Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The One With The Listening Project

I'm not really sure why I didn't blog about this at the time, but it appears I didn't.

I thought I had. My friend Ice Cream Sundae from the radio station who set it all up thought I had.

But I didn't.

So I'm doing it now.

For those not familiar with The Listening Project it's a partnership between BBC Radio 4, BBC local and national radio stations, and the British Library. The idea is to record intimate conversations between friends or family to put together a picture of life today. Some of the conversations get broadcast and all get stored in the British Library. You can find out more about it here

Your local BBC station, where you recorded it, will broadcast an except from that conversation and some get chosen for BBC Radio 4.

Back in 2013 myself and Lemon Cake Lady had one of these conversations all about motherhood.

I've been reminded of this recently because The Listening Project is back in Suffolk, recording more conversations and making more memories. 

I listened back to ours today and it made me laugh. Not just because some things don't change, but because some things do. If that makes sense. 

This conversation was pre- 'Can we have a word?', pre- early years developmental specialists, pre- speech and language therapists, pre- IEP's and pre- endless forms, reports and observations. 

Listening back my main concerns seem to be, did I have enough rules for the boy and people tutting at my parenting skills in public.

Didn't know I was born did I? 

I have a copy of the full conversation on CD and it's one of my most treasured possessions. How often do you get to record you and your best mate just talking. A time capsule of your life and friendship on that day. Then to have it broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and archived at the British Library, well that's pretty special in my book.

You can hear us wittering on here - we hope you enjoy it. 

And mums, whether you're a Penguin or a Vulcan don't beat yourself up about it. 

Either is just fine. 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The One With The Ups and Downs

Well, after the 'little victories' of parents evening the other day, the roller coaster of parenting took a dip today.

I've just come off the phone with our health visitor. He's a nice enough chap and mostly very helpful, but on this call I couldn't help feeling that I'd... well... to coin a Nanny P expression... pissed on his matches.

He's got it in his head that the boy is autistic. He's observed him once. Don't get me started on that one. Hubby and I were sent a questionnaire asking all sorts of things about his behaviour and social interaction at home. We filled it in very honestly and sent it off.

This questionnaire, along with the health visitors report, observations from the school and the report from the speech and language therapist, (who came and saw the the boy three times, but whom I've never met and who's report I've never even seen), are all to be sent off to a paediatrician for a formal assessment. 

Trouble is now we've messed with his system, because the boys score for autism has come back low based on our answers. 

"The thing is he doesn't seem to behave at home as he does in school' came the glum sounding voice over the phone.

Well no shit Sherlock. Sorry to piss on your parade matey but that's how it is. Show me a child that does behave the same at school, as they do with their mum and dad. You're never the same with your mates as you are in front of your parents. Neither should you be. 

'Well we'll send it off anyway but if they send it back then we'll have to explore other avenues.' he said sounding very annoyed that his theory was falling apart.

'It could be ADD. But that's a different department you see.'

Is it. Is it really. Does that stop us trying them next then? Or can paperwork not be sent off twice? 

Vintage Songtress has always said there's an element of box ticking about all this, and if there has ever been a box ticking exercise going on, it has been highlighted with todays call.

Well fuck your boxes and fuck your parameters. If we have to ask a million people for help and advice rather than opinions and half baked theories, then I will keep asking so my child can learn at his pace and to his abilities. 

The boy is not a problem to be solved or a case to be closed and brushed under the carpet because 'If it's too hard I can't understand it.'. He's a child, a human being, and once you get to know him you can understand him perfectly well thank you. 

We talked about the physical excursion he needs everyday to tire himself out, and how he can concentrate better when he's got it all out of his system, so I tried to finish the conversation on a positive note. 

'It's sports day later. He may not join in with all the events but at least it will wear him out.' I said

'Oh dear,' came the morose reply 'Well try and enjoy it anyway.'

Oh I will sunshine. Believe me I will. 

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The One With The Little Victories

In that way people do when they talk about Christmas, when it comes to the first year of school, 'This time next week it'll all be over'. 

There's just the school disco, concert, class party, sports gala and bring your own toys in day left. We've had parents evening and school reports have been issued. There might be a week left to go, but I think we can say we've, almost, made it to the end of term relatively unscathed. Well I say unscathed, the boy is currently sporting a terrific shiner from a wayward ball smacking him in the face at playtime. 

In the last week or so my Facebook timeline has been awash with proud parents saying what clever little darlings they have.

Do I begrudge them their joy? Of course not. 

Do I feel happy for them? Of course I do

Does it get on my tits? Of course it does. (alright, alright.....joke)

But that's the nature of Facebook if you don't want to see it, don't log in. I know the rules. 

It didn't stop me one night, fuelled by red wine and frustration wanting to post,

"Ok, so my boy may not be able to read or write yet but he can play Beethoven's 5th on the ukulele with his bum. " 

He can't. I was taking the piss. So luckily hubby persuaded me not to. 

We don't have these huge achievements to celebrate you see. With an SEN child it's all about the 'little victories', as Fletch in 'Porridge'  would say. 

Thankfully those 'little victories' have been emerging, to use school report speak, this week.

We had a reasonably successful school trip to a local farm park, with no major incidents to report. In fact it was lovely to see him playing with his class mates. Social skills are coming on, he's playing with other children now not just alongside them. 

His school report was warm, genuine and full of love. No he's not top of the class but he's gaining confidence everyday. It was a joy to read a report on the boy from people who actually know him and haven't just come to observe him, then think they can tell me all about him after half an hour. 

I have a box of those reports and quite frankly some days I want to take the damn thing outside and burn it.

Then parents evening rolled round.

I have to admit hubby and I were nervous. The previous terms parents evening hadn't gone well. There were behaviour issues and disruption in class. We were devastated.

Since then we've all worked really hard to iron these problems out with stickers, rewards and a daily deal.

Every morning the boy and I shake hands and he repeats, 

'No wee wee or poo poo accidents. I will sit nicely at carpet time. I will listen to my teacher. I will line up when they blow the whistle. Then I will get a rocket ice lolly and some buttons. Deal?'


Well it all seems to be working. This parents evening was a very different experience. The boy has progressed in every area of his IEP (Independent Education Plan) and everything is moving forward. Slowly, but it's going in the right direction. 

I'm now looking forward to 6 weeks of not worrying about it. The pressure will be off and we can just muck about and play, before the leap into Year 1 in September and all the challenges that's going to bring.

The current theory by health professionals is we could be looking at autism. His teacher, hubby and I remain sceptical, but we do realise autism comes in many forms. 

Of course I've still got ADHD in my mind, although the hyperactivity has calmed right down recently. That could be due to the conscience decision to cut back on sugar or it could be he's just knackered at the end of term.

Lemon Cake Lady's theory is that he has inherited my 'buggering about gene' handed down to me by my Dad.

Whatever it turns out to be Lemon Cake Lady has a point. The 'buggering about' is strong in this one and thank god it is. 

It's what makes him the funny, cheeky, imaginative, creative, special little boy he is. 

Not special educational needs.

Just special. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The One With the Snooker And the Phonics

We are still having a daily struggle with the boy and his reading. He loves books and he loves stories, but the moment you sit him down to do his reading from school it’s like you’re torturing him.

His ‘mark making’- which is bloody stupid trendy talk for writing- is getting much better. Currently it’s all about drawing pirate treasure maps, with X marks the spot, so that’s one letter he can do.

But the reading isn’t going anywhere. Granted the reading books from school are piss boring, but he’s not even trying. There’s only so much ‘Sam has the nut. The Nut is up the tree. Sam goes up to the nut’ that I can stand, so no wonder the boy buggers about rather than read that lot.

So on the advice of other Mums I’ve started trying to engage him in looking at letters and words in everyday life; cereal boxes, signs, shopping lists, DVD covers and captions on the TV.

So last week, when the snooker was on, I pointed out the player’s names to the boy on the screen. This didn’t inspire any interest in him until Judd Trump was playing.

Now someone on the telly called ‘Trump’ is the height of sophisticated comedy to a 5-year-old boy.

‘Those players are called Ding and Trump’ I explained

‘Trump?’ the boy said with his eyes wide with wonder. ‘Trump?’

‘Yes. His name is Judd Trump.’

‘Trump’ he was really laughing now ‘Mr Trump’.

‘Yes Mr Ding is playing Mr Trump’

He was rolling around on the sofa now holding his sides.

‘Ding and Trump’


He went over to the TV screen and pointed to the name ‘Does that say Trump then?” he asked

I joined him and sounded out the letters as I ran my finger along them. Luckily Ding and Trump sound out beautifully and aren’t ‘tricky words’ - which is bloody stupid trendy talk for words whose letter sounds don't then sound like the word when they're 'blended' - which is bloody stupid trendy talk for using the letter sounds to read the word. 

He was still giggling about it all when he went to bed about half an hour later.

So this got me thinking. Maybe the only way to get the boy interested in phonics – which is bloody stupid trendy talk for learning your letters – is to teach him rude words.

Not really bad rude words. Not your four letter eff’s and jeffs. Just some mild schoolboy stuff. After all his main vocabulary currently consists of not just trump but bum, poo, wee, winky, boobies, stinky, smelly and pants, so why don’t we write them down and sound them out? We could spend a pleasant afternoon together trying to ‘blend’, stinky, bum and poo.

Yes I’m that desperate for him to read.

Shall I call social services or do you want to do it?

Friday, 24 April 2015

The One With Paddington Bear

The boy is obsessed with Paddington. We went to the cinema to see the film and then on holiday recently he spent his pocket money on a toy Paddington bear. He’s even developed a taste for marmalade sandwiches.

As a kid I adored Paddington too. I loved the books and the cartoon series on TV. When I bought my first car, a clapped out old Mini, I called it Paddy because it was the same blue as Paddington’s duffle coat.

So as an Easter present we got the boy the Paddington movie on DVD. We had all enjoyed the film, and we figured that with the boy’s hyperactivity issues it would be a less dangerous gift than loads of chocolate Easter eggs.

Little did we know…

Last Sunday afternoon I was in the tip that doubles as my office, when the boy kept running in with mischief written all over his face and declaring,

“I’m not doing something.’

This. without fail, always means he is doing something and that ‘something’ is always something he shouldn’t be doing.

I went to look in the lounge but I couldn’t see any thing untoward going on. The boy kept laughing, looking sheepish and running in at regular intervals to reassure me that he wasn’t doing anything.

I went to have another look but he stopped me,

“Go back to the computer,’ he giggled

I was getting nervous now.

It’s at this point in the story I think I should tell you that hubby was up a ladder clearing out the guttering at the side of the house, so when I heard running water I assumed that it was coming from him.

But it wasn’t.

The sound was too close.

The boy was still holding me back and laughing.

I pushed past him, through the kitchen, to the downstairs loo. There I found a small, red, crab finger puppet, wrapped in a baby wipe and jammed into the plug hole to stop the water from both taps, which were on full, from escaping.

I had reached it just in time to stop the water from overflowing the small cloakroom sink, which was currently full to the brim.

Needless to say we had words and the seriousness of what nearly happened was explained him. I think it went in, but you can never be sure with the boy.

Then I asked him why he’d done it?

He looked up at me, with his big, brown, soulful eyes and said in all innocence,

‘I wanted to be like Paddington and flood the house.’

If you’ve not seen the film you’d better watch the trailer and then you’ll see what he means.

Next Easter I’m buying him chocolate. It might cause mood swings, but at least it’s cheaper than replacing everything in the house.

I could swing for that bloody bear.

Friday, 17 April 2015

The One With Middle Age and Michael Ball

Apparently 60 is the new 40 and because we are living longer, healthier lives we all have to redefine our ideas on what middle age is.

If you take that piece of wisdom from this weeks newspapers as gospel, then we'll all be living until we're 120. I don't know about you, but I don't want to still be here when I'm 120. I'd have had enough long before that. 

Last Friday I turned 45. I consider this proper middle age. I have no idea why. I haven't had anyone tell me I'm going to live until I'm 90. I just have 45 in my head as a pivotal number.

It could be that my 40th birthday passed by in a whirl of nappies and night feeds, as the boy was only 6 weeks old when I reached that particular milestone. So somehow 45 felt special and defining all in one.

The night before my 45th birthday I did the most middle aged thing I've ever done.

I went with my Mum to a Michael Ball concert - and I enjoyed it!

There's no reason I shouldn't I suppose. I like a bit of 'The Ball' and musical theatre. I wasn't just there to keep Mum (who is a massive Michael Ball fan and has seen him in concert on several occasions) company. I asked to go. I asked my Dad if he'd buy my ticket as a birthday present.

I feel like I'm at an AA meeting.

My name is Random Woman, I'm 45 and I like Michael Ball. 

There I've said it.

We had a cracking time me and me Mum. We sung and clapped along, swooned a bit and even had a cheeky glass of wine at half time. 

It did occur to me, while I was bopping along to 'One Step Out Of Time' (Michael's 1992, 2nd place Eurovision Entry), that in my younger days this was the venue where I'd seen 'The Damned', 'Everything But the Girl' and 'Suede'.  Mind you it's also where I'd seen 'Bucks Fizz' (twice), 'Five Star' and 'The Mavericks' so I wasn't all 'that' cool. Quite an eclectic mix you might say. 

No one can fault Michael's voice. His vocal strength and tone is beyond question, whatever your musical taste. That boy can sing. He is also, by all accounts, a lovely bloke with a wicked sense of humour.  Never the less, half way through the 'gig' I had this uncontrollable urge to laugh. Not at Michael, giving his all on the stage, but at the crowd. We were pretty much all 'ladies of a certain age', some older than others, with the odd man here and there, probably to keep their wives company. One chap was asleep. 

Anyway the combination of static from the nylon and menopausal hormones rising in the air was enough to start either a fire, a riot, or an orgy. In the end it started nothing more than my giggles. 

Mum asked what I was laughing about,

'Are you taking the mickey?' she enquired.

'No' I exclaimed, but I'm sure she didn't believe me.

So, as much as I enjoyed myself and would go again, I was relived to know that age hasn't dulled my irreverent piss taking nature. 

Age is however dragging me into the slow descent of comfy shoes, support tights and elasticated waists. The inevitable slide into wanting to come home early from a night out for a cup of tea, indeed not wanting to go out at all, carrying a cardi in case it turns chilly and asking for gardening gloves as a Christmas present.

When it was all over I phoned hubby to pick us up.

'Are you done already?' he asked 'That's early. It's only ten to ten.' 

'Yep, all finished.' I replied 'I don't think this audience want to stay out too late. They probably have to get them back to the home before curfew.' I giggled.

Mum threw me one of her looks, like a Paddington hard stare.

Secretly I was glad it wasn't a late night. I'd worn heels for the first time in ages so my feet were killing me and I was gaging for a cup of tea..... 

I'm right rock and roll me.....

Michael Ball rocking Eurovision 1992

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The One With The Rehearsal

Last night I went and watched the theatre group I belong to rehearse for their forthcoming production of Fawlty Towers.

I haven’t acted since autumn 2013 and although it’s not unusual for me to have a break from theatre for a while, this is probably the longest I’ve been gone. Hubby’s job take him away from home quite a bit now, so what with that, work and the boy starting school, making rehearsals felt nigh on impossible and I couldn’t see when or if I’d be going back for a long time.

Then last night happened.

Everyone was so pleased to see me and I read in one of the parts while sitting next to the director and watching the action. I love Fawlty Towers and I adore acting comedy so I really enjoyed it. It was lovely to see all my friends again and be back talking about scripts, lines, direction and timing.

Most of all I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed acting and need it in my life. It’s in my bones, my soul and my heart.

I’ve been horribly down recently. I’ve been back to the doctor and gone up from 10mg every other day to 20mg every day of my anti-depressants. I’ve felt lost and uninspired, especially since the New Year.

Last night was like a breath of fresh air. I felt like I’d come home.

I know what I’m missing now and I need to go back to it. I went through a stage of worrying when I was in a show that I hadn’t sold enough tickets and got enough people to come and see it. I realise now that’s not important. Yes we need bums on seats to carry the group on, but that isn’t my sole responsibility. If friends and family want to come then great, if they don’t, no worries. I do this for me, no one else.

I also went through a stage of being in some ropey old rubbish or taking on too much. Mainly because I was too scared to say no and let everyone down. Again it’s not my sole responsibility. I need to be in plays I enjoy. The part doesn't have to be huge, I don't need to be the star. I just need to act.  I’m no longer falling for ‘Well if you don’t do it I can’t see how else we can cast that part. We’ll just not do a play this time.’

That’s balls!

No one person is bigger than the group and plays can always be cast.

The theatre doesn’t need me that badly.

I, on the other hand, have realised that I need it. Very badly indeed.