Sunday, 22 June 2014

Talk to your teens

Grit: Hullo Squirrel! Would you be willing to help me with the laundry?

Grit: Hullo Tiger! Would you be willing to help me with the washing up?

Grit: Hullo Shark! Would you be willing to help me with the cooking?

Shark: Uh-oh. You've been reading those parenting books again.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Still afloat

You and me both, let's breathe a sigh of relief. It was the right thing to do. Pare this blog to a grudging fortnightly post on all educational disasters triumphs. I quake in fear at what I'd be spilling from misery grit's life now, becos it All Goe Rong.

Well, let's get it out the way. The All Goe Rong. In the last two weeks I have made a great nuisance of myself in many areas, to wit: matrimonial, financial, sisterly, professionally, and, worst of all, am now persona non gratis at the Village Hall. Then I had a fight with a taxi driver.

In the taxi driver incident, I would not normally involve myself. Normally I would be too busy, protecting my cowardly arse, peering out from behind the local tree/Squirrel/lace curtain. But I felt I needed to wade in because a) it was happening at my gate and b) a young man was screaming I've just had a baby! It was in a pitch that suggested he was about to follow with And now I'm going to thump you! Unfortunately, the fule taxi driver - unaware how Grit was brung up with a bare-knuckle mentality when someone is roode to her and her kind - treated my helpfulness in a less than gentlemanly manner. While my arms were windmilling at him, an off-duty policeman arrived promptly at the scene to bring matters to a calm conclusion. (In case you're wondering, I will not be prosecuted.)

See? All Goe Rong is only partly due to a handling breakdown on my part. Other people have played roles in it. Like the ungallant behaviour of Mr Taxi; Dig taking an extended holiday fieldtrip in Japan under doubtful circumstances; close family members getting married on the sly; people continuously asking me, Are you going to pull out? Are you going to pull out?; the High Street Bank changing my finances without telling me; and the emotional trauma of all local politics, specifically the ongoing saga of an untrustworthy cabal of trustees suspending our local arts charity, then flogging Smalltown's beautiful and historic Grade II listed theatre to a bunch of Evangelicals for less than the price of a 3-bed semi.*

Of course, in all these Gone Rong times, some things remain alright!

I am loved (by people I feed, mostly). I have a roof over my head (do not count the hole for the drip). And I have friends in people like Ellie and Peepah.

Everyone needs friends in their life when life is shit, do they not? I can recommend Peepah for telling it like it is, and Ellie.

Everyone should have an Ellie. Ellie is a delight, because she is a compendium of stuff you can't make up. Like the tale of the woman who stays on this side of England because she can't cross bridges, or the story of the man who attacked his washing machine with a mallet, or the consequences of impulsing-buying a bargain four-foot block of granite. (On that score, everything will be fine. You merely need to hire industrial lifting gear, remove the kitchen window, cut a hole in the brickwork, re-lay the kitchen floor with a concrete pad to take the weight of the granite, and have it all sorted by collection day, Tuesday.)

Ellie also did something else. She sent me a dead bird through the post, one that she'd found in her garden. Wrapping it in plastic and sending it second class over a bank holiday suggested some lack of thinking ahead re the actual decomposition, but it has nonetheless kick-started my new collection of dead birds.

To this end, I have had a very useful conversation with a man hunched over a bacon sandwich at the back of a crystal healing shop on the subject of how to strip baby bird skulls in a way which doesn't include sticking your dead bird in a saucepan and boiling the brains off it. I needed to have this conversation, I really did, because now I have quite a collection and I want their skulls, so I was hugely grateful he took it all in his stride and merely chewed thoughtfully on his bacon sandwich while I explained my dilemmas.

Other moments have helped me calibrate how fortunate I remain. Not least the long, sad conversation with the homeless man in the car park at Lidl in Luton. (This is how I spend my Tuesday evenings, thanks to Shark.) Find ways of being kind to your fellow humans, that is the upshot. We all, at times, walk close to that perilously thin crack in the earth; one side everything is fine! And on the other side is utter chaos and disintegration, with the terrible logic of depression pulling you down like gravity into a chasm.

But! There are the real successes! Like the joy of seeing my daughters take control of a dangerous vehicle with the Under-17 Car Club (although Tiger managed to dent the inside of the driver's door after a particularly difficult reversing-round-a-corner). Then we had a fine, non-wet day! Squirrel created a lovely fire from twigs, the local newspapers and 200 boxes of matches. And I decided to launch my Titus Andronicus range of Garden Furniture! (Not really. I'm fantasising there really is a place for a set of plastic garden chairs splattered with immovable red paint.)

Then, most astonishing of all, a sudden drive to Ipswich Dockside to deposit Shark on a tall ship to become part of a youth crew, learning how to sail a proper big ship at sea.

Yes, I picked her up today. I was anxious about this all week. My daughter, floating about the English Channel with a ship load of home ed students. It will sail back into Portsmouth like the Ghost Ship. Eerily empty, bar a strange mist.

Her tall ships experience was not like that at all. It was a no-frills real experience where she had a proper taste of life as an active and responsible crew member. She is all filled with new words and phrases that she speaks with real knowledge and respect, like bosun, heads, tender, and the skunk got hanged. Even better, she has also learned how to arm wrestle, swear, and play cards.

But I consider my ups and downs. As Shark proudly holds her certificate for Competent Crew, this one success alone probably outweighs All Gone Rong, and for a few more weeks yet.

The Queen Galadriel. Proof of life, not sinking yet.

*allegedly. They are handy with the lawyers.