Despite being a relatively educated person, it’s fair to say that I don’t do politics.
It annoys me. Politicians annoy me. I don’t trust what they say and I don’t trust what the media say about them. The cynical part of me believes that half of them are in for the power and have no real understanding or empathy for the lives of us ordinary folk, even they pretend to have.
So, this post is going to be a little unusual for me because it is political.
This last few weeks, as a school leader, I’ve sat through countless meetings about money. We have a fantastic business manager who has been able to balance the books despite the financial pressures put on schools in the last few years. This year, things have been tougher than usual.
Do not be mistaken, funding for schools has been cut dramatically.
Schools up and down the country are searching for ways to save money and prevent redundancies. This invariably means that the extras go. Then the support goes. It means department budgets are cut – no new resources. It means that when a member of staff leaves, their work is given to already stressed and over worked staff as they are not replaced.
But, of course, we are expected to improve year in, year out.
Never mind that local authorities also have no money, so pupils with special educational needs are waiting longer and longer for support, if they even get it. Never mind that the Children and Adolescent Mental Health team in the NHS are so stretched that children in need can wait months to be seen and supported. But as schools are struggling financially, they’re now wondering how they can pay for the external counsellors brought in to help children while they wait.
The education system is a mess. And it is the government’s fault.
They make changes they don’t fully understand in a power play against the opposite party.
They have no understanding of the difficult lives so many children face and that their educational and supportive pathway may need to be different.
They have reduced and reduced and reduced school budgets and hailed academies a success purely due to money and nothing to do with pupils.
If it didn’t mean our children, the future, are suffering because of them, I’d call it a joke. But it isn’t funny.
I can’t remember if I’ve told you this, but I’ve recently moved into my Dad’s old bedroom.
This is a big thing for me. That room has almost always belonged to my parents. Not long after he died, in a fit of grief, I emptied drawers, washed bedding.. And then left everything in bags in the room. A few weeks later the bed was taken out, and at my daughter’s insistence, became the holding bay for most of my belongings when we decided she would move into my room and I would move into hers (with its single bed) whilst I decorated Dad’s old room for my use.
It has remained a disorganised storage room for four months with the door firmly closed so I didn’t have to deal with it.
As fate would have it, a friend in need is staying with me for a little while, so two weeks ago I got stuck in and I am now in my new room. It’s not decorated and there is still a large box of Dad’s clothes that I can’t part with yet but I moved furnature and cleared out the clothes that Dad hardly wore.
Perhaps it was the right time, maybe it was because I wanted to help a friend, but after the initial struggle to get started on the room as tears steamed down my face, I feel comfortable in the space now.
What I find most striking about the change (I was in my old room for thirteen years) is actually the view from the window. As a child, long before the extension was built when I bought the house off my parents, I slept in the two back bedrooms at various times. Both looked out at the back yard and the outbuildings of the farm.
As an adult, my new bedroom was in the extension and looked out at the fields at the front of the house: the same fields that helped me process my depression each morning as I sat drinking coffee with my cat on my knee.
In my new room, the window looks out over the front garden as it is the old side of the house.
The garden has so many memories for me. Playing in it as a child. Dad showing us the tadpoles and fish in the pond. Helping Dad garden. Dad pointing out the many birds that would visit his hand built bird table. Building snowmen. Dad ill but sitting in the garden in his pyjamas, his daughters fussing around him like a flock of sparrows.
Last spring we worked hard on the garden to make it a nice space for Dad to look at. It had been a long time since he was fit enough to garden and it had become overgrown.
As I look at it now, it looks a little overgrown again but Dad would have loved it. The periwinkle has reestablished itself in the borders. The snowdrops and daffodils have come and gone but tulips and other flowers are dotted around.
Each morning, I wake up and look out of the window. My eyes are always drawn to the bench in the corner of the garden, looking out at the pond, and I wonder every day whether I should replace it for a new one or continue to enjoy the faded paint but prominent memories of Dad.
Today, when I finished work, my sister visited. She told me that she had been to see a Medium who had told her that Dad was always with her. She mentioned many things she could not have known: gestures Dad always made, things he would say and understanding of personalities she didn’t know. As I have written before, there have been many incidents in the past year where I have felt like Dad has been communicating with me, somehow.
So when my sister said that Dad often sits on the bench, I gave a sigh. The bench is staying.
It’s amazing how the positive effects of a good Easter holiday can wear off. Four days back in school and I feel like I’ve never been away.
Today was duty day which meant I was in charge at lunch. When the sudden heavy rains appeared, I quickly opened the school hall to allow pupils somewhere to sit with their friends.
Apart from always being on high alert, I like watching pupils during social time as it is a great way of seeing who they really are – their personality and where they are in the pecking order of their group.
Today, after evicting a large group of rowdy boys out of the Hall, I watched them in their new spot in the corridor still engaging in the same horseplay. The large groups always bemuse me. Everyone has their place and there are always the ‘hangers on’ desperate to be a part of the group but never quite making it. You have the loud and extroverted boy, the quiet and brooding boy (who no-one messes with) and the boy who takes all the flack and jokes although each one of them will be in the sightlines at some point. I never understand why the groups get so big – 15 or so – but it happens every year with Year 10 around now. By Year 11, boys usually drift away again into smaller friendship groups.
As I cast my eyes around the corridor, I spotted another young man and his girlfriend. I barely recognised him for a moment. Gone was the down cast, sullen expression. His hair was clean and brushed, his uniform was smart. He was smiling. Yes, smiling. This, 100%, is attributed to the girlfriend, because again, you see it every year. Girls have the power to draw boys into a new world; gangs and groups forgotten. Suddenly, horseplay disappears. Instead, the couples stand in their corners, whispering and giggling, fingers entwined. What a powerful thing love can be. It gives boys the power to grow up and break away from the group where they fulfil an obligation of an expected role. It allows them to be themselves.
As I was thinking this, I then questioned how this works for homosexual boys. It’s difficult to say but many of the openly gay boys hang around with girls. Perhaps it’s easier to be yourself there too.
Just an observation and not scientifically proved, but I thought I’d share it anyway. What do you think?
It’s a beautiful spring morning here in North West England. There’s a cool breeze, clear blue skies and the birds are singing its praises.
I’m sat outside, enjoying the peace and sunshine with a coffee. I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed by my house guests and have decided to go out again today. Destination unknown as yet, but I want somewhere quiet and peaceful and beautiful again.When Dad was alive, Easter Sunday was always a chance for a big family dinner. Not today. My children will be having dinner with my in-laws. One of my sisters is with her in laws and I expect my youngest sister will stay here for the day. I feel a little guilty that I’m not staying here with her, but the countryside is calling me – I’m back in work in two short days and I want to make the most of it.*******It’s now the evening and a glowing golden sun is beginning to set.I did indeed go out but not for as long as usual. The best of both situations perhaps.You may have guessed that I particularly like castles and so I used the following website’s interactive map to find a castle to visit.I chose a castle I hadn’t heard of, and one that I figured could be quiet today. Unfortunately, I chose a little too well – we couldn’t actually find it! From what I read, we would have found low stoney walls and signs of earth works. Never mind. What we did find though was a beautiful valley with rocky crags, a babbling stream, trees and bluebells. Pretty heavenly to me.The forest and valley were beautiful and tucked away right near the motorway. The car park had disappeared and the picnic bench were a little worse for wear but we had brought a large picnic blanket anyway. The paths were well worn though so I figure that this place must be loved. It is so important to visit these places, those quiet secluded little spots that only the local know. I’ve always loved the stunning Lake District or Snowdonia National Park and rightly so, but I am also realising that these smaller places are even more important to treasure and look after.Why not explore your local area? I’ve found that the Woodland Trust and Forestry Commission are a great place to start, as are your local council website and local historic societies pages.
It goes without saying that I miss Dad every day. It’s a steady constant most of the time, a stream that runs through me and fuels my thoughts and feelings.
And, just like a stream, there are times when the missing-him swells, just a little. Or other times when it cascades over rapids and I can’t breath with the force of it.
Today was a little swell.
It’s been a busy day. A busy couple of days really. My sister and her family have carried on staying here since my trip to France and whilst I love them being here it is hard work. Three adults, two teens and two fives and under, as well as two large dogs and a clutch of cute puppies, sure know how to destroy a house. Having gone on holiday quite quick into the Easter break, I haven’t done my usual holiday cleaning, tidying and sorting. I’m fighting a losing battle. Extra effort is not making a blind bit of difference. I can’t keep it clean and I can’t keep it tidy. Today my mum visited which was lovely, but it added two more adults and another under five for the day.
I walked into the utility room and folded some clothes, just to get a breather. I checked myself – what the hell was wrong with me? A week ago I was desperately missing my sisters et Al, but today I’m screaming inside for silence. I then thought of Dad and how he would completely understand this sentiment. He loved his family being around him, hated any of us being away, but he also loved his quiet time too. I smiled to myself as I imagined us sitting together talking about it. Like father, like daughter. It’s why we got on so well.
Part of my break-down recovery involved that quiet time for myself. I’d sit with a coffee and my cat and stare out the living room window. It was peaceful and I allowed my thoughts to flow. It became a ritual, a habit and one that I quickly saw the benefits of when overcoming burn out.
I know I’m needing a bit of that me-time at the moment. I’m craving the silence and the solitude. It sounds awful, I know, but I figure I’m allowed to be selfish sometimes. There’s no one else to look after me, so I need to look after myself.
However, this quiet time is not really happening at the moment and won’t for a few days. I’ve broken the norm and have ran myself an early bath in the hope of stealing a few moments respite from the bustle of my family. I’ve been disturbed three times already. Bless them. For now though, early baths and clothes folding will have to do.
Catching up with my sister and brother in law has been enlightening anyway. It was unfortunate that they were unable to come to France with us (and our other sister) but I think they have enjoyed the little holiday of living in my home for the week.
As life has it sometimes, there has been much discussion about Lost Soul but not involving me as such. It seems that my brother in law has fallen out with him a little and although my sister went out with Lost Soul and other friends in the week, he is clearly up to his old games and tricks. And like the scene from Pride and Prejudice, it is amazing how many people are now claiming they are not that keen on him. Move over Mr Wickham.
It has done me some good though. Following the ‘dear friends’ incident, I am trying to process and work through any remaining feelings or thoughts that stubbornly remain. I’m half convinced they are a habit more than anything now – I still haven’t cried over him and that for me says a lot. The idea of him remains appealing but it’s the thought of him that his games have given hints of and my romantic mind has elaborated upon. It’s not the truth and I am finally, finally, accepting that now. I did what I could to start what I hoped was there. It wasn’t and it didn’t and am truly coming to terms with that.
I’m not lonely. I have lots of people around me. I miss the mental and physical intimacy of a true relationship but I am beginning to think that is a part of my imagination also. I’m beginning to emerge from this stage of my life, slowly and surely. I’m not sure what path I will take or how the next part of my life will turn out, but emerging within me is a determination to enjoy my life whatever happens.
I have accepted that I may not have everything I’ve wanted and dreamed of. That there are so many things in this life that are beyond my control. I’ve accepted that I will hurt because of people and events that I can’t change. I may end up on my own and I actually think I’m at peace with that now.
The death of someone who was your rock, your foundation, initially threatens to unbalance and destroy you. Everything you thought you knew is false, everything you thought you wanted is tasteless. For a while you flit around, searching for something – anything – to prop up those failing foundations and the walls you have built to help you reach your goals. Then you realise that nothing can.
But then, suddenly, that’s OK too. The foundations are being rebuilt by me. I am my father’s daughter and I have strength because of him. My life has changed and although I would give anything to have him back, I’ve accepted that my life is different now and that I have the power to rebuild my life a different way. Most important, is to enjoy the building of it.
So, I’m going to enjoy my crazy house full of family and not feel guilty when I need my silence and solitude. I not going to let my ideals dictate my life but instead enjoy what I have and be open to whatever comes along. These new walls are strong but flexible and living – I’ve learnt they have to be.
Take some deep breaths. Think about what might be causing this and what you can, or can’t, do about it.
If it’s a nice day, go outside. Face the sun, shut your eyes and spread your feet apart comfortably and securely. Let your arms flop to your sides. Take some deep breaths. Let the sun warm your face. Feel the breeze on your body. Breath. Listen to the world around you.
Write it all down, every last poisonous worry. Feel smug that they’re now out of your head.
Do something that is nagging you, even if you don’t want to do it. Feel proud of yourself for doing it.
Cuddle or call someone you love.
Take a shower, apply some moisturiser. Wear clothes that make you feel good and put some make up on, if that’s your thing.
Eat some fruit or a salad.
Drink a cold refreshing glass of water.
Write in your diary – three things that have gone well today.
For the first time in weeks, I’ve woken up with chest-squeezing anxiety of an unknown source. I’ve tried deep breaths, positive thinking and a walk outside but I can’t seem to shake it.
This is the worst type of anxiety in my opinion. Mainly because when you know what is causing it, you can think it out or talk it out. CBT working at its best.
It is probably an accumulation of things which is why my tried and tested solutions are not working.
Prepare yourself reader…
I woke up worrying about the health of my youngest. I had a bad dream about my Dad which is lingering. The aftermath of my 39th birthday. I feel old. As requested, I sent Lost Soul a message when we arrived in France. He hasn’t replied. I’m worried that I’m getting arthritis in my knees like my mum and I’ve eaten far too much this holiday so I’m putting weight on again which will make it worse. I don’t know what we are going to do today and I know my children will want to go somewhere and I’m feeling the pressure and the fear. I’m worried about how much money I’m spending. I feel like crying and I’m not sure why. I’m probably pre-menstrual. I’m not sure how I can repay the true kindness of my friend who has let me use her holiday home for nothing – I’m strategically replacing everything we’ve used but it doesnt seem enough. Am I going to manage to drive to the airport tomorrow. Will my eldest two be OK if I leave them in the house alone while I go? I’ve ran out of newspaper for the fire and I really do not want to go to the shop again today. I want to go back to bed. I’m worried that the worst is yet to come and I don’t k ow if I have the strength to get through it. I feel so undesirable I don’t think I will ever find someone who wants to be with me. I feel lost today.
I’ve emptied my mind anyway. That’s a good thing, right?
The dreary morning has turned into a bright and sunny day. I heard a cuckoo this morning, the first one that I have heard since my childhood. It reminded me of being a child and Dad telling me about these birds.
So, with a deep breath and a resolute determination to enjoy my day, I’m going to leave my various anxieties on this page.
I’m extremely grateful for the weather in the South West of France at the moment. My boys are outside in the garden, playing in the sunshine. It’s giving me half an hour of peaceful rest.
Last night my daughter went to bed early as she has come down with a cold. It meant that, as my youngest was also in bed, my son and I had some time together playing card games. We both really enjoyed it and I know he likes that one-on-one attention being the middle child. We both decided that a lie-in was warranted today.
Of course, my youngest wasn’t up for that plan and woke me up relatively early. When I came down the stairs though, he’d decided to make my breakfast for me:
A glass of water and a yoghurt. Not bad for a five year old! I thought it was pretty sweet of him.
Admittedly, I want a day at the cottage today. Whilst the children have spent some of the morning embroiled in various technologies (thank you Madagascar – my youngest has been very entertained!) I have pottered about, washing and cleaning. It’s amazing how enjoyable that is when it’s not your own home!
They are all eager to get out and about again this afternoon though and I need to go to the supermarket to stock up on some essentials.
Despite having a lovely time, I know we are all looking forward to my sister, brother-in-law and niece arriving on Friday. I suppose this is where I have missed another adult around the place – I am the only source of entertainment and parenting! I’m relishing these quiet moments on my own now.
I haven’t really planned what we are doing for the next few days and I’m trying to decide how confident I feel about driving a bit further afield. There is a fantastic lake complex about half an hour away which I know they will love. I’d also like to take them to Limoges but we can luckily go by train – there is no way that I would drive into a city!
For now, I’m just going to enjoy the peace. With three children, I know it won’t last long.