Saturday, April 16, 2011

Little Lord Fauntleroy

We're off to America soon, land of cheap children's clothing (and cute). So we did a big old clear out of Buddy's closet. I've been putting off buying any new trousers for the boy thinking we could make do, but the poor lad has had several growth spurts so other than a couple of trousers he's been mostly wearing high waters.

Little Lord Fauntleroy

But actually stuffed in the way back, back of the cupboard - and I can't imagine why this outfit wasn't in regular circulation - I found a little blue coverall set that just about fit. This is one of those classic outfits my mother simply cannot resist. Although she should. Not only is the boy guaranteed a drubbing on the rougher playgrounds of South London - but the back opening one piece is really beyond a little lad who needs to get to the toilet on his own.

Little Lord Fauntleroy

Little Lord Fauntleroy

Still these pictures should be handy for future blackmail. Do I feel guilty? Not in the least, especially after the boy packed the washing machine detergent tray full of dishwasher salt today.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Project potty mouth - help please!

I swear like a sailor. I guess. I don't really know any sailors. Anyway, I use some pretty ripe language. I have for a long time. But in Tennessee there's little tolerance for such filthy communications styles. Perhaps especially from women in mixed company. And in front of children. I'm headed off to Tennessee in just over a week, so I need to clean up my act.

I'm a fairly indiscriminate swearer and I use words that the Federal Communications Commission would frown on. By and large, I'm an HBO level swearer. Lots of Fs but never Cs.

Still, as I'll be around elderly relatives and small children for much of the time time I'm in Tennessee I really need to curb it. I need some kind of behavioural therapy. A rubber band around the wrist. A swear box. Something. Anything.

I've already tried to stop and every time I utter a profanity I end up swearing at my slip. Resulting in twice as much swearing!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Descending into the Wandle Wasteland... a fun family outing turned into a Cormac McCarthy novel...

It's not my fault that the boy has a crossbow. I never wanted him to have one in the first place. And the crossbow that the Vol-in-Law ordered for Buddy turned out to be far more weapon like than toy like. It's black. It's metal. It can zing the little darts quite far and quite hard. But who am I to overlook a fun toy? So on the first warm day of the year, I took the boy and his cross bow down to the Wandle Wildlife Park - or as it actually is..and abandoned, filled in and overgrown wastewater treatment plant which sits underneath a major powerline pathway: the Wandle Wasteland.




We first fired the crossbow at the Ikea bag we'd concealed it in. But soon the boy tired of that and began shooting a wild. A dart went off into the rough. The boy began down some creepy path and soon found an abandoned supermarket trolley. What heaven for a small boy.

Who would leave such fun behind?

We dragged it out into the open and played around some more. Buddy was desperate to take it home. I resisted my natural inclination to bring home 'found goods' and said no. But I let him climb around on it and we shot at it with the crossbow.

Who would leave such fun behind?

Who would leave such fun behind?

At one point, a middle class man walking through the 'park' happened upon our fun (I think I was aiming at some crows) and seemed quite frightened by our manner. I could see him taking in the 'bulldog' t-shirt - purchased in a moment last year when I was feeling quite hopeful about England's World Cup prospects (i.e. before it began), but now looks more appropriate for an English Defense League rally. I could see him taking in the trolley and assuming we'd taken it from Sainsbury's. And the look of derision as he saw me hand the crossbow to they boy....I did feel a slight inward cringe of shame.

But then a couple of old drunks happened by. I would have said they were homeless, but I suspect they weren't. They did have two mutt like dogs with them, but no possessions. The had the tremor and pallor of long-time abusers. They didn't have all their teeth. They smiled at the boy's trolley antics and asked about the cross-bow. The woman asked me where I was from. The man wanted to see the boy fire the crossbow and cheered enthusiastically and Buddy insisted that the man have a try, too. Turns out he was raised in Indiana and had lived in LA for quite some time. He asked me if I'd ever been to Indiana. "Only driven through," I had to reply.

"Tennessee's a beautiful place," he said. "You just can't beat it in the spring or the fall."

And I had to agree.

Monday, April 04, 2011

School places

I'm a school governor. Until recently, that school was rated as 'satisfactory' and has now been uprated to good. I'm not a particularly good school governor, but I've been doing it for a while and have given up a significant amount of my free time to a local school. I haven't made a major contribution, to be sure, but I have been along for the ride and I hope I've made some small contribution.

Lunch is almost ready
Looks like lots of places.

I put Buddy's name down on the list to go to that school. School governors don't get preferential places, but the school had never been oversubscribed before, so I felt pretty assured of a place. I wasn't thrilled about him going there. He's a smart kid, but he's not a good kid. From having observed classes there, I could see that it maybe didn't serve smart, not-very-good and high-energy boys well. He would have been an ethnic minority in the school - and whatever you may think about that, it can certainly make you more obvious, more vulnerable. Despite the school's improvement, I know they still face a lot of challenges. A school population of high churn. Kids entering every year who don't speak English at all, never mind as a first language. But it wasn't really a bad deal overall. I know the headteacher and deputy head and a lot of the staff. I know they're actually doing a pretty good job. I'm a school governor, so although the boy wouldn't get any special know, they'd look out for him, let me know if there was a problem.

School governors don't get preferential treatment when it comes to school places. And my boy didn't get a place at the school where I'm a governor.

Instead he was offered a place at the worst school within reasonable walking distance. A school which receives low ratings on outcome and on kids perceptions of their own safety. It's next to a housing estate that I know has some significant problems, because my husband sits on the local Safer Neighbourhood Panel. It's a school which, until last year, was in 'special measures'. It's a school that parents sometimes flee from to attend the one where I'm a governor. Sometimes mid-year.

I can't help feel a little cheesed off that I didn't get some good karma for my work, however just about ok it was.

And I can't help but feel a bit desperate. The school must be within walking distance or easy to reach by public transport. There's a nice looking private school that's not too inconvenient for us. But, of course, it's expensive. But I will pay. It doesn't help that I've just taken voluntary redundancy. Fortunately, we can pay at least for a little while - even in my reduced circumstances. And fortunately, my political principles mean that I don't worry about sending my child to a private school. I would prefer to send him to a state school, even if it's perhaps not the best option. But I won't send him if it's the worst option. I just hope the local private school still has places.