Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Spring Fever

It happens every year - I don't know how, but it does. The clocks change, the evenings become lighter and after seemingly endless months of feeling as if I've been shrouded in an opaque black blanket, I start to feel ever so slightly human again.

Autumn & Winter 2008 were as I'd expected them to be, I experience a feeling of disappearing and by the time the year has turned to that awkward bit of time before Spring occurs, I disappeared into a very dark place indeed. The awkward bit this year was far, far worse than I'd ever been through before. I could see nothing but black and I could find no way out. This time, had it not have been for The Joshua (who needs a Mum who can at least give some semblance of haphazard parenting skills), it would have taken very little ... oh, really SO very little, for me to have become completely agoraphobic. Thank heavens, Josh needs taking to and collecting from school, that he needs to be fed and clothed, that he needs to get to see his friends and that he has to have someone to talk to when he's at home (or, perhaps, more accurately - someone to talk at ... but as he does ask questions later, it's preferable to pay a modicum of attention to what he's saying). So, I've had to keep "functioning" and my business doesn't run itself. And I've kept "going" but with the near constant, underlying and uncomfortable feeling that what I really needed to do was to succumb to the temptation of allowing myself to be where every instinct of my being was telling me that was where I needed to be ... possibly, in order to let it pass?

But, on Sunday, the clocks changed and daytime suddenly became a longer prospect. By Monday, the annual and mysterious recurrence of my BST "human" persona appeared this time with avengeance. And this year, I have a very hopeful feeling about the Spring and Summer months. A crystal ball would be so useful because I don't know what will happen in the forthcoming weeks and months but I'm very optistic about whatever it may turn out to be. It will be right.

Spring fever? Could well be!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Memento Moggy - The Sad Dead Mog Blog

Sweepy (1992 - 2009) - RIP

I think I may be writing this as cat-harsis. (Thought I'd better get THAT one out of the way).

I'm going to have to revise my biography. We no longer have two cats as dear little Sweepy died this morning. He'd had a good innings and died in his favourite sun-bathing position in the garden.

He gambolled cutely into our lives with his brother Sooty 17 years ago. Their father was a Siamese and their Mum was a black farm cat. They were both jet black but with Siamese features and voices.

They lived quite happily in our old house which was spacious enough for them to avoid our old German Shepherd dog, Tilly. When we moved into our current, smaller house, the two cats took up residence in our shed where they seemed happier.

Sweepy was always the more "challenged" of the two cats - he was cross-eyed (often a feature of Siamese cats) and I presume that he saw two of everything. Poor thing always used to bump into the dog that WAS there!

He disappeared for about six weeks when we moved to Bournemouth and turned up miles away from our home in a desperately thin, hungry and dishevelled state. He made a full recovery after several days and nights of being hand-fed and wrapped up in a towel with a warm hot water bottle ... usually on my lap. His brother also disappeared for a while when we moved but he fared much better - on the flat roof of a "greasy spoon" where he was fed with chicken each day.

Over the past year or so both cats have been getting thinner and their jet black fur was liberally interspersed with the pure white tell-tale strands of feline old age. Sweepy, in particular, in recent weeks, had been staggering around - I think he may have had a stroke. However, he didn't appear to be in any pain and whenever we went into the shed, he still came to us for strokes and cuddles but today he ran out of energy and decided that he'd had enough.

I've surprised myself by feeling more than a little upset as the day has worn on. Not least because I fear that the end may also be nigh for his brother. Apart from when they both disappeared, they've been inseparable - always slept curled up together and now Sooty won't have his brother and playmate to keep him company.

In the great scheme of things, the passing of a cat really doesn't matter too much. Josh was far more upset when our old dog died. He chatted to me about Sweepy for about five minutes earlier today but then his new scooter took precedence and, of course, he has Ethel and Valerie, the wonder gerbils to take care of (or to watch whilst either DH or I take care of them ... I knew that would happen).

So the challenged little cat with the cheerful face and baby like miaow is no more - but I'll remember him.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

A little light lunacy to end the day

There is something about Twitter that occasionally makes me very naughty indeed.

I'm not usually a naughty person but every now and then, I simply can't help myself and I end up writing tweets that may cause the person reading them to believe that either I am being very serious or that I am entirely ga-ga. Ga-ga as in "founder member of the seriously barking mad society".

Earlier this week, I was surprised - nay, thrilled - to discover that I was being followed by @therightcast.

When I see someone new in my "follow box", my habit is to read their biography and, if they have a website, I take a peek at that, too. Oh, I hit lucky with @therightcast. It is a website advertising jobs for actors, singers, dancers and all things theatrical.

Marvellous, I thought. After nearly 53 years on this planet, SOMEONE has finally recognised my extraordinary talent. I thought, "I must tweet them immediately" - and I did.

I asked them if they were aware of any suitable singing and dancing jobs in the UK ... the following conversation ensued:

@RedMummy we have lots of casting notices online check them out: http://tinyurl.com/dksmbs there might be a job waiting.

I followed their advice and, indeed, was happy to discover that there are going to be auditions for a new Disney stage production in London, so I wrote to them as follows:

@therightcast This is very good news. Could you recommend a voice coach so that I can apply for forthcoming UK Disney production as a singer

I eagerly awaited their response.

@RedMummy I don't know much about the voice scene in the UK, sorry.

Needless to say, I was rather upset at this minor setback and slightly aggrieved that they didn't know much about the "voice scene" but I'm an optimistic person and tweeted back ...

@therightcast I will make some enquiries of my own & revert to you when I can sing like Barbra Streisand.

I'm saddened and quite puzzled that they don't seem to be following me any longer.

It's not in my nature to be too downcast for too long and today I was followed by @DailyGay. Hooray! Now's my opportunity to fulfil a lifelong ambition. I welcomed them most politely and tweeted:

@dailygay I would like to apply to become a gay icon. Could you let me know if you have any vacancies?

At this point in time, I haven't heard back from them but I remain hopeful - and, of course, the minute I do hear from them, I shall blog about it to keep you up-to-date.

I wonder if Henry Root's on Twitter?

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Longest Hour

Saturday started off in much the same vein as most of our Saturdays do. DH was in a benevolent mood and generously let me have a lie-in. Josh was happy and just a tad more boisterous than his usual exuberant self as he'd invited a friend round to play in the afternoon.

The afternoon arrived rather sooner than I expected as I hadn't quite finished luxuriating in my lazy Saturday morning. DH, continuing in his mood of benevolence, decided to take the dogs along with Josh and his friend for a walk across the Common. How sensible, thought I! He'll wear the dogs out and the boys can run around playing frisbee, chasing each other or hunting for the newly acquired boomerang which never does seem to come back regardless of however closely we follow the instructions.

Josh had mooted the possibility that Daddy could walk the dogs whilst he and his friend played in the local storage area for spliff butt-ends, used condoms and syringes. I believe that Bournemouth Borough Council calls the area "a playground". This possibility was negated immediately by the cruel Mummy on the grounds that the apparatus in the so-called "playground" was far more suited to children much younger than Josh and his friend and, invariably, the "children" frequenting the playground were, given its catchment area, doubtless parents themselves and given to roughly shoving aside those kids who genuinely wanted to play. DH and I both agreed and voiced our opinion that a good run along the Common would be a far better prospect for two little boys with excess energy to burn off. So with those instructions clearly ringing in their ears, the intrepid walkers set off ...

I installed myself comfortably in front of the computer and settled down for an hour or so of uninterrupted twittering.

After about 20 minutes, my 'phone rang. I answered it and heard the words that no mother wants to hear. An uneasy silence then the voice of a husband trying very hard to sound calm and "matter-of-fact", asking "Is Josh at home with you?"

Well, of course he wasn't and neither was his friend.

I'm writing this well before the watershed and cannot therefore repeat the response I gave to the now not so terribly "Dear" Husband.

Keys grabbed, bag grabbed, 'phone grabbed and into the car. Poor car's suspension may never recover from several high speed launches into mid air over the "traffic calming" humps in our road. I parked at the Common and began hunting for two children. They were nowhere to be seen.

Several more increasingly fraught telephone exchanges between DH and I ensued. No-one batted an eyelid in the playground as I was using vernacular that was everyday speech to the people who frequent it.

I gave up looking in the playground and jogged the entire length of the Common peering behind bushes and trees as I huffed and puffed my way along. I saw lots of children but none of them were "mine".

By this point in time, I was already rehearsing the appeal I would make on TV that night and the cinema in my head was replaying every horrifying occurrence involving lost children that I'd ever seen.

My 'phone rang once more. My hands were trembling as I answered it. A very small voice said "Hello Mummy, I'm back at the house".

Tearful and exhausted I went back to the car and drove back home.

I did that "bad Mummy" thing of not waiting for explanations and just ushered Josh's friend into my car and took him back to his parents.

When I re-appeared at home, a Josh with a very wobbly bottom lip flung himself into my arms and told me what had happened. It seems that his friend had "really, really" wanted to stay in the playground and as he was "our guest", Josh had persuaded DH that they would not move "an inch" and would be there waiting for him on his return from walking the dogs. Josh's friend had wanted to explore "the bit behind the playground" and Josh - ever the polite and accommodating host - had "innocently" and "grudgingly" agreed. Hence, when DH arrived back at the playground, the boys were still exploring "the bit behind" and DH couldn't see them - which is when I received the first 'phone call.

Josh was grounded for the weekend. The very worst sort of grounding that only involved homework, meals and early nights - no TV and no computer AT ALL.

DH - for his complete inability to adhere to the simplest of instructions and total ineptitude at controlling two small humans who are 46 years his junior - is grounded until further notice.

Mother's Day was wonderful. After the initial relief, I suffered the nervous reaction of a full-blown migraine - so bad that I could barely read the sweet words on Josh's card.

The memory of that hour will stay with me for as long as I live. May it always and only be "just a memory".

Thursday, 19 March 2009

State Schools - Satisfaction (not always) Guaranteed

I was reading the Daily Telegraph last night after a long and tiring day of worrying about Josh and the problems he's had with being bullied at school and happened upon an interesting article by Professor Tanya Byron entitled "The Fear of Young People Damages Us All". It's a well thought out and carefully considered article and well worth a read. It can be found at:


I felt moved to post a response to her article (which hasn't yet appeared in the "Comments" section of the web page). My response was as follows:

"I'm not at all scared of young people and, indeed, I agree with much of what Professor Byron has to say but I am the mother of a bullied child and I do feel that an increasingly faddish education system is letting down not only the children who misbehave but also those children who are on the receiving end of the bad behaviour. Schools don't seem to have mastered an effective way of imposing sensible boundaries for children and sadly, those children who need such boundaries, are unlikely to have any at home either. In my experience, greater emphasis is placed on enabling bullies to become "better people" at schools rather than helping an often traumatised bullied child to feel secure in the school environment. Exclusions and suspensions don't appear to be a deterrent to children who misbehave and I wonder if Professor Byron has any suggestions to help those kids AND to minimise the effect of the bullying on kids who don't misbehave and whose education is continually disrupted by the poor behaviour of their less well-behaved school mates."

While I was busy writing the above, DH called me to say that Alistair Campbell was discussing State Schools with Matthew Bannister (who's standing in for Jeremy Vine) on Radio 2. I tried, too late, to get through to the show and to speak to Mr Campbell with whose views I also broadly agree. I ended up by sending an email to the programme and wanted to ask what the solution to disciplining badly behaved children should be as, quite patently, the current faddish regulations of not being able to truly discipline a badly behaved child and the situation of teachers trying to keep order with both hands tied, isn't working.

I'm interested to know if either Professor Byron or Mr Campbell have a solution and if either of them do, please, please do tell me what it is!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Two Gerbils & A Binload of Goths

Here I am in my office looking out over a beautifully sunny garden. I have to say that Bournemouth is exactly the right place to be in such good weather. Redhill Common has, for the time being, ceased to be a quagmire and walking the dogs over the past few days has been a firm-footed pleasure.

DH arrived home from Switzerland last Friday and was immediately set upon by Josh who press-ganged him into rushing into Winton to purchase not just one but two baby gerbils. They are now safely installed in a spacious sawdust filled des res in his bedroom. Josh insists upon calling the sweet babies Gizmo and Roadrunner but the babies and I have a pact and the names I call them are much more suited to two little girls - Valerie and Ethel. At the time of writing, I have no evidence to suggest that they're not both girls and whilst I do love all my animals, I am fervently hoping that they are. Two gerbils will do very nicely, for now, thank you! They are dear little things and really enjoy being held and stroked. Josh has committed to taking care of them - much in the same way that he promised to take care of the rabbit who lives in our shed. I'm hoping that this time he means what he says!

We had a quietish family weekend and DH let me have a couple of much needed lie-ins and we had a curry from our favourite take-away in Wallisdown on Saturday night. I couldn't let all this generosity go unmarked and spent a goodly part of Sunday ironing.

Yesterday started off as a normal hum-drum Monday. Josh was happy enough to go to school in the morning, I spent the day doing some admin and a little guilt-free tweeting and DH cleaned the patio with a high-pressure thingy. When I collected Josh from school, I discovered that all was not as it should be.

I don't know whether my son is a bully-magnet but he does seem to attract more than his fair share of quite bad trouble at school. He was SO thrilled to be attending a specialist Arts & Media College which has fantastic facilities for a kid with a leaning towards all things artistic but I've watched him become more and more disillusioned since he started there last September.

He was beaten up badly in January which resulted in a boy being suspended for two days and yesterday he was rather roughly placed in a large rubbish bin by two "Goths". He'd committed the heinous crime of saying to one of them that he liked the leather coat he was wearing. A bad error of judgment ... I hate to think what would have happened if Josh would have said he didn't like the coat. He was told by the two charming youths to co-operate in being placed in the large bin or they would throw him into it head first. He co-operated. Fortunately a prefect saw what had happened, helped Josh out of the bin and as punishment a member of staff gave the two Goths a buckshee day off school today.

I am finding it more and more frustrating to discover that the bullies - at school and throughout life - are winning. The school's hands are tied regarding punishment and these kids are pandered to at the expense of the education of children who really do wish to work hard and get on. Instead of an education system that helps kids to aspire to achieve, the "looked after" kids and those who misbehave ensure that the only common denominator being adhered to is the very lowest one.

Bad kids need to be punished. Giving them a day or two off school whenever they misbehave is not seen as a punishment by them - and I suspect it isn't seen as a punishment by their parents either. They need to feel just a tiny bit frightened and no-one within the school system seems to be able to frighten them. I would quite happily volunteer to be the "Frightening Tzar" but I suspect that this would go against some civil liberties charter somewhere, so could we not embarrass them instead? Rather than saying to them "You've done something wrong, have two days off" couldn't there be a system whereby if they bully another child they're made to wear a fluorescent pink hi-vis vest for a week with the words "I AM A BULLY" boldly written thereon? They wouldn't look quite so cool to their friends then, would they?

I tried to see the head teacher this afternoon when I collected Josh as he is understandably somewhat nervous about repercussions when he goes to school tomorrow when the bullies will have returned from their day's punishment at home. There wasn't a member of staff available to see me. However, I am to expect "a 'phone call". I wonder if and when it will arrive and how far I'll get with my pink-jacketed embarrassment programme suggestion? I don't feel too confident that I'll get very far at all.

So once again I'm in the middle of another week struggling to understand a faddish upside-down education system in a world that's seems to me to have gone entirely mad.

I wonder what the remainder of the week has in store for us?

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A Touch of the Old Domestics

I've been very conscious of the fact that I haven't added a new post to this blog for several days and now that a dear subscriber has nudged me, I feel compelled to write a little something regardless of how uninteresting it may turn out to be. If I get too boring, please feel free to throw rotten tomatoes and abuse at your computer screen!

I've spent the last few days concentrating on all things domestic. Twitter ensures that I am constantly behind in keeping house and home in any state of "togetherness" and towards the latter end of last week most of my tweets were tinged with guilt at not having made any inroads into tackling the European Ironing Mountain that had grown organically in my kitchen. I did climb that mountain on Friday and it took so long that, in the surreal world of Twitter, search parties and St Bernard dogs were being sent out to look for me. I also managed to vacuum before DH arrived home from Berlin so the weekend got off to a serene start. DH has mastered the art of "looking at me with a tone in his voice" and I grudgingly complete most acts of domesticity in order to avoid these. On Friday, I succeeded and DH was delighted to be home and to be fed a home-cooked incineration in a clean and tidy house. I have nominated myself for Stepford Wife of the Year and fully expect to win!

Josh had a sleepover on Saturday night at a friend's house which afforded DH and I the rare opportunity of going out for a meal without the family comedian in tow. I can't say I noticed any discernible effects of the current economic crisis in Westbourne where we had to wait for over half an hour to be seated in our favourite restaurant. It was heaving with people who didn't appear to have a care in the world!

Sunday comprised a quiet "family" day which we all enjoyed and I was even quite pleased to note that I didn't have any apparent withdrawal symptoms from not having been on Twitter for nearly two days in a row. Monday was designated as an "Admin" day which is probably why I'll be concentrating on admin this afternoon!

DH went off to Basel yesterday morning and I had been "volunteered" to help with catering for about a hundred people at a gathering last night. I spent all day sauteeing chicken, dashed home to collect Josh from school, showered and dashed back out again to "serve up". I was truly exhausted by the time the day was over. It was actually very enjoyable but I'm glad it can now be referred to in the past tense.

There were a couple of evenings that developed into "nights" that were truly manic on Twitter last week. It's very rare that I laugh out loud at anything in this miserable world. Television and radio programmes sometimes raise the glimmer of a smile on my face but there was some absolutely outstanding quick witted banter happening on Twitter. Side-splitting stuff ... the kind that makes me grateful that DH was abroad as he would have been truly disturbed to hear me cackling like a loon at some of the 140 character "one-liners". It's magical when that happens but quite a strange feeling to be in the middle of a truly outrageous comedy show! I've also started to follow and be followed by some really interesting people and I'm amazed and grateful that I can learn so much from so many in so short a time.

I've noticed on Twitter that one only has to mention (or "tweet") about a subject briefly before one is followed by a myriad of other Tweeters who are either interested in the same subject or hoping to sell something in connection with it. I happened to mention Berlin in a couple of tweets and almost immediately was followed by what appeared to be the Tourist Office there. (I say "appeared to be" - the follower tweeted in German to me and too many decades have passed since I sat my German "O" Level and I'm afraid I didn't actually understand a word that was written). I must hone my tweeting skills to be followed by people who are actually in a position to pander to my exact tastes. This week I shall be endeavouring to mention MacLaren F1s, Manolo Blahnik shoes and mews cottages in south west London. Follow me, follow me and send free gifts!

I made a couple of "observational" tweets to the BBC's Director of News who tweeted back that I should work for the BBC. I informed him that I used to work for the BBC. I said that I wouldn't mind returning to the Beeb on contract as I'm a "rare breed" and "I know about broadcasting". I've heard nothing further from him! There's no place at Auntie these days for an aged person who speaks good, grammatical English in "received pronunciation" and who has a good grasp that News bulletins should be for the unbiased reporting of the News and that Current Affairs programmes should be for commentary and analysis and that there should never, ever be any "fuzzy lines" between the two. When fuzzy lines occur, the public feels that the broadcaster can no longer be trusted. There have been far too many "fuzzy lines" of late - not only from the Beeb but also from ITN and most satellite News channels.

So I've arrived in the middle of this week without really knowing how I got here. The News is so rotten I'm only dipping into it when I feel strong enough but if anything grabs me about anything, I'll no doubt blog again before too long!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

A ramble on the News

I really wouldn't like to be a politician - any politician for any political party. It would be like being married to me and DH suffers badly because I have an excellent memory about things that happened long ago and can repeat aged conversations practically verbatim. [Of course, I quite often go upstairs and can't remember why I've done so - but that's different - and not really relevant to this particular ramble. I shall elaborate on that ... if I remember to ... another time]. Apparently my near "total recall" is a very annoying trait. I find it quite useful but DH dislikes being reminded of every single misdemeanour - real or perceived - stretching back to the day we first met. I show no mercy and "gently" correct him whenever he displays signs of False Memory Syndrome.

How does all that tie in with the News? I watched Gordon Brown delivering his speech to Congress last night and, of course, noticed that his warnings regarding "Protectionism" didn't go down quite as well as many of the other parts of his address. After the insert showing his address, out rolled the inevitable pundits - one of whom was a chappy by the name of Scott Paul who represented the Alliance for American Manufacturing. He chided our Gordon for his views on protectionism stating "It's only protectionism when somebody else is doing it" and of course cited GB's bite of "British jobs for British workers". I wonder if the best policy for a politician is "to say it best when saying nothing at all"?

Another item that grabbed my attention was Chris Broad justifiably being very cross indeed about the terrorist attack in Pakistan. The man came within an inch of losing his life yet he was berated by the Head of the Pakistan Cricket Board for making critical remarks about the appalling lack of security that enabled the attack to occur. I'm sure that Mr Board wasn't in any way unfeeling about the six commandos who sadly lost their lives in the attack, but surely one is apt to forget one's manners just a little bit when in shock after being right in the centre of such carnage?

My ears prick up at any news regarding the television industry and I felt sad that ITV is going through such a rough time and that so many jobs are to be lost ... not because I have any great fondness for commercial TV or Radio in this country - I'm diehard BBC. And I certainly didn't feel wholly reassured by Michael Grade who said that the quality of output wouldn't suffer because of the cutbacks as I take issue with the quality of most ITV output anyway - but the BBC suffers indirectly when ITV has a hard time. I think back to the ITV strike and blank screens of the late 70s - which did the BBC no favours whatsoever. Auntie needs competition from a healthy rival not a sickly one. That said, there's competition in the media everywhere now - and I'm quite liking it! How else would I be able to get my humble little views across to such a potentially wide reading public?

Ramble over! Do you agree with anything I've said? Or does anything in the preceding paragraphs irk you rotten? Please comment and let me know!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Who feels safe?

I'm sadly becoming quite used to feeling fearful and last night as I watched the news about the appalling attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan, dread once again washed over me like a tidal wave.

9/11, 7/7, the death of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, the atrocious attacks on Mumbai in December 2008 and now yesterday's horrific events in Lahore. I fear the list won't stop there. Perhaps we're becoming inured to the fact that these atrocities "just occur" and we're meant to just cope with them, move on and not feel anything much at all.

I worry that we're being manipulated into blaming perfectly innocent people who have every right to call themselves British or American or French simply because of their religious or cultural beliefs.

Perhaps we should be thinking of the reasons why ONE man or certainly only a FEW men are planning world domination from the caves of Tora Bora in Afghanistan. Do we know why he or they want to dominate the world? Did we know why Napoleon did ... or Hitler? We'll probably never know but meanwhile it would help if we could just accept each other in our own countries and show tolerance to people whose beliefs or customs may not be the same as our own but who have every right to live here peacefully without prejudice being shown to them or abuse meted out to them.

Lack of acceptance of people leads to disenfranchisement. Disenfranchisement leads to weak spots and that's where recruitment to violent causes is allowed to occur. And the chaos continues and these men NEED chaos.

Bewitched, Bloggered and Bewildered

Good morning from sunny Bournemouth. (Note to self: It would be entirely wrong of me to refer to my place of domicile as Catatonia by the Sea and I certainly wouldn't want to offend too many of Bournemouth's residents as they may come after me in their mobility vehicles).

So, this is my very first post. I created the account last night and then, due to a complete inability to understand anything technical, I found I couldn't actually sign into the blog to post anything! I am very easily confused by computers but fortunately some sweet friends on Twitter came to my rescue and I think I may have followed their advice (although I can't honestly be sure) as I find myself here on the dashboard!

I have at least four thousand things that I want to tell you - ranging from my depression regarding the current economic climate, my dismay and fear at the alarming increase in world terrorism to the more pressing and urgent issues concerning the European Ironing Mountain in my kitchen and at what stage in the week will I vacuum prior to my Dear Husband (hereinafter to be referred to as DH) returning from Berlin - would it be best to (a) get to grips with it today (b) whizz round with the Sebo just before he arrives home or (c) do both. Please advise and please note that (c) is NOT an option!

I wondered what I should write about when blogging but somehow I don't think I'm going to have too much of a problem and, as friends on Twitter will know, I do SO enjoy leaping in and offering a short burst of (often entirely irrelevant) opinion on most things!

But now, Eight Legs and wagging two tails are staring at me in a very hopeful manner and I must - after their confinement to the house during yesterday's torrential rains - take them for a muddy plod across the Common.

If I used every ounce of will power (and the WillpowerDaq is currently VERY low), I don't think I'll be able to help myself and I will be back later!