Saturday, 31 January 2009

Little Dorrit Blues

Now I'm annoyed.

I enjoyed "Bleak House", so I thought I would watch the BBC adaptation of "Little Dorrit".

I don't get much time to watch TV (too busy blogging!) so I recorded the series and watched it when I could, until .............. my recorder hadn't recorded episode 13.

No matter; it was being repeated over four weeks on BBC4. I recorded that and sat down last week to watch episodes 13 - 16 and guess what?

It hadn't recorded episode 13.

BBC Conspiracy?

No matter, it's just been released on DVD, I'll order it from

I sat down last night to watch episodes 13 - 16 and................ stutter, stutter, stutter, freeze - not working!

Changed to a different DVD player and................ joy! Watched the last 4 episodes.

So, why am I annoyed?

Well, after investing seven and a half hours of my precious free time in the series, I AM NO WISER!*!

So, who is Amy?

Who is Arthur?

What did Miss Wade have to do with it all?

Why was Amy left a legacy?

What happened to Arthur's mother?

Was William Dorrit not Amy's father?

What happened to Pet and Gowan?


Friday, 30 January 2009

Photostory Friday - Biscuit Bear

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Last week daughter got this book from the library:

In the book a boy makes a biscuit bear that comes to life and wreaks havoc in the kitchen at night making lots more biscuit bears.

Of course she wanted to make biscuit bears.

We didn't use our usual gingerbread recipe this time, instead we used a recipe of my grandfather's for what he called "German Biscuits":

5 oz butter
3oz sugar
8 oz SR flour
one egg yolk

(Usual method for making biscuits and 15 - 20 mins at 170 degrees)

He used to sandwich two together with jam and then ice the top one. I have seen the recipe in an old cookbook, but described as "Imperial Biscuits". German? Imperial? Why? If anyone knows the origin of these biscuits, let me know.

Anyway, not having any bear shaped cutters I had to make my own bear template from cardboard and use it to cut out the bears. This takes ten times as long as using a cutter - I don't recommend it. After they were baked and cooled she set about decorating them in her usual inimitable fashion.

There was "Alien Bear" (look at the eyes!):

"Cool Dude Bear" (with the sunglasses):

"Disco Diva Bear" (who had fallen into a vat of sprinkles):

and "Potty Training Bear":

(Sorry about that one)

And what did daughter look like after all this decorating?

What do you think!?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

What not to say

This is an advisory piece for all the men out there:

If your wife is feeling a bit low due to a long, protracted illness, interminable dark mornings, a wilful daughter and a stressful job, and she decides to spend some of her Christmas money cheering herself up by buying this:

....when she shows you her new purchase, DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT say:

"Another handbag?"

It will not be well received!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Pantomime Problem Revisited

Remember the Pantomime Problem?

MIL wants to take daughter to pantomime with her other two grandchildren, but I have reservations about a septegenarian taking three very young children to theatre alone.

Well, the story continued..............

Firstly, I discussed my concerns with husband. I chose my moment; just after we'd returned from a trip the the Bridgewater Hall with daughter who had wriggled away from husband in the throng in the foyer and incurred his wrath. So he knew what I was worried about.

He said, "I understand your concerns"

Good start.

To cirucmvent the problem of tackling MIL about it, I asked him, as he set off to a City match, to ask his sister (who would also be at the match) if she was going to the pantomime with them.

He came back from match.

"Did you ask her?" I enquired

"No, I forgot" was his reply.

Okay, that's no help, then.

Yesterday we went to MIL's and, while we were sitting having a cup of tea, she asked again if Izzy could go to the pantomime with her.

"Er, well" I stalled, whilst waiting for husband to jump in and take over the conversation.

He didn't. He had his head fixed on some football on the telly.

"What do you think?" I asked him, digging him in the ribs.

"Yeah, fine" he said.


"What did I ask you about?" I said

"No idea. Wasn't listening"


I bit the bullet:

"Is there anyone else going?" I asked MIL

She mouthed the names of the her other two grandchildren. Why? Why does she do that mouthing and spelling thing? Intensely irritating and totally unnecessary.

"Any other adults?" I enquired, as tactfully as I could, knowing that she could read my mind and realise that I didn't trust her.

"Lisa's going" she replied.

Husband's sister. What a relief. A responsible, alert and active adult to reign in wayward children. I agreed to the trip.

Later, as we got in the car to leave, I did the admonishing thing. I know I shouldn't, but I couldn't help it:

"Well, you were no help, were you?"

"What? Lisa's going, isn't she? Problem solved!"

Yes, problem solved, but I've needlessly added another nail in my "wicked daughter-in-law" coffin!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

A Momentous Day

It feels like a momentous day in the Working Mum house and so I have to blog about it.

Daughter has been doing so well with her reading that I thought it was time for her very own read yourself book. I know she gets a reading book every other day from school, she reads it, I comment in her reading record and it goes back, but they are from a reading scheme and it isn't quite the same as having your own story book that you can read. So today I perused the read yourself books in WH Smith and after much deliberation I bought her this:

It seemed to have words that she knew, it was a familiar story and it had beautiful illustrations.

I brought it home and presented it to her, thinking that she would love it.

She was nonplussed.

So I left it on the kitchen table; no pressure, just visible and tantalising.

At tea-time she asked, "Mummy, can I read my book to you?"

"Of course you can"

She read the book to me, with expression and great excitement when the wolf couldn't blow the brick house down!

She was so proud of herself!

I was so proud of her!

It feels like the start of a lifetime of reading for pleasure.

Momentous day!

Friday, 23 January 2009

Photostory Friday - Lasciate mi morire

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

After missing choir rehearsals for the entire months of November and December and all the Christmas concerts (because of suffering from acute bronchitis) I have finally returned to singing in The Manchester Chorale.

I still can't sing properly because of continuing breathing difficulties, but at least I'm at rehearsals, joining in, being sociable and enjoying the music. I feel like I have my life back!

This term we have another appearance on the BBC's Daily Service, a performance of "Carmina Burana" (the Old Spice advert for those old enough to remember), a St George's Day Gala at the Bridgewater Hall and a "Spring Serenade" in a local church with a varied programme from Mendelssohn to Cole Porter. However, my favourite piece in our repertoire at the moment is Monteverdi's "Lasciate mi Morire":

Absolutely divine music. Exquisite chords that just make your heart ache.

Evocative Italian words that drip off your tongue as you sing them.

Music for the soul.

Just don't read anything into the title!

("Let me die")

Thursday, 22 January 2009

What's in a sentence?

Last night daughter and I were doing her 'key words' at the kitchen table. These are certain words that she must learn to read and she has them written on pieces of card (her teacher adds more cards to the bag as she learns them). I was making questions and sentences with them for her to read when she announced that she wanted to make a sentence.

"Interesting" I thought, "I wonder if she knows what constitutes a sentence"

She started picking up cards:

"I" "look" "for" "one" "in" "am"

"Oh, dear", I thought, "She hasn't got the hang of this"

"So what sentence is that?" I asked her, giving her a chance to rectify it.

She rearranged her cards on the table and announced,

"I am lookin' for one!"

Yep, I'll give her that!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Well, I'll just...........

I was reading the comments on my last post when I suddenly thought,

"While I'm on t'internet I'll just have a look at those clothes on Boden's website"

Well, you can't see the alternative fabrics properly in the catalogue, can you?

"I'll just add that coat to the basket while I find that skirt I liked"

Well, I may want to have another look at it later.

"I'll just have a look at that top that'll go with my linen trousers in Spring"

Have to think ahead with women's fashions.

"Just add it to the basket for later."

After adding 8 items to the basket I thought, "I'll just save the basket for another day"

Well, I don't want to have to go through all that searching again, do I?

"Oh, you can't save the basket. Perhaps that's because things may go out of stock"

It's a truth universally acknowledged that a Boden catalogue a month old is in want of size 12 items.

"Well, I'll just click on 'checkout' and fill in the offer code. I can just try them on. I don't have to keep them all. They do free returns."

Yeah, right!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Split Personality

Sometimes I think there are two of me in my head. There's the science geek and there's the yummy mummy. What am I enjoying on TV at the moment? "Lark Rise to Candleford" and "Science and Islam"! Bizarre or what?

Take my current thoughts: I have some money I was given for Christmas that I haven't spent yet. It's just for me, not for the house, so I can treat myself. What shall I buy?

The yummy mummy is thinking, "Mmmmm, the new Boden catalogue has just arrived, I really like this":

and "Maybe I can also get one of these?":

Whereas, my inner geek is thinking, "I could get one of these":

"Wow, I could take some good shots with that!"

So inside my head is going a bit like this at the moment:

Clothes and handbag?

Macro lens?

Clothes and handbag!

No, the macro lens!



So, who's going to win?

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Me! No, Me!

Friday, 16 January 2009

Conversations with a four year old - the one about spelling

For all the testing behaviour, she is still my gorgeous girl! Take this evening:

Izzy loves to write. She asks me to spell the words for her and she writes them in her best handwriting. Lists, stories, songs, letters, anything really. The topic for this half term at school is "traditional tales" and she has been trying to write her own, usually involving a princess and a wicked queen (a little freudian perhaps?). This evening she was sitting at the kitchen table writing a new story:

"Mummy, how do you spell 'ponner'?"

"Ponner?" I asked, "What does it mean?"

"I don't know" she said

"Well, give it to me in a sentence" I suggested

"Once a ponner time"!!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Don't sweat the small stuff

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post, Mothers and Daughters.

To summarise, this is what I should do:
  1. Let her have some of the small victories
  2. Give her more choices and control over the small stuff
  3. Be calm and consistent with the big stuff
  4. Remember it's a phase!
And don't worry Auntie Gwen, husband only thinks it's funny when she's not around. We're very good at providing a united front and always support each other's decisions. In fact, when he finds out she's been naughty for me he does the whole 'disappointed' thing which really affects her, being such a daddy's girl!

Now, I am pretty good at the calm and consistent - being a teacher helps! As my pupils will tell you, I don't do shouty. Much more effective to lower your voice!

I have been giving her choices for a while now, but it usually goes:

"What kind of fruit would you like?"
"Jaffa cakes"
"Jaffa cakes aren't fruit. We have bananas, grapes, kiwi, ....."
"I want Jaffa cakes"
"It's fruit or nothing"
"I'll have nothing"
(See, stubborn too!)

One thing I started doing this term is letting her pack her own snack bag for school. I thought it would give her more independence and she would be more likely to eat what she'd chosen. She knows she has to have a bottle of water, a carton of juice and two snacks from: fruit (fresh or dried), yoghurt/fromage frais, cheese - school rules. She enjoys choosing her juice and snacks .............................. but she does try to have three snacks.

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"It's just a phase, it's just a phase!"

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Mothers and daughters

Actually, I'm having a hard time on the 'mum' front this year as well, so this 'have it all' resolution is not going at all well.

Here's the thing: daughter has become contrary and ............. defiant!

It's a bit like the terrible twos, but worse. At least when it was the terrible twos, she couldn't help her behaviour and just needed guidance to find out what is acceptable.

Now she knows exactly what she's doing.

She will escalate the most innocent of situations into a full blown confrontation and I don't know how it happens!

However, here's the rub - she only does it to me. Not to husband. He thinks this is funny. As the person who has to look after her for most of the time, I don't! It's wearing me down.

But the worst is when she is deviously and cunningly defiant, almost passive aggressive:

I'll say "Time to go, put your boots on" and she'll put her shoes on.

I'll say "Let's tidy your room. I'll do the lego, you do the cars" and she says "I'll do the cars"

I'll say "Banana or satsuma?" and she'll say "Grapes"

What do I do?

Impose my will and escalate the situation?

Looking for advice and some understanding of the situation I asked my mum if I went through a similar stage to see if it is in the genes and how my mum dealt with it. She said that I was never as headstrong and defiant as daughter and I've got my work cut out with her!

Yeah, thanks, mum!

She also said, with some insight, that this behaviour has developed since daughter started school, and she suggests that as daughter is now seeing how other children behave, she is trying to see what she can get away with.

So, all you mothers of daughters out there, what do you think?

How can we get back to this?

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Monday, 12 January 2009

And here is the news ......

This morning when I dropped daughter off at school she was dying to show me her 'news' book. It's an exercise book in which the children write about something they've done recently (it's the start of creative writing). A little difficult when you are only four, just learning to read and can't spell words like 'aquatic centre'. However, she does her best and illustrates her work beautifully with pictures of mummy looking cross and daddy playing football. (Out of the mouths (or pens) of babes ......)

Anyway, she wanted to show me what she'd written about Christmas. I was eager to see what she had enjoyed the most. Especially as I had organised so many interesting and fun things for us do to over the festive season.

So, what was daughter's memorable event of Christmas?

Was it ........

........ visiting the German markets in Manchester?


Was it ........

........ going to the Halle Family Christmas Concert at the Bridgewater Hall?


Was it ........

........ going for a ride on the big wheel and seeing great views of the city?

No ......

Was it ........

........ seeing Mary Poppins at the Palace Theatre?


Was it ........

.... Henry, the mild, mannered janitor?

(Ooops, got a little carried away there!)


What was daughter's memorable event of Christmas?

I'll tell you.

It was this:

Meeting Moonchester at Manchester City's Junior Blue Christmas Party.

There is no hope.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Reasons to stay in

A bit like A Confused Take That Fan, I tried to go out last night. It's not often husband and I get to go out together, but we were invited to a dear friend's surprise 40th birthday meal and wanted to go.

Now, the meal was quite early and in the middle of Chester, a good 40 min drive, so we had to set off at 5pm.

We asked MIL to babysit and of course, because of the timing, offered to make her dinner: shepherd's pie with carrots and broccoli, which I spent an hour preparing.

Why is it, when I'm going out for a meal, I still have to make the evening meal for whoever is at home?

Anyway, we managed to get to the meal on time, and had a lovely evening.

Then we arrived back at 11pm to ...........................

................... a kitchen of dirty dishes!

Now, I know she was doing us a favour by babysitting for us (and swapping a night watching TV in her house for a night watching TV in our house) but she did get a homecooked meal thrown in; is it too much to ask that she wash the dishes? My mum would have. My friends' mums would have! When my friend's daughter babysits she washes the dishes!! Am I being unreasonable?

Apparently not because even husband commented on it this time!

Not only that, she had not used the milk in the fridge for daughter's bedtime drink, she had opened the slowly defrosting carton of milk which was sitting on the worktop and then returned it, side down, to the worktop where it had continued to defrost and leaked everywhere!

Major clean up required!

I don't think I'll bother going out any more.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Conversations with a four year old - the one about the c-word

In amongst all the daily stress there is some light relief that keeps me going:

Driving to school today daughter asked, "Mummy, what's the C-word?"

Okay, let's investigate where this came from.

"What do you mean?"

"The C-word!"

"Where did you hear it?"

"After school care"

"Who said it?"

"Mrs Murphy"

(the lady in charge of after school care)

"What did she say?"

" "C-word!" "

"Yes, but in what sentence? Tell me the sentence she said"

" "Who wants to play on the c-word?" "

I thought for a while.

What would she mean?

Something beginning with 'c' that she didn't want all the children to know about..........

Got it!

"Computers! "Who wants to play on the computers?"!"

Thank goodness for that!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

What happened to working mum?

My 'have it all' resolution is suffering already. Especially on the work front. I went back to school this week to find that all duties have been changed without warning. I'm now doing a different duty at a different time and have had to adjust my other lunchtime commitments accordingly. (Lunchtimes are never lunchtimes, they are two extra time slots for meetings, extra-curricular activities, duties, extra tuition for pupils, etc).

However, duties are not the only thing to change this year.

The government have, of course, introduced new syllabuses this year, (I don't think I've had one year in 16 years of teaching without a new GCSE or A level syllabus to contend with). Senior management have introduced new processes and systems. IT gave us Office 2007 (with no training). And I've got a new Head of Department this year who has brought in new initiatives which require a lot of work, but will pay dividends in the long run. And, to add to the mayhem, our department is being internally inspected this term!

All necessary and useful stuff (with the exception of new syllabuses), so "what is the problem?" you ask.

Well, to put my problem in context you need to know a little bit more about me: I have always been a very organised person bordering on perfectionist (well, I am a Virgo), my school reports always said "conscientious" and I've worn the label as a badge of honour in my working life. I am the person who knows what has to be done when and does everything on time and to the best of my ability. I am that person with the tidy desk, who knows where everything is when you ask her. (I know you are starting to hate me, but I can't help it, it's just the way I'm made.)

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See, this is me being conscientious in the school library.

However, even I am struggling to manage everything that is being thrown at me this year. I'm not averse to change. I am willing to learn and always happy to make changes that advance the education of my pupils, but I can only cope with so much at once.

And now, to the crux of the matter:

Recently I have realised that I have started to adopt the "if I've missed something, someone will tell me" approach to work.

And that just isn't me!!

What happened?

Where I have gone?

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


This is my 200th post!

Who'd have thought that I would have so much trivia to impart?

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Plenty more where that came from!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

You know it's the end of the Christmas holidays when ...

You know it's the end of the Christmas holidays when ...........

  1. You put the tree and decorations away for another year - check
  2. You put the Christmas Radio Times in the recycling bin - check
  3. You can't face another Quality Street chocolate - check
School starts again Wednesday.

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Once more unto the breach ..........

Thursday, 1 January 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I don't really do New Year. Don't like all that looking back, looking forward stuff; it just depresses me. I prefer to just pottle along making the best of things and enjoying the good times. So last night after we got back from the theatre and put our own Mary Poppins to bed, we just opened a bottle of wine, watched a film on TV and had a few party nibbles, just the two of us.

I'm not averse to a few resolutions, though. Always good to have targets. Hence, here are the resolutions I've made for the members of the Working Mum household:

  1. Lean over plate!!
  2. Put one toy away before getting next one out!
  3. Take off wellies before entering house
  1. A little less football (ha ha ha ha! worth a try!?)
  2. Cook dinner for the two of us once a month (ordering a takeaway doesn't count)
  3. Keep toothpaste inside washbowl (ie not all over worksurface, mirror and window)
Working Mum
  1. Do more photography
  2. Keep a full wine rack (was getting dangerously low before Christmas)
  3. Become a 'yummy mummy' (bit of a tall order, but I can try)

and .............

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............. Have it all! Obviously!

Happy New Year!