Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The One With The Great British Bake Off



My mate Clementine once suggested that I should apply for The Great British Bake Off. 

This was way back when it was still on BBC2 and 3 old ladies and a goat watched it. 

Not like it is now. Prime-time BBC1 with millions of people watching and those same millions all taking to social media to comment as they watch.

We've just this minute found out who has won this series and congratulations to Nancy. You're a better woman than I am.

Now don't get me wrong I can bake. It's not for nothing that the Lemon Cake family have nicknamed me 'Cakie', because I invariably have a freshly baked cake about my person. 
I'm not a bad baker. I'm not fancy though. I make a respectable plain cake. Ginger, lemon drizzle, carrot, chocolate, Victoria sponge - you know the score. I don't ice. I don't adorn. 
I don't decorate.

I don't make my own fondant! (feels the icy death stare from Mary Berry). 

So there's that against me, because as moist (snigger) as my cakes are I can't make the Taj Mahal out of them. Neither can I construct the Hanging Gardens of Babylon from shortbread. 

I make a lovely sausage roll but, as I haven't made pastry since I was at school, I buy it I'm afraid and the only bread I make involves a trick with a bottle of beer (oh grow up - not like that for goodness sake, people have got to eat it).

So all in all I'm on a non, sour dough, starter to be star baker.

But the main reason I can't apply for The Great British Bake Off is this.

It's nothing to do with Mary Berry looking disapprovingly at me when I say I've never made my own filo pastry (seriously who the hell does? even professional chefs don't do that).

It's nothing to do with hubby fancying Sue Perkins (do you want to tell him he's barking up the wrong tree with that one, or shall I?)

It's not even to do with wilting into a middle aged hormonal mess if I come within 5 feet of Mr Paul Hollywood.

It's this.

I'd swear.

I mean I'd really, really swear.

Proper swearing. Not just 'bloody hell' or 'oh bugger this'. It's so tense in that tent that, to quote Mrs Doyle in 'Father Ted',  I'd say feck and worse than feck!  

How in the name of iced fingers do they not eff and jeff like a docker? I would be effing and blinding with the best of them when it all went tits up or I burnt myself on a Swiss roll tin or someone left my ice cream out of the freezer! 

If my dough hadn't risen, or my cake had collapsed, there is no way on this earth I wouldn't utter my Mum's favourite saying "Well that's pissed on the matches!" 

Or when the steely eyed Hollywood was on the prowl, trying to un-nerve me, I couldn't help but muse "He's everywhere him, like shit in a field." 

They literally wouldn't be able to broadcast a single word I said. 

It's not that I'm a foul mouthed person in general it's just that when they're no kids about.. well I do like a a good swear up. Me and Lemon Cake Lady love a bloody good swear when we're away from the boys. We 'apply ourselves' to quote hubby. A good old fashioned, Anglo Saxon swear is relaxing. Just like baking. 

Only it's not relaxing baking in a tent with millions of people watching you and not being able to shout 'bollocks' when you've got your flavours all wrong and your meringue tastes of soap!

Lavender... my arse..... 




Thursday, 2 October 2014

The One With The Jolly Phonics

You know in my last blog I said we've all started school? Well we really have!

It would appear that I have to totally re-learn how to read.

For those of you who don't have children, or children at school yet, let me introduce you to the wonderful world of phonics.

Or to be more precise, Jolly Phonics.

Oh and they'll jolly... they are really, really sodding jolly!

Children are now taught to read by sounding out the letters in words to essentially de-code them and that unlocks the mystery of reading. It's ages before they actually learn the name of the letters and do 'a,b,c' etc, they just concentrate on the sounds first. 

I have my reservations about this method, but every school does a form of it and it does seem to be working, so I've had to lay those to one side. Luckily the boys' school does use phonics alongside other reading methods, such as looking at the picture to help you tell the story, and good old fashioned memory, so it's not as sterile and I first feared. 

In Jolly Phonics each letter sound has a song and an action to accompany it, and this helps the children remember what the sound should be. Of course this is perfect for the boy who responds well to learning through rhyme, music and games, rather than traditional methods of sitting up straight and looking at the blackboard. 

Vintage Songtress, (who's son has also just started school), made a good point on Facebook the other day that once you've heard a Jolly Phonics song you can't un-hear it. She is so right. 

I'm delighted the boy is obviously learning but two things are happening. 

One, I can't get the bloody songs out of my head. 

Two, the boy, being the boy, is starting to get bored of the songs in their correct form and is riffing new lyrics to them.

As you can imagine this totally defeats the object, but he thinks it's hilarious.

One of the first letters you learn is 'a', with it's action being ants crawling up your arm, whilst singing the following, to the tune of 'Skip To My Lou',

'a, a, ants on my arm'
'a, a, ants on my arm'
'a, a, ants on my arm'
'They're causing me alarm' 

Well I've had ants everywhere but my arm these last few days. The little buggers have been in every nook and cranny according to my son. I keep trying to tell him that ants on my feet, head, shoulders and boobies isn't going to help him practice his 'a' sound, but that wasn't cutting the mmmmmm for mustard with him. 

I tried doing 'ants on my ankles' but after that I ran out of body parts beginning with 'a'. For a split second I toyed with ' ants on my arse' but that was just asking for a trip to the headmasters office, so I didn't go there. 

Would make a catchy song though,

'a, a, ants in the grass'
'They're nipping at my arse'

My other problem is that I keep forgetting what the sounds should be. Every letter has it's own sound, and some like g have two, then there's double letter sounds like ch, oo and au. 

Now I don't know if you remember how you learnt to read but I certainly don't. From the point I have any proper memories I could read so I've never given it much thought. I just know they didn't do it like this, thank goodness, because I would have struggled. Just pronouncing a 'nnnnn' is a feat of linguistic gymnastics. 

So it's back to school for me and hubby learning the alphabet and how to read all over again.

I'm just pleased they haven't set him any maths homework yet. 

I assume 1+1 still makes 2 otherwise we'll be screwed with that as well! 






Thursday, 18 September 2014

The One Where We Start School





We've started school.

And yes I do mean we!

We've all started school.

Well that's how it feels, and run with me on this because it's not as selfish as it first appears, this is a massive change for me.

Well of course it's a massive change for the boy. It's huge. It's the biggest step he's had to take in his life so far. All children who started school over the last week or so are the same, and this is my point, that is well documented.

Starting school has been discussed, analysed and mulled over since kids first went into education. There are articles, blog posts, forums and books on the subject. You can disappear up your own bum reading them all - believe me over the summer I nearly did.

But what about us parents hey? 

I swear the last time a mum gets mentioned in dispatches is just after she's given birth, when all the texts, Facebook posts and e-mails declare, "Mother and baby doing well."  
After that we're out the picture mate. No one gives a stuff.

Over the last fortnight I have heard stories from friends struggling to cope with drop offs and pick ups as school and nursery times don't coincide. Or a younger sibling having a meltdown because they're stuck in a car seat or buggy due to multiple journeys. Tired 4 year olds falling asleep in the car after school on the way to collect their brother or sister from nursery, then not going to bed at a reasonable time. The pressure on mums to take on more work hours now term has started and trying to juggle that with school runs. Tears and tantrums everywhere. 

And that's just the mums and dads! 

So this starting school malarkey is tough on us parents too. 

I'm not that hard faced though, I had a cry in the car on the way home from dropping the boy off at school on his first day. In fact I've pretty much had a tear everyday since and he's been going 2 weeks today. It's just the boy starting school has had a bigger impact on my life than I realised it would. 

The whole pattern of my week is different and the whole rhythm of my day has changed.

We no longer see Vintage Songstress and her boy on a Tuesday, we can no longer just pop over to see Lemon Cake Lady and associated Lemon Cake family on a whim for a mid morning cuppa. Gone are trips to the park and the beach. Our Wednesday pyjama mornings together are no longer. 

Yes I know we have weekends, half terms and holidays but somehow, right now, it's just not the same.

Damn it all I even miss CBeebies!

But above everything, I miss my boy. 

He has to grow up, to go to school, to develop and learn and find his feet in the world. It's all inevitable and I can do nothing to stop it, nor do I want to but.... well.... I just miss him that's all. 

I miss our snack at 10 and a walk up the park, posting a letter, jumping in the car for a trolley adventure at the supermarket, a trip over to Nanny P's to play in the garden and an ice cream at the seaside after a walk along the beach.

I miss the freedom we had to do as we pleased. Not being tied to someone else's timetable. 

I miss our time together. 

However I find it's not something many parents will admit to. That they miss their little one and they feel lost, overwhelmed and disorientated by the new routine. Maybe the Facebook generation, posting pictures of their little darlings resplendent in their freshly pressed school uniforms on their first day (and I did that too), are all too busy boasting about how better their child is than anyone else's to confess they don't want any of this to happen?  

You've seen the kind of statuses I mean,

'Doesn't Tarquin look lovely in his Royal Blue uniform. It's pure silk and hand woven by nuns. Here you see him on his first day clutching his school book (War and Peace - in the original Russian of course) and his lute - he's already on Grade 5'

My status would read,

"Here you see the boy who's clutching my hand... because I don't want to let it go'

But we move on and the boy is doing fine. He surprises me everyday and we've had no tears, no 'I don't want to go to school' or any major problems so this is all I could wish for.

In fact on his first day, when I picked him up in the afternoon the teaching assistant said he'd been entertaining them by re-enacting scenes from 'Wallace and Gromit and The Curse of the WereRabbit'!

"He's had us in stitches today' she said 'He's quite the actor your boy'. 

Looks like they've got the measure of him right from the start. 

I wish I could have seen it......

Roll on October half term hey...... 




Thursday, 4 September 2014

The One With The Impressions






The boy has a knack with voices. 

He switches off when he hears mine but otherwise he seems to be developing a talent for 
accents and impressions.

The performer in me is very proud of the speed at which he can just take someone off. The sensible side of me worries that one day I'm going to get thumped when he does it in public to the wrong person.

The boy does a scarily accurate impression of Nanny P and on Monday, on his first ever bus ride, (yes I know he's 4 and a half, that's one of the reasons I wanted him to go on one before he starts school, it's a '50 things to do before you're 5' type of thing), he started doing an impression of me.

We discovered this talent for mimicry on holiday, when we spent a day at Drayton Manor theme park to visit the boys spiritual home, Thomas Land. 

For a start I thought he was going to spontaneously combust with excitement as soon as we walked through the gates. Also hubby and I had discussed getting a second mortgage just to get round the gift shop, but in the end we got away with one train (bought with his holiday spending money), a window sticker and a small book and the boy had probably the best day of his life so far.

However, when we were waiting to get back onto the little Thomas train that linked one part of the park to another (and boy did we go up and down on that train a lot that day), a man with a thick Scottish brogue called his little boy to come closer to him. It wasn't the full Glaswegian but it was pretty strong as accents go.

"Frasier, Frasier" called the guy.

Like a parrot, the boy immediately copied him and called the name out twice himself. 

I don't think the chap heard, or if he did he was too polite to say anything, but I was filled with a mixture of admiration at the speed and accuracy of the impression and down right fear someone was going to get punched.

Then it happened again late one afternoon in our local Co-Op. I'd taken the boy to buy sweets to decorate the cakes we'd baked for his last day at nursery. As we were choosing we heard a lady, obscured from our view and from two aisles across, say in a reasonably deep Suffolk accent,

"Do we need any bread?"

The boy mimicked the way she said bread instantly. 

'Bread? Bread?" and then finished it off with the surreal, 'Pirates eat bread."

"Yes that's right they do dear- Pirates eat bread." I added to make it sound like I was having a perfectly normally conversation with my four year old and he most definitely wasn't taking the piss out of this woman we couldn't see! 

But just to be on the safe side we ducked round the back of the shop and looked at the tinned goods until I was quite sure she was gone.

So today the boy starts school and with his talent for voices and impressions I'm hoping he'll be a popular lad with his classmates in the playground.

I just hope he doesn't take off the teachers.... well not on his first day anyway. 





Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The One With The Theories


I saw my friend Titfer Tat yesterday. She's been a teaching assistant for a year or so now, so I asked her about the boys lack of skills with holding a pen. I put forward the theory that he hasn't yet decided if he's left of right handed. TT said lots of children his age still hadn't decided that, and not to worry, but the thing to do was to offer him a rolled up piece of paper. Whichever hand he took it with would be his dominant side.

When she and her girls left I tried the theory out.

The boy took the paper with both hands. 

That's my boy! 

This complete disregard of, supposedly tried and tested, theories relating to raising children reminded me of another time when the boys natural, 'I'll bugger that up', gene came to the fore.

Lemon Cake Lady had started counting down from 5 to get Lemon Cake Boy to do as he was told. She had read the theory that if you counted to 10 a defiant child would carry on counting, but if you counted down from 5 to zero, to give the child chance to comply with your wishes, then they have nowhere to go. If you reach zero and they still haven't done as they were asked, then you discipline them with the naughty step, taking a toy away or whatever your particular method is. The theory is that eventually they will do as they are being told before you get to that point. 

Whoever came up with this hadn't figured on the boy!

I tried it out when the boy was playing me up about something.

5...... nothing

4..... come on darling

3.....  still nothing

2..... I'm waiting

1..... still not doing as he was told

0...... that's it! 

Did he suddenly comply for fear of losing out on TV time or similar?

No of course he didn't.

He stood in front of me, raised his arms in the air and shouted,

"Blast off!"

Then he took off like a rocket around the room.

You try not laughing.........








Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The One with The Transition Meeting


A week or so ago the boy had the second of his trial mornings at his new school, this time with a packed lunch (the week before it was a proper school dinner - and by proper I mean pizza, chips and spaghetti hoops - an eclectic mix).  He loved it and has talked of little else but, 'When can I go to my new school?' and 'When can I go back and see my new teacher?' 

He's slightly in love with his new teacher Mrs R. In fact we are now using her as a disciplining tool, 'Mrs R will be disappointed if you do that' and so on.  It's working, but I don't want to play that card too much, especially before he has even officially got there.
When I picked him up he wanted to say goodbye to Mrs R, which involved actually throwing his arms around her and giving her a massive smacker on the lips. She was slightly taken aback but genuinely touched, although I did say it was probably best not to do that everyday at home time.
That same week we had our second speech and language appointment. The last time we went in April the boy 'baffled' the SLT with his inconsistency. 
Well have you ever met a consistent 4-year-old boy? 
By their very nature 4 year old boys are unpredictable and as good as gold one minute then a ball of incoherent, incomprehensible rage about the slightest thing the next.  Add to this what Lemon Cake Lady has so rightly defined as the 'buggering about gene' from my side of the family, and you can have all the health care experience and qualifications in the world, but nothing can prepare you for the boy.

This time it became apparent that he quite frankly could not be arsed. To be fair if you were taken into a strange room, with a strange woman, then shown a load of pictures and had questions fired at you about them, would you be arsed and inconsistent? 

I think you might.

He wriggled, he squirmed, he changed the subject. He complained he was too hot, he was tired, he was bored, in fact he did everything he could to get out of answering the questions about the pictures in front of him. 

A distraction technique quite obviously, but why? 


Because he didn't know the answers? Because he didn't understand the questions? Or because he couldn't be arsed and he's a 4 year old boy with a wicked sense of humour and a very defiant, stubborn streak when it comes to authority figures?


Hmmmmm... time will tell....


To top the week off  we had a transition meeting at the new school with Mrs R, the schools SENCO, his key worker from preschool and their SENCO. The heath care worker was supposed to come too but she cried off sick, which to be fair I wasn't all that bothered about as she hasn't seen him since March!


A lot has changed with the boy since March!


I told them what had happened at the SLT appointment and how the boy wasn't interested in flat, 2 dimensional pictures, but had come alive with chat when a toy farm came out. We talked about his transition from pre-school to primary school and the support he'll need. Mrs R is lovely and has the air of a lady who isn't phased by any of this and has seen it all before.


'He'll be fine' she said and I'm inclined to believe her. He has some one to one support to start with and we'll assess how it's going as the reception year goes on.


Tonight I have my last parents evening at preschool before the boy leaves in 3 weeks time. I've always felt a bit odd about parents evenings for children so young. It's like the 'Graduation Ceremonies' they have, all a bit made up! 


So maybe that's how I feel about this whole 'your son is a bit different and doesn't tick all our boxes' scenario?  While the situation itself is real, the boxes the various professionals have to tick are 'all a bit made up'. 


As parents we are constantly being told not to compare our children with their peers and that kids all develop at different rates, but when you get a child who genuinely does do that, the charts, reports and check lists come out in full force.


I can't tell you how many tears I've shed over this whole thing since last October and I'm sure they'll be some more to come, but I feel heartened by his progress everyday and by the positive attitude of Mrs R. He's finally starting to ask 'Why?" questions and be a bit interested in letters. OK, so he can't read or write his name, because he can't hold a pen properly, but that's because he never sits still to take the time to do it. We're working on it with paint and sticks in sand and developing his gross motor skills so they can work down to those fine ones (thank you to my dear friend and teaching assistant Titfer Tat for explaining all that to me).


I'm sure he's not the only child who'll start school in September as a 'clean slate', unable to read or write at present. In some ways that's a good thing. I frankly can't get the hang of phonics yet and I'm worried I'll give him the wrong sounds anyway so much better to let Mrs R do what Mrs R does best.


I just hope that when the boy does eventually learn to read and write he doesn't go and snog her face off ... because I just might.....







Friday, 18 July 2014

The One with The Outside and The Summer




It's bloomin' hot!

Me and hot weather don't get on. And before you all start I know I shouldn't complain because it's lovely to see the sun... blah..blah..blah.. and we don't get enough of it... etc... etc... and we need to make the most of it... but the truth is... I don't like it.

There I've said it. I feel cleansed.

I don't like the summer. It's my least favourite season.

I get uncomfortable when it's too hot. My ankles, feet and fingers swell, I get prickly heat, I get bitten to buggery by midges and gnats and god knows what else. Too much sun (and by too much I mean about ten minutes) gives me headaches and upset stomach. And that's in dear old blighty. You can imagine the state I'd be in if I went abroad and ate dodgy salad washed in local water after a day on the beach. There'd be nothing left of me.... actually that's not a bad weight loss idea... I might look into that.

And another thing I want to get off my ample but horribly sweaty chest is... 

I don't like eating outside. 

Everyone's so bloody fascinated with it. "Oh lets eat outside shall we? It's such a glorious day. It's a shame to waste it." 

No lets not. I don't want to wash outside, get dressed outside, watch TV outside, do all my other normal mundane things I do everyday outside, so why the hell would I want to suddenly eat outside? It makes me feel slightly sick to be honest, like dirt and germs and bugs are getting all over my food. It's like too much outside seems to get everywhere. I've never had a picnic on either park or beach where I haven't ended up with a mouthful of grass or sand. 

I'll cope with a BBQ as long as I can take the food indoors and eat it at a table, rather than try and stand up and make conversation, whilst ramming a burger in my mouth with one hand and balance a glass of wine with the other. 

Can you guess I'm not an 'outdoors' type of girl? Early on in our relationship hubby once asked if I'd like to go camping. I gave him a withering look of 'WTF' and we've never spoken of it again. 

So me and the height of summer don't get on.

Don't get me wrong I like to see the sun. It's cheerful and makes the sea sparkle and to quote Coldplay 'it's all yellow' and stuff (well they just said yellow but you get my meaning) but the heat quite frankly does me in.

Compounding all my other summer woes, I've got sodding hay-fever! I never get hay-fever. Lemon Cake Lady thinks it's because we've moved to the 'burbs' and now I'm not in the centre of town and am surrounded by grass and that (we're well technical us two - we should have a science show) I'm reacting to the pollen. I think she has a point. I've certainly been wandering in and out of the garden much more now I have patio doors. Whereas at the old place I think I can count on one hand the amount of times I ever went up to our garden because, as we lived in a row of terrace houses, it was just so exposed and not private at all.

Talking of exposed this brings me to summer clothes. They quite clearly don't fit do they. Especially not when your whole body swells up and down like someone pumping up the Michelin man of an evening. There's nowhere to hide in summer clothes. There's just not enough of them to cover all the bits I want to cover. There's so 'skimpy'. Me and skimpy are not natural bed fellows. To be honest I look a bastard in skimpy. But then so do a lot of people to be brutally honest. 

Who hasn't driven along in the summertime and spotted, from the open windows of their cars, some terrible sights in shorts and crop tops and worst of all boob tubes? Who hasn't eagerly taken the piss out of people on the beach who really, really shouldn't be wearing speedos or a bikini? And who hasn't, when spying these poor deluded people who really shouldn't be wearing what they are almost wearing, muttered under their breath "The sights you see when you haven't got your gun?'

If you haven't then you're a better person than I am because I've done all that and worse. 

Only now I've gone and joined them as, with some trepidation, I bought a pair of shorts. Well it was so hot and I could no longer stand wearing jeans or leggings. They have been hiding in my drawer for a while, as I was too nervous to wear them. But then the heat got too much for me this week and as I raced out of the door with the boy, on our way to a day over at Lemon Cake Lady's, I stuffed them in my bag.

I got changed when I was there and discarded my jeans in the safety of her house, to wear my new soft, jersey and oh so comfy shorts in the privacy of her back garden.

What a revelation! I felt more free, more able to deal with the weather and above all loads cooler.

This is obviously where I've been going wrong with summer. I should just join the masses of ill advised people who get it all out in the hot weather and don't give a monkeys bum what anyone thinks of them.

So that's what I've done. I wearing my shorts now while I'm typing this and I don't care! 

Of course I'm in my house with the windows open and the blinds shut so no one can see me but at least I'm making an effort.