep and that’s a job I know Tiddles will love, so I’ve left that for him to do. (Nothing to do, of course, with the millions of dispossessed woodlice and spiders and earwigs running round in there.) It took a bit of willpower to close my eyes and tip out three boxes of damp and mildewed books which I hadn’t realised I’d left in there and which were totally beyond repair. But it’s done now, and they are no longer there to haunt me with guilt.

Next job, before I continue rehoming all the junk from behind the curtain, is to sort out my paperwork into my filing cabinet. Oh, and I suppose I had better make sure the Smudgelets have some freshly ironed school uniform to wear tomorrow.