Talk About Cheesecake

Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.


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Fear of the Internet

When Sackgirl started school I thought I would be an involved mum and try to be part of the school community! So I went along to a few PTFA meetings. In a dingy local pub one night I was introduced to five women, four of whom were parents at the school and one stern elderly lady who was head of the WI and clearly also ran the whole village.

These ladies were doing a great job of keeping the school full of events and cake stalls. But talk about a clique. This group had been together for a few years and they were not keen on new ideas!  They bemoaned the fact no other parents would help and then dismissed every suggestion I came up with. Especially when I mentioned that their communication was abysmal (tact was leaving the room by then, I was pretty frustrated) and suggested some sort of webpage or facebook group.

You would think I had walked into the local church, stood on the altar and announced we were going to be inviting in the devil. Shock, horror, distaste and a fair few sneers got thrown my way. ‘We don’t need that sort of thing,’ I was told. I gave up.

Roll on 3 years, those ladies all quit en mass for whatever reason and the PTFA was left empty, abandoned. The Christmas Fayre was in jeopardy. It was a crisis. And because I just cannot stop sticking my nose in where I really should back away quietly until I can flee round the nearest corner, because when I see a problem I want to fix it, because I really don’t have enough to do with a full time home working business and two kids – I volunteered.

Three of us did, in fact. You have to have three. A Chair, a Secretary and a Treasurer. I actually took on  Treasurer, because some small shred of sanity did kick in and say ‘You do not have time to be in school every week arranging cake sales and making pancakes with the kids.’

Unfortunately, it was only us three. Other parents, either used to not being wanted by the previous clique or because they just couldn’t be arsed, just didn’t seem interested. So this time I just went ahead without asking. I set up a Facebook group and page for our school PTFA. Then I went to see the Headmistress to explain to her why I thought it was a great idea for communication and to get the other parents involved.

I met more resistance. ‘The parents will slag off the school and complain about us.’ ‘It’s very open to abuse.’ ‘It’s not secure.’ ‘Facebook – I’m not sure.’

Fear!

Fear of the internet, because we all know that it can be used ‘the wrong way’. It’s true that there are some sick, perverted people out there who prey on our children using the internet.

It’s true there have been incidences where kids have bullied each other online, in some cases so extremely that children have ended up emotionally harmed or hurting themselves physically.

There have been incidences, locally, where parents have slated and bullied each other and teachers online, causing emotional harm and distress to other adults. Teachers have resigned, lost their jobs, lost their sense of worth and joy in a career that made them want to work with our children in the first place. That is beyond sad. I wonder sometimes how we humans became so hateful to each other that we want to destroy each others happiness.

All of these issues were cited by the Headmistress as reasons why we should not use the internet for communication. They can be valid points. But I think this is also fear talking. Not fully understanding the tool we are using and so not putting in the safety measures that keep us safe.

To me the internet is a tool. It can be used for great good as well. Charities and fundraisers have found they can spread the word of what they are doing much faster and to a wider audience through use of the internet. Communication is visual, a picture speaks a thousand words.

The internet can be used for education. It has enabled thousands of people who were housebound or friendless to find friends, to leave their homes and meet people, albeit virtually. The internet has changed our lives in so many ways, some bad, for sure. But there can be so many benefits from it as well, we just have to use it in the right way.

As it is, I explained the safety measures we would be using – a secure group, invite only, moderators, guidelines for use, no children – she settled down. The main point I made was that our parents could not be bothered to get involved and come along to meetings, but the majority of them do use Facebook. Putting our information on there delivers it directly to their eyeballs (provided we can get them to sign up) and maybe a few more will decided to offer up ideas and join in. Because frankly, if they didn’t, our PTFA was dead on the water.

Which means no more funds for the school.

Silly me – always mention the money first! After that, she caved much faster.

The fear of the internet remains though. I succumbed myself just recently, suddenly wondering whether it was safe to be putting pictures of my kids on my blog. It’s a sad thing that this wonderful tool can be used so badly some dregs of humanity that it makes us fear to use it at all.

But as it is here to stay, I think it is a vital part of everyone’s education now – how to use the internet safely should be a mandatory lesson in schools and one given to all parents. What do you think?


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Stop volunteering.

Carrying on from my last post (So much to do, so little time) the plan for today was to be productive.

Lots of work to be done – work that pays, that is.

However, upon waking this morning I realised that today is the daughter’s school Christmas Fair. I thought I would pop in, but realise I have to sort out the money for the stalls, so in fact I need to be up there for 3pm to drop it off in time. This is because I went along to a PTFA meeting a few weeks ago, rather randomly, and somehow volunteered to be the new treasurer.

It has to do with awkward silences and overly long discussions. I have come to understand this about myself. I am impatient and a fixer. Basically, if I see a problem then I want to find a solution. I want to fix it. If you have ever been to a PTFA meeting then you will know that it is full of a lot of discussion, side tracking and rehashing of past events, but very little progress.

So at this particular meeting they needed a new treasurer. There followed a long awkward silence, followed by a discussion of how to fill the post if no one volunteered, what the post involved, how much time it took. When the explanation had reached critical levels – an detailed explanation of how to fill in a cheque – I just could not take any more. I volunteered. Out of desperation. Please, just move the subject along.

Back to breakfast this morning. Mini Monster 1 then informed me that she was performing with the choir at 4pm, so I need to be there to watch her.

Oh, and deliver a number of small children to their homes. Because, yet again, I volunteered. There I stood, outside the gates this morning with other mums moaning about how they would have to return to the school after the choir finished to collect their little darlings. I couldn’t stop myself. I heard my voice, before my brain could take control of my mouth, volunteering to drive them home.

It occurred to me as I walked away, that of all the kids I was now taxi’ing about, mine is the only one with a mother who worked. Yes, I am now ferrying children about to allow their non-working, commitment free mothers time to go to their gym appointments or to finish their coffee in peace.

So having now committed myself to being at the school from 3 to 5pm this afternoon, I decided I may as well go the whole hog and actually help out at the fair. Yes, I did. I volunteered to run a stall at the fair. Partly egged on by Mini Monster 1 who said ‘I like it when you are on the stall mummy. Then I can stand behind it with you and cuddle you.’

Ahhhhh.

I need to stop this volunteering. That’s half my day gone, what with sorting out the money before the fair starts and clearing up after, delivering children to their homes and cooking dinner for my own. I haven’t even started on the actual work that pays yet!


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Everyone needs a bit of crackle

At my daughter’s school this week they are having a theme week. I like the idea of the theme week as they take the kids out of the classroom to do something a little more hands on. Last theme week was during the Olympics and every day they looked at the culture and history of a participating country, learnt some of the language and tried out the food. It really caught the imagination of my daughter and I heard a lot of enthusiasm for school and learning.

So this week they are studying the elements. Today was all about fire. I love to listen to my daughter describe her day to me, not least because she doesn’t have the vocabulary yet to really explain what she has been up to, so I have to interpret it from what she can tell me.

When I picked up my daughter after school, I asked her what they had learnt. Had she used cooked the jacket potato and egg she took to school with her?

Kid1 – ‘No, we didn’t have time.’

Me – ‘Why, what were you doing instead?’

Kid 1 – ‘We were cooking marshmallows on the fire. We had a long pointy thing . . . ‘ (I mentally picture a piece of wire) ‘ . . . and we stuck the marshmallow on the end and held it over the fire in the playground . . . ‘ (Cue picture of burning books surround by impish children) ‘… and the end of the pointy things kept catching fire.’ (swap picture in my mind for that of a kebab stick with marshmallow attached.

How great is that – roasting marshmallows in the middle of the day at school! Not something we ever did.

Me – ‘So what did you learn about fire?’

Kid1 – ‘You mustn’t get too close or your face will blister.’ (Ouch!)

Kid1 – ‘And we learnt how to make fire’ (Picture a class of 6 year olds rubbing sticks together or striking flints.)

Me – ‘And how do you do that?’

Kid1 – ‘Well first you need to make a wall.’ (Kids with trowels slapping cement mix onto bricks.) ‘And then you make a chimney.’ (Ok, a little confused here. Did the school actually have them working on the new extension in secret?)

Kid1 – ‘And then you take a stick and you light the chimney’

Me – ‘Hang on, you light the chimney with a stick?’

Kid1 – *exasperated tone* ‘Yes mum. You know, you use a stick with a funny brown lump on the end’.

Me – (Think like a child!) ‘You mean a match?’

Kid1 – ‘Yes, you take the match and light the chimney’

Me – ‘And what’s the chimney made of?’

Kid1 – ‘You put the sticks together, three upright and then two more next to them. And the wall is made of sticks as well.

Me – ‘OK, that sounds fun. Was it a good day then?’

Kid1 – ‘Oh yes, it was fun. Oh, and I forgot the most important part. You can’t light the fire without the crackle.

Me – ‘Crackle?’

Kid1 – ‘Yes, you know, the crackle. You need the crackle in the fire. And not the type you eat.’

Maybe I should go back to school!

Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.


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The Lost Poem of my Childhood

When I was at primary school I wrote a poem.

I can’t remember any other poems I wrote or short stories I attempted. Primary school is a bit of a blur, as I assume it is for most over thirties. The only other work I remember is a science homework where we had to think of a mnemonic for the order of the planets. My older brother had had the same homework 4 years before and my mother was not prepared to come up with a new idea, so I submitted the same homework to the same teacher as he had done before me.

My Vest Eats Muddy Jam Sandwiches Under Naughty Parrots

(Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto)

I remember writing the poem, sat in a classroom on my own. I have no idea why, unless I was in some sort of detention. I decorated the sides of the paper with an entwined pillar design. In silver pen. That I can picture clearly in my mind, because I spent so long on it.

Even then, aged 9, I felt I had written something brilliant. I don’t presume to think it was amazing by any one else’s standards, I was not a child genius. It was a masterpiece by my own standards though.

I had written a poem that made me feel strong emotions. Sad, a sense of loss, loneliness. It had a depth to it that  was intense enough that even now, whenever I think of that poem, I experience a wistfulness and need to read it again.

The sad end to this tale is that I cannot remember the poem itself.

I can remember the beginning, I recall there was staring out at the landscape. Maybe it was the sea. I think it was implied the death of his wife. But that is all that I recall, except for the feelings it engendered.

So – here is the beginning of my poem. Maybe I will write a new ending one day. Perhaps you can suggest one for me?

The old man sat in his rocking chair”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having written this post, it occurred to me to look up the words, in case I had accidentally plagiarised some published author. Interestingly, there are other poems that begin with the same line. But, they are not my poem. I don’t recognise them. So, unless I can find it in a forgotten folder somewhere in my mother’s loft with other priceless pieces of childhood work she has saved, it seems I have lost it forever.