Exam fever? I wish!

Exam fever? I wish!.

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Exam fever? I wish!

Exam time has arrived in my household. Whoopee!

Sleepless nights, revision timetables, adrenalin coursing through the veins, excitement that the next few weeks will determine life chances, panic attacks….and that’s just me. In fact, it’s only me. My 15 year old son who is actually sitting the exams has remained resolutely unconcerned by his impending GCSE’s. At this stage in the game, I’d have settled for him showing even mild interest in them. But he hasn’t. Not one bit. Last night, the night before his first exam, he asked if he could go longboarding. When I reminded him that he had an exam the following day, he gave me a look of ‘And your point is?”.

This morning, just before his Philosophy exam I decided to help him focus with a bit of last minute revision.

“Name the priest who joined the Columbian Liberation Army to fight corruption. Think footballer.”

“Father Beckham?”


“Father Rooney?”


“Father Pele?”

“No, Torres, he was called Father Torres. We did this last night.”

“What breakfast cereals have we got?”


“Have all the Golden Nuggets gone?”
“What’s that got to do with social injustice? Focus!”

My son has done exactly two hours of revision. How do I know this? Well, some months ago I struck a deal with him. He announced at Christmas he wasn’t going to do any revision for his mocks because

a) it wasn’t the real thing, therefore a wasted of his valuable effort (and to be honest, he does appear to have a finite amount of effort so has to use it sparingly) and

b) it would give him a ‘false reading’ of what he might get in the real exam which was actually counter-productive and could de-rail his entire GCSEs (still not figured that one out).

I agreed, but managed to get him to promise that when the real exams arrived, he’d give me two hours of his time per exam. Being an honourable soul, he has stuck to this, so far. So I’ve spent two hours trying to cram the Just War theory into his brain.  Quite frankly, there’s nothing ‘just’ about parenting a teen, and it is often all out ‘war’.

To be fair, he listened very patiently during our ‘revision’ lesson, only yawning three times, and checking his watch twice. Then when I suggested we do a little extra revision to ‘smooth the rough edges’, his response was…. ‘To be honest, mum, I don’t like to do too much revision as it makes the exams more interesting.’….

Good luck son!

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Smoking – I was fuming!

Smoking – I was fuming!.

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Smoking – I was fuming!

I’ve always encouraged my children to try new things. Obviously, by this, I mean things like abseiling or French knitting. But I guess I knew there was always the possibility they would experiment with things I didn’t necessarily agree with, such as smoking…

Now my older two are teenagers, I’ve been waiting for the day when I would catch them smoking and we would have the ‘smoking’ chat. And, to be honest, I always imagined I’d be cool about it. There’s nothing to be gained from screaming at them which would just ‘stress them out’ and give them an excuse to smoke even more fags. I always thought my reaction would be to nod understandably and explain the ills of smoking until such time they said, “You’re right, mum, it’s a disgusting habit. Nicotine shall never again enter my body.”

So, it is with a heavy heart, that I have to confess that when I came across my son puffing away, I failed to be remotely cool, or even mature, about it.

In my defence, I was under my own stress at the time as, in a separate incident; my daughter had lost the dog. Now, that normally wouldn’t be cause for concern, but our dog is apparently rather desirable and was once kidnapped and held to ransom in his early years (another story!).   So as I stomped around the streets, peering under parked cars shouting ‘Wilfie’, I had visions he had already been snatched, enslaved, was at that moment being rammed down the nearest badger set (he’s a Jack Russell).

So how did this all come about? And what’s it got to do with my son? Well, on that particular day I was marshalling the Sports Relief Mile while my husband, who was on the PA, subjected spectators to his entire back catalogue of Smith’s songs.  Consequently, my teenage daughter was given the task of looking after her little sister and the dog. This she did with very bad grace and only agreed to do it after delicate and protracted negotiations, on the scale of the Northern Ireland Peace Treaty, in which she secured herself two sleepovers (on a date of her choosing), plus tickets for T4 on the beach.

Anyway, she managed to lose the dog and it was while I was searching for our pet to strains of ‘Hang the DJ’ that I accidentally stumbled across my son, puffing furtively on a fag down an alleyway.

As I said, I had anticipated this situation and visualised my response many times. I would, of course, be calm, measured and rational as I imparted nuggets of wisdom on the ills of smoking.

What I actually said to my son was:  “You dickhead! I’ll deal with you later. Now go and find my dog.”

I would like to point out. I’ve never called my son a dickhead before or anyone else for that matter (well, not to their face). But I was so intent on not using the f-word that this slipped one out instead.

After uttering these words, I stormed off in a fury, leaving my son open-mouthed and bewildered, trying to figure out the connection between being caught smoking and looking for Wilfie who he’d left curled up on the sofa at home.


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It’s down the road, up the road and then it’s just there…..

Locating your teenage children can be tricky at the best of times. Satellite technology has gone some way to dealing with that thorny problem: where exactly is my fifteen year old son? But even this isn’t full proof.

‘Pay as you go’ mobiles simply lull you into a false sense of good parenting as, in my experience, they quickly become, ‘didn’t pay, but still went’. The alternative is to put them ‘on a contract’, something my bank manager will only agree to if I’m prepared to put my house up as collateral. Besides, I’m not overly happy to subsidise my son’s inane texts to friends telling them they’re ”a knob”.  So, we parents are very much in the wilderness when it comes to tracking down our YAs.

The obvious thing of course is to ask your teenager where they’re going. This is more successful in urban areas as you can usually elicit a street name and number, and then Google will do the rest. Rural locations are not so easy.

In the countryside, people have addresses such as Rose Cottage, Oaktrees, Littlebridge Down which have have skilfully evaded Google Earth, Google Street View, Ordinance Survey and GCHQ. And plugging a rural postcode into a Satnav simply narrows the search area down to five square miles.

Of course, you can always ask for directions from the child whose parents own the house. Surely they know where they live. Isn’t your address the first thing you’re taught, so if you get lost you can tell a policeman? You’d think so, wouldn’t you?

My husband was dispatched to collect our teenage son late one Saturday night. On reaching the area, he decided to pull over and walk to the location he had been given. After a few minutes of bumbling around a deserted village, feeling like he was on the film set of 28 Days Later, my husband rang our son for more precise directions. His spirits lifted initially as my son actually answered his phone, but they were quickly dashed when it transpired he also didn’t have a clue where he was. Then, in an uncharacteristic display of initiative, my son passed the phone to his friend.

My husband: I’m in the village next to a shop, is that near you?

Friend: Not really.

Lengthy silence as husband awaits further instruction.

Husband: Okay, so how far away are you then?

Friend: You can’t really walk it.

Husband (getting slight agitated): So you’re quite far away then?

Friend: Mmm. Sort of.

Husband: (getting very agitated) So where are you exactly?

Friend:  Oh that’s easy. We’re down the hill, up the hill and then just there…

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Going for gold?

None of my children have embraced exercise in the way I had hoped. My son flirted with jujitsu for a while, but lost interest when he realised it would take more than five lessons to become Jackie Chan. My then five-year-old daughter gamely tried tap dancing, but was put off for life by a teacher who had graduated from the ‘fame hurts and this is where you start paying’ school of performing arts.

So I was very excited when my now teenage daughter came home brimming with enthusiasm about her PE lesson.

Her: We did power walking around the park today. It was really good fun, mum.

Fantastic, I thought. Had she finally found her ‘sport’?

Me: That’s great. Power walking is almost as effective as running. In fact some power walkers actually move faster than some runners.

Her: Yes, and miss said I had really good technique.

Me: That’s even better, maybe you’re a natural.

What is so impressive about this is my daughter doesn’t walk anywhere and even when she is forced to walk home from school (a distance of 100 yards) she takes so long I sometimes wonder if she’s finally made good on a ten-year promise to runaway to the circus. We’re lucky if she makes it home in time for The One Show.

Anyway, at this point, I’m getting into the spirit of things. I’m beginning to envisage my daughter going for gold, leading the pack at the power walking event for the 2016 Olympics.

Me: Perhaps there’s a power walking club you can join.

My daughter looked thoughful.

Her: Yes, although Miss also said I needed to work on my speed because I last out of the park and late for French.

Oh, so not so much a ‘power’ walk then, as more a gentle stroll.

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Heavy school bags are ‘deforming’ children as growing numbers suffer irreversible back problems

That explains it!

That explains why my son’s school bag contains three empty Rustler Burger cartons, a mouldy rugby top and a tatty piece of paper scrawled with ‘do traffic survey’ which is apparently geography homework that was due in 2009. Poor lad is just trying to look after his back.

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