I must have played U2's 'With or Without You' two hundred billion times in the past few months... I was quite happy and capable to exist on my own. There is a certain comfortable silence which only happens when you are alone in your house and I cherished that. But I don't like waking up alone
She stood up, excused herself and walked towards the ladies room.
Legal disclaimer: this is fiction ... As far as I am concerned...
A poem inspired by the folly of taking my daughter home through the grave yard and tryng not to tell fibs about what the gravesBy Tenacityflux
My daughter said,
I will be bones.
(It was not a question.)
And when I am bones
I will run and dance
Won’t I, mummy?
That was a question,
I try never to lie but
I didn’t want her to fear death
So I said
‘But when I run and dance
And am bones and am dead,
How will you know me,
When I am boney?
I didn’t say, there’s no way
I’d know you, because,
I will be bones first,
(Although I know the worst)
Because her vision of happy death
Was as pecious as breath,
So I said –
When we’re dead, don’t worry
I will know you,
Even when you’re bone,
You’ll not be alone, I love you
I said, even when I am dead.
That’s all right then, she said,
I won’t ever mind dying,
Mummy – why are your crying?
Some few years ago, on a cold Tuesday night in early March, I decided to forgo rugby training and I wandered down to the Duck for some bad company and decent cider.
It was our “bad” year. Her-indoors was living at her Gran’s house. We had been having words and she decided that her terminally ill Gran could use the company and we could use the break.
I settled on to my stool and noticed than I could not hear the sound of my pint being drawn. I looked up to see a well presented young woman behind the bar. She looked at me and said, “Hello, how are you?”
Naturally, I replied “Pour”
She feigned a frown and she asked “What’s wrong?”
I repeated “Pour” and mimicked pulling a pint….
She said "OH" and quickly nodded and picked up a pint sleeve and looked at me expectantly.
I said “Rat in a mug, please”…
She still looked confused and tilted her head to one side while looking at the Real Ale pumps... I stood up and said, “I’ll get it” and I lifted the wooden gate and went behind the bar, lifted a mug off the top shelf and drew my rat….
She went back to reading “Woman’s Day”
I picked up the local rag, the “Mudflat Gazette” and started reading a news story about how the floods over near Evesham had caused a rise in insurance rates for the whole county. I read another article about a cake and bread sale this weekend at the church hall…
Reading further, I discovered what Jerry Thomas, the local chemist, looked like as a child as his picture was in the paper along with an announcement about his fortieth birthday. It seems Jerry was no better looking then than he is now. He had hair then and buck teeth. He only had the teeth now.
I contemplated how much lead time I should plan in on announcing my request for a second pint….and I ordered it immediately after concluding that we would need a calendar rather than a stop watch to get an accurate time on how fast the new bar wench performed her task.
As she poured it, she spoke to me over the background noise of EnemaDale or some fucking annoying thing on telly and she told me her name was Kathy.
I said “Great…. Where’s Tommo?”
Helen said, “He is having a few days off …He will be back on Friday.. I am his sister-in-law.”
I said “Great…. Did he mention that I have ten pints already in?”
Susan laughed and said “He warned me about that sort of thing…”
I thought, ’Smarter than she looks… but she would have to be and be able to remember to breath’.
I was missing certain aspects of Her-indoors and I thought I would have a whisky to clear my throat in between pints. Behind the bar, above the optics are the Malts, the decent Islay malts that Tommo has acquired over the years. I thought I would celebrate my celibacy and have one. I ordered a Bruichladdich, large, in a lowball glass, and one, only one, ice cube... added after….
I pondered a house whiskey but Tommo’s ‘House’ whiskey is “Soggy Sporran” or some other vile crap. I am sure most ‘House’ whiskeys are made from boiled building materials and hence the name, ‘house’….
Beth tottered over to the whiskey shelf and after her eyes tracked left and right across the shelf fifteen times, I said. “Bruchladdich!,... squat bottle second from the left, ....blue label…”
And in two or three minutes later, … SARAH FOUND IT!....
A further explanation on what “Large” means in terms of single malt whiskeys developed and I ended up with a decent measure …and two ice cubes… in a highball glass….. along with a boob jiggling apology about the extra ice cube….
I could feel my arteries closing and an impending stroke so I thought I would probably go home and put my head in the oven and have more fun than watching her murder Tommo’s business reputation. bad as it is…
As I neared the 30 second mark on my last pint, the door opened and a man came in with a small tool box and a hand truck and he walked over to the cigarette machine. He seemed to be checking it over and he unplugged it and fiddled with the plug.
He tried the coin return level several times and he finally strapped the machine to his hand truck and he backed it towards the door. As he did, Stella put down her Woman’s Day carefully folded on page 5 and held the door for him as he backed out with the machine…
As I finished my pint, I noticed a missed call from Her-indoors on my phone. I thought it would be good to talk to her as I walked home and I headed out of the door.
Samantha waved as she collected my empty glasses and said good-bye. I waved back using just the tips of my fingers in a wiggling motion…
I didn’t brave the Duck again until Friday when I knew Tommo would be back. My pint was in front of me before I could sit down on my stool and open my paper. I took a few draws on my pint and relished the taste as it washed down the dust and phlegm in my mouth. I could hear ‘BBC Points West’ coming in low tones from the telly in the corner…
I set the pint down and turned the page of the Mudflat Gazette and there in column one was the Headlines in bold print…..
“GIGARETTE MACHINE STOLEN FROM PUBLIC HOUSE”
I'm a huge fan of child-led learning for infants so my answer to this is 'fine', if the child is interested but let it be if they're not. There's plenty of time for it. A lot of European countries don't even start formal education until the age of 6/7 whereas we seem to favour pushing a pencil into a child's hand from the age of 3/4.This is great for the enthusiastic writer - of which there will be some - but not so great for the vast majority of children who have a lot of other important developmental goals to reach before writing letters should be tackled: fine motor control, mark-making, understanding letters make words and words have meaning, recognising the sounds that letters make etc. etc. And a lot of this can be achieved through play or from exploring their environment. It does not, and should not, need to be forced.
It is normal (I'll just repeat that in capitals) IT IS NORMAL, for children to start school before they can read and write. Forget what smug parents tell you about darling George or wonderful Wilhemina. Yes, some kids can read and write before they get there but this is NOT EXPECTED and EXTREMELY UNUSUAL. Sorry for shouty letters but it really is important to understand what the expectations are of a 4 year old starting school.
By the time the children reach me, aged 5, at the beginning of Y1, the most able will be constructing simple sentences and possibly the beginnings of simple stories. The least able will still be mark-making. And THIS IS FINE! A child leaving me at the end of Y2 should be able to write a simple story with a clear structure. There will be more able children who can write fluently and with character and there will be less able children who are still learning to construct simple sentences. Again, this is all NORMAL. Don't be alarmed if this seems a lot to achieve when your child starts school not even being able to write - the learning curve from 4-7 is HUGE and VERY STEEP! They learn more in their first 3 years at school than any other time in their education.
Sometimes, children do not 'take-off' with their writing (especially July/August-born boys) until they reach the Junior years (age 7+). Quite often this is because it has taken them until this point to develop the motor control and the processing skills to get a story onto paper. Quite often, these children will have an extensive vocabulary and a wonderful imagination and will be able to tell stories orally much better than they can tell them on paper. This is still 'writing' and all it means is that when they do 'click' with the physical side of writing, they soar.
So, going back to the 3-year-old. Is it a good idea to encourage them with letter recognition and writing their name? Yes, if that's what they want to do but you should couple the physical writing of the letters with the understanding of the sounds they make otherwise they're only learning half the skills they need to write . And if they show any reluctance, back right off. They'll be interested when they are interested. And if that's when they are 7+, THAT'S FINE!
In the meantime, the most valuable gift you can give your child is to read, read, read, read, read, read, read! I can't say it enough! Of the children I have taught over the years, the best storytellers (orally or on paper) have always been the ones with a rich knowledge of how stories work and what characters do and say - and you only get that knowledge from having had years of being read to. And it means that however long it takes them to be ready for the mechanics of writing, they'll already be streets ahead with the composition of writing. It is also vital that children are given opportunities to explore the big, wide world - you want them to write about a castle? Well, if they've read about castles, they might be able to write something good but if you've visited a castle and pretended to search for dragons in the dungeons or dressed up as a fairy-tale princess and pretended to be Rapunzel locked up in the tower, just think how that will feed into the creation of the story. Yes, alphabet games/jigsaws/puzzles/books are all good but there is no subsitute for reading with your child or for giving them chances to let their imagination loose on the big, wide world.
As a postscript to all of this, the subject of testing 4/5 year olds came up on the wall discussion. As you'll know if you've read any of my other rants on the subject of teaching, I think all SATS in primary school should be abolished and this recent addition of testing 4/5 year olds is utterly ridiculous. And the actual test is even more ridiculous. Children learn to read using a wide range of strategies - phonics (ie sounding words out), contextual, graphic, sight vocab etc. In order to try and isolate the child's phonic ability (don't get me started on why that's important in the first place), the test is comprised of nonsense words outwith the context of a sentence so that the child has to rely only on phonic knowledge to decipher the word. But stupidly, oh so stupidly, there is only one right answer. So if a child gives us a phonetically plausible answer, proving that they understand how phonics work, they will be marked wrong if it is not the same phonetically plausible answer that is on the answer sheet. There is so much else wrong with this new test but blood pressure is rising so I'll stop there.
A couple of people said they would keep their child off school on the day of the test. Unfortunately it's not that simple. It's not a test that has to be administered at a certain time on a certain day. It is administered on a 1:1 basis so if a child is off, they will be tested at another time (imagine a class of 30 children each needing to be tested individually for approx 15 mins...that means your child's teacher has to take 7.5 hours out of the time when he/she could be doing some really valuable teaching in order to administer these tests - another reason why this test is STUPID!).
What I urge, though, is that you trust your child's teacher. We hate the testing. We go out of our way to make it as much fun as possible and not let the children know that they are being tested. We do the bare minimum needed to tick the box. And at the end of the day, it tells us nothing we didn't already know and we will continue, as usual, to treat your child as an individual and teach them according to their abilities and needs. If this test shows that your child is not reaching expected levels in their phonics, we already know and we have already put strategies in place to support your child's learning.
And one final piece of advice: don't get drawn into the playground battlefield of smug parents. There is nothing less important to your child's education than what reading band they are taking home or what level they are achieving.
I think I've finished. See, I didn't rant too much ;-)
I can see how some Muslims may be offended at the lack of respect a teenager pays to reading the Koran, in the same way that a joke about a Hasidic Jew with a Mohican (do I mean Mohawk?) haircut slapping on a black hat with long sideburns glued onto it whenever he sees his father (probably a Rabbi) might offend some orthodox Jewish people. In this country we do take the piss out of idiosyncrasies, it’s one of the things that still makes Britain great, but some people will always find laughing at themselves impossible. So be it.
But that’s not the reason to be offended by this TV show. It’s just offensively dreadful. We should all be offended that the BBC has spent our licence money commissioning such irredeemable crap. Those of us with aspirations to write for TV, and there are a few I know, must surely wonder how on earth they can break through. The way in which the selection takes place can’t seriously have anything to do with the quality of the writing or the originality of the concept if this made it off the storyboard; which it obviously has.
Now where did I file those pictures of that BBC commissioning editor bloke playing golf with Satan?
You could see the clouds from afar. Not big angry towers like at home; they sat low over the mountains, a brooding mass. As your eye followed the line of the hills, their outline blurred and disappeared under the rain.
A flash or two, caught out of the corner of your eye, then wham! A brilliant white streak ripped the clouds apart and a slightly less brilliant one bounced back.
Huge spots fell, sounding tinny on the roof of the car and leaving oases in the dust-covered bonnet. Then it eased, only to restart with millions of tiny droplets.
Cars blocked the town centre as everyone made a run from the beach. No-one could move - trapped in a metal box, pounded by the waters of heaven.
Overnight, another storm - safe in bed this time, with the room illuminated as though by a strobe.
Apparently rain is a blessing here. If so, we've been well and truly blessed.
This boy is in care.
Apart from TLC, what could you do with him, what therapy might
help? And this is the early eighties - what would have happened
to him then?
“I don’t know for sure. I have no recollection of anything before I was about seven years old. My thoughts on that spring from my care records. Lack of memory, and my determination to abscond from whichever home or school I was in at the time must have made me very difficult to deal with. There is a note of a discussion – several people debating how they might tackle this. There are phrases like induced regression and unlocking memory and a clear sense of disagreement on how they should proceed. In the end, they agreed that they could not do whatever it was they discussed. I believe it was hypnosis.”
“I see. And why were you running away? What were you running from?”
“I hated those places, but I’m not sure I was running from them. They were all I had, I was six or seven. I think I was looking for my mother. The woman in my dreams – I thought that might be her.”
The first title is P.D. James’ latest murder mystery, DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY. I could not pick a novel to open this series, so I simply decided on the very last book I have read and loved.
If you are a fan of Jane Austen, you will have noticed by now the Pride and Prejudice connection. Pemberley is the grrrrrand country estate that made Mr Darcy considerably less repulsive to the eyes of Elizabeth Bennet. When asked at what moment she started having feelings for him, she famously claims it was after seeing his stunning fields at Pemberley (allegedly said as a joke...).
Now, there are countless P&P sequels and spin-offs, from the snobbishly literate to the downright bizarre (like that infamously hilarious Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). I was reluctant to read a sequel, especially since Austen gives us a good glimpse of the main characters’ fates in her epilogue. When I heard that P.D. James was preparing a sequel herself, and loving her writing style, I thought I could make an exception. I always thought that my equal taste for Austen’s books and murder mysteries was rather odd, but I am glad I am not the only one.
P.D. James takes on the story 6 years after Elizabeth marries Darcy. There is a juicy introduction, in which she briefly re-tells P&P from the neighbours’ point of view. In their eyes, of course, Elizabeth was just a lucky trollop that schemed her way to the bed of the richest bachelor in sight.
And then the murder takes place. From here, the style bounces from Austen to James. Sometimes you can tell the pastiche from the modern, but just as many times the styles fuse perfectly.
I have read some comments from Austenian puritans who can’t conceive Elizabeth having fewer lines than Darcy, and those who go on and on moaning how this book is not like the original. Well, of course it’s not like the original! It’s a murder mystery! If a corpse appeared by Emma Woodhouse’s doorstep, you would not expect her to demurely sit at her parlour, order some tea, and then write to Mr Knightly asking him to call as long as he is not too much inconvenienced.
There are servants involved, and police and constables, as it would have truly happened back in those days, but it is doubtful that Austen would have had the knowledge to tell such a story. Let’s be honest; Jane Austen wrote amazing pieces of literature from observing a very limited world. We can only imagine how richer her books could have been had the customs of her time allowed her a wider range of experiences. P.D. James offers a helping hand here.
James pays homage to Austen as much as she makes the story her own. She clearly wrote without thinking for one second what people were going to say, and she surely loved it. You can tell she is enjoying every line, like that brilliant letter from Lady Catherine de Bourgh, which could have perfectly been written by Jane herself.
I have always thought that writing should please the writer, and if the result turns out to please others, happy times. In this respect I admire James’ self confidence; she has proven the world she can write, so now she can indulge herself.
If I were to complain about something, it is only that Mrs Bennet did not have a mayor role (she does remind me of more than one family member). However, the story takes place in Pemberley, and P.D. James very assertively declares that Darcy’s poor mother in law is simply and utterly unsuited for good society.
If you happen to see this bright yellow cover at hand, definitely give it a try ;-)
Originally published in my website: www.oscardemuriel.com/blogging/20120802a.html
Philip's Army can be read for free in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library
- Read Philip's Army for free in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library on Saturday 1st September 2012
Chapter One The War Council can be read for free here.