Sunday, 28 February 2010

The kids are probably busy chasing rats. Who cares?

Grit is busy today, and not home educating. She has locked herself in the office.

So here's a picture of what looks like flash mobbing at the local skate rink. And yes, if you home educating strange types are planning a flash mob somewhere, count us in. Sometimes I carry out bizarre actions on my own in the Co-op. But I note that a solitary flashing Grit merely attracts expressions of horror.

Actually, I am busy writing letters to lords and ladies. There are some very good letters to read. You can write one too if you want.

The other thing I am busy doing is mopping up sick. (From this I have learned not to discard my wellington boots immediately outside the door of the downstairs toilet. The probability that a passing child will need to vomit, not be able to make it to the toilet, but eyespy the open and inviting left wellington boot is obviously extremely high and a problem I should have anticipated.)

Saturday, 27 February 2010

The TES is nearly my favourite comedy newspaper

Gawd bless the TES. They cheer me up something statistically enormous in these wasteland days.

Here's Kerra Maddern, gone behind the boiler to receive the arsefacts from the Ministry of Truth and Trust, manufactured by Ed Balls.

Kerra, bless her, has carefully copied out the wrods in the Ministry of Truth and Trust press release and writ them down in proper TES style.

The TES then sends them off by invisible fairy mail to the printers, who make all that magic ink-printery stuff happen.

So here it is. The latest truth in the TES. And it is TRUE, every bit of what the DCSF/TES writ. Almost as true, but not quite as true, as Grit's astonishing facts, which she has carefully collated by means of a statistically accurate truth machine with knobs on:

83% of all women in the UK yesterday went out of the house wearing NON-MATCHING UNDERWEAR. I myself wore white bra and black knickers. 100% class.

21% of all babies are born smoking a pipe.

6% of agricultural farm labourers around the world working for less than US$1 a day are killed annually by donkeys. 32% of those donkeys fall out of aeroplanes. 1.9% of donkeys are pushed.

33.56% of wombats drink vodka between the hours of 2am and 3.55pm. You're amazed. You thought the figure was lower, didn't you? Well that just shows how good wombats are at hiding their addictions. They just do it secretly in burrows and you don't see them. 56% also have better sex with viagra.

Less than 0.1% of anything the TES prints is true, but it is 98% amusing.

Now go and read something serious, for goodness sake.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Another question the BBC didn't ask

Against my will, I have spent some time today reading this.

I want to know why, in January and February 2008, Mr H and other social and care professionals - employees of the state - did not use existing child protection procedures to help the children of Angela Gordon.

I want to know why he, and other people involved with this case, did not use the system that is created to protect children like Khyra and her siblings. These people, the paid employees of Birmingham, were faced with a year's amount of evidence from teachers and medical staff that Angela Gordon's children were being abused. That information was collated from their time in school.

Why did Mr H and other workers not use the information provided by the school?

Those people - working for local government - already had, available to them, evidence from medical staff and teaching staff who observed the weight, nutrition and hunger issues of the children. They had evidence from staff at the school who met with the mother on several occasions and reported that her behaviour was bizarre, unreasonable, aggressive and confrontational. They had evidence of the abusive circumstances, logged for one year, from January 2007 to December 2007. They had that evidence.

Long before Angela Gordon withdrew her children from school, this was a child protection issue. The abuse was suspected. The channels to save her were there. The system was in place.

Mr H and other key staff ignored the overwhelming evidence of abuse. Mr H had evidence of unsuitable parents, known to social services, behaving irresponsibly for bad reasons, and yet he claims he was happy with parental provision. According to the judgment records, he was himself responsible for the actions which led directly to school deregistration.

Deregistration was not then, in effect, the action of the mother, but of the Local Authority themselves. This would explain why Birmingham council has failed to provide any letter from Gordon. There simply isn't one. Birmingham themselves took the decision to remove Khyra from the school roll.

The council in effect, created the situation of failure in the child protection system.

If those 'professionals' could not exercise correct judgment in the face of all this evidence, already collated, together with all the evidence, reports and observations of the teaching professionals at school, how can any further legislation help these people make the right decision?

All social and care workers working for Birmingham already had enough evidence, collected at school.

It is simply wrong to blame either the school or home education legislation for a failure in decision making and action that clearly lies with the Birmingham authority.

I am simply bewildered that the BBC chooses to ignore this. And I am incredulous that, faced with this evidence, the government can claim they only lack the legislation to enter the house to secure a child's protection.

For Khyra Ishaq, there were people already looking, they were already seeing, and they acted as if they were blind.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

The consequence of the Khyra Ishaq case

Home educators predicted this.

My heart aches for Khyra Ishaq and what she suffered. I have cried for this child and held my own children close.

What can I tell you, who read and listen to the BBC, that no deregistration letter from the school or council yet supports the assertion that Khyra was home educated? Indeed without confirmation, there remains discussion whether she was actually on the school roll and the truancy team ineffective.

In a way, Khyra's educational status remains not the key issue, because Birmingham social services already knew about Khyra Ishaq. They already had powers to act. Despite this, the story is being used to justify legislative change.

Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board say agencies were hampered because they could not gain entry to the house. Ed Balls says this will change.

Please bear in mind that this legislation will not be used solely for us, home educators. I feel sure that the law will apply equally to all households where there are children, and can be used against any who are subject to red flags or who do not maintain certain levels of school attendance.

Right now, you might say that is a good thing, and 'if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear', in which case, inspectors will be welcome into your home.

I would appeal to any of you who have read so far that you please reserve judgement against home educators, that you do not condemn our lifestyle, that you respect us as parents, and that you can think away from the emotional aspect of this case.

I am finding it hard to do that myself at the moment. Yet I know that the government is cynical and manipulative enough to use an emotional response to effect profound changes in our privacy and civil liberties.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Happy birthday, triplets

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, I have thought of many words of advice to impart to you on this monumental day, the day you actually have lived ten years on this planet.

I probably will express those careful thoughts. Mostly while you tut, roll your eyes and toss your head. But I like to think that it is a mama's role to drip feed her words of wisdom, and I hope we are living together a lot longer yet, which will give me plenty of time to impart my ancient knowledge on why you should not wear that skirt out of this house.

So just for today, I will simply say, I love you, and Happy Birthday.

You must have done something right already, because I never did sell you for medical experiments.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

I am only talking shoes

Really, I have to thank the staff at Brantano for their totally laid back couldntgiveashit attitude. They paid us zero attention and I am grateful. It meant that my three mini consumers could take over the entire shop floor, try every size 4 and 5 and some size 6, walk up and down the aisles shouting OHMYGODWHOWOULDWEARTHAT at the sight of the purple diamante peep toe platform boot and then conduct 'the running test'. This is a foolish experiment that the responsible adult concocted to get the little grits into the shoe shops at all. The running test is, basically, can you run while wearing these shoes?

If you can, we'll take them. We need to run from dogs, cats, the truancy patrol, and the OFSTED inspector, so it is as well not to be tripped up by our own footwear.

The Brantano staff also turned a blind eye to this:

An extended seminar on manufacturing costs, profit, loss, the maintenance of retail outlets, staff wages, consumer protection, and will shoes that cost nine quid fall to bits after three weeks, so mama can use the 28 day period to bring the busted up shoddy footwear back.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Socialisation takes many forms. Some of them canine.

Like this. A brisk afternoon walk with eight kids, three adults and ONE DOG round a lake.

All home educating friends, including THE DOG, and all freezing cold. Except THE DOG, who stays warm by wagging THE DOGGY TAIL.

Did I mention THE DOG?

I am not saying we are out of that particular phobia, but walking round a lake with A DOG and not throwing ourselves in the water in panic is a pretty big development.

I am so far gone, that I would say that my DOG THERAPY is a form of socialisation all in itself.

Appropriate then, that we come home to this discussion. Remarkable for the patience with which home educators keep on telling you all about this lifestyle. Depressing too, reading again, and again, and again, how home ed kids must be segregated from society, never mix with others, cannot learn to be normal, are forever consigned to be different, and are cut off from the rest of the world. Probably by mad people like Grit who thinks you can socialise with A DOG.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

I may be defeated, but I am never giving in

Pah! Rain, sleet, snow? What means this melange to us, intrepid explorers? I laugh in the face of British weather!

But not for long because it is bloody freezing. Now get in the car and let's drive around all the minor roads of Suffolk for three hours. Brilliant!

Wake up! Arse dollies! Off we go!

This Suffolk driving is not so easy. Especially when that's the minor road to follow.

Of course I'll look on the bright side! This isn't Norfolk. Because that's the only time I ever used a compass for real. You get amongst those woolthread tracks, flatland all around, then turn round three times with no sense of direction and pfff. You are contemplating a life living in the car boot, matey, eating your own shoes. Pray then, like me, to be found before you die.

But wait! This is what we discover! St James's Chapel. Don't ask me how. I became distracted by an English Heritage sign. Anyway, it comes with an original hooded Medieval monk.

Actually that is Squirrel, but she is doing that thing of standing still, dark stranger muttering curses. Possibly at me. I have just driven her to a cold stone hut in the sleet in the middle of nowhere and I declare this brilliant.

Next stop on our fantastic tour is Dedham, where we can breathe Constable country. Nerdy types for whom this matters found out where Constable painted The Stour Valley and Dedham Village. We might peer through the hedge, discover the same, and live a lesson in Art History. Here I plan to turf the little grits out the car and walk them about the beautiful countryside, admiring the view and drawing pictures.

OK, we did not quite get out the car.

Mostly on account of the artillery rain bashing in the windscreen and a mutiny of little grits complaining their shoes leak and they have no rain hoods and No. They are not leaving the car. No matter how much I gasp in astonishment, Look! this field is art and it is brilliant.

Hmph. Gritlets, you will come back to this place yet, I warn you.

Anyway, next stop! Rear end to a housing estate in Clacton on Sea. They have a Martello Tower. You can bet I am prepared and lecture everyone on the Frenchies coming by sea. History! Brilliant.

Rats. They escape!

Time to bury the little Arsefaces in the sands. At which point, the sunshine magically glimmers for all of fifteen minutes.

Time to head into Clacton. Is there not something brilliant about the English seaside resort under February rainclouds? The wistful echo of the single slot machine? The sorrow of the nonchurning pink candyfloss machine? The mournful sobbing, somewhere at the back of the offy?

There is only one thing to do. Hide on the pier and eat chips.

And then, because we haven't enjoyed ourselves enough, up to Colchester. Where, at about 3.15pm, I sustain the brilliance no longer, and slump against a pillar in Peacocks covering my face with my hands. It is fine, little grits. Ignore me. Leave me here wrestling with dark thoughts, momentarily defeated, in weary refuge at the world's most horrible place filled with shocking pink and black, suddenly thrown here looking for boots because I cannot bear the Tiger whines about soaking wet feet for a second longer.

I overcome. Of course I do. Right next door is the fantastic Colchester Natural History Museum. I know an old Church looks unlikely. But it is brilliant. Offering free geology, stag beetles, and a very patient member of staff who waits twenty minutes for Squirrel to count £1.70 in non-shiny coins from a Dalmatian dog purse. I recommend it. Particularly if by now you feel like a shuffling dribbly hobo with cold feet, wet coats and red noses with what feels like seaweed leaking out of them, looking for an hour's sanctuary at the frayed end of a long, long day.

A day which I can truly say was brilliant.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

You should all go to West Stow Anglo Saxon Village

Don't all go at once. That would be silly.

When you go, be kind, because bits of my soul are buried here. Indeed, so affecting is this place, that I am even indulgent to the Arseface dollies.

You can tell if we are here, because the Gritmobile is always the last car standing.

Friday, 19 February 2010

I upset a receptionist, become an anarchist, and shoot myself in the foot

Yesterday and today, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have been booked into art workshops.

The workshops are great. The kids work with artists, and make stuff.

Meanwhile, I make a nuisance.

To book the kids into art workshops, I must present myself at a reception and give my name and contact. That is OK. Tiger might burst into tears. Squirrel might fall out of window. Shark might self-combust.

But perhaps I am not the right person to be asked for any more. The receptionist hands me forms requiring permission to photograph, information about allergies, permission to take off site, agreement to emergency medical treatment, my contact details, all emergency contact details (evening and daytime), our doctor's contact details, my agreement to policies and procedures, all our names, dates of births, addresses, how far we travelled, agreement to email contact, agreement that payment is nil.

For a two hour kid workshop making patterns on paper.

When the receptionist hands the second lot of forms, I snap.

Snappy Grit slaps the forms back on the desk. In a tetchy voice I ask why should I provide details of ethnic origin, whether any of my children are disabled, whether any of my children have special learning needs, how I heard about the workshop, whether I need information about disability access, or whether I would like this information in large print. Why.

The receptionist narrows her eyes and says - as if all this information is casual, is nothing much, just a little about you, who you are, how you can be counted - she says, with a shrug of her shoulders, It's just if you want to be on our database.

And her tone and her manner could have said, 'If you're the sort of parent who doesn't dump your kids and run, the sort of parent who wants these services to continue, the parent who cares, then of course you'll fill in these forms.'

I lay the pen down and grimace. I am bull at red rag. The receptionist flicks at her hair and glances away. She is unsure. I am too difficult. I do not fit. I am a parent who is a problem.

Yes I am. I am proud to be a problem parent.

I stand, and smile a chill you to the bones grimace smile.

If I had a soap box right now, I would whip the thing out from my handbag, stand on it, and shout that I have had enough. Our compliance as parents is essential to how this society is governed. Our readiness to hand over all our information, to accurately complete all forms, to give unquestioningly our agreement to be databased, to accept this is how we are counted, to be passive in the face of further and further information collected about us, as if all this information is casual, is an outrage against who I am.

You do not fit me inside your institutional boxes. You do not define me. You do not describe my experience. You do not tell me who I am. You do not hold my actions to account. You do not describe what areas of weakness I have that can be addressed by your attention. You do not identify the areas of my personality which are deficient to your system. You do not improve me to your better fit. You do not own me. You do not control me.

Who is describing who I am? I describe who I am.

And right now, I am angry.

I glare at the receptionist, and in this moment of awkward tension, she turns away, and busies herself collecting papers.

Two hours later, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger burst from the wood workshop declaring this is one of the best art sessions they have done. Delighted, I ask the artist how we could buy his time for a workshop with a happy mixed-age group of home educated children to learn about cutting, shaping, and decorating wood.

He waves me in the direction of the building opposite. No problem, he cries. Just go to the building over the courtyard, and book it through the receptionist.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Emotionally wrecked

Spent most of the day inside, with the rain and sleet streaming against the windows, reading out loud to Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, with us all buried between sofa and floor cushions in front of a roaring coal fire.

Would be idyllic, except for the fact that the book was War Horse by Michael Murpurgo, and what with the loves, loyalties, partings, deaths, trusts and hollow victories I had to ignore the cries of carry on! carry on! but just intermittently put the book down for a weep.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Not all lost

The Achievements
Shark tracked down a library book on the computer. We drove to the library and picked it up. For that feat alone, I want a prize.

I told off the librarian for selling the children's library books. Surely selling the kiddy library stock is an affront to any civilised person. They shouldn't sell library books like that. It is wrong wrong wrong. And she charged me only £5.50 for two enormous carrier bags stuffed full.

I coaxed Tiger out of the fishy toilet where she was screaming herself sick after an argument about who has the right to put an octopus on a cushion. It only took 35 minutes and that is a record.

The No Achievements
I did not drive the kids to Cambridge for the Twilight Museums event. Please no-one tell me that this event was the best experience you ever had in your life.

The In-the-balance
I am a woman. And I ironed shirts. For a MAN.

On the one hand, I undermined forty years of female advancement, equality of expectation, and all respect to my ambitions.

On the other hand, I did it graciously, and to reward Dig's total trust in me. It was sort of naive and sad and pathetic and I took pity.

You should see the mess when chocolate hundreds and thousands are pressed into a white shirt with a steam iron. You don't normally get asked to iron anything twice.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Now I regret the passing of Woolworths

Grit drags her gritlets off to St Albans today. They stay snug in the warm, dry, heated education room of Verulamium Museum, where they craft Roman villas out of shoe boxes.

Grit is thrown out into the cold pelting rain. Abandoned. Yet the rain beats on, nails studding the ground, hammering upon the uncovered head of the poor, sad, discarded Grit.

But! Grit has one brain cell remaining active after years of abuse by despair, confusion, social expectation and 85% strength chocolate, and she applies that brain cell to her problem called Facing two hours being soaked to the skin and Thinking what to do about it.

She determines upon bravely walking into town and buying an umbrella. First she seeks the path under the guidance of St Albans' superior pedestrian signage system.

Then she must walk across the park into town while her head slowly dissolves under a torrential deluge of acid rain.

Twenty minutes later, liquid in human form, she arrives in town. If only! If only Woolworths in St Albans were still open and sold umbrellas!

Millets, close by, cannily prop girly pink peep-through umbrellas against their shop doorway. I examine them, dripping. But far too posh (£12.99) for mean Grit.

No. Not the Millets golfing umbrella, either. Grit already looks like a wet twerp. We don't want to advertise the fact. And I will at some point be forced to hand over the new umbrella to one of the gritlets. Imagine what mayhem and eye wounds they can cause with a 6-metre wide golfing umbrella down your congested High Street at 11 am in the mornings.

The search must go on. Oxfam? No umbrellas there. Not even fairtrade ones. Cancer Research? Nope. Far too upmarket.

God knows what madness drives me into Monsoon unless it is to flaunt the new bedraggled water rat look, and have the staff watch me suspiciously while I leak puddles over their nice polished wooden floor.

By now, nearly an hour on, I am too far watery to care. Sloshing, I follow this bloke into a faceless shopping sluice.

I may never find my way out the twilight zone. But at least I carry my own water supply in my pockets.

Then! Wilkinsons! Nearly like Woolworths! And £2 buys a nearly functioning umbrella for the walk back through town and over the park!

Behold! My lovely, lovely new umbrella! Aloft, like my dignity, my chins and my chipper. At last, two hours on, I am happy. Satisfied. Delighted!

Even though by now it had quite stopped raining.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Kids in woods

How to spot and catch kids in woods. Particularly: woods with fantastic rope swings, gigantic sandy pits, deep rain scoured ditches, brilliant slidy steep slopes, excellent climbing trees, curious exciting unknown things, and mud.

1: Preparing to go spotting. 2: Guidance for the spotter. 3: Spotting a kid. 4: Spoil heaps and Scratching grounds. 5: Calling sounds. 6: Catching kids in woods.

1: Preparing to go spotting.
Think feet! You could be outdoors, standing up, for a considerable time. This might be difficult for the grown up accustomed to desk-lolling or chair-sitting. Wear sturdy footwear and warm clothing. Take hot soup in thermos flasks. Do not, under any circumstances, leave the thermos on the kitchen table where it is the first sight to greet you on return.

For cases where there are home educated kids in woods, wear two pairs of socks, carry flares, compass, whistle, ration packs and magnesium fire starter in emergency survival drawstring bag. Quite frankly, you could be lost in woodland for days tracking the little blighters. You may need to erect temporary shelter and eat boar.

2: Guidance for the spotter.
Be patient. Do not grumble. Loud noises and gruff shouting are pointless. Kids in woods will run off. They can run faster than you. And they know that fat arsed chair sitters cannot climb trees.

3: Spotting a kid.
Kids in woods are difficult to spot. Take binoculars. Take up an observation point, like behind a not very interesting tree. Ensure the observation ground is shared with other parent-type spotters. You will all need to huddle together when it starts to snow and share emotional support when you realise there are still three hours of woodland kid spotting to go.

Ssh! Feral home educated kids in woods spotted
towards tea time on the Greensand Ridge. See how they move in packs.

Note habits: both low to the ground, and intensive jumping from tree to tree using rope swings.
This may be a form of ritual display.
Anthropologists are working on this right now.

Rare footage of balletic tree swinging showing great accomplishment and skill.
Kids in woods may attain high status in packs through display of physical achievements.

4: Spoil heaps and Scratching grounds.
Spoil heaps and Scratching grounds are kid meeting grounds. They are identified by inexplicable bits of rock piled up, sticks balanced on rocks, lots of muddy footprints, and dug out holes.

Caution: Do not attempt to pile up some sticks in the hope of attracting kids in woods. Kids in woods will not come. They know the difference matey between a pathetic adult trap and a proper kid assembly. Forget it. That is a rubbish plan. Go back to your observation tree and wait.

5: Calling sounds.
You can identify kids in woods from scuttering sounds and giggling noises. If you are alerted to a pack of kids in woods, do not attempt to hail them. They will all run off. My advice is to stay quiet and hide. That way, when they burst from the undergrowth, run past you, grab hold of a rope and hurl themselves into the far bushes, you stand a slim chance of attracting their attention with the melancholic parental cry Please, please, please can we go home now?

Come to think of it, that doesn't bloody work.

Weeping Poor Mama! Poor Mama! doesn't work either. They totally ignore this, band together in packs, and scurry off into the thickets to experiment further with twigs.

6. Catching kids in woods.
This is, of course, the goal of all kids in woods spotters: to determine the location of your kid in wood, from where it may be safely taken home again, wrestled into the bath and replaced overnight in the nest. The best way to do this is bribe it with its favourite food. Pasta and tomato sauce does the trick round here. With extra cheese. Then fruit salad. Yes, tinned peaches too.

Even then, things may be tricky, and you may yet need to approach with great caution, because after three hours, kid in wood has learned how to defend itself against anything you might like to think is parental devotion.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

This is what you need. A Valentine's Day Notebook. Looking vaguely like I have nailed it to a pink Artex ceiling.

Take your fingers away from your eyeballs. Blame Sharon. She made me buy this book. It is responsible for turning this house of ordinary home educating horror into an outsourcing factory of paper crafting hell. I am bearing up.

Looking on the benefits side, we now specialise in supplying superior chunks of cut up paper to the floor. We can cut all types of paper and card in all sizes, thicknesses, and run three finger slicing paper cutters to trim anyone's folios at a moment's notice.

And we are highly trained in the use of skewers. We find these are very useful to hold together bits of cut up paper in long lines. We are not quite sure why we do that, but one day something beautiful will emerge from the psychosis.

Having turned this house into a frenzied paper chopping centre, we are, of course, emerging with books. Books you have never seen the like of, but books that I declare are art. Soon I will dedicate a whole sumptuous photoblog to our efforts. Save your tears till then.

And I am Grit, determined not to break. I am resolved not to be even remotely sorry about this present crafting enthusiasm; not for the endless demand for glue, not the way every table in the house has vanished, and certainly not for the pathetic sight of my once dignified husband attempting to cross the kitchen looking for the bus to Nepal but instead sinking in thigh-deep extracts of glitter paper.

Dig, this is the price we pay for superior hand made paper items in an education type environment. Like the delightful Valentine's Day Notebook, above. Yours for a modest £2,500.

I think this price truly reflects the otherwise loss of income and twenty six hours of crafting disability taken for us to create this beautiful item. OK, it does not have very many pages. Yes, I ripped them out in varying mixtures of accidents, frustrations and ineptitudes. The bleeding heart binding also could not follow the original design because when I tried that, the remaining pages fell out and the cover tore off.

The hand finished decoration proceeded quite well. I stabbed myself in the hand (twice), knocked the decorative beads all over the floor and had a big fight with Squirrel because I wanted her purple Eiffel Tower keyring and she wouldn't give it to me. You can see it in the photograph. Obviously that is not included in the sale because when she found me I had to give it back.

But you can tell that I remain unbroken by this enthusiastic engagement with the dark arts of book making and book binding, even though I now sport three plasters on my hands, a missing thumb and an eye-patch. This is indeed what home craft/education is all about. It is all about learning by doing, making the best of a bad job, looking on the bright side, remaining determined to be unbowed in the face of crushing adversity, and proceeding willfully in the face of all signs saying TURN BACK STOP NOW.

In fact, so determined am I to rip a heart of joy from a swamp of sorrow; to find fulfilment from chaos, chemical hazard and misery, that I can now declare, having passed through the burning fires of pain, that I love hand making books, and may continue to make them even after I am dead.

I know this, because the only bleakness of the craft experience I will truly admit to was the moment I realised that I have no Japanese screw punch. I knew then that I needed one of these tools more than I needed clothes, teeth, or walls for the house.

And yet I went on, never giving up, equipped with a sewing needle sellotaped to a pen. A martyr for Valentine's Day; a martyr for book art. And when you look back at the Artex effort, you can think Idiot.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The beginnings of another craft obsession

Thanks to the stunning papier mache work displayed down at a local art gallery, gritlet number one now plans to take over the house with chickenwire, old newspaper and PVA.

We are unlikely to produce beautiful work like this...

But you can be sure we will try.

Friday, 12 February 2010

quid pro quo

My mother worked in the National Health Service. She worked in a hospital laundry, and high summer days nearly killed her. The temperature gauge would edge ever upward, and she would dread the afternoon. She would come home and drink pints of cold water to replace the hot sweat that poured, literally, from her, as she fed bedsheets into steaming presses.

She taught me that if you take something out, you give something back. This was the way of a community. This was how things worked. This is how life is.

The women at our local Toy Library volunteer far beyond their hours; they greet everyone with smiles, and there's no effort they won't go to if the toddler likes a playmat, if the baby wants bricks to bash, if the five year old needs something else to cling to.

They helped me something extraordinary, at one of the most trying times. I'm teaching the little grits that when we borrowed all the toys, walked up there and back again every Friday with purpose and focus and goal, then that was a service we used, time and time again, and it's a service we support, back again, when we can.

This year, while we can, we do this strange thing. We look through old clothes and trawl the £1 rail once a week for fabrics that we can cut up, reuse and recycle. We bring them home, and sew them into toy bags: bags that the Toy Library can use to carry and store toys, and bags that can be played with, as play items in their own right. Every other Friday, we drop off what we've made. You can see this record over here.

For once, I don't feel smug about this. I think it's just a way of saying thank you. And here we are, at our particular point in history, and I need to feel what a community is, once more. Because I also know how vulnerable they are, and how quickly they can disappear.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Finding out about the life you damage is probably a tedious sort of responsibility

I've written some fifty comments now. I've posted none of them. You should be glad about that. They run the entire emotional gamut. From fall-to-my-knees and wring my hands, through to kickass smartass, bouncing back via plague upon ye all, then lifting my hand politely with the excuse me's, before falling backwards in a ditch swinging punches, yelling blasphemies that would rip the skin off your ears.

But over here it's my blog. I need to mark how I feel.

I am bewildered as to how a thinking person could look upon this world so busting with knowledges, so filled with ideas, spilling out with people and their lived realities, experiences, ways of seeing and ways of knowing - and then discount the lot of them.

Worse, this thinking person appears unable to put together a coherent argument which explains why all these people should be ignored.

Maybe it's because 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear'. Perhaps the real issue is the 'safeguard'. It might be education, especially 'language learning'. It could be 'Muslim girls'. There we have it: home educating Muslim families need inspecting, so we'll inspect the lot of you.

Then what happens if so many ordinary home educating families present coherent arguments, rationales, questions? Dismiss us. Better make it flippant. Home educated children clearly need help if they are so foolish as to worry about a stranger entering the house to inspect them.

All incomprehensible, then. And I am filled with dismay. Sad, too. Yes, because these people have power over my life, and care not one bit for the damage they do.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

By the way, we're marrying these kids off later this week

Grit is trying not to be a loud mouthed bastard over here. Which leaves a photoblog diary to show you the lockedinthehouse unsocialisedmisery of my three kids, tormented daily as I commit the crime of home educating.

The gritlets are here somewhere, in a workshop on the HMS Belfast, moored on the Thames, by London Bridge. You can see for yourselves what type of malignant crowd the home educators are. Threatening society by sitting down.

Then there's all that walking about the ship to be done, learning about World War II, finding out about supply convoys, gun mountings, the sinking of the Scharnhorst. Of course we are using that knowledge to undermine all decent people of the free world.

Aha! Now you're in trouble! Look who's taken over the ship!

That's torn it. We're all sailing off to fairyland to look for the magic unicorns who store glitter in their horns.

When we've finished destroying society, we'll come home by train.

And can anyone tell me that this does not show my children fully aware and in control of a delicate social moment: the moment you - you poor, sad, straggling passenger, breathlessly leaping aboard the train - must realise that the last seat left is strategically occupied by a fluffy cat and a cup cake?