Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Swearing. And more swearing.

I have been quiet, because i've been test driving new medication. More of that another day. For now, a big sweary rant. I'm not big on swearing. Whilst I went through my 2 sweary phases (once at 4, when my mother uttered the incredibly stupid phrase "When you hear me swear, then you can swear", which led to nigh on a week of stalking and then a whole 24 hours of happy blue air and a very cross mum, and phase 2 was my "bad girl" teen year(s), which basically amounted to saying "bloody" a lot and listening to the Smiths), I don't really swear now, unless I stub a toe and the kids are not around. When they are around, which is always, I generally resort to "cornflakes" which has some pleasing consonants, or "Ruddy Ugger". I do slip up though. Son is my Dog Poo radar on the way to playgroup, scooting ahead of the buggy and shouting "Bloody Dog Poo!", pointing. But mostly, we are a swear free zone, although Husband is not as sweet as me, and often gets a kick. As a teacher, I hated hearing students swear, and they did, a lot. Often 5 words out of every 10, and with increasing severity, with a word like "Innit" or "bare" at the end. I was hazy on what the C-word was until i'd read Tery Southern at university (eagerly) and leaving aside its' Chaucerian pedigree, I find it a pretty worrying word to be out of a 14 year olds mouth. As a vile form tutor, if I ever caught one of my flock turning the air blue, I would high them to my classroom and there force them to turn the pages of my ancient and large dictionary, until they concocted a juicy phrase that was sans swearing, and rather more intelligent sounding. My pet with swearing was not, and is not, the word per se, but the hugely lazy attitude of saying the same thing again and again for effect. Your brains, I would lecture, are humungous. Why use the same pathetic words everyone else does? Why eff and blind when you can patronise and insult? It was a badge of pride when I heard a year 8 of my form call his neighbour a cretinous globule. Now, of course, I tell my children not to swear. This was not a problem, because they did not know what swearing was, only that some words were new to them. This was until son came home from playgroup proudly declaiming that (nameless child) says "fuck" a lot, and that is very, very naughty. Of course, he had figured out that by saying the word in parentheses, as it were, and always being careful to mention (nameless childs) name, he was blameless. I let it ride, but pointed out that (nameless child) was very naughty, and made mental note never, ever to invite him round. All this was well and good. Until last week. When, pushing the buggy loaded with scooters, bags, books, Baby Annabel, various motorbike models in (the kids don't use, it no, but I still need it to push round the retinue of crap they trail round with), we met that most charming of floods, the going-home-from-secondary school flood. And, of course, the aural flowering of Effs and Blinds, and C's. Sons ears pricked: "That boy is NAUGHTY, mummy! He said...." Yelp from me. Child/youth in question hears this, and proceeds to Eff and Blind more vigourously, to the joy of his friends. I size him up. Year 9, at most, bit fat, trying for a laugh from his mates, wears glasses. I put best teacher voice on and politely ask him to stop swearing in front of my children. He does not, bouyed up by it all. I ask him again to stop. He does not. By now, they are all at it. My children are actually getting scared. I take out my phone, take their picture, and while they are all expressing anger at this terrible infringement of their rights, I point out that I know where one of them lives, his mum has always been perfectly pleasant to me, she will doubtless identify the rest of them, and be burned by shame at the idiocy of her offspring. Furthermore, the area we are traversing through is a sheltered housing area, full of elderly people who do not want to be frightened by a bunch of hormonal teenagers whose one brain cell has not caught up with their mouths. One of the kids says "Leave her alone". There are murmured "sorry" noises. They scuttle off. Today, they walked by the house, as the kids were playing in the front garden. Son was shock still, waiting to see if they would be naughty. They all said hello, quietly, and one of them said "I like your scooter" to him. All it took was a word. And not a rude one.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

no smoke with out fire or ire

I am blessed with an alchemist as a neighbour. He firmly believes that metal will burn, he seeks the jewel within a stack of burning metal. He thinks plastic burns. He has a great huge round circle of scorched earth at the rear of his property that regularly piles up with wood, carpet, old plastic chairs, anything, anything, tyres, anything. And then he burns it. As we walk past, son, who is just 4, remarks "But metal doesn't burn and plastic just smells!" Quite. And pollutes. After one of his huge plastic chair burning fests I wondered if the chickens would survive (I needen't have bothered: in the end of days, my chickens will be there. The kids can't kill them, the kids leftovers can't kill them, plastic fumes merely make them stronger.Expect an Uber Chicken Superhero any day now). I contacted the council after an American friend pointed out that in the USA, that man would have been drenched in USA fireman hose and fined to extinction. Here, it's a cycle of 3 polite letters, after which they send a mild mannered bloke out to see the bonfire and have a quiet discussion. Meanwhile tons of plastic nastiness has been exhumed into the air, and my chickens.

It made me think of the current smoking pallaver. Son and daughter are both deeply, deeply interested in smoking. Why do people do it? All fags are "smokers", every person smoking we pass means a full five minutes of nose flapping and saying "it STINKS!" They both profess to hate it . "Bob must stop! Or his baby will DIE! But why is he?" and so on. They know it is bad. They know it stinks. I walk past people smoking with them and know both will pass flapping their hand saying "it SMELLS! That lady/man STINKS!" and whilst slightly embarressing, it's the better sort of chagrin. But, beneath it all is an absolute fascination as to why people do bad things. Both kids are compelled by it, why someone might put a burning thing in their mouth. I am keen to encourage disgust at the habit, although it can never truly insulate the child. I was a vehemant anti-smoker, born of having two smokers as parents in the 70's. Imagine: sending your kid to the shop for fags now. Imagine smoking as you drive with two kids in the back seat. Imagine parties full of people smoking, smoking, while you wear exceptionally flammable party dresses in polyester at nibbles tray height. My whole childhood was smoke ridden. I transported home textbooks of lungs to show them. I said I never would. But, I did. Because, if it's normal, when you are a kid, it's normal somewhere in your psyche.

And so I smoked. And not. And smoked. And not.
Before I was an ex-smoker (which I have been, with varying succes, for periods of 1 month to 7 years) I could never see that it was advertised. It passed me by. I just smoked, is all. It wasn't until I had kids that the issue of where and how they were in shops hit me. My kids are canny, they noticed that the fags were by the till sweets. That's two issues, sweets, and fags by the till. Both kids have commented that "smokers" are by the sweets. It never occured to me that the packaging was beyond adult. As an adult, I always figured that i'd go for my brand,whatever, the proposed ban on cig packaging may have seemed like overkill. But as a parent, the fascination with the colored packs behind the checkout, alongside the sweets IS my concern, and a plain package is one thing that this government could do that I would agree with. (Bet they don't though: too much Tory tobacco money). To have them for sale, with colours, by sweets, makes them normal. Put them under the counter, no colours. Not normal.Those that want, can have. Those that haven't noticed, don't notice.

I would love for my kids to grow up where fags are under the counter. I love that they point out smokers, and people who spit. I love that they find that nasty. I don't think my mum, my friends who smoke and others would mind in the least picking up plain packets. I wouldn't. I would just be happy that one more reason to smoke had been taken away.

Friday, 4 March 2011

My days are numbered.

I was always beyond crap at maths. Forced into a set that was higher than my level at 11, forced to take it early because, taking English Lit and English Lang early, I was evidently just pretending to find numbers scarily meaningless, and forced to fail O Level. Then forced to fail GCSE a record 6 times. Yes, 6. Finally, entirely lacking in confidence, and needing the magic C grade to become a teacher despite having a degree and a postgraduate degree, (because, you know, marking history essays means you need to be able to balance algebraic equations) I enrolled in an evening class with no hope whatsoever once I saw the class, who were (maths coming up) 70% disaffected East London youth, 20% employees forced onto the course, and 10% sadly numerically deficient weirdos. (I just did those percentages on my fingers). Luckily for me, the teacher was a genius with one arm, a drink problem and a haphazard knowledge of the bars of Camden as well as a bit of an idea about fractions. We got on. I finally "got" algebra after a mammoth drinking session and many scribbled beermats. I got a B. Then I became a teacher and I never used maths again. Ever. It doesn't come into Napoleonic Warfare much.

But the last months has been maths hell. This is because the children are horrible little beasts who cannot bear the thought of the other one having a teeny tiny bit more than them. This is the reason that other peoples' children run out of playgroup screaming "mummy!" with a look of delight on their faces and mine comes out to face his sister and ask "Has she had anything?" while she blurts triumphantly "I had a BISCUIT!", the having of the biscuit that he did not have being far tastier than the actual biscuit was. And so it is, that this month I have been mostly measuring. Drink depths, slices of pizza, any foodstuff at all. Measuring with a stopwatch who was fastest, who went furthest, who made the longest play-dough sausage. The distance jumped, the height reached. Who is tallest (she's always going to lose). Who ate the most, or the least. They lay there at night shout-whispering to each other "I'M going to go to sleep first!" "No, I AM!" It reached its' apogee this week when I was called upon to judge who had done the biggest poo. It was at that point that I flipped and did something terrible to the tape measures and rulers. Since then, I have been given the top tip that one child cuts the cake/pizza, and the other gets first choice of slices. This works until you realise that you need a tally chart to keep track of who has done the choosing/cutting, at which point they fight over it. My cousins' wife, who also did the remarkably rash thing of having children too close together, reminded me that this competativeness is what drove her now noticeably good young adults to succeed and do well. Unfortunately for me, my two couldn't care less about competing to do well. But who's got the biggest poo, well, that's a competition they've GOT to win.

And then more numbers for me. This time, the numbers of my blood test. My last visit to the endocrinologist went something like this:
Me: I know that my TSH is surpressed and so it comes "under" the average range, but i'm feeling quite well now, could you leave me alone?
Endo: What? Have you been reading? Numbers? Don't worry your head about them? Of course, now go away and leave me alone to get back to the more interesting diabetics.
End result: endo writes a letter to my GP clearly stating that I am surpressed and overmedicated and cuts my dose by 50mg. Apparently, people my height and weight should only be on such- a-such amount. Well, here's the thing. I am not a whizz at maths, I agree, but even I can see that a range of permissable blood readings must be taken from a wide range of people and is, even then, only a guide to the possible healthy readings. It is natural and likely that some people will be both above and below that range and be healthy. I am one of them. But as a result of the pathetically inadequate endo, I am now undermedicated, barely able to keep my eyes open and having tremors, weird hair loss again and all the other less lovely hypothyroid thingies. A phonecall to the hospital results in my finding out he is on holiday. For four weeks. I'm to be seen at the end of March. This time, I am taking with me my old , weighty, GCSE maths textbook, and will carefully point out the chapter on averages and ranges to him, before using it to beat him soundly around the head. Failing that, perhaps he would like to come to my house and see quite how difficult it is to measure 4 million things a day when you can't string a senetence together and need a nap every 5 minutes. We could measure his ego.