Saturday, 29 September 2007

Platinum membership been used well this week. I am told when I call the leisure centre that it is part of 'Southampton's award winning leisure facilities'. Clearly the awards were handed out by Southampton City Council. Anyway, today and Wednesday found me swimming at the Quays, today in the ' leisure' pool with most of the rest of the citizens of Southampton. Nice.

Yesterday, and this is what I am here to tell you, I was, as usual, at Bitterne LC for the swimming pilgrimage. When changing afterwards - I have learnt to do the hair wash there and enlarge the council's carbon footprint rather than my own - I overheard a dad getting irate with his children who were not doing as they were told. When I heard their names, I felt that, frankly, he got what he deserved, ie if you are crazy enough to give your children those names you deserve every bit of disobedience they throw your way. They are probably unconsciously rebelling against the lot they have been given in life. Ready? Want to know what caused this tirade from me? OK... I can hardly bear to write them. Galaxy and Felix. There! Done! Did the guy get stuck on the 'x' grapheme and insist that his childrens names included an x? Maybe they have a Foxy and a Trixie as well. This is Bitterne! I felt like shouting over the wall to him - 'This is Bitterne, man! Home of nice, practical names like Ryan and Shannon, Dylan and Tyler and Calum and Jake. Jack, Kerry, I mean, almost anything, but not Galaxy and Felix.'

I didn't, of course. I am learning, from my homeopath and my nun (hey man, I am up for any alternative healing therapies going - hope I still have a job on Monday) that tolerance is a wonderful thing that I have little of. I get so angry at the world, at people who don't see the world the way I see it, at innocent strangers who were purely trying to inject a little cat food and chocolate into their lives when their children were born... hey, they are entitled to call their children Tarquin, Xanthe and live in Bitterne.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Purge deleted. That is what one of my webmails asked me if I wanted to do today. Doesn't it sound great? Like washing away all your mistakes in one big bowl of Ariel. Reminds me of a bible verse about washing our clothes whiter than anyone in the world could launder them, the way God deals with our 'deletions'.

Friday was Bitternetastic. We went for A's swim lesson, and for 6 luxurious lengths I was alone in the big pool. I felt like a princess. By the time we had been to the library and eaten a packed lunch 'pac', as A calls it, we got the bus home and had 15 minutes before we got H from school and got on another bus, back to the library and then to H's swim lesson. It dawned on me that I am doing this every Friday till Christmas.

Saturday was a big adventure. I got a train at 6.47am, which I sat on till it stopped in Cardiff. There I met Claire, another friend of hers and Claire's mum for our spa day, pre wedding. I had never done anything so indulgent before. It is a peculiar and intimate relationship that you have with your beautician or whatever the person is called doing the treatments. You wear almost nothing and have stuff rubbed in all over, then a shower and a back massage and then a facial. It was great. I really enjoyed going in the steam room and swimming too. C and I had a meal and then got trains home, I got on the wrong train, not realising that there were 2 trains on the same platform, and gaily jumping on the one I saw at the top of the steps. I got to spend an hour in Newport which I would not have done otherwise. On the train home, I sat opposite a mother and her teenage daughter, and I was struck by how they hugged and seemed so comfortable together. As I was about to get off, I told them how I hoped to emulate them one day when my daughters were teenagers. Fiona, the mother, and I chatted a bit and I asked to share their taxi home as they were going to Botley, and I am on the way. She agreed and I was blessed with meeting interesting people and a free ride home. Another lady on the train had a trolley, which I think was full of Fosters, or maybe it had been before the lady drank it all. I helped her off the train but she fell on the platform and a train company operative rescued her. She said she had buried her mother that day. I don't know if that was literal, figurative or alcohol. If I wanted to get so drunk I fell off trains, I would not use Fosters as my method. I would have to spend my whole time in the train toilet. Surely spirits are a better option, even if purely in not needing a trolley to carry them around?

Last night I met up with some friends who I rarely see in a group, we have known each other for over 6 years now and the only thing we had in common was the birth dates of our firstborns coinciding enough for us all to be in the same antenatal class. I was struck by how different we are, how different our lives are and yet how we stick together, somehow. We have lost 2 of our number along the way - one moved away and one works very long and hard and is rarely spotted at our little socials. From our conversations last night, it seems that everyone is suffering their marriage breaking up or is having an affair, if not several. Not my immediate friends, you understand, but their wider circles of friends and families - don't want to name names, obviously... Roger and Penelope. Maybe it is a life stage thing- but I don't have time to spend time with my own husband as much as I want to, let alone with someone else's! How do these people find the time? I am very struck by the goodness of my husband and my family and the love that they have for me right now.

In a similar vein, I had the -ck grapheme as my phonics lesson focus today. I managed to avoid the 'Who can give me some words that rhyme with duck' line which trips up so many infant teachers with their classes who happily repeat the language they use at home. Steered clear of 'uck' and went for 'eck' and 'ick' and 'ack' words instead.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Yesterday we met the mayor of Southampton. H took part in a summer reading challenge, so we dutifully waited at Thornhill library (he was 30 minutes late, the children of Bitterne had all turned up for their medals). H got her medal, along with a ragtag bunch of kids of similar ages and stages, and 2 fantastically named broods. One set of siblings were called Edward, Francis and Cecilia. Another set were called - wait for it - Hermione, Xavier and Sebastian. Where do they think they live? Notting Hill? Hogwarts?

Bitternetastic day on Friday, when the first swim of the day was cancelled as the water was too cold, but we cycled there for H's lesson and A and I bravely went in the baby pool while H did her widths of the deep end. Cycling home again was an effort but H made a brave attempt at the hills, and stopped for some chips. Chips is one of those post swimming comfort foods in my world. We used to go with the Cubs to Walton Swimming Pool, a giant concrete structure of the 60s. We did everything with the Cubs. Anyway, mum and dad used to go to Sainsburys and do the shopping leaving me and my brother with the Cubs to look after us. So I learnt to swim with Clive Finnear. God bless you, swimming teacher. He was one of the Cub dad helpers. Anyway, we used to stop sometimes as a rare and exciting treat to get a cone of chips to share in the back on the way home. Even more thrilling was when mum bought us a pot noodle, to share, when we got home. We used to painstakingly ' fill to here' and time the minutes between stirs. We licked the soy sauce from the sachet while waiting. One of us had to get a bowl and eat half of it from there, but we took turns and oh - the bliss - I am salivating now - when you got the pot and there was a bit of unrehydrated MSG at the bottom. Or a pea, proving that pot noodles are good for you.

I am teaching 2 days a week at the moment, for a few more weeks, covering for someone who has broken her arm. Right now, I should be planning. But instead I am getting excited about a pot noodle. No wonder children can't read and write anymore eh?

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Today I notice that the Queen eats ryvita. That would explain her trim shape then. I was in town today and peeped into a couple of clothes shops, as I had a spare half hour and am working as a teacher a bit more this term and don't have much of a work wardrobe for this time of year. The shops are a riot of color, pattern and I like that. However, what is going on with this smock/tunic shape thing that will not go away? The only people who benefit are the pregnant, who get to buy clothes designed for all, rather than the few offerings in the corner. I left totally bemused and feeling very old. So old, in fact, that I looked inside BHS, but found the same thing going on in there. As the Queen and I both eat ryvita, we do not want to hide our svelte figures inside tunics that cover all sins, lumps and bumps. I notice that HRH and I are in a minority.

I also remembered today why I do not go into town on a Saturday. I can not cope with the seething river of humanity that exists there. I entered town through the East Streeet shopping centre, which is never a place that can be accused of being busy. In fact, there were only 2 shops open, the mirror shop and the half price jeweller. A few years ago (4, precisely) we were in the same centre and it did have some life - I remember H went on a ride on car thing and there were other children running around. It is a sad shell of a shopping centre now, and reminded me of being in Bosnia. Someone has bravely posted a sign on the door which goes something like this:

No Eating
No Swearing
No Skateboarding
N0 Cycling
No Shouting
No Walking
No Breathing

and it seems to have been observed. Being in town reminded me a lot of being in Bosnia, I was down the poor end of town, where charity shops and those shops that sell everything you could imagine for the home fight for air with Cash converters and Pound land. Lots of people around me were speaking languages other than English. I was struck by how Southampton is a multi cultural city - when you live in Thornhill the most multi cultural you get is that someone's aunty lives in Lordswood.

Had a Bitternesque week this week - aerobics as usual on Tue, then a massive Bitterne rush on Friday. The girls have changed swimming lessons, so they are both on the same day, at BLC. One at 12 30, when I also go for a swim, and one at 4 00. That is a painful half hour to endure. All the mums (ok, occasionally a dad turns up on swimming duty but I don't blame them for staying away) and siblings of the swimmers (2 groups - about 20 of them) sit in a squashed and airless 'cafe' next to the pool trying to stay alive for 30 minutes. And on a Friday! What was I thinking? Am delighted to report that H is happy to get herself dressed after, so I don't have to go and stand in a hot and crowded changing room trying to get a damp and hungry child into their clothes. H is now in the deep end, and is one of the smallest in her group - there appear to be two boys who must be getting on for 17 in her group. Next week I might take A into the baby pool for the half hour, despite her having had her own lesson just a few hours previous, jut to escape the torturous Black Hole of Bitterne. Or maybe I should stick in there and keep going with the conversations, especially as one of them is a neighbour, who coincidentally - or perhaps not - I am on a team with for my latest voluntary enterprise. We are volunteers for the Credit Union, which is meeting at H's school. So once every 3 weeks I will sit and take money and write things down for exactly one hour. It hasn't started yet, we had our training this week, and I feel ready to take on allcomers. Please do turn up and invest. It is a very worthy cause, as it is all about helping people to save and to offer low interest loans, to stop the doorstep lenders with awful interest rates that so many people around here rely on.

The Queen should invest in a credit union shouldn't she?

My lettuces have been fabulous by the way. And one pumpkin coming along nicely, should be ready for Halloween. Which is what pumpkins are all about.