Daily Archives: April 21, 2006

Offsprings’ pride

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Armed Forces) presents his compliments and by Command of the Defence Council has the honour to transmit the enclosed Awards granted for service during the war of 1939-1945: 1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Defence Medal; War Medal 1939-45.

A sibling-conflab has brought us to the conclusion that, to prevent them being thrown away in a down moment or handled by small fingers or lost, the medals should be mounted in an accessible but lockable frame, on a backing of regimental colours. Then will come the dilemma, of course, of when precisely to give them to him!

No concessions

Tickets for guided tours of the newly renovated Smudgie Towers are now available. No discount for group bookings. Wibloggers half price.

I am feeling rather smug myself. What a wonderful week that was – though I was almost (I repeat almost) glad to get back to school for a rest. Everyone commented on how I looked far less tired than I had looked for a long time. I don’t know if less tired was really the word they were looking for, seeing as I was and still am exhausted, but certainly less stressed.

The Monday of the shipmeet my sister drove back to the mainland carrying two small passengers in the back of her car, all laden up with enough clean clothes and videos for five days. Later the same day my brother’s car arrived complete, not only with my brother, but with his entire tool collection and my Dad’s friend from the Midlands. The friend (who has known me since I was still in my mummy’s tummy!) stayed with Dad and, while he was unable to do the actual practical caring side of things, enabled me to switch off from being on call and from feeling the need to keep Dad company while I wasn’t at work. No Smudgelets, no Dad, no school, my brother’s company, and a job to do that was something I’d longed for for ages.

“Don’t worry, I’ll just need you to hold pieces of wood occasionally, or pass me a hammer, or make me a cuppa. You’ll be able to get on with your own things most of the time.” Hmmm… what most of the time would that be, John? We started each morning at six, finished each evening at eight, with a break for a bacon butty at about eleven. In between it was non-stop… and of course after knocking-off-time there was still the tea to make, the dishes to do, Dad to tuck into bed. I ought to have lost a great deal of weight.

But wait till you see the photos. My hall has been repainted. There is a new light fitted. The doors have all (bar one) been replaced with beautiful (if cheap) wooden ones with brass handles, the wood all varnished (by yours truly) and the kitchen (and ultimately the lounge) doors having lovely glass panels which have made the whole place so much lighter. The frames have all been painted – to our surprise they turned out to be metal frames rather than wooden, and with the hinges built in, so we were unable to replace the hinges and I now face the not-so-pleasant task of sanding them all down and painting them with brass-coloured hammerite. There is laminate flooring down in the entrance hall and new carpet ordered for the hall. And the piece-de-resistance? A fantastic new front door courtesy of the insurance company, with a beautiful glass-block panel at the side. It is wonderful. Now to keep it tidy!!!

Tiddles, meanwhile, is paying off the cost of the new door according to the glazier’s estimate of just short of £1000. Naturally he cannot do this with money so he is doing it by labour, at a rather generous rate of £5 an hour. It’s having fantastic impact on his understanding of the value of money. I was rather amused, however, to find him trying to convince an eager Smudgelet of the joys of sanding down door frames – somehow he’d found that after the first two hours it became a slightly less enjoyable task, but he wasn’t letting on to his little gullible brother if he thought the latter might offer to do some for him ! They both laughed later when I read them the story of Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence.

My brother has now gone and my home is in disarray. I have a to-do list as long as my arm, most of it needing doing before the carpet comes on Wednesday. Bother. And the trouble with the glass doors is that you can’t close the door and ignore all the mess in the kitchen and lounge. Ho hum.

The laugh of it is, the doors were replaced because Tiddles had damaged nearly all of them. As we went around labelling the old doors so that we knew which way round they went when using them as templates for cutting the new ones, my brother got a bit carried away and doodled all over the lounge door. When the delivery from B&Q arrived, they were missing one door. Guess which one!!!! Still, one good thing is that, because they were unable to get the door to us in time, they have promised that they will pay a carpenter to come and fit it for me. My brother was delighted – one less lock to chisel out! But in the meantime, I am left with one door which rather undermines the effect of the hall… “Kilroy was here!”

Shipmeet

It was a miracle. My home was habitable by the time they arrived… just. Well, what you could see of it was, at any rate.
It was a veritable invasion. A smaller group than previously, but in many ways even nicer because of it. And with the exception of the boat trip being cancelled due to a wonky walkway needing welding, it was a surprisingly snag-free weekend with good food, a good mix of things to do and relatively little convoy driving because the drivers tended to know their way around. I love chances like this, not only to show off my little island which I love so much, but also to revel in its beauty myself afresh through the eyes of others.

Most odd, my mantlepiece seems suddenly to be home to a glass bottle full of multicoloured sand, a beautiful dancing glass penguin, and a golden parsnip wearing a beret and a smug smile!

The special day

I can’t believe it’s that long since I blogged. One minute I was thinking to myself “I am too tired to blog this now, I’ll do it tomorrow”, the next I was up to my armpits in cleaning, then surrounded by shippy types invading the Island and decimating my cleaning, then up to my armpits in sawdust which totally finished the job. Now I am contemplating the cleaning again (what a week for my “lady who does” to become a “lady who doesn’t” due to a sickness bug. I wonder if she knew!)

I recall I was going to tell you about the special day. If I can do it without crying, that is. If you notice a few sodden blobs on the page, that’ll be me.

As you may remember me mentioning before, i do my utmost to have a “special day” with each of the Smudgelets from time to time, a day when I get rid of the other one by locking him in a cupboard or some such and concentrate on doing fun things with one boy on his own. This day was Tiddles’ day, a much needed occurance after the series of tantrums and wrong-doings lately and the feeling that our relationship was somewhat marred. I’d also picked up that his self-esteem seemed to be at an all-time low and I thought a bit of special attention might help redress the balance.

He’d been fed up, it seems, as he was beginning to realise that Smudgelet outshines him in many things which the world prizes – Smudgelet’s school work comes easy to him, he draws well, he is less musical than Tiddles but is doing well with music because he is better at learning to understand the written notes, he’s proving good at cooking and can read the recipes easily, and he’s gaining Cub badges at a tremendous rate. He’s also making noticable progress with his swimming where Tiddles has plateaued a little.

Tiddles skills are less tangible – though actually far more important. He can work cooperatively on things; he can understand how someone else might be feeling and can, by instinct, help them without being patronising; he can listen; he can ignore it when people tease him; he is open and caring and enjoys helping people out. But, of course, he doesn’t see these as skills. So that Wednesday was an important opportunity for me to talk to him about what he was good at, in the course of conversation, and emphasise how much I enjoyed spending time with my grown-up son.

Good for talking, but not a good day for doing. Typical Isle of Wight. Although the Easter Holidays were the two weeks prior to Easter Day, there had been no allowance for this in any of the planning and nowhere was actually open until the last Sunday of the holidays. We drove from place to place, all in vain. It was three o’clock by the time we gave it up as a bad job and decided to drive home and watch Star Wars together… for which we just had time before the return of the Smudgelet at five. But on the spur of the moment I turned, instead, into Brickfields Horse Country and organised for Tiddles to have an impromptu riding lesson. He was the only customer so it was one-to-one.

I regretted my idea instantly. He was so excited and so nervous that he became unbearable while we waited, talking in his baby voice and jumping up and down and being really silly. I couldn’t think which would be worse, a sullen teenager or a display of immaturity, but I dreaded witnessing his silliness from the side of the riding school… but it was too late to back out now.

In he went, hard hatted, and was taught how to mount the rather lovely horse that he was to ride. I was gobsmacked – all of a sudden he was intelligent and attentive, conversing in an adult manner with the instructor and asking sensible questions….. and listening to her instructions with concentration and thought. So far, so good. Off they set at a walk. She watched… and then called the owner of the stables over to watch with her. Then she got the lunge rein and tried him at a trot. Initially he bounced up and down all over the place and he, like I, was a mass of giggles… but she let him giggle and then told him to calm down and feel for the movement of the horse. And what do you know – a beautiful rising trot!

She came running over. “I know that you probably don’t want to hear this, and I know that it’s expensive and this was only a one-off, but this boy MUST learn to ride. Many parents fork out endless money on their children and I try gently to tell them not to bother because they’ll never get their money’s worth, but your son simply has to ride, even if only once a month. He’s bl***y brilliant!” Then she laughed and said “But I see you can see that already, bless you. You’re crying with pride!”

Needless to say, the money will be found. Dad’s offered to pay in the first instance, and several friends have given some money towards it as they’re so pleased at the impact it’s made on his self esteem. Add to it the fact that he spent some time during the holidays working with my brother-in-law and some time working with the “Men’s Club” at church (doing maintainance work) and the school have nominated him for six free sailing lessons… and he seems to have grown a whole new outlook on life over the holidays.

He’s still lost his football boots again, though!

Proof that children don’t listen to teachers

I couldn’t believe it – not a single smirk, not a snigger, not even a suppressed smile from any of the Year Eight boys that my colleague was telling off during playground duty this breaktime.

I felt a bit embarrassed to find I was the only one forced to fight back the giggles when I overheard the following statement. They really can’t have been listening to a word she said as can you imagine a group of thirteen-year-old boys not having something to say about this?

“You have heard the playground rules often enough. You must keep your hands off the other boys’ balls” !