Millennial…Pink?

First rose gold gilded every accessory going from lettering on totes to the latest I Phone in stock.  Lovely stuff…less brash than gold, a bit more special than silver.  Then millennial pink hit the high streets and everyone went gaga for a bit of that blush.  Except me.  I can’t bear pale pink: it’s unflattering for many; impractical for those with sticky-fingered toddlers and makes me look like a marshmallow wearing a pair of jeggings.   Apparently it has now had its day and we are about to embrace red as we head into Autumn.  Warm red tones in Autumn…who would have guessed it?  Surely as predictable as stripes and florals in Spring?

As I read about the latest must-haves in Autumnal reds (seeing as Summer has apparently given up the ghost by the first week in August), I realised that perhaps it wasn’t aimed at me, this online magazine article.  If I didn’t embrace millennial pink, was I even allowed to sneak into these promising reds?! My eyes zoomed in on the word millennial and forced me to remember that I am now halfway through my six week holiday and that term-time is looming, whether I wear red in September or not.  It prompted me to consider the term ‘millennials’.  You see, we now bandy that term around at school to describe the students we are teaching.  I realised with horror last year that the Year 11s who were leaving, were the final students I would ever teach who were born in the same century as me.  A truly sobering thought.

These ‘millennials’ as we now term them are just the most ‘entitled’ bunch I’ve ever known.  At first I thought it was that I was getting older and less tolerant (and have been teaching for 12 years and so teenagers have worn me down somewhat), but no.  It’s this lot.  They see targets as grades they will be given.  Given, not earned.  They breeze through life knowing that someone will help them out/ clear up their messes/ ring school and make pathetic excuses for them “no, no, it is MY fault that my child forgot their homework.  You can’t punish them for losing the sheet.  I lost their sheet at home!”

Simply put, this phone-fixated, eyebrow obsessed, bottle flipping, fidget spinning, dabbing generation are the future workforce. How will they cope? On the whole they lack resilience, tenacity and motivation. But can we blame them? They are surrounded by terrifying politicking across the world and have grown up with terms like ‘recession’, ‘double-dip recession’ and ‘austerity’. They are in schools so threatened and affected by education cuts that some governing bodies have felt forced to ask parents for donations for resources.  Their parents struggle to get mortgages and so will they.

We mock them for their addiction to social media and yet most of us 20th century kids own a smartphone. They are sleep affected due to looking at the ‘blue’ light on their phones so late…but so are many pre-millennials. Are we copying them? Are we just as bad? Is it all getting a smidge ‘Black Mirror’?

Generation Netflix, selfie worshippers, contouring, strobing, Kardashian/ TOWIE/ Love Island watching…the list too long to type.  Have things changed so much, or is it just that this generation of youths document their lives so openly that we are surrounded by these fads and trends? We mock their fickle comments on social media posts, raise our (much thinner) eyebrows when they have thousands of ‘friends’ on Facebook and despair when they confide that they sent pictures they now regret on Snapchat.

I chatted with (teacher) friends today about this and one commented that the real crux is that you can tell the difference between those young people born pre and post 9/11. She is right. It’s not that they were born in a different century from me; they were born in a different world. Born into a world of fear and instant news at our fingertips. They can’t help that, but perhaps we need to help them.

This much I know is true: this demanding, entitled behaviour cannot be allowed to continue.  Parents should not facilitate it if they don’t want to spend the rest of their lives having to intervene as their children cannot cope at school, at university, at work, at life.  I don’t mean vulnerable children, I mean your average kids, your grafters and your over-achievers. Generation Selfie needs saving from itself…they will be line-managed by a group of kale and avocado eating, smoothie drinking fitness fanatics who will eat them for breakfast on gluten-free bread.

So, my final thoughts would be that I am happy to wear a pair of rose gold trainers whilst scrolling down my Instagram feed for a few minutes.  Sure, I’ll post a couple of selfies with friends as we drink a cocktail or two. I’ll make a Boomerang video of my kids on the garden swing and use a hashtag or two. Heck, I might even buy a red jumper for Autumn. But as I raise my young children, I must remember they need love, security and to be shown that resilience is key.  If I can provide that, the world will be their #oyster

Losing My Childhood: Reloaded

On Christmas Day, just two days ago, a few of us mused on how many celebrities had died this year.  My sister-in-law showed me a video on Facebook: a compilation of said losses.  We exclaimed at each one; there have been so many this year that some had been pushed into the recesses of our minds.  Quite the morbid topic for the pause between the main course and the pudding, we shelved the conversation and carried on with our festivities.

At 10.45 pm, the same sister-in-law sent me a text to say that George Michael had died.  It was the Curse of 2016 striking again.  In disbelief we checked the news channels on the television and realised she was right.  The next day, we learned of Liz Smith’s death.  Sad and a real treasure of British acting, but at least she made it until the fine age of 95.  Then, tonight, the news I had been kind of bracing myself for arrived.  Carrie Fisher had died.

The death of celebrities is sad and we feel as if they are a part of our lives, even when we don’t really know them.  However, this year has marked the loss of so many of my childhood heroes and heroines that I feel quite adrift.  I have lost my childhood.  Again.

Of most notable significance:

Amazing Carrie Fisher as the ballsy Princess Leia.  How I admired her as a young girl and how often I have tried to plait my hair in her style!

Darling Terry Wogan, cheerful, lilting and the face of the BBC for so many years for me.  I even listened to Radio Two every so often just to feel comforted by his presence.

Alan Rickman.  What a brilliant actor and truly a gent.  Wickedly talented as Snape, chivalrous as Colonel Brandon and, once again from my childhood, a excellently loathsome Sheriff of Nottingham, to name but a few key roles.

Victoria Wood, another amazing role model for me growing up.  She showed me that women could be funny and successful…even whilst playing the piano and wearing terrible sweatshirts.

David Bowie, not just for his musical magnificence, but for the lead role in Labyrinth which still gives me the occasional,very stressful, black and white nightmare!

One of my brother and mine’s favourite films as pre-teens was Blazing Saddles.  We both adored ‘Jim’ and Gene Wilder was magic on screen.  He is also my favourite Willy Wonka, and it takes a skilled man to compete with Johnny Depp and win!

One of my favourite British sit-coms is the Royle Family, and the tragic loss of Caroline Aherne was raw and a real loss to true comedy fans.  Another childhood hero as part of the Fast Show, her dying so young has definitely made me question my own mortality.

Finally, Rick Parfitt- as one of my mum’s musical heroes- is another blow to a ghastly year of loss.  I saw him a few times live as part of Status Quo and truly they were amazing.

All in all, a very bad year.  Admittedly though, none of the losses have been personal to me.  Even so, the sheer volume and frequency of celebrity deaths has shocked us all.  It is a loss keenly felt, and a childhood most thoroughly locked away into a glass cabinet of dusty memories.

#rip

#ripchildhood

 

 

 

 

The bliss that is BED

My toddler often asks to go to bed.  My six year procrastinates and prevaricates like a pro…only we are so clued in to it that his bids to stay up late are met with raised eyebrows and that is often enough to get him scampering back up to bed.  I don’t go through a long, ritualistic and, dare I say it, sweet bedtime routine with him, to then be patting the sofa and inviting him to join us watching television or answering emails.

As a child bed meant lovely long, deep sleeps.  To the point where my mum would have to wake me.  You name it, I slept through it.  I didn’t really fight going to bed, as it meant I could sit in bed reading- hopefully for hours, until my parents would scold me for being up so late.  It was brilliant.

As a teenager I slept and slept and slept.  Ditto university.

Now, as a parent, I find myself in a constant struggle with my warring needs.  My sensible preaching voice advises me to go to bed early as the kids may wake in the night, I have work in the morning, there is so much to do tomorrow, etc.  My creative pixie starts tap-dancing around and squealing at me, imploring me to stay up and type just one more page, research one more idea, draw one more family character tree.  The nagging teacher lodged inside me wonders if I should mark the last couple of assessments, or books?  You know, the ones you kept till last as those students have the most illegible handwriting and rarely use capital letters despite being 15 and having very high targets? Finally, my slightly daft and obstinate, soulful little song, which truly represents the very essence of me, stands up on a box and declares that I am entitled to relax after another hectic day.  It also generously advises me that, a cuppa, some biscuits and a session of dreadful-yet-captivating telly- is just the cure for that tired, furrowed brow.   It usually wins of course.

Eventually I admit defeat and head for bed.  Oh, and once I am there…sheer bliss.  Lying down: so simple and yet so luxurious!

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That night we procrastinated so much, we ended up watching a late-night teach yourself Japanese programme on the box.  Then I Instagrammed it.  #procrastinationnation

Stretching out on the memory foam layered mattress we treated ourselves to a few years ago with some second-hand inheritance money (so grown up!) I realise once again that the sensible preaching voice was right.  It always is.  It’s just it has the dullest tone.

 

Here’s to loving bed once you are in it, no matter what time you eventually caved in at.

Reasons to Write

Writing my first novel (whilst teaching full time and raising a family!) is taking up lots of my precious spare time.  However, I don’t begrudge the loss of ‘down time’ as surely I would be washing up, ironing school uniform or zoning out in front of the telly?  Losing myself for an hour of two in a world of my own creation is surely the tonic needed to balance out today’s frantic life which I happily immersed myself in several years ago?

One issue is the lack of time this allows for reading, which is really so important for us writers, isn’t it?  Not just for pleasure, but to compare craft, genre and souls with our fellow wordies.  Also, I’m just always so tired!  Reading is sheer luxury now, because when I read I totally immerse myself in the novel for hours until I am finished.  One sitting usually, two for really long tomes.  That’s been my style since I can remember.  So, perhaps time is the luxury after all!

Blogging is a guilty little niggle which agitates me, usually whilst I am trying to get to sleep.  I know I should be doing it, but I want to work on my novel.  However, just now-whilst trying to go to sleep- I had an epiphany…I have been over-thinking blogging.  Coming from a long line of over-thinkers, this would seem the obvious issue anyway.  Crucially though, I am NOT an over-thinker, a worrier or a self-questioner.  I sleep too well for that!  After years of self and peer assessment (teaching terminology sticks, I’m afraid) with my mum, I have realised that I am a multi-viewer.

Stop!  Don’t look it up on your mobile in a search engine.  You’ll end up with adverts for TVs or something.  I just made it up.  It sounds right and it sounds very me.

Basically, I have the lucky gift of being able to see situations from many perspectives and talk myself through them all after events so that I DON’T overthink them later.   That and that alone is why I am quick to fall asleep (except when thinking about blogging!).

Coupled with the self- diagnosed (along with the mother again) ability to know my own faults, I am on to a real winner.  Of course, this is all very well in theory, over a glass of wine sat spouting self-complimenting drivel with an understanding (tipsy) friend or a mum who is duty-bound to love you, but I do feel I know my own facets.

Therefore, knowing my fear of spiders, I have hidden it from my children deliberately and aim for mildly shrill exclamations of “Yes, darling, it’s a lovely spider.  Why don’t YOU pick it up and put it out of the cat flap like a big boy, whilst I wait behind this door?’  Sheer genius, right?

The whole point is, I had been going about blogging all wrong.  Wrong for me, anyhow.  I had been OVERTHINKING it.  I need to write about the things that pop into my head linked to all manner of perspectives.

That is why, although I am formulating a blog about my creative writing process, my next blog is going to be about beds.  Honestly.14063452_1586241368346974_1638917505_n

The Great British Service Station

Whilst heading back to the North East today after attending a wedding in Birmingham, I decided to take a break at Woodall Services on the M1.  I’ll be honest, it’s my favourite services on that route.  Sad much?  Yes.

I love service stations.  Yes, of course due to being able to nip to the loo, stretch my legs and be out of the car for a few minutes, but also to indulge in one of favourite past-times: People Watching.

Picture the scene:  I parked and opened my door so that I didn’t become overly sweaty now that the air con is off (it’s a very close day, even for South Yorkshire!) and realised I have parked next to three, yes three, bins.  Nice. Fortunately they didn’t appear to smell.

For the next few minutes I texted my partner to reassure him that the journey is going well and I would be home soon so that I can co-parent with him once again.  NB He will have spent the past couple of days ‘baby-sitting’ our children as he refers to it.  Harrumph. So, I also scanned down my Instagram feed to see how many people have liked the snaps I posted of said wedding. Obviously my mum has, the bride has and so have a few staunch followers who possibly like every image on their news feeds anyway, but I am pleased nonetheless.

I decided that needs must and wandered towards the services building.  As I passed through the rows of parked cars, a man was stood next to his open boot getting dressed.  Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t stripped down to his underwear or anything, but he was actually stood in a busy car park without a top on before he took out a shirt and began to button it up.  Completely normal, yes?

A few steps later, I did the classically awkward dance with a car as the driver was desperate to let me pass in front of her out of generosity and I was so keen to wave her on out of fear of holding up her journey.  Cue much beckoning and smiles.  Eventually I won and scooted behind her car, pleased to have been so friendly and polite whilst actually holding her up for far longer than had I just agreed to pass in front of her in the first place.  Incidentally, she was clearly a lovely woman, as she had chosen to not run over the pair of women who appeared to make it their sole purpose to walk in front of her car for several metres, apparently blissfully unaware that the car park they had just driven their car into may actually contain moving vehicles.  Fancy that!

Inside the services I made straight for the loos, realising quickly that I was invisible to several people who chose to walk straight into me as they came out of the toilets.  Silly me, fancy getting in their way and not anticipating their need to never once move aside for another person!  The first two cubicles I came to were both free, but missing their locks, and I really wasn’t feeling sufficiently limber enough to do the old ‘pee whilst leaning very far forward on the seat to hold the door closed thus risking falling off and weeing all over shoes and trousers’ routine.  Third time lucky and I was ready to go and check out the snacks.

After apologising to several people who walked into me, I headed towards the highly tempting Waitrose sign.  Then I quickly twigged that in order to access the best sandwiches the M1 had to offer, I would need to cross the motorway via a grotty bridge walkway.  On the way down to Birmingham I had had a lovely brie and grape sandwich, so I wasn’t going to let a pesky trot over the M1 get between me and the only decent veggie sandwich available.

Crossing the M1, I paused to stare meaningfully out of the cloudy perspex, but really I was waiting for the corridor to clear so I could take a picture of the cars below to be posted along with some witty hipster-type hashtags onto social media.  Disappointingly, there were always people coming up each set of stairs.  The people coming from my side of the motorway all seemed to be lone travellers in desperate need of a terribly middle-class snack. Coming up the other stairs were families seeking out the golden arches for meals with toys.  No judgement: I love french fries every now and again.

I continued towards sandwich glory.

Once arriving on the other side, I found myself entering WH Smiths via an apparently Narnia-esque secret passageway.  How magical.  I scurried through and grabbed the sandwich I had been hankering after all morning.  Then I had to cut back through Smiths again to find the mystical door, whilst all the time panicking that an employee would wrestle me to the ground as a suspect of sandwich theft before reading that the goods had the name of a different shop on them.  Luck was on my side and I was spared such humiliation (and just possibly the staff were busy working.)

I headed back past hoardes of miffed familiies who had had to cross the M1 just to get their kids a daft toy and some nuggets.  Again, I could not get a decent image for my online daftness and so grumpily went back to my car.

I sat once again next to the three bins and ate my sandwich and crisps whilst avidly watching a young woman playing a Tetras style game with the loaded boot of her car. She rummaged over and over again through the wedged- in carrier bags and cool bags to find something and I watched fascinated. Her partner got out to change his shoes and so joined her in the rummaging. Why he changed his shoes for what looked like slippers mid journey slightly confused me as he was driving both before and after they stopped, but each to their own. Eventually the woman found the clean nappy she was after and then began the process of trying to shut the car boot before the highest placed bags fell out. Now, car packing logic tells us that if you do this, the bags will fall out at your next stop instead, but we all do it anyway in our haste to be done. What really kept me watching was the amusement caused by the fact that the couple had so much piled into their boot but nothing in the foot-wells of the back seats. They clearly had young children who would not need leg room as such and yet clearly could not let go of the idea that ALL luggage must go into the boot.

They drove off and my attention switched to the group who pulled up next to me and had an animated debate about who should walk the dog for a few minutes whilst everyone else went into the services. They were all classically keen that they should be the one to stay behind and be desperate for the loo and argued amongst themselves for far longer than it would have taken one of them to take the dog to the grass to relieve itself.

As I finished my food a cleaning attendant came to empty the three bins by my car and as she did, a man came over with some rubbish. Just by listening I could determine his anxiety at arriving at a bin bearing rubbish and having to make a tricky decision.  Should he: A, wait awkwardly until the new bags were in the bins, but run the risk of seeming too grand to talk to the cleaner; B, speak to the cleaner- a complete stranger- in order to put his rubbish in the old bags, or C, should he go back to his car with his rubbish and drive back to his house and put it in his own bin? He was impressive and managed to engage the woman in conversation and ask “this ok in here, yeah?” before walking off with a relieved but sweaty brow.

I was ready to leave so I popped my rubbish in the pleasingly empty bin, having chosen my favourite from the three available of course and then headed up the motorway.

M1 fun.  #GreatBritain

 

 

 

 

Writing…pleasure or pain?

Start a blog.  Update your blog weekly.  Write about what interests you.  No, wait, write about what interests others.  Hang on, surely I need to identify my key demographic? Oh, but I want everyone to like my work, so shouldn’t I be universal in my outlook, themes, etc?  Writers MUST blog? Writers MUST read many blogs, articles about writing and read as many novels as possible.  Where did I get to? *figuratively bangs head on imaginary desk*.

In an ideal world I would spend my day writing EVERYTHING and ANYTHING just to test the water, find my niche, fulfil my dreams.  But I have two children and a full time job teaching English. Additionally, soon I will be marking GCSE papers and we still have lots of ‘jobs’ to do in our ‘forever’ (for now) family home.

  1. Life is what happens when you are not writing (so enjoy both!)
  2. Write whenever you can
  3. Write whatever you can
  4. Feed your soul with family, friends, books, music, adventure and crisps
  5. Readers make writers- devour as many books as you can
  6. Do some research if and when you can

You’re not telling me Dickens had a blog…

Desperation to write niggles away at me daily.  My final thoughts every day, as I wait for sleep to absorb me, are of characters who run around my mind competing for my sparse attention.  I am part way through my first novel.  One of several I have started, but this one is sticking…until this week.   My memory has allowed me to gain access to a concept first formed a few years ago when teaching a Media Studies class the topic of Television Crime Drama.  Re-working the concept has led me to the dilemma of whether or not to create a treatment for television or to head down the Young Adult novel line.  I vow to keep at it, but it’s so hard to decide which concept to stay committed to.  A would-be writer’s life is sheer frustration coupled with the thrill of creativity.  That’s fine for me, for now.

On Parenthood

When I was heavily pregnant with my son six years ago, my older brother said something terrifying to me. It was the last time we would see him and his girlfriend before our baby arrived. He was living in London and we were settled in the North East. As they left our house, my brother uttered to us these immortal words “The next time we see you, you’ll be parents” and then they left. Just like that. Not stopping to consider that with that simple statement, he had blown our minds.
Incidentally, we are not ignorant people, we understand how the facts of life work, etc, but seriously…We turned to each other in horror. We had been so busy being excited about the prospect of having a baby, that the concept of being parents had slipped through the net.

As I said, mind seriously blown.

After recovering from this pivotal moment, we accepted our future with open arms of course.  A baby and being parents? How wonderful!

If we bypass six years (which include the birth of a daughter nearly four years later) I find us bumbling along, grappling with the mysteries and trials each new stage of each child’s development brings and living for the wondrous moments of cosy bliss.

Everyone warned me babies were tiring. They all said they wouldn’t sleep (untrue), that we wouldn’t sleep (fairly untrue) and life would never be the same (so true).  However, what people failed to warn me of was the bone-crushing squeeze you feel when they tell you they love you for the first time. And then every time after that. How you will wake a sleeping baby, despite all advice to NEVER do that, because you can’t decide if you can hear them breathing. That I can’t go to bed at night until I have kissed their sleeping faces or at least brushed the hair from their eyes.

Additionally, no one told me that you are terrified most of the time that you are doing it wrong, scarring them for life or generally not as decent as all the other parents.  Friends and family failed to mention that watching your child sleep is addictive and you could lose hours standing in the doorway of their bedroom if your partner didn’t gently remind you that they would soon be awake and demanding bottles, breakfast and entertainment. No one told me that you would literally do anything for them, that letting them become independent is bittersweet as your role adjusts to fit around them and that realising you cannot and must not fight all their battles for them is so very tough.

Thank goodness no one told me these truths. I’d have been terrified and would have simply had more cats instead.

Here’s a toast to all parents, young and old; here’s to us doing just fine.

‘To Thine Own Self Be True’

 

Good old Shakespeare…said none of my students ever.  However, I just love the guy.  Of course I do, I’m a self-confessed English Literature addict and have been an English teacher for ten satisfyingly intense years. Yes, I worded that sentence correctly; the vocation of teaching is satisfyingly intense.  And exhausting, harrowing and even rewarding!  It’s akin to eating a plum, never knowing until you take that first bite whether it is sweet or sour, juicy or turned.

Ultimately, teaching IS a vocation.  Yes, we get lovely holidays (oh how the public love to remind us frequently of this fact) and the salary is decent, especially after a few years.  However, my oh my does it take its toll.  Perhaps I speak for teachers across Britain, or just English teachers, or even just little old me.  Like the big guy wrote, ‘To thine own self be true’.  Because surely that is all we will be left with?  Once the students leave year after year and you head to the stock cupboard to heave the stacks of fresh exercise books down to your classroom for the next groups you will teach in September- because you are best off going in in the summer holidays to sort your room and grab said books, else your colleagues nab them all and you are left with the ghastly orange ones that no one else wants- you feel like you can finally let out the breath you have been holding in since August of the previous year when you came in for GCSEs results day.  What an amazing feeling…it lasts for 4 and a half weeks until the next GCSE results days.

Teaching.  My word, what a rollercoaster.  To come in to school at 8 (I have young children and so gone are the days when I could get things done at school before morning registration) and leave by 5pm and during the course of the day face so many events that you could not have predicted, despite the fact that your whole day is timetabled and you live your life by the use of bells is not for the faint-hearted.  Clearly, when you add people into the equation, it all becomes a tad complicated.  Next throw in that teenagers are the very best and worst people to share a room with at times and it all gets a smidge left field.  Given the stresses and strains, it can be all to easy to lose sight of why you contemplated this as a career.  Some days I question my choice.  That is why we must all remember to be true to ourselves and the rest of it all should follow on along the bumpy way.

As a result of this, you can find yourself planned to the tiniest detail and yet it can all go so wrong simply because a student had a row with their best friend on social media the night before, was told off by their mum before school or simply didn’t eat any breakfast and is thoroughly ravenous and grumpy.  Case in point: a student chooses to not bring their sweatshirt to school.  They are asked to remove their hoody as it is not part of the school uniform.  They moan that they will be cold.  You counter that with “you should have worn your sweatshirt to school” and the constant cycle of grappling with teens prevails.

That said, just when you despair, one of them (potentially in a bid to do no work) asks you the compelling question “Miss, if you had the chance, would you go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby so he wouldn’t cause the Holocaust?”  The debate that followed was spirited, mature and thought-provoking.  We had been studying the excellent poem Ozymandias and discussing rulers, dictators and the like.  Clearly the poem and its content had had an impact on the class… and that is what I intended. Little sparks of inspiration such as that lead to a sense of achievement to be relished and thought about during the bleak days, the difficult lessons and the never-ending mire of marking through which I daily wade.

Finally, I told a little fib.  Some of them love Shakespeare (in the end I wear them down!).  It’s a cliché, but the boys seem to love the gore of Macbeth, the girls adore the concept of witches and fairies and they are all made to feel very uncomfortable by Caliban.  Job done, Shakespeare; a job well done.