Monthly Archives: January 2005

Repeat after me….

"A proper cup of coffee in a proper copper coffee pot." Then try singing it…up and down the scale. "Proper cup of coffee…proper cup of coffee… popper pup of coffee…popup cup of coffeeeeeeeeeek!" 🙁 Drinking at least 3 glasses of wine beforehand does ease one’s enunciation so. And pray that the chicken korma from Mstr Miff’s 15th birthday lunch earlier stays down. Talk about "…and when Joseph graced the scene; his brothers turned a shade of green…" – I’ve a fellow feeling with them, I can tell you. And as for co-ordinating all those "ah…ahhhs" whilst bobbing and swaying like a maniac, I’m one worn out Miffy. Yes, Sunday afternoon is" Joseph" rehearsal time from now on in until mid May by which time of course, we will all be quite, quite perfect. (Some might beg to differ on that last statement.) I try and sing along with the CD (Jason Donovan version) at home, and poor Mr Miff is starting to wake up in the middle of the night with " and red, and yellow and green and violet " and other catchy little ditties swirling round in his brain. Heaven help him if he should ever come out with " I look handsome…" The responding "ah ahhh ahh!!!!" from yours truly might get the neighbours seriously worried about the goings-ons in our household.

After such energetic warbling, the evening communion service came as a bit of a culture shock. But after a while, I began to appreciate the calm and the familiarity of the old words. No twiddly bits, no ‘worship’ slot, time to think, and of course , trad hymns, some of which I don’t think we’ve sung at morning services for years. "The Church’s One Foundation," Love Divine," "Blessed are the Pure in Heart," and best of all, "All my hope on God is founded," a favourite of mine. Shame we couldn’t import some of the energy of the morning congregation – at times it sounds as if you’re singing solo apart from the choir. As I walked past the ahem..how shall we put it…rather more "sprit led" church near my home, it sounded as if the worship session at the special united churches service was in full swing. I smiled to myself and left them to it. It’s good to be still every so often.

Decluttering blog (Thanks, Smudgie)

Came across this last night in a magazine ad for Lee Abbey:

http://www.leeabbey.org.uk/resources/item.php?id=1

The timing was uncanny. Coming when I was fast losing the struggle to hold myself together. I’d bounced in that afternoon – full of ideas after a chat about my course. I was expecting to find an equally bouncy Ms Miffy – as I’d left her thrilled to bits earlier; she’d just been offered a college place for next September. Unfortunately, her brother got to me first with the news that she’d also been offered a place by the college we’d visited on Tuesday. Tears, dramatics and sulks resulted, as she’d wanted to break the good news to me herself. Poor Mr M must have wondered if we were having a double case of pmt.

Anyway, at times like this, when you’re on the verge of giving an imitation of a waterspouting smilie, there’s really only one thing you can do.

Ouf!

I’m worn out. And after helping cart Ms Miffy’s portfolio across London, my arms are dangling gorilla-style round my knees. How we ever thought she’d manage on her own, goodness knows! Anyway, for your edification here are the the gory details:

9.10 am – Leave house having written hasty note to school giving little Miff permission to come home at lunchtime to see to the cat and the dog. I’m lugging huge plastic folder, Ms Miffy equally huge plastic one held together with duck tape, which splits only yards down the road. Realise that there’s no way we’re going to be able to humph this lot with us on the tube.

9.30 a.m. Arrive at station. At the sight of us staggering along, the station ‘mafia’ take pity, and for once don’t ask us to show tickets. Leave Ms Miffy propping up her portfolios (or perhaps the other way round). She’s still suffering from the lurgy, and is coughing like a consumptive. Her voice is coming back gradually. She’s brought strepsils along with her but decides that keeping the pathetic croak might gain her a sympathy vote at her interview. Does not, however, gain her any sympathy from the station staff, who tell her off for moving several inches away from her luggage to check the train times. Interesting thought here: If the rail company were to blow up her entire 2 year’s worth of A Level art coursework, would we be able to claim compensation?

9.40 a.m. Manage to catch earlier train than we’d intended. Stroppiness of station staff made up for by helpfulness of ticket collector lady on train who helps us find some seats and finds somewhere safe for the portfolios. Ms M falls asleep against my shoulder on journey.

10.30 ish. Get into Paddington. First stop cash machine, where I withdraw the equivalent of a small mortgage to cover taxi fares. Ms M splashes out 20p to pee. We both splash out on coffee and sandwiches.

11 ish. Find nice taxi man. Spend equivalent of modest mortgage on drive to Charing Cross. Try hard not to let out exclamations every two seconds of ‘Ooh, look! There’s ….’ ‘Hey, isn’t that where…?’ and similar remarks like a four year old on an outing. Parents can be so embarrassing at times. By now Ms Miffy is beginning to look more than a little pale and ‘interesting.’

Wait in arctic blast at Charing Cross for train to be announced. Combined effects of said blast and Millie’s coffee from Paddington earlier, sends me off through the turnstiles brandishing my 20 p pee money. Gaze into the mirror and wonder whether I look the part of ‘prospective art student’s mother.’ Probably not, but it’s too late to do anything about it now anyway.

Twenty minutes and one chapter of Brian Mclaren later, we arrive at Elmstead Woods station. Ms M calls taxi company. Can’t understand at first why she can hear another phone ringing in the background until we find out that said taxi firm is based only yards down the road!

12.30 ish. Arrive at college – 1 1/2 hours early! Our arms are stll in their sockets and the duck tape is holding out…just… Friendly receptionist lady lets us store our luggage in her office, and directs us down a coridoor to the canteen where dozens and dozens of noisy students are milling around eating chips and looking arty. Poor Ms M looks worried. Refuses any food and buys herself a coke. A few other interviewees have also arrived early. You can tell who they are by their terrified expressions, large portfolios (though none as large as Ms Ms so far) and instruction sheets clutched in their sweaty palms. However as the other students leave and the place quietens down, they start to relax a bit and start talking to each other. Ms M gets into conversation with a boy opposite. I make myself invisible. As I’ve noticed before, it’s amazing what you learn about the life and times of your average teen at times like this.

2 p.m. The hour has come. As parents, our last task is to help our offspring down the coridoor to the studios after which we’re redundant. I stay with another couple of mums, and we search out the library. Linger there a while, but somehow reading the papers doesn’t appeal, and eventually we drift back to the canteen to talk about life, the universe, A Levels, and the joys and sorrows of parenting teens. And of course, how it’s all changed since our day! Our own teens return at one point, but no, we’re not finished. This is only a break before round two of the process.

4.10 p.m. Having given up all hope of ever seeing our offspring again, we’ re startled to be interrupted in mid-chat by knocking at the by now locked door. They’re through!

Club together with another mum and daughter who are also Paddington bound and taxi to the station. Over the wait for the train hear Ms Miff’s verdict on the afternoon. Not promising apparently. When they were notified of the interview, barely a couple of weeks ago, they were told that they’d be seeing round, plus each would be having a 20 minute interview with a tutor during which there would be a chance to go through the work they’d brought with them. In the event, the staff went through their portfolios whilst the students were being shown round. There was no interview, each instead being asked to pick a piece of work at random and give a one minute presentation to the group. Ms Miffy also reckons that the work the others brought with them seems to differ drastically to that that she’s been encouraged to produce for A Level, in that it’s far more creative. Worries that her school are teaching in a rigid, prescriptive way. Resolves to rethink her portfolio if not for Friday’s interview – certainly for Oxford Brookes in February, and include mostly stuff she’s done off her own bat at home. We’ll see.

Start the crawl home. We pass an uneventful journey. Make running repairs to the black portfolio en route. Resist the temptation to see how many folk I can bash on the legs with it as we charge through Paddington station in the rush hour! Thank goodness there’s a through train due. Pausing only to grab a Burger King, we leap aboard.

Yawn.

Still, we’re back in one piece. Wish us luck for the next time….Friday. And poor Ms Miff, who has a French exam tomorrow!

OK

I take it you like it then? I quite fancy ‘pegs’ myself – reminds me of my stripey ‘shipmeet’ cardi. I may experiment; (watch this space!)

Ms M returned from Denmark in one piece despite the worst storms they’ve had over there for years. A good time was had by all, apparently. I’m uncertain as to whether much work was produced for the portfolio; sightseeing being largely confined to clubs and pubs, especially the Irish one! Still, she had a break, which is the main thing.

Meanwhile, Mr M has had to drop out of the trip to see ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ tonight. Another of Ms Miff’s friends has stepped in at the last moment. He’s had a couple of bad nights, sleepwise. I don’t know why I should feel so surprised; he’s had similar problems for the last couple of years. I suppose with the sale of the house finally completed, some of his worries might have eased. But then, maybe it’s only now, when he’s got a chance to breathe, that the full impact of his father’s death and Mum and sister’s illnesses are beginning to hit. And short term, I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that the current bout of insomnia has manifested itself just before we’re due to go up to visit MIL and sister after a couple of week’s break. SIL and the home have been on the phone again asking if she can go over her daily cigarrette allowance. And this after the agreement they asked us to sign a few months back. So much for trying to avoid one party manipulating the other. Two steps forward and one step back.

Interesting talk by the Bishop last night based I gather (I’ve not read the book myself) very much along the principles laid out in the ‘Mission-Shaped Church.’ http://www.chpublishing.co.uk/feature.asp?id=68527. Cynical old misery guts that I am, I generally tend to dismiss this kind of concept as yet another flash in the pan, here today, gone tomorrow set up. Yet as we were discussing what our individual ‘networks’ were, I began to feel what’s likely the first flash of let’s not say ‘enthusiasm’ , ( I am Anglican after all!), but interest for over a year. Especially as one of the practical examples of reaching out he gave us was the very one I’ve been mulling over for ages, but keep getting cold feet when the time comes to actually do something about it. I’m due to raise the subject at a meeting later this week, so folks, I’d appreciate some gentle words (a boot) on Thursday please! I feel like Jack (of Beanstalk fame) in our local panto asking for encouragement whenever he wavered and wobbled. So please folks, if I start to let life drag me down, just yell ‘GO FOR IT!!’ at me. Thanks!

To return to the subject of lack of enthusiasm, I do think we’re overlooking an obvious weapon in the Anglican armoury here. A sure fire way to ensure 100% attendance at any churchy event is to utter those magic words: ‘The Bishop will be here.’ And hey presto; folk are trampling the doors down! He could be talking about the cosmic significance of agricultural practices in the Apocrypha; it wouldn’t matter. Standing room only. Another attraction, I’ve noticed, is that at such events, the powers that be recklessly pull out all the stops and we’re offered….wait for it…tea or coffee! Now, who could resist such an offer!

Seriously though, I’ve decided that our Bishop is what I’ve termed ‘a new Bishop.’ (Well, he is new). Maybe it’s just me that’s got a jaundiced view of Anglican ‘VIPs?’ Those that I’ve encountered before at the previous church I belonged to (at one point there seemed to be a constant stream of men in funny hats processing up the aisle) were in the main elderly, tall, cadaverous and tended to speak in sonerous, deadpan tones, a mere whiff of which was guaranteed to send you off to sleep. ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of……’ zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. The current model however is little, bouncy, enthusiastic and best of all you don’t appear to need a degree in theology to understand him. Three cheers! He has my full support. (As long as he doesn’t expect us to engage in’meaningful dialogue’ re ‘Jerry Springer the Opera!’

Sorry to mislead you all

Contrary to the impression I gave in my last entry, Mr Miff does NOT suffer from PMS! MLC (mid-life crisis) maybe – then, don’t we all?

And I forgot to tell you about my problem with the ‘good book.’ Well, not a problem, exactly. There’s a church library committee due next week. As I skimmed through the minutes from last meeting (October), I was surprised to learn that apparently I had kindly agreed to read and review GP Taylor’s ‘Wormwood’ with a view to it being added to the kiddies’ section. Surely not?! Actually I’ve vague memories of telling the meeting about how much little Miff had enjoyed the book. Although that’s hardly a recommendation, my lot not being shining examples of GLEs. So, no prizes for guessing what my bedtime reading’s been this week. The trouble is, sci-fi/fantasy isn’t really my thing, so progress has been painfully slow. So hardly feel qualified to judge the book’s suitability either. Still, I must admit to find it quite compelling, if gruesome. Dark isn’t the word!

Therein lies the problem, I think. It is very, very dark. Not in comparison to much of what kids read nowadays anyway. But if it took me a fair time to be able to identify the specifically Christian undertones – what chance would a child of the age that frequents our library have of doing so? I’d only hope that they’d have a sensible level-headed adult available to help them put some of the subject matter in context. (And provide reassurance after the inevitable nightmares!)

And do I really want to put my name to a review of a book when there’s even a minsicule chance of it being drawn to the attention of what I’ve cynically nicknamed the ‘anti Harry Potter brigade?’ It wouldn’t be the first time something I’ve recommended has been ‘surgically removed.’ Ah well, there are far worse things in the world to be concerned about at the moment, as we all know.

Although, after watching ‘Jerry Springer- The Opera’ last night I’m tempted to throw off my woolly liberal suit and turn into ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’. I tried to be tolerant and broad minded, I really did. (Honest!). But all I can say is …..bleurgh!

Good intentions

It’s amazing how much you can get done when you put your mind to it. No family visits today, and even the dog slept in til 9.30 a.m – a rare treat indeed. We’d almost forgotten what it’s like to potter around in our pyjams; Mr Miff playing his pc game and me lingering in bed with a second cup of coffee and a book. (Not a good book maybe in this case, but I’ll get on to that later).

So with Ms M still away and little M vegetating until late morning, I was able to sort washing and ironing, do my newspaper cuttings and get a head start on the weekly digest that I inflict on fellow church members. Last week’s was on the distinctly gloomy side, for obvious reasons. This time round I’d like to think it a mite more positive. I’m wondering though, whether a plug for the Retreat Association’s ‘Stop! In the name of God,’ weekend, an exhortation from the local paper to shop for Fairtrade goods, and a piece from another national asking whether personal morality and politics mix smack too much of a personal agenda – mine! Do you think sneaking in a mention for ‘a Year of Living Generously’ and ‘Make Poverty History’ is pushing things too far? Ah well, it’s not often I have such a burst of energy. Must be the New Year. Or more realistically pms.

Actually, the same goes for Mr Miff. Inspired by the sight of our new, squashy red 3- piece suite, he spent the afternoon installing new door handles throughout the house. Since then we’ve talked over holiday and birthday party arrangements (groan) with little Miff. And, taking the view that if something (the red squashy suite) comes INTO the house, something else must come OUT – I’ve rashly listed a pile of my books on Amazon marketplace. (Let’s hope I don’t live to regret this!)

New Year Wishes to one and all

…now I’ve stopped laughing (sorry smudgie!) at a fellow blogger’s ‘unfortunate’ accident! Ouch! You have my every sympathy. I speak as one who fell crash on her…. well…let’s say back, on the icy front path recently, ably helped by Miffdog. My fault entirely. The first frost for ages is NOT the best time to try out the ‘Dog’s Today’ (or was it ‘Your Dog’) patent method of getting your pooch to walk on a loose lead.

Excitement today with the delivery of our new, big, red, squashy 3 piece suite – my little indulgence in the sales. The last set we bought was 13 years ago, on our move to France, and even by my standards (sluttish!)was getting beyond redemption Even if it was a repository of a thousand sweet papers (as I found when the men took it away. I’d carefully vacuumed behind the chairs, but forgot to clear up under), and as many confidences during years of teenage sleepovers. As Ms Miff said when she heard the news on Tuesday, ‘Mum – you haven’t allowed me any time to MOURN that sofa!’ Luckily, she’s away in Denmark for a few days, so we avoided tearful farewells this morning.

This last is a late 18th birthday present for Ms Miff and three friends. And a first for her. Although she’s pretty independent, (she travelled over to the UK from France a couple of times as an unaccompanied minor), this is the first time she’s been on a real live, no older adults present holiday. I’ll admit to one of those teary moments as I saw her off to the train on Wednesday. There’ve been many such over the years. Like the first day at playgroup, starting school, first school trip away, first job, the time I looked at the first school photo (age 6) and suddenly glimpsed in those little faces the teenagers they’d be ten years hence. (Sniff!)

Of course, being Ms Miff, she’s up against umpteen deadlines having left shortly after an A2 language oral exam, and being due to sit another just after she gets back. Heaven help us if the flight is delayed! And typically, after weeks of nail biting, news of her much awaited college interviews have come through the moment she fled the country. Poor Mr Miff was deputed to text a friend’s phone as Ms Miff’s had packed up. We knew she had one at Kingston anyway, but since then we’ve heard from Ravensbourne (18th) and today, Reading (21st!). All frighteningly earlier than we’d expected. ‘Portfolio’ is going to be a dirty word chez Miffy over the next few weeks and months. Sadly, we’ve not yet heard a peep from Oxford Brookes, which is where she’s really set her heart on going.