Sunday 27 April 2014

Fez fuss and tassel hassle

I'm sure it all seems like a great idea, when you're a primary school teacher. You want to have a lovely event for the children, in which they all dress up, and so you think of something relatively simple which they can all wear and which can be made at home. It will fire their creativity, promote a sense of shared artistic endeavour, get them bonding with their parents as they lovingly work together. So you fire off a quick email to the parents, instructing them to make (I quote) "a simple homemade fez" at the weekend. Just to make sure no-one ignores this, you add the line "the children will feel sad if they do not have a fez." Just for good measure, you add "do not forget the tassel, as we want tassels to swirl when all the children dance."

Teachers, do you just want to stop for one minute and imagine the parent's reaction whent they open this email, at 4pm on a Thursday afternoon? Do you suppose they're going to crack a benevolent smile, picturing the heart-melting sight of their darling child in an adorable homemade fez dancing around, tassel swirling? Or are they instead going to think: where the hell am I going to get the materials for making a fez, complete with tassel, tomorrow and fit it into an other-wise busy weekend?

Now, I am lucky in that Friday is my day off work, so as it happens (having already polled friends on Facebook about how to create a fez) I DID have time to go to an art shop and buy some red art foam and red card. Several people had suggested a plant pot, but I was a little worried about Littleboy 2 dancing with a plant pot (even a plastic one) on his head.

The tassel has proved more problematic.  I don't happen to live near a haberdashery shop, and I don't (as suggested by Facebook friends) have any old curtains or dressing gowns hanging about the house with tassels on them. This is what happens when you are renting your third house in five years (which happens to have modern drapes, not curtains) and have ruthlessly thrown out anything old. I have looked in various charity shops/homewares over the course of the weekend but whenever I asked the shopkeepers if they by any chance had a small tassel, they just looked at me as if I was slightly bonkers. Unless we can obtain one in the next 24 hours, it will have to be small strips of cut out foam tied together (Littleboy 1's idea). Not exactly swirly, but better than nothing.

 Can I just add here that we also spent the whole of Saturday afternoon visiting, and taking photographs of, St Paul's cathedral, for Littleboy 1's school project?  So that's a good half of the weekend taken up by homework-related projects. I'm just glad we didn't have any massively exciting social engagements this weekend, and that I'm not also a doctor who's on call (as my husband was this weekend, therefore neatly excusing him from any fez-related activity).

 I am going to be looking closely at the fezzes when the boys turn up for school on Tuesday morning. I simply defy anyone to have spend the whole weekend making a really good one, but I am sure there will be some, made by alpha parents that could not bear for their child to turn up with a slightly rubbish fez.

Ours is, I admit, slightly rubbish, but hey, it was genuinely home-made by me and my child. I could have tried to buy one, in Brixton market, but that would have been cheating I suppose. So that's "all good" (as Ian Fletcher in the marvellous BBC comedy W1A would say). And, well I guess I have to thank the teacher for supplying me with good material for a blog post....

Friday 25 April 2014

Questions my children have asked in the past few days...*

1. What is a "spare room"? (no idea why they asked this, we have had a spare room for several years and referred to it as such).

2. What is the "rush hour"?

3. If you have three thousand pounds, are you rich?

4. Why do exams make you do the answers in a few hours? Why can't you have all day?

And the funniest one, rather loudly in church on Easter Sunday (yes I know, a rare circumstance in this family):
"Is the (communion) wine good?"

*Usually, either at bedtime (delaying tactics) or when I'm trying to board a train or park the car.

Saturday 19 April 2014

French ski-ing revisited

Me and my boys, on top of the world
We've just returned from a ski-ing holiday in the Southern French Alps. 10 days in the resort where I learned to ski, and where The Doctor has skied since he was 10 (with a stopover on the way in Les Gets, where an old school friend has a chalet -- a chance to see how the other half, i.e those who have hedge fund manager husbands, live).

Being back in France after an absence of five years was fabulous; the food, the scenery, the cheese, the cheese (yes, I really need to go on a diet now). Having holidayed in the US and Canada for the past few years, at last the Littleboys got to see that people don't all speak English, and had an opportunity to practise some French, which they started learning at school last September. We had been slightly concerned that while Littleboy 2 was happily coming home and addressing me as "Maman" in a perfect little French accent, his older brother hadn't appeared to pick up a single word, so I was determined that he should learn. In a fit of enthusiasm, they insisted we buy an AA Kids' Phrasebook at the Eurotunnel shop, and proceeded to fight over who got to look at it for the next 48 hours (before they lost interest). Two weeks later, and I think Littleboy 1 knows just a few more words - including "frites", "je deteste", "bonjour" and "au revoir". But it's a start.

The ski-ing itself was very different from our last visit to the Alps five years ago. Then, we were encumbered by a three year old who cried every morning when we took him to ski school, and a baby who spent his mornings in the creche while we frantically skied for three hours and zoomed back to reclaim both of them. In Vermont, things were different again as they were in a very child-friendly ski camp all day, leaving us to potter around in a relaxed fashion (while trying not to freeze to death). No longer. We now have two rather intrepid, and frankly quite scary, young skiers on our hands.

The boys' ability to get down a mountain improved enormously during the fortnight. Two years of good American ski school clearly did the groundwork -- all it took was a couple of morning sessions with a decent instructor, and they were shooting around (although wiping out rather often). This meant they could ski with us all day, and go anywhere we wanted to go (we even managed a black run en famille, something I would usually avoid at all costs but I was determined not to be the only family member not to attempt it. For those that are interested, my own ski-ing was thankfully OK despite the pain condition - I just swallowed painkillers and somehow, concentrating on getting down the slopes took my mind off things, and it was really no more painful than walking down the street).

Our sons also joined us for picnics, meals at mountain restaurants, and various drinks pitstops (where they downed hot chocolate and lemonade, and looked disapprovingly at us if we ordered a vin chaud). These little breaks were not always very restful, as Littleboy 1 would usually put his skis back on and look ready to go after about five minutes of recharging, but it was a bit more like the springtime ski-ing I remember. It was also a welcome break from worrying about house buying/selling - having sold our own house the night before we left, we began the holiday fretting about phone calls from estate agents but ended it by hardly thinking about them at all. The sun beat down the entire week, but the snow stayed good to the end, and not once did anyone worry about being cold.

Other memorable moments included listening to the entire first two Harry Potter books, read by Stephen Fry, as we sped down the French autoroute; Littleboy 2 throwing up on an Alpine pass (renderng our car smelling of vomit for the entire 7 hours of driving we had left that day); teaching both boys to play Scrabble in the flat, and having many chairlift conversations with Littleboy 2 about how one becomes an author (his latest plan) and with Littleboy 1 about characters from The Hobbit.

As the Littleboys become older, I increasingly often have moments of nostalgia where I remember how they were as little ones, and wish I could slow time down. But this holiday wasn't an example of that at all. Some things defintitely improve with age - and a family ski-ing holiday is one of them.