Monday, 16 September 2013

That was the week that was

Or perhaps that should be: These were the weeks that were. We have survived the first two weeks of school but we’ve been so busy I haven’t had much time it write. Loads of ideas buzzing around in my head like bees, but nothing pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard as it were). Did you miss me my little Spiderlings? 

Well, last year was a bit of bottomer for me last year (I will not say it was a bummer as that has a *completely* different meaning over here) as my beloved school was in turmoil. Our school was deemed below level by the powers that be and declared in special measures.  Our head teacher (principal to my American peeps) quit and we had a series of temporary heads. We were scrutinised and run through the ringer, but all the blood sweat and tears (and there were lots of tears, oh best beloved) have finally started to pay off. Sadly we lost seven members of staff, but have added many new ones this year. It was a crazy time and although the stress was mainly on teachers, I felt their anxiety as if it were my own.

This year I have vowed to be different. I am a champion about worrying about what ifs. I endlessly sweat out situations in which I have no control.  I could worry for England if it were an Olympic sport.  I have trouble “letting go.” Spiderman once described me as a bulldog when I get my teeth into something. I am vowing to be different this year.

So far it is working. I had a brilliant summer. I was massively creative and had a lovely holiday and I came back to school feeling well rested and revived.

We decided this school year to make a vow to have more fun. More fun, you ask? I know it seems genuinely impossible because I often feel that we have more than anyone I know. But there are lots of ways to take more risks and have more fun and put ourselves (particularly me) in situations outside our comfort zone. So this is how it started:

The first day of school clever Spiderman had arranged for the genius who is known as Mitch Benn to come to his school to speak.

Mitch Benn is a comedy songwriter and host of our new favourite once-a-month night out in London--The Distraction Club. He is also the author of his first science fiction novel Terra which I would highly recommend--even if you are not a sci-fi geek--this is the story of the universal condition which is about feeling alone in the world and growing up. Terra is a human raised on another planet. She is the only one of her kind. Haven’t we all felt that way?


Luckily Mitch was there in the afternoon so as I only work mornings I skeedaddled over there and got to listen to him myself. Fun number one.

That night was actually Distraction Club in London so we went. Just like that. Look at us going out on a school night.  The night was fantastically funny with loads of great musical comedy acts and good food. (we saw Jonny and the Baptists there in June and they have a song called Not a Pub which talks about  a real pub doesn’t have a children’s section or a variety of wine or hummus and pita just a slightly racist landlord, some taxidermy and ales in jugs and pork scratchings (pork rinds to my US peeps) to eat. Basically, a real pub is like living in Louisiana. We are thankful that the Phoenix pub where Distraction Club is held is not a pub because they make the best sweet potato hummus with toasted pita bread for Spiderman and crudités for me.) Fun number two.

We bought some original artwork by Chris Riddell. Art makes us happy. Collecting makes us happy. Children’s literature makes us happy. This covers all three things. It is still on exhibition in Bristol, but will arrive to us shortly. Something to look forward to. Fun number three. 

I’m in a book club at church and we had our second meeting. We all hated the book (Solar by Ian McEwan if you want to avoid it) but we had a great discussion and delicious brownies. It is good to get together with friends and talk about books. We range from age 43 (me) to 91 (Nell) and the discussion was very lively. The book was touted as being hilarious but the one thing we agreed on was the funniest bit was where the odious protagonist got his penis frozen to his zipper when he was in the Arctic. Then he thought he felt it fall off but it was actually his chap stick. We were laughing at him and not with him, though. Fun number four. 

I am an unashamed groupie for the Offley Morris Men. I do not know why English people hate Morris dancing the way they do as I think it is brilliant. On Saturday they were dancing by the war memorial and so I went along to see old friends and watch them dance. They danced a good set with hankies, long sticks and short and the bark was flying! They always ask anyone from the audience to join in on the last dance and I seem to always be the only one. But hey--I love a jig and  so I was in there having a blast despite what passers by might have thought. I ran into someone from my school who inquired with that look like she smelled something bad  if I was there because I had to be (“Is your husband dancing?“ she asked as she peered at the jingle bell laden men) No, I was there because I wanted to be there. I admitted to being a huge fan of Morris dancing and she shook her head in a bemused way and said, “Your secret’s safe with me.”  Well, it is no secret. I am a Morris groupie. If there were a female troop nearby I would join tout de suite. Fun number five.

After a summer hiatus, I picked up my beautiful ukulele Tallulah again and have been trying out a repertoire of new songs in preparation for my Mum’s visit at Christmas. We’ll be able to sing along to Peter Paul and Mary’s Gillgarra Mountain and Neil Diamond’s Song Sung Blue. Fun number five. 


Since I don’t work Fridays I have decided to do something adventurous on some of these days. So I went into London by myself for a lecture. This may not seem like a big deal but I am hugely phobic about travelling on my own because I could not find my own arse with a torch and a map and sign saying “this is your arse.” This is really how bad my navigation skills are. I was going somewhere relatively nearby--Friend’s House the Quaker headquarters about 15 minutes walk from Kings Cross station or right across from Euston station if you take the tube.  Spiderman managed to defuse my anxiety about all that could go wrong by turning it into a board game. You know you roll the dice to try to get Spidergrrl to Friend’s House. Along the way were lose-a- turns which included stopping to buy a Big Issue (magazine sold by homeless people) so lose a turn, plus £2.50 but have a warm glow in your heart. There was also a lose-a-turn where I got distracted thinking I saw Paddy Gervers from Jonny and the Baptists but it just turned out to be a lady with long blond hair.

Paddy is on the right


Well, anyway I did get there without losing anything. I went to hear a lecture about the 50th anniversary of the publication Towards a Quaker View of Sex which was so radical in its time because it said, among other things,  a loving and committed homosexual relationship was not a sin in the eyes of Quakers who believe in the goodness of all people. You must remember that at this time male homosexuality was illegal --even stuff you did privately in your own home could send you to prison.  Many people spoke movingly about how at this time they had so much self hatred and contemplated suicide and felt they were cut off from society and had to choose between being in a loving relationship and God’s love. The document saved them and gave them hope. Quakers have always been at the forefront of change--we were the first religious organisation to publicly come out in favour of gay marriage as well. It made me proud to be a Quaker and proud I did it on my own which is good practice because I’ve got a peace education workshop there in a few months as well. Fun number six.

Saturday night Spiderman and I went out to Ransom’s Rec for a bat walk. We heard a fascinating lecture about bats in Britain, saw some bats that had been attacked by cats (their number one predator in the city--so lock up your cats at night, folks!)  and had lost a wing and would now have to live in captivity. Then we all went out into the *freezing* night with our bat detectors and went on a bat hunt. We did not see any, but we heard several on the bat detectors. It was so cool! We often see bats in the summer flying by the river skimming off water bugs and so Spiderman and I have vowed that when the weather warms up we will fork out the £60-£90 for our own bat detector. No point in doing it now as they’re all about to hibernate. But if you come and see us when it’s warm we can go out bat watching. Fun number seven.

Today after Meeting for Worship we had a speaker who has come from doing peace and reconciliation work in Burundi. We raise money for this so it was wonderful to hear what our money goes for. After we had a simple bring and share lunch and it was so enriching to talk to people about real global issues. We had long discussions about examining our food choices and purchases to see if they “contain the seeds of war and oppression” (a quote from Quaker Advices and Queries) and how sometimes sacrifices must be made to boycott companies who do not care about animal or human rights. Our old friend NESTLE has recently come out saying that fresh water should not be a right but a commodity. Everyone should be allowed a 30litres (an average bath tub holds 90 litres) for washing and drinking but beyond that they should have to pay for it, preferably by buying their bottled water. This from the same company trying to patent a herbal remedy so that people who pick the plant and use it will have to pay them. It was such a wonderful time together, eating and sharing ideas and making the world better. Fun number eight.  

This is just over two weeks! I am really noticing how much I am getting out of life by spending time doing things that enrich me and it really helps me to give back love and hope into my community.

The only bad thing that has happened is our washing machine has broken and it is taking longer than I care to get it sorted. But as we discussed at table on Sunday how lucky we are to have enough clean water to use a machine. Many people are not so lucky. So even with a minor  hiccup I am still really relaxed and groovy and not stressing over things I have no control over.



  1. You are so beautiful....and, don't forget to remember what your Sweetie said about you. You are unique and unrepeatable. I see pieces of myself and your father in every one of your lists of "fun"----it is like looking in the mirror at both of us and seeing the "split" and the "clone" reemerging. Smiling with all my heart.

  2. You are an amazing person and I love you very much!