School Daze

My youngest has now completed her first three weeks of secondary school. She has found her way around the maze of corridors, and is getting to know people. She is even confident enough to leave far too late every day, purely so that she doesn’t have to walk to school with her sister and ‘risk people thinking we’re related’ 

Sadly for her, the teachers are all far more interested in the concept of siblings than any of the children are. They have all asked who has older siblings, and when my daughter has grudgingly admitted to having a sister, replies have ranged from the rather worrying ‘Oh my God!’ to ‘Of course! You look just like her!’ to one of the teachers actually stopping my older daughter in the middle of the corridor just so he could excitedly inform her there was a smaller version of herself wandering around the school somewhere, as if this were the first she was hearing of it.

They don’t mind it really though, and they both seem to be settling into their new school years quite well. Not that we haven’t had setbacks.

There was the time my 14-year-old casually asked me one Monday morning, whether she had any homework due in that day. I was forced to (less casually and considerably more loudly) point out that it wasn’t my job to check for her homework, and did she really think Monday morning was the optimum time to do this?

She discovered she did in fact have a piece of homework due in that day, but don’t worry it was fine, she would do it between lessons and before her teacher arrived in the classroom. She then very wisely left the house immediately, leaving me to wonder how on earth she could have turned out so like me at her age? Especially when I’d done absolutely everything in my power to lie through my teeth and pretend to be organised? I guess nature won over nurture with this one.

Other setbacks have included illness. They have both come down with The Worst Cold In The World thanks to so many months of isolation and nothing to test their immune systems. I’ve been testing them what feels like every five minutes, but luckily they have escaped Covid so far. They have also been informed that there are only two reasons for being off school: 

  1. Having Covid 
  2. Being Dead 

Knowing this, my youngest did try to pretend to be dead one morning during the second week, but Bungle (our Labrador) gave her away by jumping up on her bed, therefore forcing her to admit that not many dead people shout out ‘eww Bungle, your willy is on my duvet’. At least, none I’m aware of anyway. 

If and when they finally make it into school, the children can earn both good and bad behaviour points, and are rewarded or punished accordingly depending on the number of points earned.  Thankfully it’s all been good so far, although I think there is room for interpretation with some of the comments. For instance we’ve had: 

Drama – very good at directing (bossy as hell) 

Food Tech – wonderful enthusiasm for the subject (ate all the sample cakes) 

Science – good understanding of safety procedures (able to put out the fire she started) 

Modern Languages – great knowledge of why languages are important (hopes to one day chat up Giovanni or Aljaz from Strictly with relative ease) 

Nothing for history yet, but given that she recently asked me whether make up had been invented when I was a girl, this comes as no surprise. When I pointed out that the ancient Egyptians used it, she asked if that was why I only had black eyeliner. It’s no good arguing. Whatever I say, she remains utterly convinced that my existence began several thousand years BC, and that I have spent these last few millennia carefully honing my nagging skills. 

My older daughter agrees. Apparently it’s unreasonable of me to expect my child NOT to stand on a stool, put a selection of half-eaten food at the back of the highest shelf of her wardrobe and then leave it there for 11 months until we finally locate the source of the heinous stench.

It’s also a massive overreaction to insist that she take down the bed she has made for the cat under her desk (using every single towel in the airing cupboard, lovingly wrapped in her school blazer and several pairs of tights). It’s futile anyway and she knows it, because there is only one place the cat will ever sleep. Which is on her pillow, lying across the top of her head, occasionally getting irritated and smacking her in the face if she dares to fall asleep and stop stroking him.

I told her she hasn’t known sleep deprivation until she’s slept with a man who snores louder than a wild pig with a heavy cold, holding a megaphone. And that I’m not above employing the same methods as the cat, to get him to stop. So with that in mind,  

Bring on Bedtime!

Poetry for beginners

I thought some might like to read the poem I wrote for my youngest yesterday, on the eve of her big day at secondary. I’ve put asterisks instead of the school name but it does rhyme with ‘say’ 😂

I am most certainly no poet, and know nothing about the proper way to write one, but it’s from the heart.

And for those of you who may find it too saccharine, just know that life continues as normal here with me trying to lock my front door by pointing my car key at it. Here goes:

To our daughter

Tomorrow is a first for you
Day one at ***
Before you walk out of the door
We’ve got some things to say

You need to know we love you
And are proud no matter what
We saw you win at primary school
And watched you learn a lot

You worked, you played, you laughed and cried
You joined in all the fun
You made mistakes, and learned from them
You showed us how it’s done

From author days to O2 choirs
You really tried your best
You smashed it when you learned from home
And made deputy head girl, no less!

And now you’re on the cusp
Of your career at secondary school
And though you might be worried
There is really just one rule

Just be yourself, and all the rest
Will fall right into place
You’re bright and kind, and work so hard
You’re loved by all your mates

And if you carry on like this
With a smile upon your face
And hold your head up high my love
You’ve already won the race

So take a big deep breath right now
And go out there with pride
And know that in our thoughts at least
We’ll be there by your side

All our love,
Mum and Dad

Summer’s Out For School

The summer holidays are nearly over and the new school term is almost upon us. My preferred method of dealing with all the back to school organisation, is as follows:

ONE

At the start of the summer holidays, put it all right out of my mind, relaxing in the knowledge that I have weeks and weeks before I need to do a thing.

Later that day, miserably leave the uniform shop after a ‘successful’ visit, having spent a small fortune on piles of clothes that I am going to have to individually and angrily label at the last minute. All while knowing full well that they will lose everything within the first three days of term, and we won’t see any of it again until Christmas.

TWO

One week before the start of term, remember that my children own feet. And unless the school are planning a theme of ‘caveman’ day for the first day back, there’s a good chance that shoes will be required. They have both been blessed with the wonderful combination of very small, yet extremely wide feet, and one of them additionally has an arch to rival the Arc de Triomphe. What this means in real terms is that every year, we are forced to embark on a long, arduous and sometimes painful quest for school shoes that fit. 

We walk into the first shoe shop, and take a ticket for the queue with a bizarre optimism that belies past experience. Ninety minutes later, it’s our turn. I’m already exhausted having spent half the waiting time berating myself for forgetting to make an appointment for the sixth year running, and the other half trying to convey just how angry I am with my children’s behaviour, through the medium of hissing.

The shop assistant kindly waits while the girls physically fight over who is going to go first.  When the least bruised child has emerged victorious, they then get on with the job of measuring, while we place bets as to how long it will be before the words ‘small’, ‘wide’ and ‘arch’ are mentioned. The assistant will then cheerfully disappear into the store room for twenty minutes, only to reappear looking pale and confused and holding one box, already explaining that they’ve had to go up three sizes but it might still be fine.

My child will then fall deeply in love with whatever they bring out. They will either be so narrow they could give Cinderella a run for her money, or so large that they could house both feet in one shoe. No matter what I say about growing feet, comfort, etc. the pleading begins. ‘I’ll walk on tiptoes’ or ‘I’ll wear my slippers inside them’. The firm ‘no’ is finally and begrudgingly accepted, but only once I have been provided with a carefully thought-out list of ways in which I’m a terrible mother that knows nothing about shoes.

This process must then be repeated in at least two more shops, until finally they are both kitted out with school shoes which they hate with a passion, as well as PE trainers, and I am several hundred pounds poorer. We then leave the shop with me issuing strict instructions that under no circumstances are their feet allowed to grow for at least 12 months.

THREE

Three days before the start of term, enter the war zones that are my children’s bedrooms, and ask to inspect their pencil case. To which the reply is always ‘what pencil case?’ and this is when I discover that they’ve either burnt it, sold it or cut it up for craft purposes. As for the contents, half of it was put in the bin weeks ago and the rest was handed out as presents to friends because ‘Sarah really likes my pencil sharpener, and Lucy didn’t have any of her own stuff’.  With the exception of the glue, which has been used to make slime and is now stuck to the underside of their desk along with a year’s worth of the contents of their nostrils.

FOUR

The day before term starts, let the labelling commence. My family have learned to their cost, what will become of them if they approach me on labelling day. They stay happily away while I think murderous thoughts and make unachievable promises to myself that next year will be different.

And this year, my youngest will walk out of the door on Friday morning and head off to her first day of secondary school, full of excitement and nerves.

As for me, after ten years of ferrying first one, then two children off to school, there will be no more turning the car round to go and get the forgotten lunch box, no more parking five miles from the school and being pleased to have got a space so close, and no more trying to think up original yet realistic lies when entering a ‘reason for lateness’ in the school office register. And in traditional rose-tinted spectacles style, I will miss it all.

Instead I will be shouting about homework to two children instead of one.  I will be defeatedly observing their inability to follow the simplest instruction. And I will be deeply suspicious about assurances that they have washed. I say bring it on!

But also… Bring on Bedtime!

Medical Marvels

As we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’ve been intending to write for weeks now (I think this is the longest gap between posts that there’s ever been), but unfortunately life has got in the way of me writing about life.

We’ve had quite a few trips to hospital with various family members over the last few weeks, some planned and some not. Nothing too serious thankfully. I am always wary of going to A&E, and I only ever go if 111 have recommended it. Some of my reasoning is down to not wanting to waste anyone’s time, if things can be sorted another way. However, I can’t claim that it’s entirely down to community spirit. I mostly try to avoid it because I’m convinced they still remember me from a few years ago, when I was in there five times over the course of ten days.

The first time was fair enough. My youngest, aged about 4 at the time, had a febrile convulsion and needed treatment. The second time, the same child was apparently well enough after 3 days to climb up to a high cupboard (doing some pretty spectacular gymnastics along the way) and also clever enough to work out how to open the locked medicine box and take some tablets she shouldn’t have. She was fine, but at this point I began to be viewed with some understandable suspicion by the doctors at the hospital.

My resolve to never enter into the building again, petered away when my other daughter, obviously feeling left out, decided to see what would happen if she inserted a bead up her nostril. What happened was that she was delighted with herself for quite some time, until it dawned on her that getting it out again wasn’t going to be quite so easy.
So back we went, only to find that the doctor couldn’t reach it either. He advised us to come back the next day for another try, otherwise surgery would be required. Thankfully it came out the following day. I like to think the bead somehow heard me when I explained to my daughter in some detail where it would be inserted next, should she repeat her actions.

A few days later, life felt safe again and normal activities resumed. Then one day I knelt down in front of the washing machine to get the clothes out, only to discover upon standing that I was suddenly and badly bruised from my knee down to my foot.

Back I went again, this time to have an x-ray of the knee. Which leads me to one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever uttered. The radiologist asked me if there was any chance I could be pregnant. I totally misheard him and answered ‘I don’t see how, all I did was kneel down on it’.

I was naturally mortified once I realised what he was actually asking, yet he remained entirely serious and straight (some might say po) faced. In case anyone is wondering, it turned out to be ‘housemaid’s knee’ which is deeply ironic given my unceasing efforts to avoid any and all housework wherever possible.

Ever since that week, I’ve steadfastly avoided A&E whenever possible. I was pretty sure at this point that they had my mug shot up on the wall. Ok, there was the time I cut my foot badly on some glass. Our parcel delivery driver had tried to deliver something but realised we were out. He could have gone for option a) leave it somewhere near the door, option b) leave it with a neighbour, or option c) take it back with him.

He actually plumped for secret option d) force it through the top kitchen window, break my blind and let it fall, knocking a glass off the kitchen counter and smashing it on the floor. All of this unbeknownst to us, or to my bare feet when we finally got home. And of course there was the time I nearly set fire to the entire house, but that was actually my fault so the less said about that, the better.

Anyway, since then we’ve managed to avoid A&E for a really long time, and as I said, I never actually go unless told to by the powers that be. Unfortunately this month has proved to be another one of those months. In addition to an episode of cellulitis with one of my daughters, and a couple of standard hospital appointments, I went in recently with an elderly relative, on the advice of his GP. I was only allowed in with him because he’s hard of hearing and needed someone to translate (the fact that he’s hard of hearing because he simply won’t wear his damn hearing aid is neither here nor there).

And translate I did. I spent seven hours carefully translating exactly where the doctor would be putting her two fingers, and why. Loudly. And repeatedly. Further explanations had to follow, and I found myself standing in the local hospital screaming at my loved one about bowel movements, with nothing but a thin curtain to prevent our entire town knowing the literal ins and outs of his situation.

We’re hoping that this week, all we have to face in terms of illness is the tri-annual ‘end of term-itis’, symptoms of which include slamming doors, rolling eyes and regular meltdowns. Don’t worry about me calling 111 for that though, I know exactly what to do. Largely because I already called them last year and they prescribed wine, and lots of it.


Bring on Bedtime!

Going for Bronze

My teenager is embarking on her Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award. She has to learn a skill, and she has chosen to learn Korean, since she’s been trying to teach herself the language lately anyway. Does this stem from a burning desire to travel the world and understand other cultures, I hear you ask? Or from a wish to challenge herself in the strongest way possible?

Well, it stems from a desire to one day meet and hopefully snog the Korean singer she fancies, which is as good a reason as any in my book. I’m not sure it’s quite what the Duke of Edinburgh had in mind when setting up this scheme but you never know, he may have approved.

She also has to do volunteer work. I had to smile at that, because the closest she’s come to volunteering so far is angrily muttering ‘why do I have to do EVERYTHING?’ under her breath when asked to come and collect her own towel from the bathroom floor and hang it back on the hook. Still, she’s off to a flying start helping a young girl with her reading, and according to the child’s mother she has shown amazing organisational skills, and a wonderful level of patience and concern. The fact that she came home afterwards and kicked her sister in the bum because she was ‘breathing too loudly’ is neither here nor there.

The third part of the scheme is physical activity and she has opted to go running with a friend. She’s done pretty well so far. They ran for 30 minutes and at the end of it, her friend was cool and calm and had successfully managed to remain a normal colour. Unlike my daughter who, after 15 seconds of gentle warm up, had turned a vibrant shade of lobster. Which is my fault because she inherited that from me. I can’t help but feel a bit impressed with myself that I managed to annoy her from several miles away without even the use of a phone to help.

The final thing they have to do is an overnight camping expedition, learning how to set up a tent, use a compass, fend for themselves etc. I had lots of questions about the trip after my daughter attended the meeting about it. When was it? Where would they be walking? Would they have to provide the tent? How much will it cost?

She couldn’t tell me anything about any of that. I asked her if she remembered ANYTHING important from the meeting and her eyes widened excitedly as she recalled something vital to her, which turned out to be ‘we get to bring super noodles’.

In other news, my youngest is counting down the days until the end of primary school. The government has cancelled the SATS, the exams they take in year 6, so she has had her work cut out to find something else to moan about. She’ll do it though, I have every faith in her.

But she won’t be moaning for long because from Monday she can hug her friends again! And people can go to each other’s houses again! Which means I might have to start cleaning properly again! Damn. Someone pass me the hoover. Or the wine, whichever’s closest.

Bring on Bedtime!

The difference a year makes

The last time I went out of the house to work was in late February last year. It came after a long period of working from home, so I was a little nervous to be heading back out into the world. My youngest gave me the following stirring pep talk:

‘Don’t worry Mummy, the absolute worst that can happen is you forget literally everything you know about work and get fired, or you might accidentally set fire to the building. But both of those are really unlikely so just remember you are safe and loved’.

With those words of wisdom ringing in my ears I set off, together with the unexpected new fear that I might be spotted on the news later that day in front of a burning building. I did a couple of weeks and then that was that. The famous Woody Allen quote ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans’ has never seemed more apt.

And we’ve all quickly got used to a new way of living over the last year. I’m not sure much would surprise us anymore. If they announced that from now on before entering a supermarket, you had to first strip naked and stand under a shower of disinfectant at the entrance, we’d all pack a shower cap along with our mask and gel and ask whether towels were provided.

But now we get to see family again! It’s been wonderful, and who knew the level of joy that could be experienced from sitting in a garden wearing thirty-five layers of clothing and listening to small people moan about how freezing they are? All my fault of course. If only I had tried more than ninety-seven times to get them to bring a coat, instead of allowing them to fall about laughing, point at the sight of the sun in the sky and announce it was tropical outside. Why didn’t I realise when they were calling me old and saying I worried too much, that they were secretly hoping I’d bring a spare jumper or two?

That said, it was still wonderful just to be able to spend the day with the people we love. And something that at the moment we definitely aren’t taking for granted, because a much-loved family member died recently. He’d been shielding for over a year and we hadn’t seen him except over FaceTime, so for us, it’s taking a bit of time for the news to sink in. He was funny and kind, incredibly strong emotionally and a big tease as well. And even using the word ‘was’ to describe him feels wrong. I won’t say more than that, except that he will be deeply missed by so many people, and I wish that we had known at the end of 2019 that we were hugging him for the last time, but I’m also very glad that we had no idea.

As a stark reminder of how life goes on, we’ve been making plans for the future. We’re really lucky that my youngest has been offered a place in September for her first choice of secondary school, so we are thinking ahead about induction days and uniforms and the last day of primary school. It’s all very exciting for her, and she’s happy that after three years she will be back at the same school as her older sister.

We think her older sister is pleased too, but it’s hard to tell these days, because not only is she fourteen, she’s exceptionally good at being fourteen. She hasn’t seen a morning since the schools broke up for Easter. Occasionally we think we catch a glimpse of something human-shaped coming out of her room, but by the time our eyes have adjusted to the sight, and our brains to the shock, she has got her food and is back in her room, the door firmly slammed, and we can never be fully sure it happened.

We’ve taken to switching off the Wi-Fi every now and then, just so we can double-check she’s still alive. It’s reassuring to discover that yes, she is still with us, but equally harrowing because we have basically poked the beast and then have to face the consequences. It’s a shame she spends so much time in her room these days because honestly, I had no idea how clever teenagers were until we had one. They literally know everything! More than both parents and all their teachers put together, they have a full and complete understanding of how the world works.

What a shame that instead of getting out there and teaching world leaders a thing or two, they opt to use their higher intelligence to heap scorn on their parents’ very existence, whilst simultaneously asking for money. What she isn’t quite clever enough to realise though is that there will never be any spare money, because of the Catch-22 situation that requires mothers of all teenagers to spend it all on wine.

Bring on Bedtime!

Morning, Noon and Night

Well the children are back at school. I know this because my alarm clock is back, signalling to me that it’s time to a) get up and b) make Herculean efforts not to take my thunderously bad mood out on anyone else. It’s fair to say that I am not a morning person. Everything before 9am annoys me – sunshine, kittens, Mother Teresa, you name it. And by 9am, I mean 2pm.

I can’t even use caffeine as a way out of the morning fog because I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t like either tea or coffee. I draw the line at Diet Coke for breakfast, so my only option is chocolate for that caffeine fix. And it’s not that I haven’t tried that, but at the moment I’ve already bought, eaten and re-bought the kids’ Easter Eggs twice, and I’m seriously considering just giving up any attempts to stop, and investing instead in some lovely stretchy maternity jeans.

In my defence, I have had good reason over the years to be less than thrilled about the prospect of waking. For several months, one of my daughters enjoyed luring me away from sleep by pulling my eyelids apart and asking loudly if I was dead or not. We lurched from that phase into the phase of being woken by the megaphone-decibel level of a small child yelling from the toilet that she was finished, which number she had done, followed by her own carefully considered grade out of 10 according to how much mess needed clearing up.  

Thankfully we’re well past all that now, and these days I’m reasonably good as long as nobody looks at me, speaks to me or thinks things about me.

But even I have been pleased to get up over the last couple of weeks and drive my youngest to school, because they are so absolutely thrilled to be back. They have been isolated for so long, and even though it’s only been a couple of weeks, the difference in them is already enormous. They are happier, they are seeing their friends, learning in groups, interacting with others. It lifts my heart to see it.

And that lighter heart lasts right up until about 4:30pm when the exhaustion of suddenly having to concentrate and be on best behaviour all day kicks in, and the meltdowns sometimes reach epic proportions. For example, did you know that if your child asks for a snack and you say no because it’s ten minutes until dinner, you are in fact starving them to death entirely on purpose, you don’t love them, and may as well accept your position of Satan’s assistant now and have done with it.

In the same vein, if you suggest that your child might be tired in a sympathetic kind of way, she will look at you with a scorn normally reserved for serial killers and inform you of how very little you know of the world and everything in it, because even the thickest person alive knows that if you are tired, you yawn. Then she will yawn, and that will also be your fault because you made that happen just by mentioning it. Your only escape will be to crawl back under the stone you so obviously came from and keep very still indeed until food has been consumed. It might then be safe to come back out, but only (and I can’t emphasise this enough), ONLY if you don’t ask them any questions, don’t smile at them, and come bearing pudding. A bit like me in the mornings really.

Bring on Bedtime!

The Crocus of Hope

I don’t know about you, but we’re allowing ourselves to feel hopeful in a ‘dipping your toe in the freezing water’ kind of way. Yes, every day still feels like thirty-five years long, and yes, we still have a way to go, but it feels like the end is in sight. The girls go back to school on 8th and 10th March and I am already planning how I will celebrate my new freedom.

I can’t go back to work yet, so I will have to settle for wandering from room to room, enjoying the fact that not only is there no Maths I have to pretend to understand, I’m not being asked for food every twenty seconds (by people who are literally still eating the last snack I gave them), nobody is complaining about exactly how many centimetres into their room their sister has put her toe, or whinging that she is breathing too loudly, and generally just existing incorrectly. And of course, nobody is threatening to phone Childline just because I pointed out mildly that after four days of not washing, it might be time to wave some soap in the general direction of the hideous stench.

I can’t wait to hear all their tales of school again. Although to be fair, when I ask about their days, they usually just reply that they did ‘Stuff’. Yet whenever I do press for more information, I often live to regret it. Like the time my then five-year-old daughter said, ‘at school today, Simon showed me his willy’. I gave a pretend dramatic gasp and asked, ‘what did you do?’ She replied, ‘I really laughed a lot’. And the time when my youngest was asked to list items that might be in a Mummy’s handbag, and she answered ‘handcuffs’. I hasten to add that this was entirely made up. I’m not a police officer and I’m not whatever else you’re thinking as well.

Although it’s not always their imagination that leads to trouble. I still vividly remember the time my daughter came up to me in the morning and whispered secretly ‘Mummy, I went through the back of the wardrobe’. I smiled indulgently and said, ‘how exciting’. I spent the rest of the day smiling to myself and thinking about how books fuel kids’ imaginations. Then I remembered that she hadn’t read any of the Narnia books or seen the films, and sure enough upon inspection, the back of the bloody wardrobe had fallen apart.

DIY aside, the other thing I’m looking forward to is getting back to healthier eating. I say that from the position of someone who has barely been able to move since Pancake Day. Although that might be because on that day, I learned the hard way not to put your water bottle down next to the bottle of oil, and then drink thirstily from the wrong one. It took a lot of pancakes to get over that trauma. Still, it was better than the time that I was baking with the girls and trying to make dinner at the same time. It wasn’t until the children were struggling to spread a flour and water paste onto their fairy cakes, that I realised that bubbling away in the oven, was a delicious broccoli pasta bake with cheese sauce made from icing sugar. It was predictably disgusting. Equally predictably, my husband asked for a second helping.

So that’s home schooling, DIY and cookery that I can add to my list of things I’m no good at. Best to stick to what you know, I think. Someone pass me the gin.

Bring on Bedtime!

A new kind of social life

I have hit an all-time low. Why is it that this lockdown is so much harder, even though there is much more hope than before? Is it the weather? The fact that we’ve done it all before? Is it that we’ve now completed Netflix, baked all the bread and would happily go and insert something into Joe Wicks if we a) knew where he lived, and b) were allowed to travel? Or maybe all of the above.

One positive is that this lockdown has dramatically reduced my expectations of what a ‘good day’ looks like. It was a pretty good day when I got to turn the calendar over to February, tell the family we were one month down, then wait for my children to finish beating each other up under the guise of ‘pinch, punch’.
It was a brilliant week when it turned out I had to go to the orthodontist, the supermarket and the doctor ALL IN THE SAME WEEK, instead of spreading out the exotic treats over the month.

The orthodontist was the easiest of the three. My teenager has finally had her braces removed and is now constantly licking her beautifully straight teeth and announcing, at half-hourly intervals, how slimy they feel on a scale of 1 to 10. She’s thrilled with the results. I am less thrilled, because you have not known fear until you have woken at 3am to see a wild-haired teenager standing over you in the dark, making demented sucking and hissing noises, in an attempt to tell you that their retainer is too tight.

The supermarket should really have been the easiest, because I only needed bread and milk, so I walked in rebelliously without a trolley, before spotting seventy-eight items that I also desperately needed, balancing them all in one hand, inexplicably refusing help when it was offered by the lovely assistant, then slowly teetering my way to the check-out, looking as if I was either rehearsing a tightrope act, or desperate for the loo.

The most difficult of my weekly tasks was the visit to the GP, because I was there for the dreaded smear test. Luckily it’s done by a woman because ‘let’s just get it over with’ is not a phrase any man wants to hear from a woman when she’s lying in that position, even if it is for a medical reason.

These days of course, the excitement of leaving the house to go to a doctor’s appointment is the equivalent of a seven course meal followed by a show, so I was relatively happy to go along, and even shaved my legs for the first time since about August. My husband may well have appreciated me doing that sooner, but there’s nothing like the fear of being judged by another woman to spur you on.

The highlights of the month over with, we are left with the delights of home schooling. My youngest has taken to FaceTiming a friend so they can do certain lessons together. The other day she was doing a history lesson, and I was in the kitchen which is underneath her room. I heard an almighty crash, followed by the sound of a herd of wild elephants thundering across the ceiling. I knew she was learning about Dunkirk and wondered briefly if she was attempting some kind of single-handed re-enactment. Of course we don’t have a boat, but she does have a lot of coloured sand inside some ornaments she got from the Isle of Wight, so I wasn’t ruling anything out.

The noise kept coming, so in the end I went to investigate. It turns out there was a perfectly reasonable explanation, which is that she and her friend were playing ‘It’. Over the phone. No, I don’t know how either.

Meanwhile my 14 year old has to make her GCSE choices next week. She has spent weeks moaning like hell about the fact that she is forced to do French. And she has refused point blank to consider Spanish as one of her options because she ‘doesn’t like languages’. Yet three days ago, she began happily teaching herself Korean over the internet, because she fancies the Korean bloke who sings her favourite song. I’m all for it, as long as she can teach me the Korean word for ‘gin’.

Bring on Bedtime!

Happy new year!

Happy new year!

Well that’s a sentence that is immediately contradicted by the news that we are home schooling again. And this time there’s no novelty factor – we know exactly what we’re in for. And more to the point, I have exhausted all my ways in which to pretend an enthusiasm for the art of multiplying mixed fractions. My 11-year-old now sees through my outright lies about how important fronted adverbials are, and both kids know damn well that the sum total of knowledge I’ve managed to retain about electrical circuits from my own school days, amounts to being able to yell down the stairs that the fuse has blown, and can somebody please flip the switch. In short, they know they are dealing with a fake.

The great news is that their schools, who have yet again been incredible at very short notice, are providing as many live lessons as possible. Live lessons mean the children can engage with their teachers and classmates, and can stick to a routine more easily, all of which help dramatically with both their education and their wellbeing.

It also means that the children must remember to keep their cameras and microphones switched off. The danger of not doing this has nothing to do with student safety. It’s so that their poor teacher doesn’t have to witness any wild-haired, oddly-dressed mothers bursting onto the scene, demanding to know whether their child intends to have their January wash at some point before February arrives.

In my defence, I had woken from a deep sleep and was in a great hurry to let the dog out before we both regretted it. So I grabbed the first things I saw, which happened to be knickers, a t-shirt and a pair of child’s earmuffs. The fact that I was still wearing the same things two hours later, is irrelevant. After 90 minutes sleep the previous night, my brain had obviously registered the t-shirt and decided it was a case of ‘job done’.

In addition to camera awareness, the other thing about the girls being at home all the time, is the constant food preparation. I have no new lunch and dinner ideas left. I’ve tried googling recipes, but each new week of lockdown seems to knock five foods off their ‘I will eat this’ list and send them over to the ‘I will vehemently deny that I ever liked this, and brand you a liar for even suggesting it’ list.

Yesterday’s conversation went as follows:

Daughter: ‘What’s for dinner tonight?’

Me: ‘Salmon’Daughter:

‘I don’t like salmon’.

Me: ‘You love salmon! Literally two weeks ago you asked when we could have salmon again because you really love it’.#

Daughter: ‘I know, but will it taste like bum?’

Me: ‘???’

Also me: ‘Why would it?’

Daughter: ‘Because the last two times I’ve had it, it tasted like bum’

Other daughter: ‘How do you know what bum tastes like?’

There was only ever one direction this was going to go in, and sure enough, as I’m sure happens so often in so many households all around the world, a long argument about bums vs salmon ensued.

I managed to keep quiet for an impressive amount of time while I looked longingly at the gin and wondered how that vaccine rollout was coming along. But eventually, I put a stop to it by shouting that they shouldn’t judge salmon by their own standards, and that they were now having beans on toast.

Bring on Bedtime!