Compensatory curry and the migraine from hell

I can always tell when College Boy is nervous  – he starts attacking my dress sense.  It didn’t matter that my early go turned into a much later go and that I barely had time to pat the whingeing cat and have a wee before we had to head back out again to college.  My sin this time was to be wearing double denim – or to be more accurate – double chambray – and this would cause him maximum embarrassment in front of his teachers and his mates.  Tough – if it’s good enough to go to work in  – and we do apparently  have some kind of a dress code – then it’s good enough to spend half an hour being lectured at by some snot-nosed teacher with an eye on the clock.

We parked in the wrong car park.  That would be the car park that we always park in but he wanted us to park in a different one, he just didn’t bother to tell us that until we stopped.  We don’t walk fast enough.  Some of us have been at work all day but work is nowhere near as arduous as college – apparently.

First of the five teachers on our hit list – Mrs Psych and Ms Soc – the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of social sciences.  I have been hearing about these two harpies for the past 6 months and am not impressed.  I already know that they are teachers who are teaching social sciences as a subsidiary of their main subjects  – so their hearts (and minds) are not really in it.  This is obvious from the copious amounts of photocopied handouts they send home and an over reliance on the text-book.  My suspicions are confirmed by flabby wet handshakes and a reluctance to look me in the eye.  They trot out a pre-programmed spiel designed to bamboozle the average parent and start moaning on about the fact that College Boy does all his work on a laptop.  We know this – we bought the laptop for Christmas at the suggestion of…..Mrs Psych and Ms Soc who said it would help the boy catch up on work after his mammoth battles with the quinsied tonsil.  Apparently he plays chess on it in class when he’s bored.  Why is he bored? Because he whizzes through the work and his teacher tells him to go over his work again – and again – and again until the bell sounds for the next lesson. We have been telling teachers for years that College Boy likes to help those who have trouble learning.  He is a good and patient teacher and when his maths teacher listened to me two years ago – not only did he get good grades but so did the other kids that he helped.  He is a pragmatic learner who learns better by doing and showing than reading the same chapter over and over again.

Using the word pragmatic was a bad move; I can see their hackles rising as I seek to question their teaching style. What kind of fool am I?  Don’t I understand that parents know nothing about their children? Or teaching?  Or learning?  My hub describes me as an eternal student and I suppose after nine years of Open University study I am.  I know schools have targets to reach and I know that teachers are under pressure.  I spent ten years working with grotty adolescents so I fully understand how obnoxious they are.   My own studies in Psych and Soc and the discussions College Boy and I have about them, would lead me to believe that he is genuinely interested but has questions that his teachers cannot answer because they only know what’s in the book.  We leave with a parting glare and Mum’s gauntlet well and truly thrown down.

As we wait in the corridor to see the science bods, the chill wind of College Boy’s disapproval is blowing over me again and I may have overstepped the mark somewhere.  So hard to know when the mark is invisible and keeps moving anyway.

We love College Boy’s Chemistry teacher – he is on YouTube dancing on the lab worktops to ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and ‘Dancing in the Street’ and he knows all the words.  When he tells me my darling boy is bone idle but brilliant company in class, I love him even more.  He admits to having dropped out of college mid ‘A’ level himself and how hard it is to study when you are a party animal. This is a real teacher.   College Boy promises to knuckle under and the three of us promise not to kill him this week.  My heart lifts slightly.

The Physics duo are sweet and smile at College Boy a lot.  He smiles back and promises to try harder.  We all acknowledge that Physics is the hardest of his four subjects and the one that is likely to get dropped next year but these ladies are fighting hard for my boy and I can see in their eyes that they really want him to succeed. I kind of love them too therefore.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I find that if I really dread things then they seldom are that bad – which is at odds with my normal cock-eyed optimism.  We only live a five-minute drive away however and by the time we get back I want to strangle my boy – who has moved back into arrogant adolescent mode and is telling us that he will do what he wants because it is his life – not ours.  No – we are just the financiers.

My head is throbbing and the fairy lights are shooting around the periphery of my eyes. The black walls of tunnel vision are closing in and all I want is five minutes peace and quiet from College Boy’s pseudo-self-confident drone.  Lovely hub takes him away indoors and I sit in the car with my eyes closed and try to think about nice things.  Chocolate. No! Lent isn’t over yet. Wine. No! Can’t take it with migraine medication.  Dinner. No! Can’t order it whilst College Boy is playing up or we’ll be seen to be rewarding bad behaviour.

Hub returns about ten minutes later and we sit in silent sympathy in the car, holding hands and wanting to run away from it all.  The peace is broken by a distant thumping noise and the classical music that is the ringtone for Uni Boy’s mobile.  “Mother, where are you?  he appears to be trying to bash my door down again.  I’ve barricaded myself in.”

We leave the car.  Hub bellows at College Boy – who bellows back.  I mollify Uni Boy who I know has wound his brother up by using his own brand of exceptional fluent and razor-sharp sarcasm.  It’s times like these that I think back to another of my Grandma’s homey platitudes;  ‘I’d rather have had a set of jugs”. This used to cut me to the core when my own mother said it but I understand so well what she meant now.

The dust settled – as it always does.  I took the drugs and the takeaway was ordered.  I wish we’d had more to celebrate than another storm weathered but one sweet day my baby boy will wake up from his dream and realise  that he has to put in more of an effort if he wants the things that his dad and I have worked so hard to achieve.

What makes it harder is that I’m looking into a mirror of myself at seventeen.  His faults are my faults but so are his strengths and if I survived then so can he.  Now he’s talking about getting a motorbike.  Oh god…..


Dreading this evening …..

College Boy has shed his melancholia  – at least for the time being anyway – although he hasn’t actually spoken to me this morning yet.  This may be due to a preoccupation with his beautiful hair or some unspoken crime that I’ve committed – ‘looking at him in a funny way’, ‘breathing in his direction’ or ‘smelling funny’ (that’s ‘perfume’ to the rest of the world).  I get off lightly compared to his Dad – who nearly caused an incident on the motorway by having a swig of squash whilst driving. The ensuing temper tantrum from College Boy because ‘the smell makes me want to vomit’ was awesome.  The suggestion that a dehydrated Dad does not a good driver make  – fell on adolescently deaf ears.

So it’s parents’ evening this evening and if it goes well all four of us will celebrate with a takeaway.  If it goes badly then he’s buying his own (that went down like a lead balloon but to be honest I’m running short of sanctions).  How do you discipline a six footer who has an independent income and an occasional scary manner.  In the words of my grandma ‘I’m mother yet!’ I say it but I’m not convinced.

Later z

Swift update – he has spoken and it appears that he has a test this morning and that’s why the air is stiff with tension.  Must watch my ‘p’s ‘q’s and every other letter in the alphabet for the next twenty minutes. (Grits teeth).

“We’re all insignificant really, aren’t we Mum – in the big picture?”

The words of my melancholy College Boy last night before he went to bed.  It may have something to do with turning 17 or the fact that it’s parents’ evening on Thursday or just that sometimes the big picture is just too – big?

At the risk of being horribly philosophical first thing in the morning – and I’m sure this will have worn off by lunchtime – I don’t feel insignificant.  Not from an over-inflated ego point of view but from the stance that what I do – what we all do  – makes a difference.

I may get annoyed with the receptionists at the medical centre but for every person like me that they annoy, there are probably hundreds who go away happy with their appointment, their prescription, their sick note.

People are so suspicious about doing the right thing.  I did the right thing – as I saw it – the other night.  Didn’t take much effort – a quick phone call and a tweet.  I didn’t realise until the next day that my actions would be viewed with suspicion – because after all – why would you want to help someone who you don’t even know?

I don’t know who will be getting the benefit of my charity donations; like millions of others I donated to Sport Relief – partly because of John Bishop making me cry but also because my own life is comfortable and happy thank you very much.  I bought a daffodil from a lady collecting for Marie Curie, her hands were shaking and she didn’t look well at all.  How much less effort did it take from me to put some money in her collecting tin?

Everyday I work to help people who I’ll never meet, I get paid for it – not well but that’s local government for you – don’t believe what the private sector say about our perks I’m still waiting to see them after thirty odd years – tell a lie – I get 25 per cent off the price of the bus pass I use to get to work.

Time to go and do the job now – but my answer to my beautiful boy is –  No, we are not insignificant – big picture or small picture we still make a difference every day – we can’t solve all the big stuff but it’s the solving of the small stuff that is just as important and we all do that.

I’ll just have to regain this philosophical frame of mind when we turn up for parents’ evening on Thursday.

The year of laughing dangerously

The weekend started badly with my Lenten resolved smashed on Friday night by a well-meaning Uni Boy making me eat a bar of Milka when I got home from work.  It had been a very long bad Friday.  It should have been good – it could have been good – all three of my meetings got cancelled for reasons that had nothing to do with me but I still had to spend the day sorting out other people’s cock ups and turning my stream of consciousness notes from a meeting into some kind of comprehensible report.  God it was boring.

Got a lift half way home and nowadays the combination of music in my ears and my Kindle in front of me makes the bus journey bearable.  College Boy was out playing American football somewhere – not on the astro turf apparently as it wrecks your knees so the house was peaceful apart from whingeing cat.  Sports Relief made me cry all evening but then I could have changed the channel.  There was a major catastrophe in the kitchen when  the bag that Uni Boy was taking round to a friend’s house split and three-quarters of a bottle of vodka smashed and splattered on the kitchen floor.  Five minutes before the bus was due.  I made soothing noises, College Boy made hoots of derision and I left the kitchen in a hump to go and sit outside with the whingeing cat and calm down.

College Boy cleaned up the mess and patted me patronisingly but peace was restored and Uni Boy caught his bus.  Come home hub?  Come home from work and rescue me from these roaring boys?

Saturday was College Boy’s 17th birthday and we were up earlyish; the intention being that hub, my dad and I would take College Boy to Blackpool to meet up with some of his friends for a day’s swaggering at the Pleasure Beach, then having dropped him off we would drive on up to Morecambe and have lunch.

Blackpool was looking good; sunny and full of shiny happy people still because it was too early for the drunks.  The drive up to Morecambe – once we got off the motorway  – was lovely, so lovely that we decided to navigate the pretty way on the way back.

The Midland Hotel was splendid, I waved at Eric Morecambe’s statue, did a brief nod of obeisance to the memorial for the cocklepickers and we had an excellent lunch in a deserted restaurant with sea views.  It was sunny and the seafront was a magnet for handholding older couples.  My dad was happy as Morecambe is a special place for him and he enjoyed showing it off to us.

Back on the road and his navigational skills proved to be as erratic as my own.  We somehow found ourselves half-way to Kirby Lonsdale before we knew it and I had to call on the extra reserves of Mrs Sat Nav who lives in my phone.  Having asked her to take us back to Blackpool avoiding the motorway, she did so with gusto and a multitude of sheep tracks that led us to a very long road called Burnt House Lane.  No, couldn’t see one  – perhaps it got knocked down or rebuilt – or it was just someone’s idea of a silly joke?

The scenery was even better on the way back though and we arrived at a still sunny Blackpool in time to pick up a totally shattered College Boy, find some fodder for him and drive back home.  He fell asleep in the car and set a new record for stentorian snoring. Our laughter kept waking him up and rather than fuel his ever-present adolescent paranoia we had to pretend we were laughing at the radio.  Hmmm.

Uni Boy – having slept all day – but then he didn’t get back till 0330 hrs – was wandering around in the towelling dressing gown he wears as if it were a smoking jacket.  He was slightly gutted by the news that we would be waking him up at midday on Sunday because College Boy was having friends round and we were all too embarrassing for words – especially me.

We had tickets to see Richard Herring at Eric’s in Liverpool  for Sunday evening  – so having been evicted from our own house after lunch we drove over to Liverpool and spent a pleasant afternoon drinking cider and bitter shandy on the steps outside the Britannia at Otterspool trying to work out which hapless local was going to have the best sunburn in the morning.  It was nice actually spending daylight time with Uni Boy for a change.

The three of us went into Liverpool for dinner – which would have been nice except for the fact that the burglar alarm in the restaurant was malfunctioning and for most of our meal was emitting a high-pitched squeal.  They knocked 20% off the bill though and the noise drowned out the muzack and the hundreds of small children that arrived shortly after us.

To Mathew Street and more people watching – we’d been standing opposite Eric’s for about fifteen minutes when we noticed a queue beginning to form.  Eventually we wandered over and joined what we thought was the end – only to find that subsequent arrivals went to the other end and we ended up being the beginning.  The couple that we’d joined weren’t bothered so we stayed as we were until a very tall young man with much hair, beard and a bright green tee-shirt turned up with two girls and after making some very loud comments to each other about “we don’t do queueing” – positioned themselves in front of us and the door.

I really hoped the other door would open and we’d be at the end again but it didn’t and they went in first and took seats in the front row.  We opted for the safety of the third row centre – a good view and sufficient camouflage to avoid any flak. It worked.

Richard Herring was wonderful.  My sides ached from laughing and my mascara was wrecked.  Eric’s was a great venue and the large lad in green came in for some stick  from Mr Herring – just for being large, green, bearded and being in the front  row – Hah!

The house was still standing when we got home and nothing appeared to have been broken or removed.  Going back to work today was something of a comedown but hub and I are working on our year of laughing dangerously by seeing as many of our favourite comics as we can afford this year.  Comedy Store in Manch next month, Jon Richardson in May and Sarah Millican (again) in October.

It’s good to laugh.

Giving up chocolate for Lent without killing anyone

Giving things up is never easy.  If you could do without them you wouldn’t have to be giving them up in the first place.  I find Lent quite useful in that although not fervently religious by any means, it’s a kind of extra discipline and encouragement – besides – its only forty days after all.

So I’ve given up chocolate for Lent.  I like chocolate but I don’t like the craving it inspires in me and this body could do without the extra calories.

I’m grumpy though.  Intolerant, unreasonable and on occasion verging on homicidal.

Lovely hub and College boy are still alive; Uni boy won’t be home for another fortnight and Whinging cat can’t help being old, deaf and smelly so he gets a special dispensation. Not so the rest of the world.

On Monday I was roundly berated in front of the rest of the office by a colleague who obviously has time her hands.  My heinous crime?  I never wash up.  Not totally correct.  I don’t drink tea or instant coffee and I wash up my drinking glass myself.  I occasionally use a plate for my lunch (my own plate and part of a picnic set I donated to the office, ditto my knife, fork and tea spoon which I keep on my desk).  Because I’m busy I dump the plate in the washing up bowl and wash up anything left at the end of the day when I’m often the last one in the office.  I don’t expect and have never asked for anyone to wash up for me.  Last Monday I brought in some chilli – in my own bowl – for lunch.  As I was going to wash it up immediately I picked up the washing up bowl with other people’s washing up in it and asked if anyone else had anything that wanted doing.  This bought forth the diatribe from my colleague about how I’m ALWAYS leaving my washing up for other people to do.  It was delivered in one of those ‘ha ha, I sound like I’m making a joke but in actual fact I’ve been desperate to take a pop at you for ages and now is my chance’ voices.

Other mates in the office defended me and – without losing my temper and with a fixed smile on my face – I defended me too.  In a previous job I never got to wash up – the alternative to washing up was dealing with difficult phone calls or actually doing some real work.  Sometimes there were as many as five people crammed into a kitchen built for two and all fighting over who should do the washing up.  I can’t be arsed to fight.

I did the washing up but the comments rankled and made me both annoyed at the rudeness and sad that this person should be so petty when I don’t remember ever having been anything but pleasant and courteous to her (she’s in a minority).  I mentioned it to a mate who said to forget it and that no one else had a problem about it anyway.

On Tuesday we were having a general conversation about transport and it came up that although I occasionally catch a bus when he’s at work (he works shifts), my lovely hub ferries me to work and back when he can.  We like it that way; it gives us extra time together, we sing along to RealXS radio and generally put the world to rights.  According to my antagonistic colleague however, I don’t deserve my hub, he’s far too good to me.  She said that about three times during the conversation – accompanied each time by a glare.  She’s never met my hub, all that she knows of our relationship is what I care to impart in the office, and after twenty-five years of being together, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  So those comments went to join the washing up jibes in my mental rankle file.

On Wednesday I’d arranged to go out for lunch with two friends for a catch up.  As I’m leaving the office and walking past my colleague’s desk, she says

“Don’t eat too much.”


“Don’t eat too much or you won’t be able to concentrate on your work this afternoon.”

“Oh well – if I fall asleep at my desk just chuck a blanket over my head and leave me in peace – please?”  And I’m out of the room.

So in the space of three days I’ve been told that I’m domestically challenged, I don’t deserve my hub, I eat too much and can’t concentrate on work after lunch. Possibly true – in part at least – but what right does she have to say these things to me – especially in a loud voice so that everyone else in the office can hear?

Why do people have to be so bitchy?  Does my solitary plate in the washing up bowl offend her so much?  Does she boil with ire when she sees me having a crafty snog with my hub before I leave the car in the morning?  In the words of College boy – is she well jeal of me?

My hub got cross when I told him and said that I should make a formal complaint – I thought that was maybe a little harsh but said I’d mention it to the Boss.  The Boss listened and turned a little pale but was sympathetic and said that in the first instance I should politely tell my colleague to stop making personal comments about me.  If she persists, then he’d have a word.  She’ll undoubtedly deny any ill-intent and may even shed a tear or two.

I’ll do it even though I really don’t want the hassle – especially when I’ve given up chocolate for Lent.