back to school?

On Friday night I am going ‘back to school’… that doesn’t mean travelling back to Folkestone Technical High School – but I am off to a fancy dress event of that name. However, it does concern me. I have my uniform ready and wonder if I will be transformed back to the slightly wayward 15-year-old that still lurks in my past, once I put it on.

Testing out the outfit it was worrying how easy it was to know exactly how it should all look – something cross between St Trinian’s and Grange Hill – with a fairly short skirt, white shirt with sleeves rolled up, tie loose at the neck, because my top button must be undone. And in that simple sentence I would have already broken three school rules! Don’t get me started with the holes in my fishnet tights or the height of my heels. I also won’t go into the consequences I faced for breaking those very rules at Folkestone Tech.

What is it about school uniforms – no matter what they stipulate, students have a solemn duty to flout them? I remember our terrible school cap. It was brown corduroy. Infact, I still haven’t got over my dislike of brown, since that was mainly the colour I was forced to wear for five years – and that included brown socks, brown skirt, brown jumper/cardigan and would you believe it… brown knickers (yes they did check – it was an all girls school!). The ‘pièce de résistance’ was the hat. The brown corduroy cap, so hated it was reserved for pupils in the first two years (years 7&8 in new money). For the first few months I wore it happily like many of my fellow classmates – well ‘happily’ might not be the right word. Let’s say dutifully. Then the second year came. I was far too cool to be caught wearing my cap on the mile long walk from the bus stop to school. I ducked out of view from prefects, ready to balance it on my head if we saw one passing – or even a teacher who had very unreasonably decided to walk to school. Tired of this pretence I told my friend I was going to ‘lose’ the cap – kind of deliberately. The 13-year-old theory being – if I had no cap, I couldn’t be forced to put it on. In the school car park I spotted a light blue car by a tree and placed the hat strategically underneath one of the wheels. That’s it – sorted. I no longer have a cap and therefore can’t wear it.

The next day I sauntered into school capless. And the reply to the lurking prefects was, “Sorry, I’ve lost my cap.” First lesson was maths with the gentle Mr Honey. This friendly old chap beamed at us as we walked in and after setting us some problems on the board and a truly delightful lesson – as delightful as a maths lesson can be – he called me to his desk at the end, as the rest of the class filtered out on the sound of the bell.

Oh dear, I thought, what trouble am I in now?
“Rachel,” he said, “Have you lost your cap?”
I nodded sadly, “Yes, Mr Honey, I lost it yesterday. Think I must have dropped it on the way to school.”
He beamed and dropped my crumpled cap onto the desk. “I found this by my car – your name label was inside.”

Thanks mum, for sewing name tags in all my clothes! I picked up the cap and smiled sweetly, thinking, next time I will tear out the flipping name tag!

Anyway, tomorrow night there will be no cap – unless I can find a suitable alternative. But I don’t think I can vouch for my behaviour once I slip into a school uniform again.



good mummy league

It’s rather strange being a physical mummy again. Of course you don’t ever stop being one – the worrying, the advice, the listening ear – but for about 4 months I have been a ‘virtual mum’ to our three children. Contactable only via Skype, Facebook or even What’s app… I have seen their faces on a computer screen, sometimes happy and excited, occasionally a bit stressed or worried, and often just wanting to catch-up, let me know all is well and for them to check-up on us.

Now there is someone asleep upstairs who calls me ‘mum’, amongst other strange names, and who lies in, waiting for me to take up a cup of tea in the morning. It is good to have him here, to share meals, jokes and talk face to face without worrying if the internet will give up or he will have to rush off somewhere.

Being a mum is something I’m still learning about. I’ve felt myself standing at the starting blocks as the other ‘mummy runners’ beside me have streaked ahead…from carrying the first newborn out of hospital and into the car feeling totally unqualified to look after the tiny human being in our care, to thinking what to put in a school lunchbox and how to organise interesting school holiday activities that didn’t involve putting on a Disney film! There are quite a few ‘hero mums’ that I have looked up to over the years, several of them army wives…

There’s the ‘enthusiast mum’, who has endless energy with her children and others for that matter. Struggling with flu symptoms, didn’t deter her from dosing up on paracetamol and organising a tea party for the children, while she cleaned the house at the same time. Everything was tackled with boundless enthusiasm and energy, and her patience when fights broke out or there were moans over food, seemed never ending. Taking the children to her house, meant I could sit back and enjoy the entertainment, trying not to feel inadequate.

‘Earth mother’ is another one I’ve admired. The whole house is dedicated to children and there are usually plenty of them. While she is breast feeding one on the settee, she will be supervising a huge Lego construction with the older two and reading to another cuddled in beside her. As for school lunch boxes, she is queen of these. There will be fruit and chunks of raw vegetables, homemade cookies and wait for it, little messages and jokes hidden inside…at this point I might as well resign and sign them up for school dinners. Not only does she excel at packed lunches, she also carries everything you could possibly need in her handbag, from glue and scissors, to spare pants, a packet of drink and little boxes of raisins ( Please note: not sweets). The garden is bound to have a sand pit and a den or even a tree house. We did succeed in having a tree house in one house, but this only revealed my lack of ‘good mummy’ qualifications, as one of them created a urinal made from an old Hoover tube, with unpleasant outcomes, while another child fell out and broke his arm…so much for healthy outdoor play.

There was also ‘education mummy’. She is not one to stand beside at the school gate. You can guarantee she will know telepathically when it’s going to rain and as the first spots start falling, she will pull out that fold away umbrella and two mini rain macs for her children as they run through the playground for shelter. Rather than mislaying the numerous school letters scattered all around the house, she will have noted all the relevant dates and deadlines in her diary and will remember to send the children with harvest donations on the correct day as well as ensuring they don’t wear uniform on mufti days. Unlike mine who frequently raced up the drive as school was starting shouting, “It’s mufti – I need a £1 too”, as they shot up the stairs to unearth clean jeans and a un-ironed top.

So, judging from ‘top mums’ I have known, I’m probably looking at a fail on organisation – my children were still quite young when they were forced to make their own packed lunches or starve! At one point I had letters for three different schools to contend with. I managed to find all the important dates a week after the event and arrived consistently late to anything from parent teacher meetings to Christmas concerts. As for enthusiastically organising extra curricular activities, I might have scraped a pass with making my own play dough and the odd baking afternoon, but that would be weighed against the amount of film quotes the children can now recite.

Still, pass or fail in the ‘good mum league’, I prefer ‘real’ mum to ‘virtual’ every time…roll on that January reunion with all three.