Wednesday, 30 November 2011

It's not that far to Pluto

I want to reassure anyone about to plunge into the murky, conspiratorial world of home education.

Do not worry. You are not alone.

You'll find another one here already. Following the same home educating routine as you. Go on, physically locate yourself anywhere on this planet.


I guarantee, you will meet other thinkers and doers just like you.

You're sure to meet your co-twin - maybe hiding in the cafe at the steam train museum, under the table in the bead workshop, wet in a field peering at a moth, or trying not to look at buckets of crap at the poop-cleaning farm - and you'll go, Wow! Meeting you is spooky!

Because when you hear their story - how they started home educating Tinkertop - you'll be shocked how similar it is to your own.

Your co-twin will have observed the things you did. They have thought the thoughts you have. They have struggled with the arguments you did. They have drawn the same conclusions.

You look at each other, then know truly, you are thought-twins beamed from a parallel universe. This could have been used as a plotline in the Twilight Zone!

But this is no accident.


I have met with co-twins now so many times, I have come to understand this is why I was abducted in the first place, taken to Zelta Minor, implanted with a three-headed being, and sent back to Planet Earth.

It is our mission to CONVERT ALL THE UNBELIEVERS. It is obvious to us that home educators are a master race of aliens put here to infiltrate ordinary normals.

Soon SOON we will take over the mind of Ed Balls. Yes, him, and ex-education ministers everywhere!

SSSSShhhh! Don't tell anyone! Let's keep it secret until the time is right!


Ha! But our plan is working!

Here is a local group of home educated kids, looking innocent enough, meeting at Tai Po Waterfront Park, chosen especially because of its super-long avenue.


This is our covert job. To explore the universe, home ed style. Meaning: glue peppercorns, seed heads and hazelnuts on bits of paper to better represent scaled models of planets in our solar system.


Then, line up planets in order, separate out the billions of light years between them into distances we can comprehend, and walk the waterfront, measuring* and laying out the planets as we go.


See? To the unbelieving world, it simply looks like we small group of home educators are doing smart-arsed planet talk and astro-maths, or putting learning into practice, right in the middle of the community.

Not at all. We are plotting the co-ordinates that will take us back to the mothership for when our work here is done!



* This is a photograph of Our Lord John Holt's measuring wheel. It is TRUE. I have seen documentary evidence.

Dig says he thought John Holt did not believe in measuring anything. Pft! Blasphemer. Of course John Holt needed a measuring wheel. How else is he going to communicate with us the distance we need to calculate for our safe return to Zelta Minor?

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

In anticipation

We went to the coastal defences museum. Really, the defences museum? Again?

I'd rather be elsewhere. We came here before. And I still have difficulty being a fan of military museums. You can probably tell from the things I choose to photograph. See these shapes? They're interesting, don't you think?




I'm finding this very frustrating, returning here rather than taking advantage of what's over there.

Because it is hiking season in Hong Kong. For that, read, the weather is now cool enough to walk the mountain trails.

But am I walking them? I am not.

I am 100% irritated by what I am about to say - I can feel the irritable bowel syndrome squeezing my insides right now - but I cannot walk those remote trails without assistance. More specifically, the assistance of someone who has a sense of direction.

Now everyone should understand why I stay married to Dig. Only he can find the way out of the paper bag.

It is difficult for people to believe - especially if they attempt to cross Nathan Road, ride the trams, or get off the underground at Mong Kok - but not every inch of Hong Kong has seven million people standing on it.

Hong Kong has beautiful remote mountain areas where there are no people, no sodium lights, no street signs, and - horror of horrors to the directionally challenged Grit - choice of more than one route.

Now I dare not embark on those trails offering me more than one route if there are only kids alongside me. Twenty minutes in, and Shark will say, with her usual hint of contempt, Mummy, do you know where you're going?

I will begin to doubt. Tiger's radar will pick up my fake laugh. She will ask in a trembling voice, Where are we going? Mummy? Is this the right way?

I will answer brightly, Yes, of course it's the right way! But a little creeping doubt will niggle in my mind. What if she has an intuition I do not? Back there? We took a left, and we had the choice of a right.

Think about it. She has inherited Dig's sense of direction. I had to rely on her to lead me out the Elements Shopping Mall. I was in there an hour trying to find the exit before she took control.

The silence will be broken with, Are you sure? Mummy? MUMMY? MUMMMYYYYY? WE ARE LOST! LOST! LOST!

In an instant, panic will spread amongst the masses. Squirrel will photograph every tree as a desperate means of finding her way out again, Shark will stomp off in a huff saying IT IS THIS WAY, Tiger will fall to the ground in tears. Then ten hours later, alone on the mountainside, in the dark, we will all die. The End.

I know it will go like that because it has damn near happened before.

So even though I so dearly want to head up the mountains and across those trails, and even though I am so totally pissed off by my own inadequacies in this department, I know it is wise to wait a little longer for a responsible adult to pass this way, take me by the hand, and lead me and the mini grits safely over the mountain trails. (And if it all goes bellyup, I can blame them.)

Monday, 28 November 2011

If only Tintin had been filmed by Sergei Eisenstein!

So I blatantly defied the instruction from my betters on this review.*

I took the kids to see Tintin the FILM.

HEY. Look at me. I AM IN OPEN REBELLION!

If the act of attending 'Spielberg's "execrable" film adaptation' is not enough of a demonstration of my insubordination to those who discern better than me the essential emptiness of all art, let me also yell bold in caps,

I LOVED THIS FILM.

But I feel I should declare another motive, up front.

I had to go see Tintin. It was Tintin, not me, who taught Shark, Squirrel, and Tiger to read.

Before they could read for themselves, they got hold of the Tintin books in their snotty-chocolaty fists and loved (and still do), all the Hergé illustrations.

Tintin's hair! The moustaches! Snowy! The mountains! The wild-fisted Captain Haddock!

But they couldn't read the captions. I had to read aloud all the words with all the voices. (Prof. Calculus was difficult. Foolishly I made him squeaky.) After that, they pored over the books, only looking up to delightedly yell Blistering barnacles! Iconoclast!

Despite that background, I still fail in Tom McCarthy's world. For me, the experience of a triplet family weaned on Tintin only made the film more fun.

I loved the performance-capture animation. It was a perfect technique to merge the real with the fiction. My eyeballs - connected to my humour synapses that obviously never matured beyond a ten-year old - could follow people bounce from lamp posts, climb onto aeroplanes, and crash land in the desert, while all the time my brain explained those impossibilities by it's a cartoon, dummy.

And I loved the script. The plot. The sub-plot! And the way the characters from different cartoons were brought in and mixed into one roller-coaster Spielberg film-ride. With hidden treasure! And pirate ships!

So it pains me to come away from Tintin the FILM and compare it to Tintin the CARTOON. They are different works, right?

I wanted Captain Haddock of the cartoon to be Captain Haddock of the film. In the film, he's wild, but he's not dangerous. In the cartoon (or in my head), he's much more a perfect role model, teetering on the edge of the unacceptable, veering unstably into the dangerous and uncontrollable, pulling back enough not to be totally, pointlessly, destructive.

But like I said, they are different works, the cartoons and the film, and I can't judge one through the other.

I'm just left having enjoyed the cartoons with all the voices, and thrilled to watch a fantastic adventure film. With pirates!

So ignore Tom McCarthy's instructions. He's just out to impress his mates with his I'm Important Pen. I've seen that plenty of times before.

Now follow Grit's advice! Take your kids to see Tintin the FILM!**

*Empire-building author alert.

** Of course my kids didn't like it. They just kept complaining about how the film was a Žižekian example of a dominant ideology's capacity to recuperate its own negation, or something.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The perfect home educating body

Many times in our home educating journey have I had cause to look inwards, measuring my heavy responsibilities against the insufficiency of my inner resources.

But I have also looked down, and seen the physical impact this great learning journey has wrought upon a woman's frail and feeble body.

Here is the evidence of a home educating experience. Battered ribs, stringy thighs, and wretched knees of despair. Ankles of doom, pounded feet, and wiry hands, scarred from a thousand face-clawing, vein-popping struggles.

Yet, as I look south, beyond these sad and torn remnants, I am happy, for I have learned what wisdoms to impart.

Collecting my battle wounds and dismembered limbs, I can now give you, youthful person considering home education, the gift of my experience.

If you really, really, REALLY are intent on spending several years teaching your own, then with these essential items, you must now prepare your body.*

1. Brass neck.
Every home educating mother must acquire one of these. A solid brass neck to navigate the High Street at 11am on a Monday morning.

More than moral righteousness is cast in the brass. It disables any ability to turn head-wise to the whisperings following the 'school-age child' straggling at your side. The particularly scruffy child, clad in grubby tee-shirt, torn jeans, an assortment of dreadlocks, chocolate over one eye, and a left shoe only (a fact you are bound not to notice until you reach the Co op on account of not being able to turn the neck).

2. A tongue you already bit off.
My advice is DON'T SAY IT. I have struggled with this, and still do, because oh yes there are so many responses to the in-law who, horror-struck, whispers Home education? Is that wise? or the neighbour who asks 'Are you allowed to do that?

STOP. Your response will not only be taken as evidence in court, it must be totally positive PR for what you are about to do, and simultaneously support all the struggling world of home ed. DON'T SAY WHAT YOU ARE THINKING. JUST SMILE.

3. Face of steel.
As you sit around the kitchen table, determined to enjoy yet another happy learning moment with Urban Environments or What shall we watch on the telly, the peace will shatter between Arch Enemies, Sibling Rivals 1,2, and 3. Number 1 destroys the moment of educational perfection with I hate you; number 2 screams Get out of my life, and number 3 chimes in with the chorus, It would be better off if you were dead.

Then, with the learning day of happiness in ruins, you will need a face of steel. Any ordinary plasticine face, betraying motherly tenderness brutalised by shock, disbelief, and horror, inevitably adds emotion to the moment; it allows the offspring a terrible opportunity to observe the maternal pain, then show how much they care by finishing the kill.

4. No ears.
With kids around all day everyday, simply plug the ears up. Shove them under a duvet. Better still, take them off. Hide them in a padded box and stash them in the linen cupboard where they can't transmit any sound at all.

5. Wired up teeth.
Yes, wire the buggers up, top to bottom, and quick about it. If you are home educating any primary-age child, with or without siblings, you very quickly realise that your entire education is composed of cake.

Cake is chemical reaction! (Obviously.) It's maths! (There are four in the family to eat one cake and the mother must be fed six slices.) Cake is geography! (Punch a hole in one side and turn it into a river valley with a bucket of cream.) French! (Oui, nous voulons faire un bon gâteau.) Business studies! (Grandma, your slice costs $200, hand it over, cash.) And English Literature! (While their mouths are full, reverentially lay your copy of Robinson Crusoe upon the table.)

If you fail to wire your teeth together, you will come to know the consequences. That cake is 5,890 calories every day. And only Millets can cater for size 36.

6. Hands, hands, and more hands.
Three pairs of hands per child, minimum, are required for all daily interactions of education and child management.

One pair to lay out the happy learning craft resources. A second pair to put the kid with the scissors in lock down. The third to pour a stiff gin and tonic. Three kids = Nine pairs of hands. Stitch your extra hands onto a belt and hang them round your middle.

7. Legs.
Acquire a pair of stout and sturdy tree trunks to attach when the original human pair buckle, as they are sure to do. (Mine went in a stable yard under three kids, a pissed off horse-keeper and a disabled mongrel called Lucy.**)

Keep two additional leg pairs, both waterproof, suitable for nature studies and small children peeing on you. Use one pair for climbing out of ditches because no-one else will fetch the ball, and use the second pair for plodding across woods, fields and hills in the drizzle while you look in despair and rising panic for prehistoric art, moths, or rocks.

(Keep a decent trolly-dolly pair in the cupboard 'for best'. You can always hope to have a night out in 2016.)

8. No hair.
Shave it off or hope it falls out. Only this way can you be relieved of washing, styling, cutting and thinking about the irritating, increasingly grey chore sprouting from your head.

When you home educate kids, consider this. You may have them 24/7. Spending two hours alone in the hairdressers is as likely as flying to the moon.

If you do get to Curl up and Dye, you will inevitably sit next to the lucky cow who whines on and on about how her life is shit because she has to be home in five hours to 'pick the kids up from school'. Then you will never want to go there again.

9. Armour.
In your home educating journey, there will be weapons. Feet, fists, words dipped in poison, lethal pauses, and fatal punctuation marks. Your body without armour will be dented, scratched, bruised, bitten, torn, and trampled upon. Medieval armour c. 1485 is recommended.

10. Nerves of steel.
You are going to need these. You are going to chew down your knuckles with anxiety for Tinkertop's total FAIL if your mother measures her against the common ideas in her knitting circle about reading, writing and 'rithmeticing. When your teeth hit the bones, the nerves of steel will be the only things holding the entire arm together.

11. Large empty space in head.
Yes, when you start home educating, the world will open up, and with it, your mind.

Your brain will no longer be crammed full of pointless crap about lunch boxes, the PTA, holiday forms, or whether Tinkertop's uniform meets the regulation grey.

But do not be scared of the space. Enjoy it. Your mind will be called upon at all hours to help explore the Arctic, explain why polar bears have feet, or expound upon DNA. Keep the space as wide and as far-ranging as possible, then exercise it often. It must be fit for sudden demands to answer questions What holds the sky up? and then to elaborate upon Stephen Hawkin's conception of the universe.

Yet always it must be prepared to try out a new recipe for cake. This time cooked with nettle leaves.

12. Heart.
This must be enormous, bigger than your whole body, with a capacity far greater than all the oceans of the world.

What you are about to do will challenge yourself, your in-laws, show the neighbours a thing or two, take on the educational thought police, put you on the defensive against people you meet, lose friends, make enemies, and cause a tail-back on the M1 southbound from Junction 14. Yes, you will probably take the blame for that too, from the likes of Ed Balls, the NUT and the TES.

In the face of this onslaught you will at times be plunged into severe and crippling doubt. Then you will need a strong heart.

When you are fighting the universe and the children are foul; when the heart wants only to sit sobbing and defeated in a corner; when you are overwhelmed, in despair; when Tinkertop says, after all your effort and stinging hands, that maths with nettle cake is crap, then you must call upon the heart's limitless capacity for forgiving.

Apply it to everyone and, most importantly, to yourself.

* True, I am only talking woman body. This is based on the undeniable, observable fact that most people who turn up at the home ed meet up group - and who we can assume are in the bloody daily front line of the home ed decision - are women.

**Disabled mongrel.

Edited because my French is so bad. That shows you what an A grade is worth.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Hong Kong tourism!

Visit Lamma Island!

Fancy a natural haven with no roads and no cars? Where you can hike between ancient fishing villages, over green mountains, through lush groves of banana trees, to reach quiet swimming coves and golden beaches?

Place your footsteps in Lamma Island - a South China idyll - and you could truly believe here is one sanctuary of Hong Kong uniquely dedicated to conservation of our natural and beautiful habitat.

We're soon to change all that!

In only a few short years, as one of the privileged few, you can visit our new Hong Kong tourist attraction - the BAROQUE!

Reserved for the seriously wealthy - the BAROQUE development on Lamma will boast 500-berth marina to moor your yacht, superior concrete harbour facilities, state-of-the-art shopping mall, exclusive hotel, yet more upmarket seafood restaurants, and loads, loads more concrete.

This superior development project will go beyond any point of logic you've ever known before!

Designed to position Lamma Island as a rich man's paradise, you'll be able to use our seriously smart facilities to demonstrate how you have cash to burn.

Imagine, at what ridiculous expense, you could be that exceptional person able to take advantage of our planned redesignation of the island's Site of Special Scientific Interest into Only-for-the-Rich Concrete Deployment Zone.

Consider the possibilities! On this tiny getaway island with no roads, we have plans to build a modern, fully-functioning, and superbly designed car park.

Helicopter in your Porsche, and proudly park it in the space we'll reserve for only 135 private cars. Remember, you won't be able to drive anywhere! This unique and protected island has no roads!

See how you can boast to the world what Hong Kong can do!

Yet not only are we dedicated to development which is wasteful, destructive, and bizarre, you can trust us to truly fulfil the yearnings of your romantic soul.

You can find your satisfaction here, on Sham Wan Beach.

You know that lady of your dreams? The special someone who wears those shoes made for lying down about the town?

Dream yourself, showing her your gift of a lifetime - the pleasure of lying flat with her shoes on the exclusive Sham Wan Beach - a site the World Wildlife Fund for Nature once identified as a special world breeding ground for the endangered green turtle.

Imagine how these rare and beautiful creatures once paddled thousands of miles here, to this spot, and sought to nest.

Rest here to listen as the waters lap against the concrete harbour, and recall how sweet, fresh, and delicious they were cooked to your taste.

Come experience the world of the future. The BAROQUE on Lamma Island.

Showing completely how truly Hong Kong is dedicated to economic gain for a privileged few, combined with the best in environmental destruction.








Living Lamma.
WWF.
Photos show demonstration in Central.
Strangely apt.
Popular opinion says NO to the Baroque.
The petition.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Maybe I'm equipping them for another kind of normal

Okay, I give in. We home educated types. We're not living a normal life.

I suspected it.

You can find out too, whether your kids live a normal life, with this report, commissioned by The Children's Society.

Missing out: A child centred analysis of material deprivation and subjective well-being.

This is what the researchers write: 'We wanted to know what material items and experiences children themselves think are necessary for a 'normal kind of life', whether lacking these items and experiences is related to their self-reported well-being and if so, which items or types of items seem to be the most important.'

Took less than a second to find out my kids aren't normal, as Shark, Squirrel and Tiger dumped the most wanted items in 'normal life' - clothes, branded trainers, and cable TV - right at the very bottom of their lists. Worse, my kids don't even want them, which is an indicator of something (bloody mindedness, probably).

'Clothes? I'm not wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt with Hello Kitty on it. Why would you want to fit in with that?' (Expression of ghastly horror from Squirrel)

'I don't care if my clothes fit in with other people. I care if something goes with the other elements of clothing I'm wearing.' (Tiger, clearly not destined for either Top Shop or Vivienne Westwood)

'Does it give me the option of a diving suit?' (Shark, who has a very particular water-based definition of normal)

On the issue of cable TV the kids were even more flummoxed. We don't have a TV. (DEFINITELY NOT NORMAL.) The kids have laptops and we taught them to access the iplayer. (Does that count?)

Incidentally, the three number one items for my kids were garden (Tiger) family days out (Shark) and family holidays (Squirrel).

Then I showed them the original list of 20 material items. (If you gave these* to your child, which 10 would they strike out?)

Everything went bellyup then, not what researchers want at all, because top of the list here went pet as in HORSE (Tiger), books (Shark), and more books, preferably with dragons (Squirrel).

I blame the mother. Leading the innocents away from the one type of high-street, mass shopping, mass consumption, TV-watching life we are all invited to consider normal.

I led us into another type of normal. People who value books, gardens, outings with the family, and horses (that one, definitely not my doing).

Hmm. I suppose it is not particularly surprising, given the educational and cultural experiences of these young ladies (and the state of the mother's hair).

It puts me in mind of an incident that happened a while back at a workshop. Our home ed group sat side-by-side with a school group. The leader asked, Who's your hero? The school kids answered Eminem, Lady Gaga, P. Diddy. One of the home ed kids looked surprised, then pipped up with My brother.

*What ten items does a child value most for 'normal life'?

The original list of 20 items :
1. Some pocket money each week to spend on yourself
2. Some money that you can save each month, either in a bank or at home
3. A pair of designer or brand name trainers (like Nike or Vans)
4. Treats and snacks like sweets, chocolate, chips or pizza once a week
5. Being part of a club where you play sports or do a hobby like drama, art or music
6. An iPod or other personal music player
7. Your own mobile phone
8. A computer at home that is connected to the internet that you can use for school work and in your free time
9. A games console, like an Xbox, PS3 or Wii, and at least one game for it
10. Cable or satellite TV at home
11. A pet at home
12. A garden at home, or somewhere nearby like a park where you can safely spend time with your friends
13. A bedroom of your own (not shared)
14. Presents on special occasions like birthdays and Christmas
15. A family car for transport when you need it
16. Access to public transport like the train or the bus when you need it
17. The right kind of clothes to fit in with other people your age
18. Books of your own (suitable to their age) at home
19. At least one family holiday away from home each year
20. Family trips or days out at least once a month

Thursday, 24 November 2011

It does not mean I can launder knickers

So yeah, of course I read that. Home education is all about the parents.

TOO RIGHT IT IS.

Because maybe it escaped someone's thinking, but here's our Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 where we are clearly told it's our job:

7: Duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—
a: to his age, ability and aptitude, and
b: to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

That is sensible. Who would give over the decision-making to a five-year old? If you let them decide things, they will have you living in a tent with a pet lion. Next they will want to openly thieve packets of chocolate digestives from Tesco, and they will insist grandma eats her mud pies.

Of course parents should make the decisions. What else do you want?

Some days it pisses me off that I have this duty, true. It is hard enough being a responsible adult for myself, let alone the minds of three children, the contents of the fridge, and a clean pair of knickers.

But it's a duty I have, and it's up to me to work out how to discharge it. Should I plunge my hands up to the armpits in the bucket called responsibility? Or try and shovel the whole load off to a school down the road?

Being a bit of a masochist, I chose the former. Anyway, I looked round at the educational options, and reasoned that if I were to do it myself, then life might be tough, but in some ways it might be easier.

I could take the kids to a museum on a Tuesday and to the woods on a Thursday without having to account for myself to any institution. And I wouldn't have Mrs Ming standing between me and my child at 8am, telling me what lunch to pack, what clothes to wear, and what book to read evenings, weekends and holidays.

Easier, and I consider these areas my other responsibilities. I make the decisions. So Yes. It's all about me.

Well, from the moment you take the decision, I guess it's up to each of us. How it happens on the ground - the real, practical, working out and implementing of your decision, day-by-day.

Round here, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have had quite a few days of their primary education choosing exactly what to do and how to do it. On different days I've either borne the scars, or worn the laurels.

When Tiger chose to trash my entire house, Squirrel painted my Buddha fluorescent orange, and Shark threw a spanner at my head, of course that was a bad day. I had scars. Literally.

But on another day, when Tiger cutely asked 'Can we see a lion?' I've had three kids happily sitting in a bright cold autumn morning, drawing snoozing lions within inches of our noses. Then I could wear my laurels.

These good and bad, swings and roundabouts, failures and successes, they are all part of the practicalities and consequences of decision making; bad days on their own are not the reason why I should expect my duty to be rescinded, nor the sole reason I'd give why I would think my decision good or bad. I'd have so many other factors to think about.

I expect your decision making follows much the same lines. Throughout it all, whether you give your kids a great deal of freedom and choice, or whether you give them not much choice at all, well, that's up to you. But isn't that called parenting? (See? It's still all about us.)

We can ignore the minor inconveniences, trashed front rooms, and the occasional head wound, because those come with the territory of children, regardless of educational model.

But the final responsibility for the overall decision-making on the education, employment, economy, and running of the family? Ours.

Because we are the grown ups.

Chemistry. I decided my children would know about that, too.

Choosing how to do it is only follows the decision.

It has been by very traditional means.

Kitchen cupboards, cooking, experimenting, observing...

...talking, sharing, that sort of thing.

Did anyone seriously think it would automatically mean
taking on my views about petrol bombs and yeast?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Party time

A bunch of girls take over the function rooms of a large apartment building and start whooping it up with two dozen balloons.






For a moment there the balloons could have been the heads of traitors and betrayers, so here's my advice to the wise. Treat this bunch of girls with a bit of care and a lot of respect.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Why Squirrel is going to be a lawyer

Good morning, my lovely Shark, Tiger and Squirrel!

Yesterday's chemistry was good, wasn't it? Would you like to make a return visit to the Science Museum today? For Have You Eaten Rice Yet? A lecture by Doc Stevenson!

Shark: (No response. Staring fixedly at computer screen, clicking mouse.)
Tiger: I want to read my book.
Squirrel: No. I want to stay here and make my dolly house.

Grit: (Thinks, Rats. This is not the required response at all. I will have to implement my Home Educating Parent Strategies. I will get these children to do exactly as I want, and simultaneously trick them into believing they thought of it.)

Strategy 1. Show enthusiasm.
It will be fun! And brilliant! Grrrrr-ea--t!

(silence)

RICE! HAVE YOU EATEN RICE YET! What a BRILLIANT title. I CAN'T WAIT.

Strategy 2. Offer a reward in advance.
Hey everyone! I will buy you ice cream!

(silence)

I will buy you ice cream and - if I am feeling in a good mood - I will stop at Starbucks. They have lovely cakes.

Strategy 3. Lie.
You have to study chemistry. It is The Law. It says all children must be educated by school or otherwise. Then it says in Chemistry, Maths, English, a foreign language and some other things I can't remember.

(silence)

Strategy 4. Make threats.
Well, that's fine. It's your choice. You can DO IT MY WAY or YOU CAN GO TO SCHOOL and DO IT THEIR WAY.

Strategy 5. Intimidate.
Sure. Go to school. If that's what you want. Study Chemistry there. You will discover how cruel Chemistry teachers can be. If you make one tiny mistake in your five hours of gruelling homework, they'll shove your head down the toilet.

(silence)

Our Chemistry teacher carried an axe.

And napalm.

Strategy 6. Use emotional blackmail.
I WORK SO HARD FOR YOU. SEE how mama - poor mama - has GIVEN UP EVERYTHING FOR YOU. I could have had a well-paid job! I could have been RESPECTED (stab chest dramatically). I would have had NICE SHOES (point to feet dramatically).

(silence)

(Tear at hair feebly and look a bit Virgin Mary.)

Strategy 7. Induce guilt.
Of course I'm disappointed. But what else could I expect? You will let everyone down, you know that, don't you? Of course your friends will be disappointed that you never showed up. That's okay. If you can live with it.

(silence)

Strategy 8. Try humiliation.
I shall have no choice but to tell all your friends that you thought making a dolly house was more important than seeing them, having fun at the Chemistry lecture, and going out for ice cream afterwards.

(silence)

Strategy 9. Plead.
Okay, please come to chemistry. Please, please, PLEASE. Pretty please?

(silence)

I will be your slave all day tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.

Strategy 10. Go AWOL.
OH MY GOD I THINK I MIGHT BE HAVING A BREAKDOWN. ONLY YOU CAN STOP ME NOW. ONLY YOU CAN SAVE ME FROM MYSELF!

(silence)

LOOK! I'M HEADING TOWARDS THE KITCHEN BIN AND I'M OUT OF CONTROL. SAY YOU'LL COME TO CHEMISTRY AND EVERYTHING WILL BE NORMAL AGAIN.

(Five minute pause)

Squirrel: Cake on the way to the lecture. Starbucks when it is over. A lie-in on Friday morning. A trip to the art supply shop on Saturday. Ice cream on the way to the ferry. And pasta for dinner. Two nights running.

Grit: God, Squirrel. You drive a hard bargain.

It's a deal.

Tiger: (looking up from book) What did you say?
Shark: (staring at computer screen) Mummy, I've found this lecture on rice. It looks really good. Can we go?

Monday, 21 November 2011

Chemistry brings it together

Aha! We secured seats in the Hong Kong Science Museum lecture hall! For Prof Pulman and Dr Henderson's magic travelling chemistry show, all the way from the University of Edinburgh!


Only a minor tiff before and after. Nothing serious. Outside I had to beard a Chinese woman with one of those coily wires sprouting from her ear, but I won by dint of shouting louder than she could.

Otherwise, no major hazards. We were not pipped at the post by a couple of Danes after Squirrel needed the toilet. I engaged in no fist fighting. The family's Health and Safety Inspector, Tiger, did not pass out from shock at seeing a naked flame and hearing a big bang (although it was close).

Better still, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger said they learned something! Success all round! Except that I seem to now bear the added burden of explaining hydrogen cars and Bombardier beetles.

Maybe it all went so well thanks to Shark's soothing words on the escalator (Mummy, please do not punch anyone). Or maybe it was the fact that prior to the lecture we spent an hour in our favourite Hong Kong stationery shop buying three sheets of wrapping paper.


But it shows to me - at least in terms of knowing stuff - that home ed works.

The event brought together the experiments the kids have been doing autonomously and unselfconsciously for years in what they've called play (even pouring oil into the toilet I suppose taught them something).

Their reaction to the content of the lecture proved that the kids are right in line with the 'body of knowledge' that Chemistry as a discipline assumes, thanks to our interest-based inquiries, previous projects, and prepared syllabus (thanks, Ellen McHenry!).

And all my kids said this lecture was stuff they knew, mixed with stuff they didn't, and Yes! Let's find out more!

That is best of all for me. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger all agreed that of course Chemistry is interesting and exciting.

None, I note, are turned off the subject so effectively as I was at school, where it meant nothing more than staring out the window at the staff car park counting the seconds until the bell rang.

None of my kids presently say they want to take Chemistry to high level. But each of them, I suspect, will look at this branch of science with interest and engagement throughout their lives. When new developments come along, or when some oily politician seeks to subvert or use the science for their own agenda, I trust my kids will have the wherewithal to investigate further on their own terms, be able to build an informed view, and not be afraid to independently voice their opinions.

So if I was looking to create a stimulating educational environment to develop people who'll take an active life-long interest in Chemistry and its applications, then yes, home ed has been an excellent way to do it.

Yah boo sucks to the nay sayers.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sunday acts of mindless criminality

Sunday. We haven't got a television set. The iplayer won't play. And I can no longer read the Independent thanks to their annoying error 400 meditating guru squatting on my wires.

I am at a loose end.

I could explore my infinite ability to irritate people and make them feel vaguely uncomfortable without knowing why.

So I would like to announce that I have cruelly and maliciously and with intent, upset the children again, mostly by breathing in that confrontational way I have. By regarding their reaction I have thus derived much satisfaction and amusement.

I also discover I can now annoy the neighbours deliberately, by walking across the front room wearing heavy wellington boots. Each footstep is clearly an act of naked aggression. Especially since I am not wearing any clothes, and becoming more sure by the moment that the neighbours are now peering in shock and revulsion through the windows.

And yes! Dig and I have had a proper set-to with weapons. We had a fantastic yell and brutally went at each other with pickled onion stabbers and a packet of dried yeast. We locked the children out the house first, where everyone could hear them weeping.

Ha! Now I can scandalise the entire Cantonese population of Hong Kong by broadcasting that I am making free with their temple candles. Not only is it birthday cake that benefits from their delightful candles manufactured for ancestral worship, I also disrespectfully melt whole packets of them so I can save ten dollars and make fake sealing wax for kiddy craft activities based on the Magna Carta.

It is a very slow Sunday.

And I am given to provocation.

None of the above is true. Well, not for today, anyway. Sunday is a generally goody-two-shoes sort of day, is it not, with its peace and quiet and let's stay in the house and not go anywhere or do anything.

Thanks to Sunday's pervasive atmosphere of domestic calm, I have demonstrated my girly swot side, and succeeded only in annoying myself.

I have studiously completed the weekly assignments for the kids, been serious and mindful all day long, failed to drink more than one measly can of Blue Girl lager, and displayed my housewife credentials for all the community to see by doing the shopping and taking the laundry to Mrs Chang's. I picked up the towels at 7.30 ready for the children to shower, then I cooked dinner, listened to the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and went to bed.

I must do better on the provoking front.

I am rather taken by the idea of naked wellington boot dancing. Next Sunday I might try that for real.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Larging it

I would tell you about Saturday but it was taken over by some music celebration held halfway down a hill.

The event involved listening to middle-aged men playing guitars in someone's back garden. They have normal jobs like office professionals and admin supervisors and logistics experts but come the weekends they all rip the sleeves off their shirts, wrap guitars about themselves, and bash out Pink Floyd anthems. It's like watching some universal law of nature.

Anyway, the afternoon proceeded very rock n roll with packets of digestive biscuits, rugs for the mothers to sit on, and children wandering about. Mine pushed off to hang about with the other offspring who are at an age where they feel humiliated by all parental behaviour, including shopping in the Co-op, so watching anyone's father breathlessly cavort about the shrubbery with a bass guitar is pain 11 on a rating scale of 1-10.

The evening descended much as you'd expect in a wild and busted scenario of the over-50s with a takeaway pizza and a nice cup of cocoa when everyone got home.

Godblessem.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Idiots

People who claim that home educators don't leave the house? They are idiots.

Tell it like it is, Grit.


Several times this week, across forums and lists, I've run into this bizarre idea: that people who don't choose school must ipso facto stay at home.

Maybe people think home educators bolt and lock their own front doors, imprisoning themselves with their kids on the inside?

I can only sit here puzzled. What? Not leaving the house? All day, every day? Who would do that? Not, in my experience, your bog standard home educator.

Even those home educators who are a little far out, well they eschew anything that remotely looks like your conventional 2up 2down house.

They'll be off teaching the kids how to construct a yurt, or knitting straw bales, or making the offspring live in holes in the ground, probably to experiment with life as a beetle or something. But bolt the door on a suburban semi? Just them and the kids inside? Never.

Because there are two simple disadvantages to locking yourselves up with kids. Some folks obviously haven't thought them through. Here they are.

1. The kids.

2. The crap that kids produce. (E.g. tip out all your cupboards, strew trash all over your house, and build a train track on top of it.)

I'll explain that second point. Because, faced with the request to leave the crap in situ, maybe to admire until next January, many home educators will say alright. Who notices, anyhow? It can join the production of art and craft in every room, draped all over the walls, on every surface, and in every doorway.

Remember, you're in a home educating house now. By the windows are the 2-year old plant experiments, the rocks for the geology will be half way up the stairs, on the table you'll find the stains of the volcano experiment, and in the kitchen you'll find the odd pot of borax, citric acid or iodine between the paintbrushes and the cream crackers.


Why do we do this? Because education our way means valuing all a person's emotions, ambitions, motivations and likes and dislikes. Those human states we nurture, via the crap they produce.

But you can imagine, as the entire domestic interior sinks under piles of trash, paper, toys, plastic droppings, craft peelings and cut up pairs of old trousers, after a couple of days most home educators have had enough.

Watch them then, battering a way out their own front door, desperately seeking a clear bit of floor or a scrap of carpet tile to stare at in envy down at the local museum, the village hall, discovery centre, library, gallery or sports hall.

Going out now is the only way to stop her.

So think about it, you people, before you happily claim home educators never go out. Of course we do not stay at home all the time! Seriously, who would?

But look! I always like to undermine my own points. Here's a clear front room!
And it belongs to a home educator!



Well, the room is clear if you discount the dozen kids running about in it.


Playing a game to turn monosaccharides into polysaccharides, probably.


You start off single and join up chains, obviously.



I think this is just before I got kicked in the face.


It's a stupid angle to photograph kids from anyway,
so don't give me any sympathy.


By the bye, I hope those photos confront two other myths:
that home educators never socialise, and we can't teach chemistry.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Is there something in the water?

Must be. This is the third day I am surrounded by The Squabblings.

I sit on the ferry into Hong Kong Island and I hear an argument start behind me. It's conducted between a very loud spoken American man and a quietly spoken English woman. It starts over a basic disagreement - maybe that notorious controversy in cultural politics that gets everyone going - can you feed worms to fish?

After listening to the basic premise - him yelling how people are plain stupid if they say that nothing from the land can ever go into the sea and how even a second grader knows that fish eat worms! and she answering how it's all so wrong how stuff from the land is dumped into the sea and fish eat crap! - things really take a bad direction.

They start verbally laying into each other for about ten minutes on the subjects of worms and fish and crap and sea, then she begins, provocatively, on the meta level of discussion with, I feel threatened by how you're yelling.

To which his response is to yell very loud indeed, with something that goes like this:

'You feel threatened by ME? What? Like PHYSICALLY THREATENED? JEEZ. Do you think I'm going to ATTACK YOU? If you think I'm going to lay one finger on you then you must be PSYCHOLOGICALLY DISTURBED. Hey, you must have had a REALLY BAD THING HAPPEN IN YOUR LIFE that you think I'm OUT TO ATTACK YOU. You should just STOP ATTACKING OTHER PEOPLE FOR THEIR OPINIONS.'

At this point I was sorely tempted to join in and have a yell myself. Like how he was demonstrating his credentials to be a TOTAL ASSHOLE. I believe that is the American phrase for such matters.

Of course I did not. I am English. I don't use such language. I behaved in a thoroughly English way. Pretend nothing is happening. I have learned that you should never involve yourself in other people's arguments. And if any weapons come out, you run like a rat into a sewer.

Anyway, judging from my experience of the last few days, I can see there is a current fashion for interpersonal relationships to take on more overt argumentative behaviours.

I could believe, if I had involved myself, she would have turned to face me with a look of profound outrage, then gasped, How dare you speak to my husband like that?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

No punches were thrown. Only handbags were used

Do you know, some days in the domestic conflict management cycle leave me feeling distinctly antagonistic towards my own mini rottweilers, aka my darling children.

But where is the parent who, at some point, would not happily pitch their annoying offspring into a lake, then dance about in celebration, singing Hallelujah?

Like today. We visit the Hong Kong Wetland Centre.

The outing starts as normal - the usual muttered grudges and resentments - but not serious enough to deflect the indulgent mama from offering ice cream on condition she is allowed to maintain her fantasy that we are all having a super high-intensity educational outing.

Hip hip hooray! En route to the Wetland Centre! Top of bus 967.

But when la famille Grit arrive at the first pond, the agreeable humour and cooperative family dynamic immediately depart.

I don't know why, but the Hong Kong Wetland Centre never fails to bring out someone's aggressive side. Last time, it began over the fake otter poo. This time, the mudskippers.

The site of mudskipper mayhem.

Yet I discover, edging my perilous way like a UN ambassador in a corpse-strewn tribal region, that the mudskippers are not the underlying cause. They are merely the icing on the cake.

The fisticuffs du jour fanning out across the wetlands, now between Tiger and Shark, careless of the happy home ed group we are here to meet, are really because these children - with their inherited control issues interwoven with their triplet sibling rivalries - have foolishly, on departing the house, and unknown to me, agreed to share a sketch book.

'My turn first. Then yours.'

Uh-ho. If I had known about this I would have nipped it in the bud. Anyone who has more than one child will know how dangerously explosive has been their experience of share nicely.

A bit like putting a lighted match to a bucket of nitroglycerin.

Over the years, along with the healing scars, I have soothed myself with positive thinking. I have told myself that share nicely has been the perfect training ground for your average workplace. There, each person will be placed under a time pressure to compete with colleagues over finite resources. The winning employee will merely demonstrate superior tactics of office weaponry, water cooler manoeuvring, and desk-top backstabbing. These are the strategies learned in the battlefields of share nicely.

But the War of the Sketchbook has now begun. Gentle enough, if you imagine an opening parley of glowering, elbowing, and quite a lot of passive/aggressive from Shark. (So you want me to rip out my mudskippers do you? Fine! I'll rip them out from YOUR SKETCHBOOK.)

From here it escalates to light shoving, stomping off, and a handbagging.

I unwittingly photographed the
seconds following the handbagging.

Then mama hisses you are never to share a sketchbook again, and if there was an old Chinese woman canny enough to sell me sketchbooks right now at $5,000 a pop she'd go home happy, but WAIT. Inside I am boiling with the stupidity of the argument, how I have become a negotiator for a piece of paper, and how wretchedly desirous I feel it would be, given a moment of liberation, to see both of my children FACE DOWN IN A LAKE. Then don't tell me the Hallelujah Chorus is not one of the finest works in the history of parenting.

But so we go on. Finally, after another two hours, the battle culminates; Tiger is in tears and Shark is shiftily edging her feet about with a guilty expression, caught with her moral righteousness and the quicksand on which she is basing her position.

Cue the moment we have all been waiting for. The Peace Treaty. (Triplet method: sidle up to each other, shove each other about a bit, show no offence is taken.)

Peace Treaty of the Wetlands declared at this site.

Well, for today, I have no conclusion, except maybe to blame this undercurrent of aggression and general atmos of vengeance on the Hong Kong weather. Or the high humidity. Or all the fault of the neighbours for yesterday introducing that theme of conflict into our lives when we were all getting along so happily. Bar the routine insults and daily threats.

Now here are more pictures. Looking at them, I can see I could have told quite a different story.



Happy home educated children looking for birds, mudskippers, fiddler crabs and water snakes.
And of course we had ice cream when we got off the bus at Central. It was an excellent educational day.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Rule One

I am noticing something. People around me have become very confrontational.

Not Sad Grit v Kid Cartel Ltd, obviously. We are now expert in negotiation management and conflict of laws. For example, Shark drags the tinsel out the cupboard. I say, Put the tinsel away. She has a quiet word. I see her point of view. Everyone's happy.

No, it's other people I'm seeing get antsy, and nothing to do with me.

Take this evening. Me and Dig have a date. A date!

Well, I'm dressing that up a lot. Dig has two Standard Chartered $20 notes in his pocket. He can exchange those for cheap drinks at the local expat bar. Driven by this idea of mutual benefit, we agree to down artillery fire and cooperate enough to get ourselves out to enjoy cheap booze. Even if it does taste like industrial runoff.

Saying that we will return home at 10pm, we depart the house about 8.15 for our lovely drink. Let's call it romance.

How we two love birds can imagine ourselves enjoying this balmy Hong Kong night! Canoodling with the local beer, we can drink in the drain smell from the comfort of the town's sitting out area, and relax between the bins and the public toilets, under the town temperature gauge that looks like a left-over chunk of reinforced concrete with a digital measure bolted on top. Who can imagine a more lovely place for us both to sit and place bets on which love bird hopes the other will die first?

But about 9.40, Dig's phone rings. It's the landlord.

He says, in a miserable voice, that the neighbours have rung to complain about the noise emanating from our roof at home.

(For readers who imagine the roof is angular, like an inverted V, I have to disappoint. The roof is flat, with table, chairs, and a boiler. Of course the builders put walls all round, so no-one gets the urge to push anyone else off. Although we have had some close shaves.)

Now, being made highly aware of how this looks - the very responsible parents having abandoned unsupervised triplets after 9pm while we swallow beer with added meths in the local dive - we sup up quickly and hurry home. In the four minutes it takes us to get there, we imagine all the ghastly details of the blood bath that has surely been taking place. So horrendous it must have seemed, that the neighbours are now in hiding and the police are calling in back-up support from the Hong Kong swat team.

When we arrive we find Shark in tears and Squirrel and Tiger marching about the house harrumphing in outrage with the clear injustice that has ended their evening.

Their story is that they took themselves off to the roof to party with a packet of Oreos and some skipping games. (Are your parties ever this wholesome?) There have been no battles, no blood, but an hour of playing with giggling and girly squealing.

We say, good defence.

But sadly no avail. Because the complaining neighbours have a baby. Between cuddles for Shark, and nods of agreement to the outraged Squirrel who's all for going over there and shoving monkey shit through the window, we explain that baby trumps triplets.

First-time parents (totally convinced this is the only baby born in the entire world for millennia) certainly trumps 11-year old triplets (who fail to comb their hair, look a bit feral, and who are guilty of keeping strange home-educated hours).

Because here is the fundamental law, people. Children must not be seen or social after 9pm. From this time, they must be in bed.

Especially here, in Small World Island. Children must get up at 6.40am to catch the 7.20 ferry off the island and take the school bus that secures their place behind a desk with a workbook at 8.30. They will return on the 4.50 ferry, when they may be seen walking on the island back home. From this point, they must be quiet because they are eating tea to 6.30pm and then completing two hours homework. Before bed.

We remind the children that we are nothing if not law-compliant.

On the other hand, I do have quite a large consignment of monkey shit.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Wandering old git talks to self

I am out-of-things, disjointed, dislocated. Unhooked by time.

Probably post-viral.

That, and fell off the chain-end of a pointless what-is-the-point bloggery thinking, beginning from my sick bed.

Regretfully, I clicked the monthly stats. I see the numbers of happy grit's day readers took a nose dive, lifted only by a popular post on SEN kids who look like truants, and the ever-popular search, naked men in Bali.

But don't get me wrong. I am not particularly sad, nor especially surprised by sinking stats.

I am not very friendly, not at the best of times. I have a terrible record of visiting blogs, even ones I like. And my record for actually commenting when I get there is even worse.

And I already totally failed on the marketing. Wrapping a short skirt and false eyelashes on this blog and putting it out about the virtual world, touting for readership, is not something I can do.

Worse, I am not even on Facebook!

NO WAY can I give up my identity on there. What if I want to conduct an affair? By Thursday everyone would know about it and someone would be trying to flog me lubricant jelly.

Deliberately, I used to hang about the mummy blogs - probably much in the spirit of a miserable ghost who rattles its chains on the landing - where I could catch people unawares with my whiny plea, there is another way, or jump in whenever some misguided parent wrote something foolish, like 'better get used to it, school is compulsory'.

They ignored me. But maybe I somehow believed that positioning myself on the fringes of the home ed/normal world would help.

That place probably did bring up a few readers; those up for a laugh at the misfortunes of others, or the morbidly curious, like people who stare at a car crash.

But now I can't even be bothered with that role. The final bell was when the Britmums thing became a forum with an underlying agenda of whipping up enthusiasm for flogging each other stuff to sell it back to PRs. Beyond the idea there is another way, I have nothing to sell.

So I wondered where to position this blog next. A place that needs little effort. I could hang the blog about home ed land, and tackle home ed politics issues.

That would be okay, but home ed politics isn't that interesting, even to me. I would have to be all polemic, and is my heart in it? At some point I would just say, Oh I don't give a damn about the funding. Call yourselves what you want, EOTAS, AE, EO, WOTSITS. Basically I'm faithless and loyal to my own kids.

That's not a useful position to take if you're looking for a wide and provoked readership.

So I came to the same conclusion I always do when I'm idle. I shall keep the slog for my educational record. Something practical. Even though it feels like a bit of a sad and lonely space for an old hippie preparing to fight a battle with a local authority, when the local authority doesn't know they're at war.

Now, in this newly-found resolute mood, here is today's educational record. We visited the fantastic Hong Kong Planning and Infrastructure Gallery to talk about settlements and land use for the IGCSE Geography syllabus! Yippee!





There. And please don't feel the need to say anything nice. I won't sniff much about declining stats. I always think positive. Eric and his chums might stop calling.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Illness has many benefits

Of course I observe the level of family support for my near-death experiences. Or should that read, I observe how illness brings out the character in all of us.

Dig takes the opportunity to lock his office door behind him. Nothing new there.

Squirrel, also, remains barely cognisant of my perilous state; she is involved in making a dolly house. She has been on the roof for several days doing stuff, and I don't expect that to change anytime soon. Including when they lower her mother out the bedroom window on a rope to drop her on the waiting hospital trolley below.

Then there is Shark. True to form, she looks between a repeat of yesterday's Daddy dinner and the snortygrumbly mummylump and pushes off. She finds somewhere else to hang out until it's all over, namely the house of a chum down the road.

In her new, healthy household she is immediately adopted as a missing daughter, provided with a cosy bed, taken out and given dinner at a restaurant with her new identical twin sister who doesn't piss her off, and goes and has a fantastic time watching movies and cuddling toy fish. (I do not expect an imminent return.)

But Tiger, dear Tiger, she is all concerned looks and sad states, having become my home-sick therapist of recent weeks. I shall not look unkindly on this companionship. I shall not suggest it is because she has sniffed out her mother's proclivities for comfort-munching on chocolate bars and extra packs of double choc-chip cookies.

So I would just like to reassure her. She now tops the inheritance list, and is first in line for the Tesco value knickers.

Edited to add: It is late Sunday evening. This morning Tiger took another peek at my gurnying pasty face and clearly considered her options. She grabbed a bag of embroidery threads (thanks, Deb) and disappeared. Six hours later she comes home clutching $16. She says this is profit she's made by selling friendship bracelets to tourists from a squat they have set up at the side of the road.

I do not know what to observe first. Whether it should be how in England I would now have exited the roof and be travelling the stratosphere but here, in Hong Kong, sitting in the street selling stuff is obviously alright or, Did you hear that? It was my jaw, landing with a clang on the kitchen floor. Because we are talking about the ultra-timid TIGER?

In either case, I would like to say I do not particularly feel betrayed; she can still have the Tesco value knickers. I am a bit of a miserable old whinge bag and I would have taken the same course of action.

I merely take on board the message as clear as if it were appearing in a blinding flash at the roadside on the way to the hospital. Mother, these children will all look after themselves. You should have sick days more often.

I wonder if I could convince everyone that my true cure would not be lemon water with honey, but cheap gin and easy men?

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Recovery

It has been a difficult week. Somewhere in it, I bin sick. Proper exploding eyeballs, shiveryshakery, drop down dead bed at 5pm sick.

It must have been bad. I am told that Daddy Dig came in, took a look, then went off to cook dinner.

Lying there, wound in my sheets of sorrow, alone, listening for the knocking of the reaper, I wrote out my last will and testament in my buzzabout head. All was archangel poetic in there until it dawned on me I don't have nuffink to give away except 15 pairs of Tesco value knickers and a twelve-year cycle of depression.

So I went for the long shot instead, and took a good long sleep and 2 litres of honey-lemon water.

The next day I saw that I did not die.

Did anyone notice that? I did. I feel it is one big medalworthy achievement.

Even more of an achievement (or maybe the self-sacrificing to-the-slaughter triumph of motherhood) was that, within 24 hours of not nearly dying, somewhere in this same week I raised myself up from my death-bed and took Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to a Chemistry workshop that involved balloons.



Discovering that I was not yet dead a second time, I then bought Tiger a pair of trousers and cooked pasta pie.*

That final act, I have to say, wiped me back to square one, so off to bed I went.

But I do not know whether to congratulate myself for this week dragging myself from a death bed to fulfill a promise, or whether I should be beaten severely, since I have surely infected half of Hong Kong with my malicious virus, even now joyfully wriggling its way up the escalator handrail in the IFC.

In either case, damn me or applaud me, for the next day or two, I'm taking it easy.

*Pasta pie is this family's recipe concoction. Not recommended. It looks like vomit.