Thursday, 31 January 2008

Seasonal visit

Perhaps it is the time of year. Perhaps now, with the subtle, soft, changing of the seasons, there is a certain slant of light that penetrates the windows and reflects inside, bouncing about the mirrors and the doors, and sparking ideas about the promises of spring. Or perhaps it's the sight in the bare-earth garden of a single, clean white periwinkle, the little minor alba, unfurling its five starry petal fingers to the sky. Or perhaps it is me, aware, looking at the calendar, watching one month curl into another, January slipping to February, and wondering where the time might hide.

I would like to think this slight shift of me and the planet as it spins around and reveals to us dwellers of the northern hemispheres a glimpse of spring and summer to come, that it might all presage greatness and move me to great things. From pin points make big decisions. From single beams of light and sudden revelations, chuck everything up, and go and climb mountains and chase dreams.

Not a bit of it. Grit climbs the attic stairs to make her seasonal trip to the old wardrobe; flings open wide the doors and briskly pulls out a few old black acrylic jumpers so they tumble onto the floor, and thinks at this black lump sight, 'I must clear that out'.

And then, shoulders drooping, suddenly brought low and bullied by this sullen lump of manufactured fibre, it's time to decide that sorting out this bunch of old clothes probably needs a whole day, and she probably doesn't quite have time for it right now, what with the need to cook pasta for tea, so shuts both wardrobe doors again, and leaves the clothes on the floor to find their own way back in.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Why are we doing this?

There is a lot of reflection going on the Grit household right now, like why are we studying scientists when we could be making chocolate cake and lounging about in the front room watching day-time TV. Specifically, suggests Tiger, why are we reading about Humbolt wandering about South America, and Charles Darwin chucking up his breakfast over the side of the Beagle when there is a particularly nice looking chocolate cake recipe open in the kitchen?

Well, says mummy Grit. We are studying Darwin not simply because mummy Grit wants to visit Tierra del Fuego or the Galapagos Islands, and intellectual displacement is the only way she can do it, and neither is this because on Monday we went out of our way to see a lizard.

Neither is it because Shark keeps asking how many species of dolphins there are, or that Squirrel says she has observed that some lizards have long toes, nor that you, Tiger, now say you know about several kinds of horse. Not one of these reasons: all of them. And more. Like how religious fundamentalism in any form pisses mummy Grit off, and how creationism is a cop-out argument based on faith rather than observation. That too. We are studying Darwin, I tell Tiger, because I want you to grow up as a sophisticated woman aware of different opinions and arguments around you and capable of articulating and contributing your own. Now draw us a picture of Darwin and I'll shut up.

And, in answer, Tiger has drawn a picture of Darwin for the project book. And here he is. As you can see, he has been either been chucking up his guts again over the side of the Beagle, or he has been told he cannot make chocolate cake until Thursday and is pissed off about that, or he has been drinking heavily and has his neck in plaster after a particularly heavy session down the Queen Vic. In this liberal-minded household of ours, you may pick your own opinion.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008


It is time for reflection, of one sort or another. This moment of consideration, back and forth with thoughts.

Dig, it usually is, has discovered what I've been doing, creeping off with a bag of cheese sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper, late at night, down the road in all weathers, wind or rain, or both. Confession.

Every night for the last week or so I've left a bag of sandwiches, fruit and a carton of fruit juice hanging from the rusty railings outside the disused church. Inside the stone doorway to the church is a young man with mental health problems. I've inquired from those who know about these things, and been told, that this thin and lined young man has been thrown out of the hot-meal sanctuary because the voices in his head tell him what to do; at his last meal, throw darts at his fellow down-and-outs, taking aim with remarkable precision. And now he's sleeping in the entrance to the disused church, protected by a blanket and a grey sleeping bag. Now I don't particularly want to meet this young man, face-to-face, so I have conducted this sneaky late-at-night engagement: I leave the sandwiches when he is not there, and observe the empty bag, the next day, tied to the railings and flapping in the wind.

Well now I don't know whether the young man has gone or not. The empty flapping bag has gone, and so has the plastic yellow star someone had pinned up against the door on which there is a notice: Unsafe Building. Do Not Enter. And now in his absence, I feel guilty, because I probably did not do enough. And ashamed, because of being afraid. And knowing that not knowing what to do, is no excuse.

And if he is gone, I cannot leave sandwiches anymore.

Monday, 28 January 2008


In preparation for an upcoming travel experience dragging Squirrel, Shark and Tiger screaming behind us, I am learning Arabic. I can say 'I am an American' in Arabic (Eastern version). Even though I've dutifully taken the trouble to learn this phrase, saying it out loud in public does not strike me as a good idea. In fact I have reasoned that it may even get me into a spot of bother. And I have not yet learned enough Arabic to get me out of it.

But I will persist. It took 30 minutes to learn that lie. I have another five and a half hours to go and possibly something handy will crop up. Like, 'Please help me. I am in a spot of bother'.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Trip down memory lane

Dig takes Shark, Squirrel and Tiger off to do stuff with birds today. This leaves Grit at home to have a working day, setting academic texts from authors who are unable to create a clear or simple sentence thanks to having their heads up their bums.

Well let's play pretend. This experience is profound; a deeply moving and emotional one which musters both my mind and body to the exclusion ... OK then, let's not play pretend. There is probably nothing that can make a syntagmatic or paradigmatic-induced result interesting.

Which leaves Grit wandering intermittently through the house and picking up her diary, randomly, for July 2005.

Saturday: annual town carnival procession and fancy dress prize for best-dressed family! Tiger is a dragon, Shark is a mermaid, Squirrel is a fairy. Dig is the green man. The dragon is a damn good costume, even though I say so myself. The salvation army woman kept treading on the tail and bringing it off. Lucky I had my stapler tucked in my Medusa outfit. The snakes were a nuisance and kept falling off my head. Squirrel's wings stuck out over her head like rabbit ears. Shark's face paint made her look sick. Dig didn't complain even though he had insects crawling over him thanks to the ivy adornment. But it is all worth it because we win! We have to share the prize with the neighbours. There are only two families to have entered this year. This is OK.*

Scrap home-made costumes (remember to enunciate the 'S' there on 'scrap'). p.s. Grit is wearing wig and make up.

Sunday: Archaeology in the garden. Tiger's Roman amphitheatre is a death trap.

Monday: We visit the Heritage Motor Museum in Coventry. We were heading for Warwick castle but a mini cyclone forced us to seek shelter. When we got there we seem to get caught up in a Special Needs teacher convention.

Tuesday: Dig has some new hardware, so we make picture frames from the polystyrene inserts.

Wednesday: We are staying at home. The weather is rubbish and my eyes are like golf balls thanks to an allergic reaction to something.

Thursday: Everyone plants peas. It is a disaster. I have peas and soil all over the yard. Shark has already started to neglect hers. Thank goodness. She has watered them on and off for two hours now.

Friday: We watch ice melt.

Saturday: We try orienteering. We take a map and a measuring wheel and forget the compass and try to measure our way between the trees up Coombe Hill. We are badly organised, poorly prepared and could not find our way out of a paper bag. We need to do this one again, and next time, I'm going to take a
map of the right hill.

All of which leads to me to the conclusion that things don't change around here, much.

*We won the year before because no one else entered at all.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Educational experience

Grit has a plan. She is taking Squirrel, Shark and Tiger off to some disused gravel pits that are being turned into wetland and woodland.

Walking around this newly filled and planted area is part of our trees project and I plan to lecture everyone here about disused gravel pits, replanting schemes, forest management and the Forestry Commission. In that order. Everyone will have a good bracing walk in the cold wind and enjoy themselves and learn about trees and then I can come home happy for today we have done home ed.

We get to the gravelly car park and I jump out to lead the troops on a brisk three-mile walk round the biggest gravel pit of all. Unfortunately, overcome by the enthusiasm of this blasted wilderness full of gravel, water and trees which come up only to my knees, Grit's ability to read English fails, and so she strides straight past the sign that says 'PLEASE USE SURFACED PATHS ONLY DUE TO HEAVY FLOODING'.

In fact Grit ignores this sign like it might be written in Urdu, which she also cannot read, and marches right by it shouting 'let's go that way!'

Sadly, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger do not pay too much attention to signs either, and skip along happily ignoring everything as well.

Perhaps I could blame this general inability to respect signage as some sort of home ed thing. Of course they cannot possibly mean us! We are home educated! Of course the sign refers to the general public only!

It is only in hindsight that she recalls the strange looks given to her by the elderly couple towing the sad, wet dog coloured grey back into the car park.

Oh dear. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then here's three thousand, plus captions.

'Mummy! Look! The path ends in a big puddle!'
'What? Squirrel, don't be silly. We'll just go round the puddle on that hummocky grassy thing over there. Shark, you didn't remember to change out of your tennis shoes for this walk did you?'

'Oh **** and ****. Bloody hell. No don't bloody repeat that. ****ing hell how are we going to get out of this. Oh **** I've never seen so much ****ing mud. Squirrel, get up. Tiger, it is not funny. Shark, I'll buy you a new pair.'

One hour later ...

OK, we will do the lecture later.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Nothing to report

Oh dear. There is nothing to report today. Nothing at all.

I suppose this uneventful and unproblematic day comes down to the fact that Grit and the three little gritlets are having a gentle, laid-back sort of non-eventful day today.

Grit reads Tintin and the Picaros with all the voices, and we start Nim's Island. Being up-to-date with the times, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger then opt to watch Miracle on 34th Street for our film studies project. From this foolish course of action, they will not be dissuaded, even though Grit is busting her buffers to watch Spirited Away because she has just bought the DVD, and despite the fact that Michelle has pitched in an alternative version of The Secret Garden.

And there you have it.

Nope. There's nothing else.

I could add that Tiger started to do some decorating of trees for the tree project.

That's it.

Really, nothing more.

In a fit of desperation I could log that Grit's diet she's following from the Independent is feeling pretty good. In fact she is getting quite public spirited. Perhaps at long last she is breaking out of her fatty habit web and revealing her inner philanthropy because she can now pitch reduced-price cheese sandwiches from the Co-op to that bloke who lives in the disused church doorway without batting an eyelid.

But on the actual diet front with the big bum and body weight thing, Grit is sad to report that after several days of munching sprouting beans on her jammy toast, she still cannot do up the top button on her jeans.

Anyway, because Grit is enjoying week 3 so much, she may repeat it next week.

She may have to. She has lost book 4.

And that's it.


You can stop reading now.

If you are really keen you can see a picture of Tiger in the front garden, decorating her twig.

That's it.

There's always the archives.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

No blog today

Grit is taking a day off.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

To the forest

Grit and Dig take the little Gritlets off for a romp in the local forest. This is not to abandon them. Not at all. This is for a tree project that Grit, in a fit of home ed enthusiasm, is starting today, come hell or high water.

And it is just as well that she has persuaded Dig to come with us, because he knows the way.

Last time I tried to find this forest for a lovely home ed walk through the trees, I couldn't. In fact I did not have a clue even where to start looking for the ruddy thing. And sat nav is no help. Not with locations like 'Forest'. 'It's around here somewhere'. By then, already twenty minutes late, and not in sight of anything vaguely forested, Grit has to stop to weep somewhere on a minor dirt road and ask Tiger, Shark and Squirrel through gushing tears to look out for some trees.

In hindsight, this was a mistake. Tiger kept shouting 'Mummy! I can see a tree!' at every passing viburnum. This was not helpful.

Well today we made it there and back. Once in the forest, Grit marched about collecting just the right sticks for the tree project, while Dig tried to break a single branch into two smaller pieces so Squirrel could carry it without stabbing her sisters through the head. After ten minutes of watching Dig struggle with a tree branch and launch himself into a ditch Grit reasoned that it was probably a good demonstration to Squirrel why some of his ancestors probably did not survive as forest dwellers but decided to work with computers instead.

Here is a picture of some sticks collected for our tree project. I know it is not very exciting. I will take a picture when they have been decorated.

Well, quite frankly, that probably won't be very exciting either, but round here we take what we can get.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Groan groan

Physically, this has not been the best of days.

First I wake up at 6 am with a blinding headache that stops me sleeping, seeing or functioning and takes six aspirins and two hours of silence to cure throughout the day. Unfortunately, today is also the day I have to drive Squirrel, Shark and Tiger to be patronised by Hitler at her crap art session. If only home were some respite. I spend the last hour of my head pain with some builders banging, crashing and hammering in the flat above me, possibly dismantling a false wall put there by the now departed Mr Git to disguise the damp when he sold the property.

After suffering that, I then failed to make the doctor's appointment for what I'm-not-telling-you, so am in pain and agony for another few days. Self-diagnosis is not usually a good thing (although it was timely in the case of the bile overdose and cholestasis), but, undeterred, I then embark on the Internet medical dictionaries to find I have either leprosy or Grave's disease, or possibly both.

By 9pm, with the headache gone, but the not-telling-you hurting, I feel the need for some fresh air so take a fifteen minute stroll to the Co-op so at least I can include this success in my Independent diet day. Unfortunately the shine is taken off the walk after two minutes because I lose my footing and fall into the gutter. If only I could get away unseen on that one; two young men come to my assistance as I am rolling about in the road unable to get up. This all makes me feel like I am at least aged 60 and eligible to be smashed out of my skull on a cocktail of osteoporosis drugs and sherry.

Well, I'm going to bed now to nurse my head, the not-telling-you, and the wounded knee from the gutter incident. And I hope during the course of the getting into bed procedure I don't somehow manage to fall down the attic stairs like before, because boy, does that one hurt the buttocks.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Just one thing I forgot...

Whoop-de-doo! 8.05 and Grit leaps out of bed! This is going to be a day of action! Nothing's going to stop the pace today! Grit is going to change her name to Mrs Achievement!

First off, it's the Independent no diet, so I switch off my mobile and put on a skirt. Those are two things I have to do to break out of my fatty web habit. Tick! Done!

Next, dishwasher, laundry (first load), then organise Squirrel, Shark and Tiger with three different activities in three different rooms.

Tiger is starting a project on birds, so she's equipped with mosaics and bird shapes from Our Lord Hobbycraft plus a big folder full of information on birds. The lot is installed downstairs in the cellar bedroom at the table shaped like an egg. Tick! Done!

Squirrel obligingly goes to the writing desk in the front room to finish off copying out her poem about turning into a dolphin. OK, so she's been at it three weeks, but I haven't given up. And today, guess what? Tick! Done!

Shark goes into the schoolroom where she hammers about with some clay and grunts. I am not absolutely sure what she's doing, but she didn't get to sleep till midnight, so we'll just be grateful for small mercies. And shout tick! Done!

At 12.55 I put on the laundry (second load), and the science programmes on BBC2 and say it doesn't matter about the ages, just watch it while I make two tortillas, one with the egg and one without the egg. Tick! Done!

After lunch, it's dishwasher and laundry (third load), then admin for me while Shark, Squirrel and Tiger play Mermaids. Grit admin means dribbling in front of the Amazon site and ordering Nim's Island, the Martin Jenkins version of Gulliver, and Seventy Great Journeys in History. Then it's telephoning the car insurers and writing emails to the child psychologist for Tiger's follow-up interview. All that! Tick! Done!

Next, take Shark to worship at Hobbycraft where she has seen a dress-your-mermaid book at £1.99. After success like today, I'm feeling indulgent. Tick! Done!

Hurrah! Back in time to make a quick tea! Then ballet for Squirrel and drama group for Tiger and Shark! Tick! Double Done!

Finally, dishwasher and laundry (load four), then bath and bed for Shark, Tiger and Squirrel and a bottle of beer for Mummy Grit to celebrate a day of achievement. Tick! Done!

Then at 10pm I switch on my mobile. And there's Jol, saying Where are you? We are here, at the safari park where you arranged, and it is raining.

Oh dear.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

I have better things to do

Work, work, work, tippy tappy, tippy tappy, all day long, even though Grit would much prefer to go for a walk somewhere nice and lose some fatty bits. No such luck. She has to sit at her desk and read stuff like this:

the editors are fairly vague about whether scholars of language-in-education and language planning and policy have succumbed to neocolonialist trafficking in the exotic, and to what pitfalls, they are forthright in their call to ‘link old colonisation processes with new globalisation processes’ in order to conceptualize the present era as one offering ‘new opportunities of collusion and interpenetration, hybridisation and postcolonial reinvention…that go beyond the essentialist, nationalist identity and ‘two cultures’ politics…that defined the earlier phases of decolonisation, nationalism and national culturalism in the process of nation-building in many postcolonial societies’ (p.2)

This makes Grit think that academics should learn how to write clearly and be sent on proper courses like she was. Reading stuff like academic text also makes Grit think this looks better fun:

This is Shark who today has built an electromagnet with daddy Dig. Or perhaps I might get a few bright moments with this:

Perhaps I should do the laundry before I don't iron it:

There again, I could always clear up Tiger's room:

Or perhaps pick up those old copies of the Independent:

Or there might be something in the garden to tidy up:

Sadly, all the above fun options haven't been done. But I have just finished setting a very dulling text and can therefore open a beer.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Ho hum

Grit is all sad and lethargic. Perhaps it is because she has failed at the Independent no diet task. Today it is to be more conventional, or less conventional; which ever one is opposite to what you are normally.

This is difficult. I don't know whether I am conventional or not. For example, I like eating Indian take aways. Perhaps I should change it to Chinese. I like wearing black jeans. Perhaps I should wear white jeans. And I like reading the Independent. Perhaps I should read the Guardian instead. In fact they might have a diet to try too.

Well, it could be any number of things. Including this.

This is the door into the yard that fell on me last year. Look, there's the accident-prone window cleaner just appearing with his ladder now. Seconds after this photo was taken he managed to knock over the milk and bring down the washing line.

Or perhaps it is the sight of this. Dig has decided to mend the toaster. It is in bits all over the kitchen.

Friday, 18 January 2008

The horror, the horror

Can you imagine Grit - cold, unemotional, unwarm, depressive Grit; misanthropic Grit, the Grit who takes comfort in gallows humour ripped out of a daily trauma of struggle and misery - singing I'm A Little Teapot?

If not, read on.

This morning I take Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to a 'music and movement' session down at the old people's sheltered housing park. They have this community room which looks like it could serve as a chapel of rest, all dimmed lighting, underfloor heating and arrow slits for windows. They get me in there, these crazy home educating people who've organised this session, and they lock the door behind me.

Oh my God. I thought I was going to die. I'm locked in this room with a bunch of toddlers and kids and mothers and everyone's being so nice to each other. I mean Really Nice. Everyone's smiling and holding hands like we've never had a war. And it is led by this woman who sings everything. Now this white-haired old woman has walked straight out of apple pie lane. She's not human. She's so nice, she's some sort of caricature of nice. She even has pure white hair like your favourite storybook grandma and a soft lilting voice that rhythms and rhymes its way through everything she says. And she starts singing things like 'Why that's a really nice idea! and 'Thank you Shark, that's a really lovely way of standing' and she's smiling, all the time, and I wonder what I could possibly do or say to break that nice smile, and realise there probably isn't anything.

It gets worse. Crazy apple pie woman gets everyone in a circle and we all have to dance round a flower and sing Polly Put the Kettle On.

I'm sorry? I'm aged 48. Oh my God. Now it's Incy Wincy Spider. Hang on, I never even did this stuff when Shark, Squirrel and Tiger were aged two. I scan the room. I can't get out. Then it's Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. The windows are too small and the door's locked. It's Lord of the Dance. I want to kill myself. In my mind I can see my own body, clawing at the walls. But it never stops. Because after I have to dance round the flower some more holding hands, it's Baa-baa Black Sheep. And then the crazy woman makes me sing I'm A Little Teapot. With the actions.

That's it. I can't take any more. I'm in a cold sweat. My entire left leg becomes paralysed and I have to break out of the circle and prop myself up against the wall. Everyone else sings Wheels on the Bus.

When the torture ends, and crazy nice lady has thanked everyone with a voice that sounds like sugar stars, I can feel the life flood back into my leg. I make a break for it. Squirrel, Shark and Tiger say they had a lot of fun and would like to do it all again next month. Mummy Grit says weakly 'Would you? That's nice. Of course I'll bring you. Can I sit out?'

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Clean and tidy

Grit is pleased. Grit is smug. Thanks to not getting distracted every two minutes by Tiger, Shark and Squirrel, Grit has been able to apply herself properly to today's task in the Independent No Diet. And she has brought shape and structure to Thursday.

In fact Grit has achieved something today that she has been too distracted, lethargic and can't-be-arsed to do for the last two years. She has cleaned up her desk. Grit is even now looking for the bison sweeping across the great plains of emptiness around her keyboard after removing a 30cm pile of paper layered over the vast acreage of fake wood. It is sad to say that for the last two years she has propped the keyboard up on this paper cemetery and it has been very uncomfortable. But now, thanks to the Independent No Diet, she has optimised her flexibility, ignored the children, surely lost a pound in weight and achieved no-desk-clutter success!

Look! Grit's desk Before!

And Grit's desk After!

Unfortunately, to celebrate, Grit is drinking a large glass of white wine and contemplating that last year's home-made plum jam goes very well on toast.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

All worn out. Me and the fridge

Grit is tired out. She has had tip-top quality chat time with Jol. Six hours of it! Can you believe jaws can chat-chat-chat that long? This fine record was achieved down at the local indoor play centre where Squirrel, Shark and Tiger intermittently played and fought over who was next in the rota to go off to the carousel with Am. So really it is not about children playing so that their mummies can engage in tip-top chat. No, not at all. It is all about ensuring the effective socialisation of the home educated child. Really. Honestly.

Anyway, Grit is all chit-chatted out and now totally empty of anything interesting because it has all been said. A bit like this.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Dig returns

We think Dig is home from two weeks of a not-holiday in India. There are signs, tracks and little messages.

And we are very observant, Squirrel, Shark, Tiger and me. Even though I did not notice the pile of soil in the bedroom for three days until I turned over the chair and lifted up the towel. Tiger, Squirrel and Shark, aged three, were very upset when the little bird's nest got thrown back in the garden by a grumpy Grit mummy who, without thinking, actually banned soil for ever. So if one day you cannot see any soil anywhere, it was me.

Anyway, we think Dig is back. This is why:

1. A pile of socks has appeared in the hall.

2. Several upturned plugs and twisty computer cables have been abandoned in the dark corner bit of the hall, just as you come bare-footed from one flat and turn to go into another. This might be a better way to trap bare-footed burglars, rather than an unwary Grit in pyjamas at 6am wondering which flat might have a tin of coffee.

3. Someone staggered into the kitchen yesterday and thought that it might be three o'clock in the morning when it was only seven in the evening. They then proceeded to knock over the coffee machine, crash into the table, bring down the fruit basket and fall over the potatoes.

4. There is a man at Dig's computer at 7am complaining that everyone is working in the Middle East so why haven't they replied to the email which was sent 43 minutes ago?

5. There is snoring at strange hours.

6. I have witnessed someone jumping up and attacking the kitchen in the office with a power saw to remove an entire work surface and my jam cupboard. This is not advisable on five hours sleep. I seem to remember last time they sawed through the gas pipe.

Seriously, anybody would think I make this sort of thing up.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Busy busy busy

Grit is feeling a bit woozy now what with stabbing herself in the hand while dancing to the Levellers in the kitchen. Perhaps dancing while slicing bread is not a good example of multi-tasking.

But, oh my! Has Grit been multi-tasking today!

9am. Everybody: finish reading Tintin and the Shooting Star. Read about Humboldt's South American journey and scientific explorations of the nineteenth century from the lovely new library book that Grit might have to pretend to lose so she can steal.

11am. Get Tiger upstairs sewing the bat. Get Squirrel downstairs doing some maths. Get Shark in the schoolroom doing goodness knows what with some masking tape and string.

Midday. Eat cheese toasties. Changeover. Send Squirrel upstairs to work out her Shipwreck dance and Tiger downstairs ready to go to the bank while Shark researches dolphin names around the world, fired up by Trevor.

1.30pm. Get Squirrel downstairs, past the painter in the middle flat who Grit gets hold of so she can nose about the flat, find out whether it's up for sale and whether the painter wants a cash in hand job for the bathroom upstairs. Offer Squirrel some art with a block of wood and some felt tips. Send Tiger back upstairs to listen to The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Get Shark to sew some of her dolphin.

3pm. Everybody. Watch The Secret Garden and call it Film Studies.

5pm. Eat jam sandwiches. Take Squirrel down to ballet and Shark and Tiger to a new drama group that Grit is not impressed by but, hey, it's in walking distance and the fresh air does them good.

7pm. Back for cooking more than sandwiches and consider that today I have not done the Independent diet task because I have not had time. Think it would probably not be wise because it is 'Change how you behave in a group'. I did non-organising yesterday and nothing got done.

9pm. Drink wine and promise to do tomorrow's task. Tomorrow's task is 'Change your energy level'. That gives me licence to loll about on the sofa slurping Martinis and learning how to smoke cigars.

And here's a picture of Tiger wrapped in BacoFoil holding the head of a unicorn.

She tells me she is dressed in her armour. This is for reenactments of the Hundred Years War. The bit under Edward III, obviously. I say one glimpse of that and those Frenchies would surely have surrendered.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Character forming

Grit is like Eagle Eye Junior Spy now with all this daily task stuff on the Independent no diet. But my arch enemy is no longer Grimly Feendish. No. Now I must conquer Floppy Belly and her accomplice, Big Bum.

So, today, after eating the newspaper to destroy the evidence, the task for Eagle Eye Junior Spy is to stand up to people, or say they were right all along.

I know this sounds a bit strange, especially if you are not following the Independent no diet, but it is a diet designed to change habits and, by implication, habitual thinkings about tasty jam sandwiches. For example, instead of being cowed into submission by that tasty jam sandwich, so that the only option is to devour it all and make another one, after following the character forming tasks at the heart of the Independent no diet, I can look at that tasty jam sandwich in the bread basket and say, 'Hang on! I don't really need you, do I? No! And not because I have just had three chocolate digestives and no longer need to comfort eat, but because I have changed my habits!'

And so today finds Grit being assertive, or non-assertive, whichever is opposite to what I nomally am.

Well this is tough. For a start, I am quite assertive with some people, and other people get to tell me what to do. For example, I tell Dig what to do, and he ignores me and does the opposite. I tell Shark, Squirrel and Tiger what to do, and they ignore me and do the opposite. Some home educators tell me what to do and I do exactly what they say. They are either better organisers than me, like Michelle, or are so sweet I would never dream of upsetting them by demanding things my way, like San. You can see. All of this changing habits stuff is not easy.

But in the spirit of the thing, I have had a go. Since I normally am assertive about organising things around the house, like shoes, then today I am not assertive, so don't do it. Strangely, this makes Squirrel cross. Squirrel gets very shouty. Squirrel yells 'Mummy! Where are my shoes? Mummy! Where is my book? Mummy! Where is dinner? Mummy! Why does my jam sandwich have no jam in it?'

And Mummy Grit just goes, 'Uhuh. Whatever'.

Now if you got down to reading this far, and probably breaking a habit with Grit's diary in the process, you deserve a reward. But it's not going to be a tasty jam sandwich.

Here it is. Clearly, round our way, Banksy has competition. This is the graffiti that appeared on our garden wall last night in best Crayola paint:

And just in case Mr Saatchi is reading, here's the name to propel onto the international art market:

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Grit grump

Today's task is to be nice to people and do a random act of kindness.


Now I know that carrying out a random act of kindness was in my original resolution list for 2008. Actually, I was working on it. I'd made this cute cloth bag to give away to the next person behind me in the queue at Tesco. I was planning to write on it in big letters 'This bag is not by Anya Hindmarch. It is a not-for-profit random act of kindness. Bloody well enjoy it'.

And then my attempt was subverted by Tiger. Stupidly, before writing my kind message, I handed over the cloth bag to Tiger to decorate one side with a picture of a horse with her fabric pastels. But then she went and scribbled over both sides and it looks crap all over. So I'm using it for library books.

After that, I began to think that I do kind things everyday. Yeah, actually, I do. I run baths for other people. I cook food for other people. I do laundry for other people. I get shoes from upstairs under the beds for other people. I say hello to the postman. I say thank you at the Co-op. Even yesterday I let the old woman with the shopper get up out of the road where she'd fallen over before I drove on. I think I do my bit.

So now that I read the next step on my Independent no diet plan is to be kind, I'm sort of pissed off. I've half a mind to go round and see if I can insult and offend everyone.

Anyway, as I'm feeling bolshy, here's a list. And I'll be bloody kind in my own time.

1. Aunty Dee has arrived. Apparently she has been to a dental appointment and routed back to see us. This is actually a six hour drive. The way Aunty Dee drives, it should take twelve.

2. Winter tennis lessons have started.

3. I put the phrase 'my carrots look like a bag of shrunken willies' on a cookery discussion list.

4. When the next person says 'Triplets! I've not seen triplets before!' I'm going to shout 'Pedophile!'

5. Thank God the Evangelical Christian home educator didn't get hold of me again. I gave her the slip last time and she came round with a flyer for a kid's party when really it was a cover about being led to Jesus.

6. Lolling about in bed this morning scoffing chocolate digestives I read last Sunday's Independent and saw that someone in London thought that Margaret Thatcher was the best prime minister ever. Yes, that's what Grit says now. Bring her back! Bring her back!

Grit will probably be back to normal tomorrow.

Friday, 11 January 2008

One step ahead

Another diet day! Another task! Today's task is to get up one hour earlier than normal and use the hour productively.

This does not mean Grit sloping back to bed and slurping an extra cup of delicious black coffee while reading the wonderful Independent. Neither does it mean weasling and fibbing that she does not normally loll around in bed so today she can. No. This task is to be done properly.

And I do get up earlier. And I do not read the newspaper. Much. And I do use the extra hour productively. I make a To Do list. It has 57 things on it. And I'm noting this achievement on the blog.

Amazingly, on achieving and completing this recording task, I see that by the logic of my blog diary I have got to Friday, even though I am writing this post on Thursday. Which just goes to prove how truly effective is the Independent no diet. It can actually transform time itself.

Of course it could not possibly be that I am unable to read, organise or maintain a simple diary, and have, as a consequence, already messed up the days of the week and the tasks that I have been doing, so today's task was yesterday, and tomorrow's is today.

Meanwhile, until everybody else gets to Friday, here are some pictures.

This is Tiger in the woods with a picture of a lizard jumping up to a tree branch on her face. It's not a crocodile.

This is Shark with two dolphins jumping out of the sea. They are not killer whales.

Both are very good attempts by Mummy Grit with the face paints box.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Walking, briskly.

Task number 4 on the Independent no diet regime is to go for a brisk 15 minute walk.

Grit started this at 6.47pm. At this time it is all dark and cold and stormy. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are all locked up safe and warm in the house watching a DVD about two baby boy tigers who are separated at birth and have lots of adventures before being reunited as big tigers.

Hopefully the ending to the film won't be that the two tigers meet and fail to recognise each other and then proceed to rip great big chunks out of each other's throats in a battle to the death over territory and girl tigers. I won't know the end because I am heading hot-foot down the post office where the late collection is 7pm.

Actually, I would prefer my 15-minute walk to be other than a last-minute dash to the post box, holding a letter of appeal to Vinci car parking services, from whom today I have a parking ticket and a fine of £60.

This is typical. I actually have a car parking pass valid for today and was unable to put it on the vehicle thanks to the person holding it having disappeared and Tiger having a big scream outside Kentucky Fried Chicken. When I got back to the car with the pass that I'd managed to track down and saw the parking ticket I then went off hunting the warden who'd put it there.

On consideration, what with the walking about looking for the parking pass and then the traffic warden in the freezing cold outside the shopping centre, perhaps I can add another 30 minutes to today's brisk walk.

In a way it was quite energising. In fact I might try the same again tomorrow, only without the parking involvement.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Tea or coffee?

This is not a good day.

Today the diet task is to change our drinking routine. I realise, in hindsight, I could have interpreted this. I could have drunk a Pouilly Fume, for example, instead of the cheap red stuff I get from the Co-op at two litres for a fiver.

But, foolishly, I did not. Disastrously, I changed morning coffee for tea.

Normally, Grit rolls out of bed and makes strong black coffee and none of that instant crap either. Now I don't know if there are special little connectors between brain and mouth, and they're only activated by strong black coffee, but my brain spends most of today not connected to my mouth at all, thus ensuring a constant stream of incoherent rubbish.

Example 1: Grit has driven Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to art with Hitler. They have unwisely started these art lessons again, even though mummy Grit has told them that Teech is really a witch is disguise and has no toes. It is all to no avail. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger want to go because Em, their little friend is here, and they get biscuits at breaktime. But we are late. And thus, the following as we disgorge from the car in the car park outside the lesson:

Mummy Grit: Quick! Quick! Get down and get in the box! Quick! Quick!
Squirrel: What is the box?
Mummy Grit: What box? Is there a box? Have you brought a box? You haven't brought a box have you? We haven't got time for boxes. Just get in there now. If Hitler asks, say the battery fell out.

Example 2: We are in Hitler's art. It is no better than when we did this before. In fact, it is worse. Hitler holds up a painting of a horse by George Stubbs and all but says 'Look at the gee gee, isn't it a pretty gee gee? Now everyone, this is art, so go and colour in a horse mask. Look! I know you couldn't possibly draw a horse face, so the mask outline is already on your desk! I ripped it off from Enchanted Learning!'

Grit is seething. But there is worse to come. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger quickly finish the colouring in. Teech comes over and gives them a picture of a robot and says 'See if you can do a robot mask'. Grit, who has discovered it is her turn to to the ruddy teas and coffees again, comes in and finds Squirrel drawing a robot. 'What's this?' I ask. Squirrel shrugs her shoulders and replies 'Dunno. It's something she gave us to keep us quiet'. Grit is incensed. Grit is outraged. Perhaps coffee has an effect on her socialisation skills too. Because Grit takes the picture of a robot, holds it up in the air and:

Grit to Hitler (shouting in a very challenging voice): Has this got anything to do with horses?
Hitler: er... it's Epstein... er
Grit (even louder): Is it anything to do with horses?
Hitler: er... no... it's...
Grit (slamming picture of robot on desk): Ha! So it's not a horse! I didn't think it was a horse! It looks nothing like a horse! Does it look like a horse? It doesn't! And it isn't!

Example 3: French starts half an hour after art finishes. Fortunately, it's in the same little town, so we don't have to drive. But today Grit has had to help with the clearing up after art because of the rota that she didn't know she was on, so we are late. Thus, running across the car park towards the zebra crossing:

Grit: Quick! Quick! We are late! Squirrel stop mucking about! Let's get across the table! (pause) Table? Table? Did I say table?

Sadly, this is proof enough that there is no substitute for a good cup of strong black coffee in a morning. On this one, I may just have to gain the pounds.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Not posting

Grit is not allowed to post today because she must break her fatty habit web.

Grit has got into the very bad habit of sitting down at her desk at the end of a long and tiring day composing a blog entry with a glass of beer / wine / whisky at her side. (Not all at the same time, obviously.) This habit must be broken if I am to do anything about my rear.

So I am not posting about today.

Incidentally, a bit of mail arrived today addressed to Pastry, who left the middle flat in 2006. I see the return address is Alston Hall. I am reminded by that bit of mail that in 1993 I set the fire alarm off in Alston Hall and got the entire fire brigade out at 6am.

Dig was telling everyone about commas that day and had to get up early to write the conclusion to a very important thing he was about to say. I put the kettle on for a morning cup of tea and within minutes all the other guests are out in the yard in their pyjamas. But not Grit and Dig. We had been given a room in the annexe where the fire alarm didn't sound. We only knew the fire brigade were there because at 6.15 three beefy firemen burst into the room while Dig was lying half asleep in bed and Grit was on the toilet.

I think that might have been the day that Dig realised I was the woman of his dreams.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Positive steps to a new Grit

And we're off the starting blocks here with the no diet book free from the Independent.

We dieters apparently have to change our bad ways of cruising by the bread bin and knocking up a tasty jam sandwich. We must change our habits through Tasks.

Task 1 of the first week is to change fatty habits by not watching TV.

Grit is smug. Not watching TV is easy. Grit does not normally watch TV because Grit is too busy with the dishwasher, laundry, clearing up, reading about polar explorers, wiping up paint, saying I cannot make a Snow Queen dress because the newsagents have been on the phone again and, what's more, I have to get down the post office to post the Christmas cards etc etc etc.

But today I obviously have to reverse this habit. So I check the listings just in case I'd like to change my ways by telling Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to push off, then lolling on the sofa and watching TV. I see the only thing to watch is Timeteam. Obviously now I've read that, I can't miss it, so I've recorded it. I reason I can watch Timeteam on another day when I'm doing another task and no-one is looking.

Not watching TV is not quite enough of a fatty-habit-changing task for an enthusiastic dieting Grit who does not watch much TV. So Grit does this instead in the hope of dropping two stone:

1. I have thrown out the single Quorn sausage that is in the fridge. Grit, I say, no one is going to eat one sausage which has not even been wrapped and has a best before date of 28th December 2007. (Actually when I went to throw out the sausage I did consider cooking it because it smelled alright. Then I wondered about being poisoned by a Quorn sausage and whether it might be a cause of death and leave the children motherless so better not to risk it.)*

2. I have resolved to stop thinking through the consequences of every action which inevitably leads to death, destruction, pollution of the planet, and the children being put into foster homes where they are beaten, abused, and sent to school where they are bullied by other children and spoken to harshly by the PE teacher.

3. I have, over the last 24 hours, not just been a selfish, whining, self-pitying, misery guts Grit. I have been thinking of the plights of other people and not just tasty jam sandwiches. I have wondered how to sleep eight people in a house that can accommodate seven. I have wondered about mastitis, recorder books, small gardens and big children. I have thought about discount cards, cat poo and toads. All this blog hopping has been life enriching and is not a fatty habit.

4. In the spirit of reversing some habits I have made two pies. I do not normally make pies. One was apple and the other was pecan and maple syrup, except that I substituted the pecans for walnuts and forgot to add the maple syrup. Both were delicious.

I am now well into the lovely Independent life-changing no diet and look forward to Task 2 which is write something. As I do write, everyday, I may have to change this habit task by not writing anything and lolling in front of the TV eating pies.

Soon, it'll be out with the weighing scales.

* I think I made the right decision. The fridge smells a bit better since I took out the sausage.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

A New Grit

I am a Changed Grit.

I have read this morning, while lolling about in bed with a bottle of brandy and a box of chocolate biscuits, the Independent guide to being A New Grit.

I realise now that the Old Grit has got into some very bad habits. Lolling about in bed with a delicious selection of broken biscuits from the milk man is one of them. They are bad, Grit, bad. They are a collection of trans fatty things and they are going to do immense harm to your British Museum.

Right. From this moment on I am A New Grit. I am breaking bad habits. I will not eat standing up nor loll about in bed with trans fatties. No. I will not put on the old black jeans every morning either. Nor speak to the children in that off-hand way like 'Be quiet and stop arguing'. I will take time to listen to them and to ask them the important things like 'Now Tiger, tell me. Why did you get Shark on the floor and give her a good thrashing?' Thanks to the Independent and breaking these bad bad habits I will not only be two stone lighter and fit into a size 10 I will be a better mother.

Thus I am resolved. I am so resolved in fact I am going to get out the vacuum cleaner. And here is a picture of Grit's new breakfast in a proper bowl. And here is the skirt and boot combination I am now wearing.

Look! Soya milk and brazil nuts! And banana! This is very good going.

Can you believe it? See what the Independent has done for me. This is the first time I have not worn a pair of old stained jeans since that night I went down to London with Dig and upset that woman who turned out to be the guest of honour and the giver of the prizes. Well I had never heard of her.

It does not matter that these boots are hurting my toes. I am not giving up. I realise, that for the New Grit, comfort and beauty do not always go together. And in a minute I'll be getting down the 'What Not to Wear' book as well.

If this heady mixture were not enough I have found renewed purpose to blog. Golly. I think I might put Tiger onto this.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

There is no point to this blog either

It is a very No Point day. Squirrel has been arguing and complaining all day long. She has been throwing out challenging and difficult insults like some miniature random insult generator on new batteries. Tiger has been arguing and telling me what to do and say. Shark has been bursting into tears.

To escape from this lot I have been compiling our record books for 2007 and deciding there is No Point because, I am told by Tiger, everyone hates everyone anyway. Especially sisters.

As a second strategy I sit everyone in front of the TV for a Pink Panther film which results in Squirrel complaining all through a pasta supper that the bathroom upstairs exists and she did not have a say in what type of bath there is and look now, Bathstore have 50% off their whirlpool baths and she wanted a whirlpool bath so why didn't we wait and get one at an amazing 50% discount with a free estimation and guaranteed bargain fitting price.

If this was all not depressing enough, there is pasta for dinner. And I have cooked it. Which makes it all even worse.

By the end of the day I reflect that I would have got everyone in the car to go to the big playground by the lake had anyone wanted to go. I would have walked to the Co-op for some milk but no-one wanted to go there either because it is cold. I would have lit the fire but I will burn down the environment. I would have cooked something different if anyone had wanted it. And I hate eating pasta every day and no-one ever asks me what I would like to eat.

All of which leads me firmly to Tiger's conclusion that there is No Point. And now I am truly in the grip of a No Point Day I can confirm that yes, it is absolutely pointless. And there is No Point to doing anything. At all.

And here's a picture of what I found under the grill this morning. That explains the fire alarm, anyway.

Friday, 4 January 2008

A quiet and successful day

Well, Grit's policy of agreeing to most things seems to be paying off. Today we have led an unusually gentle and satisfactory day at the Pile.

Dig, although he remains at the end of a Skype line somewhere in India, has solved the Bat's email problems by dint of being awake and remembering what the screens look like. I can once again extend my penis in 16 different ways but am too late for the Rolex watches. Damn.

Meanwhile, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have eaten what they want today (baked potatoes and cheesy rice) and Grit has drugged them with endless stories (Animals of Farthing Wood; Tintin; some nonsense about ghosts running a house; Snow Queen). This has led to a non-conflict style of goal attainment in the house. The only exception being a minor and quickly resolved tussle about who gets to sit on the back of the sofa to look over the top of my head and down at the pictures. (People who don't read stories to more than one or two people at a time will not appreciate these challenges, nor how these issues of seating arrangements can, improperly handled, result in a demonstration of hand-to-hand combat techniques on the front room carpet.)

Grit has also had the ready availability of two bottles of beer which she forgot about over Christmas and, if this were not success enough, managed a trip en famille to the big library in town to get out a copy of the Snow Queen film so we can secretly do some educational English-type stuff.

All this, combined with the lovely library book sale which has resulted in sixteen more children's books we don't have shelf space for, makes today a success and an achievement.

Clap clap.

Thursday, 3 January 2008


Before leaving for India, Dig disconnected my email on the machine that goes Psssgghghhhh and reconfigured this machine so that it accepts my email. Only now it doesn't. Clicking on that bat thing freezes my machine so that it refuses to do anything at all, even when I have taken to striding around the room and pointing a finger at it. Pleading, weeping, clicking on buttons, and following instructions from a phone-based Dig somewhere in India achieves a similar effect.

Defeated and outwitted by a picture of a smug-faced non-flapping bat I would therefore ask anyone in my local groups who reads this to ring me up and tell me what time art starts on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

The next two weeks

Dig has gone to India today to tell everyone about commas, which means that Grit and all the little junior Grits are left to fend for themselves for two weeks.

For the big Grit, this is no fun at all, because there is no Dig to argue with and say 'get off the computer' to, or complain about and tell off for eating cheese sandwiches in the front room because they should know better. Unfortunately there is no-one around either to provide direction, structure and authority in a house with four females who share the fundamentally weak traits of being idle, self-indulgent, selfish, truculent and difficult. Not to mince words, we need a man about, and if not a man than someone with purpose and direction to help shape the hours.

Unlike big Grit, for the little junior Grits the next two weeks will not be one of anxiety or struggle between authority and autonomy. It will be like one long girly party because most of everything will go their way and be on their terms.

This will happen because mummy Grit is simply more of a push-over than daddy Dig. She will say it is alright to start a gigantic wall painting of a woolly mammoth while she is in her dressing gown and the paint is in the yard. She will say it is alright to start writing stories about penguins even though it is midnight.

In truth, Mummy Grit is a spineless backsliding weed who would shirk an argument with a seven-year old because I would lose. What's more, in the face of being outnumbered by the logic of three seven-year olds, I will probably not be able to offer up a good and reasoned argument as to why everyone should not stay up until midnight and get out the glue.

Over the next two weeks, Mummy Grit will, in all likelihood, become a seven-year old herself. She will reason that we don't have to get up at 7 o'clock in the morning for school because our education happens all day long, and into the evening too. Now it all becomes an educational learning experience, so getting out the glue is A Good Thing. And it doesn't matter if it happens at 11 o'clock at night, because it is 3 o'clock in the afternoon somewhere else around the world. Intellectually, I will justify all this by saying I am working with my children and not against them, and that there are some very sound principles of autonomous education and TCS parenting, and it is not just a Grit cover-up for being a spineless backsliding weed.

All of these arguments and rationales, played out over the next two weeks as mummy Grit and all the junior Grits work together in some mutually supportive arrangement, sadly without daddy Dig, will ultimately come to mean one thing. That the junior Grits can more or less do what they want and mummy Grit will let them. Oh dear.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

A bit of this and that

It has not been a very good day. Grit has had a headache thanks to yesterday's ill-advised Martini and this morning's consumption of a left-over Indian take-away for breakfast. She has also set off the fire alarm which Dig suggests might now be termed the dinner bell, and she has gone to war with Squirrel over a fish made out of tin foil.

Added to that, Shark has inexplicably started speaking in an American accent. Tiger has had a big squeal while making a New Year wreath to hang in the kitchen. And Dig, who was in charge of supper, boiled enough potatoes to not quite fill one small serving bowl, opened a tin of tuna, and suggested supper was ready. Bear in mind that we are five hungry people with a potato appetite; three won't eat fish and one is a resolving vegan.

On the other hand, Shark has visited the neighbour to dutifully hand her a Christmas card and I have taken a Happy 2008 card. Then we have exchanged pleasantries about kitchens and bathrooms.

I have also taken down from the kitchen the autumnal leaf wreaths that Squirrel, Shark and Tiger made in September 2003, giving me the satisfaction of claiming that things are moving, albeit slowly, on the household organisation front.

While I'm thinking about achievement I should say I have spent some time transferring dates into the new 2008 calender so that I do not forget the kiddie RSPB and drama groups again. And Squirrel's dance and the French.

Because of this perhaps I should count New Year's day, despite its minor setbacks, as one of achievement, and one which starts off my resolutions admirably. Except for eating standing up, which I am still working on.

Dig, meanwhile, apart from his humiliation over the potatoes, has within the last 24 hours had two unsettling experiences, one with a modelling balloon and one with a rabbit. I may post the rabbit dilemma later. It is not an easy one to solve. We have had an unpleasant experience with a rabbit before, and not surprisingly, it has made Dig cautious.