Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Positively not negative

Is this negative? I asked and I included a link to this blog from last week. Well, it is a little, came the reply.

Right. That’s it. My blog is too negative. That’s what I’ve been told. Not that I’m over-sensitive or anything but I took that to heart, “a little.” So here goes, I’m going to be positive…

Okay, wait a minute, just before I do this I was thinking…there are hundreds of things to be positive about. In fact if I count my blessings (and I do this in bed at night, just before I close my eyes) there couldn’t be more. Really. They’re all lining up to be counted, like little sheep. Loving husband, beautiful children, nice home, wonderful friends, good work, we all have our health, blah, blah, blah. Couldn’t be better. But that’s not very interesting, is it? And I don’t want to crow because, well, you know, it’s not very British. So generally I concentrate on things that go wrong: stresses and strains, petty frustrations, being a mother of three, living in south London, trying to do a bit of work and keep all the plates spinning, you know. And sometimes I even try to be funny. But happy isn’t funny. Bad is funny.

Positive just isn’t as entertaining as negative. It’s not. Admit it. What do they say? All drama is conflict? or, all conflict is drama? something like that. But anyway, just to please you I’m going to do it…now…I’m going to write all the positive things that happened this week…in a minute…just hang on a second…

I’m certainly not going to write about all the stress of going away filming in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire this week with Year 7s and 8s in secondary schools with a crew I’ve never met and a Spanish teacher who had a nervous breakdown in front of me on camera. No.

Or the inevitable anecdote about Youngest in the school play (no bones broken this year! You see, I’m being positive). The hassle of getting him there and back all those times, or that I was cooking pizza (for five kids) and a whole roast chicken (for Husband and Eldest), while heating up left-over chili (for Mother, who came to stay to help, did I say that? That was positive!), while making a batch brownies all before getting them to the play on Thursday evening. Not that.

No, I can do this, really. Hang on...

So, I’m also not going to tell you the boring story about Eldest who was meant to babysit youngest from over the road, just for half an hour to bridge a gap between parents evening and the play, but got stuck in central London (hadn’t put enough on his Oyster card) so my Mother had to stay at home and nearly missed the start of the play and then Eldest rang, just as the play was beginning, as I was perched uncomfortably on one of those low benches waiting for Mother, desperate for the loo, and he was accusing me of being “useless” because I didn’t have the exact number of the bus he needed to get on the tip of my tongue. Definitely not.

And I won’t drone on about how Mother had to rush off straight after the play to get the train home, that I’d left her luggage in the car for her, in the playground, so she could grab in on her way but the car mysteriously re-locked itself so she had to battle back through the audience coming out down the stairs, as she was going back up the stairs and it was really stressful…I’ll reject that one.

Or, that the next morning there was a premises meeting at school, which I hadn’t prepared for (I’m Chair) because I’d been away working. And that the school rang me in the middle of it, as I was sitting in the Head’s office, to ask if I could please bring Youngest’s trainers because he’d forgotten them. I couldn’t of course because I was still in the building. No, so that’s no good either.

And certainly not that there are so many plates spinning that Eldest actually dropped one on the kitchen floor last night while they were all mucking about and shouting and driving us crazy. It shattered into a dozen tiny pieces (and that’s not a metaphor, it actually happened). No, no, no, no, no.

And I absolutely, definitely will not mention the best worst bits, that I was so stressed I went out for a whole day without my phone and left my car keys in the ignition.

No, I’m only going to say this: I have a loving husband, three beautiful children, a nice home, wonderful friends, good work and we all have our health.

Happy now?

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Tube

I’m standing in the school line at 8.45 am with Youngest. He's crying. He says he’s ill. Again. I have a lot of work to do today and my mobile is ringing.

“I really don’t think he is ill,” I'm saying to the teacher as my mobile clamours for attention. "He was running around in the garden with his brothers yesterday evening."

“Tell him to come to me if he feels poorly,” she's replying. “On Monday, when he was sent home in the afternoon, he just crept down to M's room and I knew nothing about it...”

“Thank you,” I say, glancing down at the phone. Eldest’s name is flashing on the display. “Excuse me, I just have to take this.”

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Mummy!” he shouts.


“I need more money! For the tube, to get to work, you just left the house!”

Eldest is doing work experience at a friend’s production company in Soho at the moment. For two weeks.

“How is that my fault?” I reply.

“Well, you should have given it to me. You just left!”

“Actually,” I say, “I called up the stairs while I was getting Youngest ready but you weren’t up. You said you’d get yourself up this morning, remember…”

“Well, what do you expect me to do now? I don’t have money for the tube.”

“I’ll come home,” I say.

I drive home. Quickly. I pick up Eldest and drive him to the tube because he is so late. I give him money. He jumps out. I go home. I walk into the empty house. It’s a tip but I don’t care. I breathe a sigh of relief and start working. After lunch I get a phone call from the primary school. You guessed it.

I go down in the car and pick up Youngest. He says he really doesn’t feel well. He doesn’t look well either. I feel awful. He falls asleep in my arms as we sit together on the sofa. I fall asleep too, for twenty minutes, it’s delicious. Then I get up and go and get on with my work.

When Middle One comes home I go downstairs for a while to talk to him, then I go back up to work as he slumps in front of the telly. Much later the phone rings...

“Er, I have a problem!” shouts Eldest.

“What is it?”

“There’s no tube. How do I get home?”

“At Oxford Circus?”


“It’s because it’s the rush hour. They close the entrance sometimes, because of the crush, you could wait or walk down to Tottenham Court Road, it’s…”

“I know where it is!” shouts Eldest. He hangs up.

I get on with some work. A short while later the phone rings again.

“There’s no tube at Tottenham Court Road!”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course, I’m sure!”

“Well…you could try walking down Charing Cross road to Leicester Square or get a bus. You need to walk south either way.”

“How the hell do I know which way is south!”

“Are you near Centrepoint?”

“Yes! I'm in front of it.”

“Well then, if you are looking back across at Oxford street…”

“What the hell are you talking about, ‘if I’m looking back at Oxford Street’? Are you mad!”

“If you are looking back at the street you just emerged from, then, when you came out of that street, Oxford Street, you needed to turn…”

“Mummy! What the hell are you talking about?”

He hangs up. I get on with my work. A few minutes later the phone rings.

“I’m at Cambridge Circus.”

“Good.” I say. “That’s good, you’ve walked south down Charing Cross road, you are very near Leicester Square. You can pick up the Northern line from…”

“I know! I know!” he shouts. He hangs up again.

About half an hour later he appears home.

“You made it then.”

“Of course I made it,” he says. “I knew where I was all the time.”

“Right, I say. “Did you have a good day?”

“Great. It’s fab. I love it.” He flops down on the red leather armchair in the living room and tells me about his day. He's very enthusiastic and animated. “And did you know that T is working at Sainsbury’s as a security guard!” he laughs. (T is one of his friends from school.) “He’s such a loser! He should have got something better than that!”

“Er, didn’t I sort out your work experience for you?” I say.

“Yeah, well…” he says.

He has one leg over the arm of the chair, he’s swinging it backwards and forwards, surveying the room like a King. “When I get my own place, I’m going to need some of this furniture.”

You might need to be able to get yourself up in the morning, find a job and learn to get around London first, I think to myself. But I don’t say this.