Moving Swiftly Into Week 10

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Class photos were meant to be today, the last time they would all be photographed together formally for Year 6. Obviously, that isn’t happening so instead a parent has got photos of all the children (with a grass background) and is going to make an alternative picture as a reminder.

Which I think is pretty awesome. Mainly because I have so much work I’m drowning in it and can’t think straight any more. Because all I had to do was sit photo-reluctant H down and get a photo.

“the sun is in my eyes!” she wailed (it was behind her)

We eventually got just the one which was fine. Lockdown H, Year 6, Class of 2020.

Life is chaotic. Stuff is getting done slowly. I have nights when I can sleep and nights when I can’t settle at all. Days are getting warmer, though this room is still really cool. I popped out for a short break to buy some eggs earlier and was amazed at it being 25 degrees when I was inside wearing a jumper.

The bubble of lockdown is weird. H spends afternoons phoning her friends to chat to them about everything, I’ve lost my little buddy. We only see each other when I’m working and she’s doing schoolwork, a few grunts and nods and chats here and there but not proper quality time.

I told her to create a coronavirus diary but I suspect she hasn’t which is a great shame as she writes so well. I don’t want her to forget these last nine weeks, hopefully this will never happen again.

Meanwhile, we’ve done sensible things like buy picture frames to get those posters we’ve had in a corner on the walls at last. A grass trimmer will be appearing later on too. All those little things we always meant to buy but couldn’t actually be bothered to get, but are now noticeable and needed to make the annoying things (like long grass) disappear. First world problems, long grass. Honestly, this is as exciting as my life gets.

That and ordering things online which end up too small so I then have to go to the bother of returning them. I mean, it’s kind of normal life but in this weird lockdown bubble.

In other news, I’ve started making Sourdough, only ten weeks after everyone else. Now that I realise that by discarding half you’re not actually throwing it away, everything makes sense. I think. We’ll see. It’s not a pack of cards, it’s a smelly formed liquid thing which will one day make bread. Oh and it’s called Gregoire.

Week Eight. Or is it Nine?

It came to light that leaving a ten year old to do schoolwork on her own, thinking she knew what she was doing, was in fact the wrong thing to do. She decided what she did or didn’t need to do, while I looked on horrified. Was she really reading Little Women for three hours a day? Or just playing on her phone.

So we went into the work that needs doing, and we did it. On our weekends.

I had already been in tears in the morning as something went wrong at work that shouldn’t have (not a major thing, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back), so now feel like a complete failure in parenting as well as at work.

It’s to be expected, eight or nine weeks in. If someone had offered me the chance to work from home for two months back in January I would have jumped at it. If it had been to isolate myself and my family from everyone else, I’d say we’re probably doing it anyway after moving, as only two people really truly stayed in touch (thank god for Facebook).

I’m finding it harder. I’ve never been busier. I’m putting right so many mistakes that they’re now impacting on my work too much, and it’s all too much. I’m not complaining, mind. I like being busy, I’m grateful I’m busy.

I’ve described it as being like the time when I was six or seven, and I took my bicycle into the park we lived next to, with my bicycle. I pushed my bike to the giant sandpit, god I loved that sandpit so much. You could play for hours and my mum and dad let me go on my own to play, knowing I’d be safe. It was the seventies, after all… (I’d never let H in that situation these days, you can’t even see the kids in the sandpit, it’s on the other side of a hill).

I remember pushing my bicycle through the sandpit, until I got to the top of the hill. I was stuck. It wouldn’t move onto the grassy part, and I couldn’t get it out of the sand. I was on my own and I didn’t know what to do. So I must have shouted for my dad. He must have heard me (maybe he was gardening on our little vegetable patch at the top of the garden, nearest the field?).

With all of my strength I couldn’t get the bike out myself, I was stuck. I needed that help. I needed my dad to help and he did.

I’ve just checked the area on Google Maps. The sandpit is still there. Next time we go to York I’m going to revisit it. Maybe it’s only a small thing, but as an adult I’ll see what little me had to deal with.

ANYWAY. I’m still that little me in the sandpit, but who’s going to help me now? Just myself. So you go through school notes and write down what needs doing. They get done. The End.

H was a bit grumpy about that, so my tears, H’s tears and hormones and the lot brought for a very emotional Saturday.

One day I would really like to switch off from everything over the weekend. Let’s hope it’s this one coming. Being stuck indoors and not being able to get to a National Trust place or anywhere similar is starting to really get to me. I need that fresh air and to breathe again.

We all do.

Still staying safe, here.

Interesting…

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I never felt like I had a tie to my childhood home, and this article made me feel a bit puzzled why I would.

But then I looked up the house on Zoopla, there are recent photos of the house, the same windows in the front, and most importantly of all, the garden is in exactly the same state it was in when my dad did it all – his rockery, the steps, the space where a large garage was… all those little bits of his… still there.

Now I want to buy the house and live there forever, happy in my old memories.

Obviously, that’s not going to happen, but y’know. I get the article now.

Week Four.

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So we had our little routine going which was working really well, until schools broke up and Easter decided to happen. The best plans crumbled away.

We’re lucky, we’re very very lucky. We have a decent sized back garden and toys and things that can live in the garden. A lot of people don’t have that – and we’re forever grateful with what we have.

But.

Not seeing people, not talking to people and not having that additional contact with people is turning me into a weird person. I chat for too long in supermarkets with the cashiers (where possible) because I haven’t chatted like that for four weeks. Yet if I get a phone call I have nothing to say, because nothing has happened.

I can happily chat to a cashier about other people and say how weird the supermarket feels (two trips done so far) and we’re in agreement, chatting random things about this whole situation.

But I have nothing to say. But maybe they’re enjoying that not-a-conversation too.

H just looks on thinking I talk too much, I just crave more conversation.

Then H crumbled. She’s scared, this is weird, she can’t see her friends (although right now I can hear her on Google Duo chatting with one of her future schoolfriends she goes to Guides with so it’s not all bad). Hormone-central.

Every now and then she’ll need me for a cuddle and reassurance. We all need that, don’t we. Reassurance.

We’ve all got each other, and we’ve got to make do with that.

I’ve got my workmates I can chat with in instant messenger. I do miss speaking though.

That’s what I really miss.

Week Two

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If anyone had told me how much of a dream it is working alongside H I’d never have believed it.

She’s loving the novelty of working in her own time at home. She’s massively unsupervised but just gets on with it. We’ve set her strict guidelines of getting her maths and english done before anything else, and we’ve signed her up for free guitar lessons with Fender. She has stolen my old electric guitar and is happily entertaining herself while my general workload increases by a bazillion times and I’m working longer hours.

I’m loving that I get regular shoulder rubs from her at various intervals in the day.

“You look stressed mummy” she’ll tell me, and I’ll reply that I’m fine, but I’ll still get hugs and stuff. Earlier she greeted me with “Congratulations, you’ve just won a hug!”

I think going back into an office environment is going to be very strange.

I also know I’m really lucky for having the job I do and it being so busy.

I am also quite bored of seeing my face and hearing my voice on a video screen.

Whereas H is loving creating music, has her laptop in her room working through lots of things on there, and she seems to have discovered a new creative outlet. It’s great!

I look forward to wine and the weekend.

So yeah, week two, it’s going well.

Day One…

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That wasn’t too painful. H and I were sat together in the living room, Shaun upstairs in his little office space.

9am and it was the Joe Wicks PE lesson – perfect for a ten year old who doesn’t like doing PE and is still in her pyjamas – and a perfect excuse for a shower afterwards.

Bonus – no messing around in the evening.

10am and it was down to proper work, a bit of English and Maths. She got through that fairly quickly which was good, nothing too tricky, just things to get your brain going a bit.
We have a list of things which she can do through the day if she gets her main school bits done, so she had a lie down and read a book upstairs.

Bonus – a bit of quiet time for me to do some work, although to be fair things had been fairly quiet anyway.

11.30am and H decided it was time to open the pack of Love Hearts she bought me for Mother’s Day and to share them with me. Then a bit of Topic work, planning for something on her computer about the Victorians. I can’t remember what.

12.30am and Shaun took her outside for a game of badminton. Second PE session of the day, lots of fun, only one shuttlecock into next door’s garden so that’s a result.

1pm – sandwich time, although I always work while eating, I made sure H took a proper break.

1.30pm – back to topic work. The postman delivered a cable which plugs in my electric guitar (yes she has stolen it and claimed it as her own) to H’s speakers so she can practice the songs she’s learning in YouTube tutorials. Music lesson done.

Bonus – she has a second song so now won’t be playing Seven Nation Army on repeat all day. Instead we also have Hedwig’s Theme.

2.30pm – I’ve checked out of work for the day, so tidying up our work area while H finishes off a bit more of her topic work, saving it to come back to tomorrow.

3pm. School’s out for the day. Time for a bit of Ring Fit on our Nintendo Switch, a good energetic end to the day for both of us. That’ll be a third PE session there. Not bad for the girl who doesn’t like doing PE….

Smart Kid

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I know I underestimate my child. Probably as much as I underestimate myself. I know she’s smart, but I didn’t know how smart. It’s really difficult to somehow talk about it without feeling like you’re bragging (that’s a hangover from H’s first school where some parents said that about me behind my back) or doing that ‘my daughter is the best child in the world’ type of thing, which obviously she is, much as your child is also the best child in the world (probably).

So when we were sat at Parents Evening at school and her teacher said she’d be a contender for the local Grammar school it threw us both. “Um, what do we do?!” we asked, having no idea really. It wasn’t something we had put a lot of thought into, and having gone through the Grammar School system when I was her age I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing and had pondered over it many times being unsure.

Things change though, and a visit to the school soon made us realise.

These days Grammar schools have woodwork departments, they have more than one computer. They have decent school dinners. This isn’t the 1980’s any more.

There was still one hurdle to get there though – sitting through the dreaded entrance exams. I mean, my daughter had only just turned ten and here I am putting these extra pressures on her. She needed to want to go to this school – and if she wasn’t bothered, that was it. We could stop. But if she wanted it she had to be prepared to put the time into it.

She was, and we did. Locally schools put on mock exams too so we paid for her to do one of those so she’d be less nervous on the actual day. That was £25 well spent, let me tell you.

We bought a lot of eleven plus maths and english books too. The school website said that they don’t recommend tutoring, and indeed on chatting to another parent they said that abilities can plummet when a child is tutored and it stops. So we didn’t bother – if she made it then brilliant, if not then we tried and there are still brilliant schools she can attend.

So over the summer we became teachers. We taught algebra. We tried to work out why algebra is still taught and when we would use it in our later lives (the Accounts Director at my work also said Trigonomotry, so let’s add that too). All the things she’ll be taught this year, making sure she understood. Going through mode, median and mean which I used to love doing and probably do use in later life. Making sure she knew the difference between horizontal, vertical, perimeter, area and all the things Year 6 will cover and might not have done.

There were fights, there was stroppiness. We gave up. We tried again.

I found EdPlace and took out a two week trial and then paid for a month to cover the two exams. We started work on Year 7, 8 and 9 maths to see how it all progresses and how to make the formulas work to solve the maths. I set funny targets like ‘Well done, you’ve won some money – 5p’ or ‘Well done, daddy will sing a song for you now of your choosing’ (she hates Shaun singing) and other such hilarity. Occasionally I would throw in ‘You’ve worked really hard. Switch the tv on’ (she wasn’t allowed to watch anything though) – that was followed by ‘okay, you can watch Taskmaster now’ after another score of 10.

The day came. Over 2000 girls sat the first exam and around 900 got through. H was one of them. She didn’t want to know the result, though fortunately I had printed it out so she sat on the stairs and read it. She was good enough – now we all had to believe. Believing you’re not good enough is NOT good enough. As one of her schools said, ‘Dream, Believe, Achieve’. Now we all had to do that.

The second exam came and went, and the results email arrived two and a half weeks later. The 900 girls down to 700, with just 400 places on offer. Now we wait. She did enough and if enough isn’t enough there are still good things out there. My gut feeling is that it is enough.

We have to wait until March which feels like a long way away. Whichever school we’re offered we’ll be happy. We gave it a shot and whatever happens it will be a good thing. We dream, we believe and hopefully we’ll achieve.

So yeah, I’ve got a smart kid. I think I surprised myself at how much maths I remembered and how I managed to talk my daughter through it. I think we’re all a bit shellshocked by it all because we haven’t given ourselves time to prepare for it like some families have. We stumbled into it.

I thanked H’s teacher. Had she not said anything at Parents Evening this wouldn’t have happened.

Things.

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There are two things – two significant things – which I think define me and who I am and where I am today.

The first was my problems with my back. When I was unable to walk properly for a long period of time until I found out that I had twisted my pelvis. Things are fine now, though it’s something I’m always aware of – the slightest twinge and I stop and take a step back so I don’t end up back there.

The second is the carbon monoxide leak we had in our old house. It’s something which I often think about. When did it all start? How bad was it? Has it affected my memory for life or actually is this just full on perimenopausal brain fog? Or was it both for an even deadlier concoction of forgetfulness?

So now I do a lot of walking. I live in a new build with regular gas safety checks. I try to keep myself fit and healthy. But it still niggles.

Forgetting everything is weird. I mean, play me a song from the eighties and I remember every single word like it was in the Top 10 yesterday. Send me an invite to an event and unless it is via email or Facebook invite, there’s a very good chance I won’t remember when it is, or which calendar I’ve put it in. I’ve remembered birthdays by the skin of my teeth, of late.

It’s not like me at all. It makes me wonder if this is a knock on from what happened. I can re-tell the story again and again (and I will be this September), all the signs we missed and how we put up with it for so long. Maybe it’s the way I insist on sending H to school, the same way I insist on dragging myself into work when I don’t feel 100%.

I have to write everything down because otherwise I’ll forget. It’s like an extension of a diary. It has even got to the stage I’m looking at photos and wondering who took it as I don’t remember taking it. Must be menopause, right? I started reading this. Interesting.

I should offer myself as a human guinea pig for memory loss. Or maybe not. I’ll forget I’ve written that.

There are plenty of other things which define me, but I feel like those two are what set paths in my life which took it off the regular route it was going on, throwing in some of the most difficult obstacles I’ve come across.

The New Start, Settling In

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So we moved over the summer, into a house which is considered our own. I still find it a bit weird. We rented for so long that having something which is ours is strange. The idea that we’re not going to be booted out because whoever owns the house is going to sell it, or that if we want to decorate we actually can.

We’re three months in now, and it feels like we’ve been here years. H has a little gang of girl friends at school and I’m getting to know some parents.

I’m scared I’ll put them off – I get nervous talking. Then I talk talk talk talk talk and before I know it inside my head I’m telling myself to shut up because I talk too much. It’s like a reverse social awkwardness, I talk too much rubbish.

We’re lucky, we have a lovely residents association here who organise events to fundraise. They had a diwali fireworks celebration which loads of people went to.

diwali fireworks

Then there was Halloween; the Coulsdon shops all took part in a special event, they even had mulled wine. H had an enormous bag of sweets she carried around with her while we went Trick or Treating. Loads of houses really made an effort (read : mine was a last minute effort with whatever we had under the stairs). Shaun stayed at home to catch anyone calling at our house while I went out with our neighbours and the kids.

Harry and Hedwig pumpkins

There was a great sense of community, and I realised that’s what I’ve been missing for such a long time. I like being a part of something, having a purpose. Doing something that’s helpful for other people so stuff gets done. Stuff doesn’t have to be big either, it just needs people to chip in and work together. There’s a Christmas event planned soon as well.

In my mind I’ve always wanted to live somewhere that doesn’t make me nervous. Surround myself with people who don’t judge you and just get on with things. Be around polite people who treat you in the same way you treat them. Work with people to get things done. So far I have all of that here.

I know I’m going to like it here.

We Moved House

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Somehow we seem to be home owners. The old place is gone, left behind. No more. Someone else lives there now.

We’ve started in a new area with no friends, starting everything again from scratch. Which is difficult, but where we live is a nice area and space. We have fresh air – and my clothes smell amazing, almost like they smell of countryside when I get them in from the line.

We’ve downsized, and still have too much stuff. I would probably get rid of more if the first lot hadn’t been so exhausting.

The journey to work takes the same length of time, but is a bit more expensive now we’re Zone 6.

H has a new school which she’s settling into nicely – she’s on her third week and you wouldn’t think so. Already she’s way more confident saying clear hello’s and goodbye’s to her classmates and teacher. It’s great seeing her change in this positive way. She seems to have joined a group of girls who were once a three and are now a four who play together every day.

Oh, and on her second week of school she went on a residential. There isn’t much else with this moving lark you could throw at us now that we couldn’t deal with, I don’t think.

It’s lovely and quiet here – more people are moving in to the area and so far they aren’t too noisy. Everyone has their own space and seems to respect it. Kids play outside together and it’s great to see. We have play areas and trails we can visit to get outside, with more places to wander around and discover here.

I feel far more relaxed about living here. Quite often at the old place there would be drug dealers dealing outside the house, cars revving outside in the early hours, and I even saw someone trying to kick in a neighbours’ door. It wasn’t good for my nerves, I didn’t like H playing outside as cars would often tear down our cul-de-sac to park – way faster than they should do. It was scary enough seeing her scoot home with cars mounting the pavement that could knock her off her scooter at any time.

H has changed a bit too. She only wants to wear skirts for school and (I think) is trying to fit in with the other girls until she finds her feet properly. All her pairs of school trousers are gathering dust in her wardrobe….

It feels strange to be somewhere we know nobody, starting all over again. But I feel like starting again was our only option. I’ve always wanted to live where we are and pinch myself to get my head around the fact we live here.

I don’t feel lonely here despite not knowing anyone. Everyone is so friendly and it feels different. There was so much odd stuff going on in our last year in the old place that it feels good to get away from all the nonsense and gossip.

It’s a really positive move for us, things will be better and we have roots somewhere now. Who knows where the next few years will take us?