Thursday, June 26, 2008

Off we go

by Dani

We’re setting off bright and early in the morning, so this is just to say farewell for a week or so. Everything is finally packed, in two big rucksacks, two small rucksacks, a bike trailer, and a coolbag. Plus we’ve got Pearlie’s bike, and a pop up tent for our gear to overspill into. I hope we can move about with all that – our plan is to walk between stations in London, rather than trying to negotiate escalators etc. The trailer and bike can be connected together, so one person can manage both those plus a rucksack. Should be OK.

The archaeological dig went well. Here’s the ring before it went into the ground.

Today was another group-filled day, with Kids Club for Leo (he and his friend R. made an epic film), another games session and Woodcraft Folk for Pearlie, and last minute shopping, packing,cleaning, and going to work (in Allie’s case) for us.

Pearlie asked an interesting question about whether you would be more likely to get sunburned if you were very tiny, which led onto a bit of conversation about surface area and volume at different scales, and about why doubling the area of something on a photocopier requires an enlargement of 141% (a number Pearlie recognised as the square root of 2).

Anyway, that’s all for now. See you on the other side!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Be prepared

We are very prepared here. We are so prepared you could arrive with a troop of boy scouts wanting to toast marshmallows and sing campfire songs in our kitchen and we would not be ruffled.

This week we are prepared for:

  • Pearlie’s new book group, which met tonight. Actually, we did that at the weekend, when we bought Return of the Hundred Mile an Hour Dog and she read it in a day and a bit.
  • Allie’s writing group, which is meeting here tomorrow. This has involved unbelievable amounts of cleaning and tidying (achieved heroically by Allie), some rearranging of furniture, the purchase of a basket to contain my overflowing knitting, and plans for a simultaneous movie screening on another floor of the house (with popcorn).
  • An archaeological dig at Kids Club, in which a replica of Queen Elizabeth 1’s locket ring, lovingly rendered in Fimo by Leo, will be unearthed.
  • HESFES. We are almost packed, except for all the things we keep remembering that we have forgotten to pack. We are now onto the last minute packing list and a very long list of Things to do before we leave.
This is on top of the usual preparations of life. Pearlie went to three groups altogether today – Kids Club, where she made houmous, straight on to Art, where they painted music, and then the aforementioned book group, where she got very muddy. She also fitted in some packing, a game of rummy, and a good discussion of infinity.

Leo spent the day in more meandering pursuits, including eating fresh berries and pasta with home-made pesto at the grandmothers’ house; digging up potatoes and treasure at the grandmothers’ allotment; and watering plants (and the grandmothers, and himself) using a hose with a mist setting. He’s also been exploring the games on the CBBC website, especially Run, which he enjoys a lot.

Friday, June 20, 2008

On scripts and ad-libbing

People who know me at all IRL, or on the wider blogosphere, may know that I bang this little drum all about ‘scripts’. It goes like this... All around us are scripts that we can, very easily, find ourselves reading. We don’t consider our words or our actions – they fall into our hands and mouths as the ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ or ‘obviously best’ way of being.

In almost any sphere of our existence there’s an appropriate script. Born male? Here’s your script. Female? There you go. Reckon you're gay? Here’s the words. Mother? Father? Middle-aged? Define as ‘alternative’ in your parenting? Got a teenage child? Get the idea? There are ones about race and religion too, of course. It’s what is expected of us in the social world and, perhaps more significantly, it is what we come to expect of ourselves. I suspect I’ve ripped this idea off from stuff I’ve read over the years. Doesn’t Goffmann say things along these lines? I expect so. But, I have also thought about this a lot. As I have aged I am ever more aware of the scripts.

Being a parent is, undoubtedly, one of the most script-laden spheres of my existence. The language alone is incredible in its sheer volume. Is baby ‘good’? Does he sleep? Terrible twos? Tantrum, strop, paddy? Discipline in your home? Consistent? Nurture? Wholesome dinner? Routine? Jabs and checks? Homework? All this is the stuff of the mainstream. But, then, there’s the ‘alternative’ versions. Co-sleep? Attachment? Natural? Organic? Energies? The scripts are there too – for the taking. Other parents will watch you, listen, try to peg you on the line here. Is she as ‘normal’ as me? Is she as ‘genuine’? Watch what she says to her little one who hits... Watch the snack she gets from the bag... I know that there have been times when I’ve floundered in all this. And there have certainly been times when my refusal to adhere to the script has been profoundly uncomfortable.

Once I was in a group of parents who were attempting to support each other – bound together by a loose label of difference. The conversation turned to matters of discipline. The assumption, unspoken, was that we must, surely, all be wanting a ‘disciplined’ home? We must, surely, all see the need for punishment to achieve this? And, after all, no-one ever said they respected their parent for being nice, did they? Firm was what we had to be... I coughed and pointed out that I actually did respect my mum for being nice. I had no desire to be the boss. Nervous laughter and that horrible feeling of being ‘off-script’.

It’s easier not to be ‘off-script’ isn’t it? We all need some time when we feel ourselves safe, surrounded by the sameness of shared experience and outlook. We’re all women here, right? Or we’re all home educators? I don’t trash it. There have been times in my life when I needed, desperately needed, some time when I could relax and stop expecting the insults and hassle that came with being in a minority. The day we got attacked on our way to a Pride festival, I couldn’t have felt quicker healed, sitting bandaged and hugged in a park full of queers. But there’s a difference between finding company, solace and nurture for the different parts of ourselves and swallowing the book. Being aware of the script is a life skill, I reckon, and one we ignore at our peril.

In terms of home ed (just to keep this post vaguely on-topic) there are, of course, scripts. We grab them up as we embark. Working out how to label ourselves is key, isn’t it? Then working out what we’re supposed to say if we’re autonomous, or structured or whatever. However, one of the benefits of making an unusual choice is that there is more opportunity to write your own script. So, in essence, home ed is far less scripted than the role of parent who sends child to school. That’s certainly been my experience. As soon as P was in school I felt myself very heavily scripted. I had to smile at the teacher and thank her – regardless of her behaviour. I had to make sure I adhered to their rules of what I put in my child’s book bag or lunch box. I was ‘good’ in much the same way I was as a pupil. Just picked up the grown-up script and carried on.

Gender is, of course, a positive minefield of scripted interaction. It flows so deep that we barely hear it. When P was a little monkey toddler I’d take her to groups where mothers of boy children sat around and sympathised about how ‘boys never stopped’ and ‘they just climb everything’. On the floor, their little boys played, still and thrilled with train set. I found it hard to join in because I had to keep rescuing Pearlie from the top of the toy trolleys... Script said that boys had energy and girls were manipulative and men were hopeless at doing laundry and on and on. Of course, the little children couldn’t understand all this, could they? It couldn’t possibly be sinking in, settling in their little heads and shaping their view of reality? It couldn’t be how we learn that script, could it? I suspect it is.

I don’t claim any moral high-ground here. I do and say what is expected far more than I ever challenge it – or even think about it properly. We all do. But, as I grow older, I feel more and more liberated from the script. This is probably the slow, slippery path to the batty old lady at the bus stop who wants to tell you about her underwear. But I like it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Church, maths, history and more

On Tuesday evening we went to a local church to hear cousin S play the violin in her strings group. The church in question is ‘high anglican’ so it has lots of pretty bits and bobs around the place. After a little while, both the children produced pencils/pens and started to draw things. Leo was sitting beside me, quietly sketching away. He’d done the crucifix, various hanging things and then he started to draw a wall hanging of Saint Martin. Underneath the representation of the man, was his name in quite curly, old-fashioned writing. Leo finished his drawing and started to copy the writing and I had to stifle a bubbling giggle as he printed out, in nice, clear letters.


I think he would be the patron saint of the periphery.

There’s been a lot of excellent conversation going on here recently but, as usual, most is forgotten. On Wednesday morning I was walking along the road with Leo, when we got onto matters of belief, faith and proof. Leo is of the opinion that he should not question the existence of God in front of believers as he wouldn’t want to upset them.

Pearlie and I did some of an MEP maths book about multiplication involving numbers with digits to the right of the decimal point. This led to a conversation with Dani, in which she explained to me why one of the many rules of my school maths lessons actually works. Once again, I was struck by the fact that I memorised far more than I ever learned about maths. Anyway, Pearlie was happy with the stuff we covered, so she was pleased. She uses a box method for multiplication. We are doing this regular maths at the mo because, as I have mentioned, P is keen to know that she could handle all that the kids do at school. We are keen for her to know that we will give her any support she wants/needs in whatever she chooses. It’s good for me, because I’m learning things that I didn’t know I didn’t know! Maths will never give me the joy that writing does, for example, but I like the feeling of being on firmer ground in my own head.

Leo is very happy because Kids’ Club is planning an ‘archaeological dig’ in the sandpit next week. He wants to make a, rather intricate, object that he has seen in a history book. The plan is for the kids to discover the hidden things and discuss them. He went to bed very tired tonight as he was busy doing the Olympics at Kids’ Club today and then he and Dani had quite a long walk this afternoon, followed by playing with cousins and learning a new computer game.

Pearlie went to her 10-13s group again today and continued work on her board game. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished article. She also went to Woodcraft Folk tonight, where the group discussed motions for the Annual Gathering and instructed their leader on how to vote.

HESFES packing is well underway here. Right, too tired to think about anything else. Had a two and a half hour meeting at work this afternoon and my brain is jelly now. That is probably also because I stayed up until two last night watching a rubbish tv movie and spent this morning working on a new story. Time to fall asleep in front of This Week.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Children and lyrics

In conversation today, I was reminded how, as a child, I understood the following lyrics.

"Cecilia, you're breaking my heart,
You're shaking my confidence daily."

I though that Confidence Daily was like Daily Mail. I had visions of this naughty woman flapping the newspaper around. Leave his Confidence Daily alone!

Anyone else got examples of these? I'm collecting them.

Performing children and writing day

On Saturday evening, the children played in the Squeezebox Rocks gig, with the rest of their band – Duck Rock. They did really well. Pearlie was singing as well as drumming, which looks incredibly hard. Leo wore his new hat. They played:

"1234" by Feist

"Welcome to Paradise" by Green Day

"Sunny Afternoon" by the Kinks

An interesting mix, I’m sure you’ll agree. We didn’t take any photos this time. Our camera isn’t really up to the job. But we’re possibly going to get a video camera at some point, which will mean we can make films of them. Mind you, we seem to keep spending money at the mo, regardless of whether or not we can actually spare it from the budget!

I went to a writing workshop today and learned more about magical realism. It was a good day, though quite tiring. I came home on a high and went to check the website of a short story competition I had entered. I found that I’d made the long list, which was quite a thrill for me. I haven’t entered many competitions. I'm feeling very happy about writing again. I think I need it. Dani and I were talking the other day about having a creative outlet and how many adults lose that in their lives.

Dani and the kids had spent some time playing with cousins in the park. Then this evening we started the long, slow process of HESFES packing. We have to do a complete pack and see if we can actually move with that much luggage. If we can't, we have to blag more car space for some of our gear and/or weed it again. We’re going very light on clothes this year so if you see some very grubby people who look like us, they’ll be us!

We also watched Doctor Who, which I thought was excellent. The kids both found it very scary. I thought it did a great job of portraying the violence of the mob and the threat of ‘the other’. A stylish episode with very little in the way of special effects.

Everyone is rather tired here. I think it’s the after effect of all the adrenalin before the gig. I was also anxious about waking in time for my workshop today and made Dani check the time on her phone at 6.25am! We need a clock in our bedroom...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Weird week

It’s been a rather strange week for me. For some reason, I have struggled to locate which day I’m in – every day! So, here’s what happened. I think.

On Wednesday Leo went to Kids’ Club, where they played some kind of quiz game with a tank in which you sat to answer questions. When you got one wrong you got a bucket of shredded paper flung over you. I wasn’t too sure how that would go down but Leo seemed to have enjoyed it! Just hope everyone else did.

While he was there, Pearlie and I popped to get some guinea pig supplies. Then we did a bit of an MEP maths book. P has said she’d like to know that she could handle all the maths that school kids of her age would be doing. So we’re doing these books together, fairly regularly at the mo. They’re actually year seven stuff, I think. She’s also doing some written French that my mum sets for her. Last week she did some answering questions, in French, with answers in French – using the correct forms of verbs that she’s looked at with mum. And she likes to do French word searches, which my mum is expert at devising.

In the afternoon, I went off to work and the kids and Dani went to the library. Pearlie picked up a Jacqueline Wilson called Girls Out Late, which she seems to have finished already. Leo borrowed several books in the Explorers Wanted series, which he is really enjoying. Once again, an interest (in this case, Indiana Jones) is leading Leo to all kinds of interesting stuff.

I went to the dentist on Thursday morning. I got a face full of Novocaine and a filling. Went on to work and tried not to dribble in a meeting. In the evening, I was filled with flossing enthusiasm (do other people get that after a dentist visit?) and managed to break a bit of floss between two tightly packed teeth. It took a lot of prodding and poking to get it out and I have a sore and swollen gum now! Hardly the aim when you’re trying to look after your damn gums...

Pearl and Dani joined Jessops online service, where you can mail in photos for them to print. They got some credit as new members and P is going to pick up some prints on Saturday, I think. She’s planning to enter some competitions.

Leo was at Kids’ Club again where they did some kind of Olympics. He won a bronze medal for discus (two plates stuck together) but later managed to chuck it in the bush where it got stuck.

In the afternoon, Pearlie went to a group of home ed kids who are aged ten to thirteenish, where they are designing their own board games. P has come up with a really good idea and is making more bits next week.

Dani and Leo spent some time at home that afternoon, looking at archaeological treasures on the internet (Indiana inspired again). They also secured a bird box in our little morello cherry tree (probably a bit late for this year, but Leo has been inspired by Springwatch and we have a clutch of these home-made animal boxes sitting in the porch!) and chilled a bit.

Pearlie went to Woodcraft in the evening and Leo and Dani had to go too because it was a parents’ meeting. Leo took his portable DVD player and watched Ice Age2. Pearlie had a good Woodcraft session, making a film about why the community centre should have better access for disabled people. They came home via the chippy, which was good timing for me as I arrived home from work as they got in.

Friday started slowly for me. I slept badly as I was disturbed by tooth dreams. These make a change from the fire dreams I’ve been having lately. I bought a new battery for the smoke alarm today, which I think I had been vaguely worrying about. I did stir when Dani got up for work but must have nodded off again. Pearlie woke me up at 9.30am and we watched some morning news together, while we had breakfast. Leo slept until 10.15am but then appeared fully dressed (as is his wont) and sat and read silently for half an hour.

When everyone had breakfasted and properly woken, we went to town. We bought Leo a really fine Indiana Jones inspired hat, which he is thrilled with. The kids bought sweets in a cool, little shop with jars and unusual penny stuff. We ate lunch at Bagelman, where we can each get a feast for under £2. We looked for something new for P to wear at the gig, but failed to find anything she liked.

In the afternoon I blitzed the living room a bit, while the kids pottered. Pearlie read First News and did the crossword. Leo did his laundry and hung it on an airer in his bedroom. I deposited all the toys, books and assorted debris from the living room on his bedroom floor and he tried to put it all away. He did a good job and there are just a few things left to do. He was watching TV as he did this, so it was slow going.

I pottered about tidying and Pearlie watched Gavin and Stacey on i-player. She was watching with headphones on but I was reminded of the dialogue as I caught sight of certain scenes and I laughed just from remembering! Pearlie went off to her room to do some sketching and I attempted to follow the plot of a Poirot while hoovering the sofa and chairs. I really hate the hoover we’ve got at the moment as it lacks enthusiasm compared to the Dyson we used to have. Mind you, it all looks much better so it must do something!

Dani came home with chocolate for everyone because I’d phoned her to let her know I would be in need after all the hoovering. Then she assembled pizzas for everyone and we ate those and chatted.

Pearlie spent some time on Google Earth, looking at places we’ve been and places we haven’t. I think that must have reminded her of her game Map Detectives Urban Mystery because she then played that for a bit.

Leo had his hat on all evening and, at some point, he added his sunglasses. I have no idea how he could see to draw but he did and made a map. Dani said that he looked like something from the Blues Brothers and so Pearlie googled to see what that was and spent some time on YouTube listening to music.

I took Leo up to bed and we read some more of Treasure Island. Ooh, it’s a rip-roaring adventure and I never read it as a kid. Dani and Pearl have finished A Strong and Willing Girl (which was mine as a kid) and have started A Hundred Million Francs. Here's what Phillip Pullman says about that book:

"a novel called A Hundred Million Francs, by the French author Paul Berna. It was a good story, about a bunch of children in a dingy suburb of Paris who find a lot of money which has been hidden by some thieves, and all kinds of adventures follow.

The point about that book for me was that on page 34, there was a drawing of some of the kids defying the crooks, and I fell in love with the girl in the drawing. She was a tough-looking, very French sort of character, with a leather jacket and socks rolled down to her ankles and blonde hair and black eyes, and altogether I thought she was the girl for me.

I wouldn't be at all surprised - in fact, now I think about it, it's obvious - to find that the girl on page 34 of A Hundred Million Francs is the girl who four decades later turned up in my own book Northern Lights, or The Golden Compass, where she was called Lyra."

He says it here and what is weird is that I remember that girl too - when I was about ten.

I have to work tomorrow and I think Dani and the kids will try to take it quite easy as the gig is in the evening! On Sunday, I’ve got a treat - a one day workshop on Magic Realism. I’ve done a course with the teacher before, which was good, so I’m hoping it’ll inspire me to write more of that kind of stuff.

Oh, and I have crawled back onto Facebook, after stropping away in a moral huff a few months ago. I was keen to find an old friend from university days and thought she might be there. Once back, I remembered what I liked about it! But, I’m trying to be disciplined and not waste time on there. I’ve already had a great catch-up with a friend, so it can be really good. We shall see.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Impressed by the Little Pigs

Dani, Pearl and I met up with some grandparents yesterday to see Leo take part in the first Little Green Pig open mic night. It was excellent. Leo read his kenning about a hedgehog, which I’ve blogged before. Several kids we knew were taking part and they all did very well. I really hope there are more such nights, as we all enjoyed it. I didn’t take any photos but I’m sure that some may appear on the Little Green Pig site before long!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Here, there and everywhere

Been too busy for blogging. Briefest of brief catch-ups, though I may ramble here and there...


Dani was at work. The kids and I received some guests who are staying for a week – two dwarf hamsters and two mice. They are staying with us while their people are at a home ed camp. Then we went up to the big home ed drop-in. When I say big, I mean big. Pearlie did a count last time and found there were more than fifty kids.

Leo fell onto a low wall and got a long scrape round his ribs, so we left a bit early. Sadly, the bus must have been even earlier and so we had a half hour wait at the stop. Once home, I fell asleep in front of Jeeves and Wooster (oops!) while the kids amused themselves. Then we set to preparing for the Kids’ Club summer fair the following day. I baked and iced fifty seven fairy cakes. Dani cut out lots of badge templates. Pearlie made some lovely signs to tell people prices and so on. I can’t remember what Leo was doing but it may well have been playing on the computer. He’s been quite into that lately and I had to help him with a mission on Club Penguin last week. This is never a good idea as I am bad at, and easily irritated by, such things!


I went off to work. Dani and the kids had a fine time at the summer fair, I believe. Leo spent a large chunk of his money on a surprise fishing game and Pearl had a flower painted on her cheek and made a sticker for her bike Dani said the badge stall had been very busy. I made roast potatoes, quorn ham and assorted steamed veg while the others counted coins. The end result was very pleasing and Pearl was a total star and spent most of the evening bagging up the coins for banking.


I was rather looking forward to Sunday, as it was the first of the summer Sundays on which I don’t have to go to work. I don’t really mind working Sundays, but a change is nice and we get to spend some family time together. We met up with cousins S and D and their mum and headed off to the Springwatch event up at Stanmer. This was rather challenging, for lots of reasons! I had suspected that the pollen levels would overwhelm whatever we took – and so it proved to be. Dani, Leo and I all get hayfever. My main symptom is ferocious sneezing and runny nose, Dani’s is itchy/sore eyes and Leo’s is both!

Pearlie was irritated by a trail she tried to do through the woods. She read the instructions on the front of the card (which they’d re-printed from the previous year) and so was unclear where to go, as they contradicted what the people on the stall said. I descended into a runny heap and didn’t feel able to do anything except sit with the bags. So, she and I came home. I showered all the pollen out of my hair and sat in the cool basement watching a True Movie about a woman leaving a Mormon Sect. It was about all my brain could cope with. Leo and Dani stayed on for a few more hours but Leo paid the price for that in the evening. We showered him and so on, but his nose was so inflamed that he couldn’t get rid of the stuffy feeling. The more he blew it, the more it swelled and so he was very miserable. We guessed that the visiting mice in his room were making things worse, so we brought them downstairs and hoovered a bit. But he slept very badly that night – half in our bed and half in his.


I spent yesterday on a work trip to London. I went to a conference at the V&A. I heartily recommend a day at the V&A if it’s hot and pollen infested outside! I loved it. The conference was good but the best bit was being in the museum. The morning lectures were in the Lecture Theatre (beautiful roof) and the afternoon sessions in two gorgeous, quiet, book lined rooms. One of the rooms was in the National Art Library. It had carved wood, with little doors set in that opened. It had leather topped desks. It had a balcony around the room and a tiny, spiral staircase that ran up the corner of the room to a door set into the very top. I loved it. I wanted to get locked in. It’s always been a fantasy of mine to spend the night in an empty library (even though the recent Doctor Who should have put me off!) and I wanted to pop under the table and hope I wasn’t found!

I was standing there with my coffee and biscuit and name badge when a voice said,

“You look familiar. You’re one of Leo and Pearl’s mums, aren’t you?”

It was the library officer from our mobile library. The children’s beloved “Library Bus” has been a part of our lives for years. Indeed, the library officer said that she remembered Leo when he was inside “one of you”! Funny when worlds collide.

Pearlie had a busy day. She went to Kids’ Club, where they’re having a look at astronomy. She took along one of our books. Then she went to the art group where they’re doing collage. By the time I was home, she was out again – to a birthday get together.

Leo went over to the grandmothers’ house where he spent quite a lot of time indoors drawing. He was also given a tiny golden box containing a dead Rose Chafer beetle. One of the grandmothers was a science teacher and she is very good and noting and keeping interesting things for the kids to see. My mum’s eye continues to improve. She had a choice, when they did the surgery, between them correcting her distance vision or her close vision. As she has worn glasses since a little girl, she wasn’t that keen on losing them, so they have corrected her close vision. If all goes well, she should be able to get rid of any need for a bi-focal lens in her specs. She says that colour is much brighter, which must be lovely.

Dani went to return the replacement speakers we got from Comet. Don’t ask... I hate Comet and always regret getting things there. Our local branch has it all – the never staffed customer service desk, hordes of staff behind the till all talking to each other about the confusing computer system, empty shelves, no apologies ever forthcoming for anything. Oh no, been watching Victor Meldrew last night and it’s coming through!

Tonight we’re off the Little Green Pig reading night. Leo has written out his poem on a card, in big, black letters. I ended up telling the kids all about a public speaking competition I won when I was fourteen. Dani has rather more impressive tales of speech making in front of hundreds. Leo seems very cool about it!

The gig is this weekend and the kids are looking forward to it. It is possible, just maybe, that they may have their own song ready to play at the children’s cabaret at Hesfes!

Right, must get on with some jobs here. The kitchen table heap is threatening to lay claim to the whole space and force us to eat off our laps.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Now, where did we get to?

We have been doing things here – so many things it’s hard to remember what they all are. Let’s see...

Pearlie and I had a good time on Friday at Critical Mass. It was a bigger turnout this month, being a lovely evening, and we ended up taking control of quite a big, fast one-way system in the north of the town. Unfortunately, some car drivers didn’t have the patience to wait until we moved on, and started being very pushy. One driver actually bumped a cyclist’s leg (she was angry but unhurt), causing everyone to stop in front of his car – so that didn’t get him where he was going any faster!

Before that little unpleasantness, it had been a lovely ride. I particularly enjoyed the bit where we had opened up a really wide, clear space on the main seafront road, which attracted a talented skateboarder, who swept back and forth in front of us, clearly relishing the unexpected expanse of road. Pearlie enjoys Critical Mass a lot, and is determined to attend when she can. I think she likes the safety of being surrounded by other cyclists, and the power of claiming our space on the city’s roads, even for a short time.

Keeping with the activist theme of the weekend, cousin S and her dad joined me and the kids at a demo outside an illegal Starbucks on the Saturday. We met up again with cousins S and D and their dad on the Sunday at the Big Knit In, where I rattled off a quick square for Oxfam, while all the others gradually drifted off to the Pavilion Gardens to eat ice lollies and listen to a brass band instead.

Later in the week, Allie’s mum finally had her cataract operation, which seems to have been successful. She is recovering well, despite having to have painful eye drops four times a day.

Most of the regular groups have started up again this week, following a half-term break. Pearlie has dropped one of her Kids Club sessions, so she’s now there once a week and Leo twice. Yesterday’s session included a performance of a play devised by the kids, about pirates being shipwrecked by a shark and finding treasure. I missed it but Allie and Pearlie were there to applaud, and by all accounts it was a triumph!

While he was at Kids Club this morning, Pearlie and I shopped in town for enticing prizes for the games at the Kids Club Summer Fair this coming Saturday, before squeezing in a quick look at some of the art on display at the University of Brighton degree show. If you’re local, please do come along to the Fair – it should be fun.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Singing and washing and boxes

Here’s a little piece I wrote the other day. Behind our house there is a day nursery and, when the weather’s warm, noises come over the back wall.


I can hear music time at the nursery. The wheels on the bus – again. Why is it always so slow? Dragging, droning, a little flat and then rallying,

“ALL day lo-ong...”

A chorus of three or four women’s voices – determined. The children are mostly too young to sing, just an occasional shriek or shout. Quality time, focussed time – tick the box for music, social skills, something... Then line them up to wash hands for lunch.


Hand washing was a dying art – even back then. Rubbing collars with a big bar of green soap. Gently squeezing wool in the luke warm tub. The jumper a swamp of hills and milky water. Then the songs came.

“Underneath the gas light’s glitter
Stands a fragile, little girl...”

Sun on the water. Sandals scuffing the kitchen chair as I climb down. Out to the line and the prop and the peg bag. Passing pegs and joining in,

“Let’s all go down the Strand,

Then cheese sandwiches on the back step. No boxes ticked.