Constipated goldfish and suidical shrimp

Up until a couple of months ago, I had no idea that keeping fish was such an emotionally draining experience – or that it would involve such a large chunk of every weekend.

Gone are the days when goldfish were given out in sandwich bags at the local fair. Now it’s all swanky tanks with fitted pumps, fancy (a.k.a pricey) breeds and a bigger assortment of cleaning paraphernalia than currently resides under my kitchen sink. And don’t get me started on the paperwork. I do believe there’s more legal documentation to fill in when purchasing a fish than there is to bring a human child into the world.

When buying one itty-bitty little fish, I was quizzed on the size of the tank, how many other fish resided in it, how many plants were in situ and how well-established and stable the living environment would be for the new arrival. When I left the hospital with my new-born babies, I don’t recall needing proof of anything other than a car seat. No one asked me whether I had a safe, secure and child-friendly environment to return to, or how many other mouths there were to feed and whether could I afford to maintain another.

It says much about society today I think when you need to prove you’re a responsible adult to purchase a fish, but any half-baked, under-age moron can pop out a child. Anyway, back to the drama of keeping fish.

My first experience back in the 80’s was a relatively stress-free affair. It consisted of a plastic fish tank, a few bit of coral and Dempsey and Makepeace (Versions 1, 2 and 3). The only drama that I can recall is the day Dempsey 2 leapt out of the tank and landed between the pages of a nearby book. Which promptly slammed shut. After much searching, many tears and shrieking accusations of theft (aimed at my sister), Dempsey 2 was later found – ever so slightly flattened – and returned to the tank.

He struggled on for a few more hours, swimming in ever decreasing circles before finally gasping his last breath. A few tears later and he was given the customary sendoff. He was flushed and then quickly replaced. Yes, it’s a brutal life being a fish.

A coupe of years ago it was decided my daughter was ready to have her own fishy friend, and so, amidst great excitement, she was taken along to choose two new members of the family. If I’m honest I didn’t hold out much hope for the long-term survival of Hermione (that’s her on the right) and Ron.

On some days they were starved and on others massively overfed; often they could barely see through the glass (I swear I once saw Ron trying to wipe it with his fin) and often the filter was turned off at night as it proved too noisy for a goodnight sleep.

But what do you know, despite being moved from house to house in 2 inches of water and continually having their tank covered with dustsheets while we renovated and painted around them, they held in there and are still going strong.

With them now taking up residence in the kitchen,  it was decided that the ‘Nemo’ themed tank (complete with glass pebbles and a garish grinning plastic fish) was quite frankly hideous – and now resembling something akin to a limescale encrusted swamp –  and it was definitely time to move Hermione and Ron up the property ladder and into a bigger home. Preferably one with a classier line of décor and uninterrupted views of kitchen life.

An open-topped Fluval Chi tank was duly bought and installed. With its neutral colour scheme and bubbling waterfall feature it was certainly an improvement. I think the design is meant to improve the Feng Shui of our home, though from my limited knowledge of the subject I’m fairly certain that having a large collection of razor-sharp knives stuck to the opposite wall might just have cancelled out any benefits gained.

As Hermione and Ron were more than happy with their new abode, it seemed only fair that my son should have his own fish too. So back we went to Pets at Home and, using his Easter money from Grandma, he selected Voldemort. Now he had seemed like quite a perky little fish in the shop, but sadly it was just not meant to be. Just one week later and we came home to find him floating upside down.

I did try to keep my son from spotting him, but I wasn’t quite quick enough. And so followed the inevitable tears, explanation of death and reassurance that he must have already been sick – as opposed to my sons deeply held belief that the other two had ganged up on him and cruelly starved him to death.

So back to the shop we went (dead fish and receipt in hand) and Voldemort 2 was promptly chosen. We also decided to throw caution to the wind and purchase a couple of shrimps to join the crew, in the hope they could make themselves useful and  keep on top of the additional poo.

fdyj

fdyj

Another week went past and we noticed that Voldemort 2 was now spending the majority of his days bobbing around at the surface. As try as he might he simply couldn’t swim down, and every time he did he immediately shot up again and then lolled against the side of the tank. So once again – given that we obviously had nothing better to do with our weekends – we loaded the fish into a plastic yogurt pot, prepared his owner for a second consecutive loss and headed back to Pets at Home. Feeling rather embarrassed to be working our way through their stock so fast, we handed over the now motionless fish for a diagnosis.

Well it turns out Voldemort 2 wasn’t at death’s door after all, he was merely constipated. Who knew? There was us about to flush the little bugger down the toilet and all he needed was to relieve the load.  It certainly explained the bobbing to the surface and all that rolling around with a pained look on his face – he was basically puffed up with wind.

The solution to a gassy goldfish – should you be interested – is all in the diet. Too many flakes will do this to a fish apparently. So we returned to the car and happily informed our waiting son that his fishy friend had indeed returned from the dead. He declared that Voldemort 2 had obviously used his superior magic powers to survive a vicious and attack from Hermione and Ron.

I’m pleased to say that one block of blood worms later and Voldemort 2 was several ounces lighter and capable of swimming down; he’s never looked back since.

Sadly the same can not be said for the shrimp. The very same week we realised that both had vanished without trace. It was confirmed in the pet shop (a place I was by now quite clearly spending far too much of my time) that shrimp like to leap, and had therefore quite possibly ended up on the kitchen floor – and as a doggy hors d’oeuvre. It goes without saying their cost was refunded. Well, they were pricey little things to start with and the sales girl (so we were told) should have never have released them to such a certain death.

Low and behold, when cleaning the tank a few weeks later both shrimp were spotted alive and kicking. They’d simply been hiding away in the fake plant and obviously so consumed with their designated job as toilet attendants, they hadn’t even had a chance to come up for a breath. I’d like to say that brings the whole story to a nice happy end. But alas, in this death trap of a house it wasn’t to be.

While I getting ready for work just one week later, my daughter brought up the empty pot that sat on the floor beside the tank. And there, curled up in the bottom was one crispy kamikaze shrimp. The whereabouts of the other one remained something of a mystery right up until the day I decided to wash the sofa covers.

Upon pulling the 4-seater away from the wall, what should I see on the floor but the missing scuttling critter. Quite how he had summoned up the energy to leap from the tank in the kitchen, make it into the living room, across a deep pile rug and behind all that heavy sofa fabric I have absolutely no idea. Perhaps the dog was in hot pursuit at the time.

I’m pleased to report that to date,  all 3 surviving members of the fish tank are still alive, happy and completely intact.

The blood worms (given on alternate days with flakes and pellets) are keeping them regular and none are showing any suicidal tendencies or even attempting an escape.

Now if only the same could be said of the other tank of tropical fish…

Eat, drink and be merry (and fat)

What is it about the holidays and the Season of Goodwill that makes us all eat like pigs?

There’s certainly no other time of year when it’s considered not only acceptable but practically ones civic duty to fill your cupboards with box after box of mince pies, fruit cakes so heavy they could sink a battleship and puddings so dense they need to be doused in alcohol and set on fire before eating. There’s certainly no other time of the year when you feel the need to keep 8 different types of cheese in the fridge – 4 of which contain an unidentified fruit and 1 which looks like it belongs in a Petri dish.

And as for the cream. We had nearly 3 pints of the stuff in our fridge over Christmas period. 3 pints? As if, under normal circumstances, we’d even attempt to plough our way through 1. And let’s not forget the chocolate. The stuff we try to ignore, avoid, limit throughout the rest of the year. Come Christmas morning it’s wall-to-wall cocoa beans and anything in a wrapper is suddenly considered fair game – not to mention an essential food group.

And then there’s the bird. The hero of the day and the most expensive slice of dry, tasteless meat that will ever grace your plate.

Our turkey this year led a happy and carefree existence roaming around the Norfolk countryside – or so I’d like to believe, if for no other reason than  to justify the extortionate cost of the thing feather for feather. Hell, for that price I hope the bird had its own luxury living quarters and a personal masseuse right up until the day it lost its head and giblets.

Having selflessly fulfilled its purpose in life, it met its maker on a nearby farm and arrived here in its own fancy cardboard box on Christmas Eve. Weighing in at roughly the same as my Mini Cooper, this gigantic fowl required some major re-jigging of the fridge space and an hour of patient tweezering on my part. As ‘Hollywoods’ go, it certainly wasn’t given a very thorough one I have to say.

And so, with enough food in to see us through until Easter, the Big Day was upon us. As with countless other families around the world, we sat down to a lavish breakfast the size of lunch before spending the rest of the morning cooking enough lunch to feed the Armed Forces. That’s an awful lot of peeling, cutting, boiling, blanching, stuffing, roasting, basting and burning for a morning, especially one that started with a 4 on the clock. And of course there was also the banging headache to contend with, the one that came as a direct result of drinking alcohol with breakfast. No other day would it seem to make perfect sense to start drinking before preparing the mother of all roasts.

This year it has to be said that all went pretty much to plan in our house – unlike C Day in 2009 when spitting fat went into overdrive, the oven burst into flames and the turkey was practically cremated on the spot. The only minor mishap this year was something of a basting affair. My husband, who with the stronger arms was in charge of the turkey, was in the midst of removing our enormous specimen from the depths of the furnace, when somehow he managed to tip the liquid contents of the roasting dish all over his feet.

Now I have to admit my first thoughts were not of his burnt trotters – now covered in sizzling fluid and singed toe hair – they were of our lunch, which was now hanging onto the edge of the roasting tray by a crispy wingtip and threatening to throw itself onto the floor. With visions of the thing skidding across the laminate and under the dusty base unit (as has happened in the distant past), ‘practicality’ came into force well before any thoughts of concern or sympathy. So next to the open oven my husband was forced to stand, teeth gritted while bird and basting fluids were saved, rearranged and returned to continue cooking – or, as in the case of turkey, drying out.

Disaster avoided he (husband not turkey) was finally allowed to sprint upstairs to cool down his skin and change his clothes. Still, no long-term damage done really, and on the upside, at least his feet are now as soft, smooth and hair free as a baby’s bottom.

So now that Christmas has come and gone, what’s become of all that food? Well that’s the worst bloody part. Not only did we feel somehow guilted into buying far more than we needed or could ever possibly consume, but having been brought up to believe wasting food is practically a criminal act, we simply couldn’t bring ourselves to throw any of it away.

So we ate the lot. Less a pint of cream and half a box of chocolates I surreptitiously slipped into a departing relatives bag.

And that’s how we waddled into January. Feeling fat, fed up and somewhat horrified at the vast quantities we’d worked our way through. My backside has expanded, my jeans are tighter and my stomach looks like one of those ‘before’ shots for a Z-listers ‘Post Baby’ fitness DVD. And it’s this feeling, I believe, that explains much of why the first 2 months of the years are generally considered the more depressing of the 12. It’s got nothing to do with Post Christmas Blues, having to go back to work or the cold weather. It’s all about the impending diet and realising that unless we get our wobbly arse into lycra and gear, there’s not a hope in hell of looking half way decent in anything less than a burka once the summer rolls around.

So yes, it’s definitely time to ignore the sugar craving and start an industrial scale detox, not to mention resist those last few chocolates still floating around the house. Yesterday I admit I had a minor relapse when I quickly shoveled in a small piece of cake as I walked past. To get rid of the rest, I put the last 2 pieces on the kids plate for tea.

“We can’t eat this,” they shrieked in disgust, “it’s all mouldy underneath.”

That was all my stomach needed to hear. My diet had begun.

A seasick spoodle on the Norfolk Broads

Having lived within a stones throw of the Norfolk Broads for a year and not ventured down there,  we decided at the end  of the school holidays to throw caution to the wind and turn our hand to sailing. When I say ‘sailing’ I do of course mean rent a small boat and trundle along the river at 5 mph, but in our rather nautically-challenged family, that’s as close to proper sailing as we’re ever likely to get.

Not wanting to leave Charlie at home alone for the day he was duly packed into the car along with far too many sandwiches, a flask of green tea, 4 large bottles of water, a bird book, binoculars, a picnic rug, spare jumpers and several rain coats. I think subconsciously I was preparing for all possible worse case scenarios, including being swept away in a freak squall and left stranded far from civilisation on a floating polar ice cap. Surrounded by a flock of incredibly tiny unidentifiable birds.

Considering the average temperature last summer just about managed to reach ‘tepid degrees’, it was rather lucky for us that the day in question turned out to be the hottest we’d had since Spring. Perfect weather for messing about the river in fact, but rather too hot (as we soon found out) for four people dressed to keep warm with just one child-sized sun hat between them.

Arriving at the river we discovered one rather unsettling fact about sailing on the Broads: they really will hire out a boat to just about anyone who turns up and pays. Including, it appears, a family with not one ounce of river-going know-how between them. How scary for the water fowl indeed.

We looked nervous when approaching the boat, clueless when it came to mastering the controls and positively panic-stricken when untied and told we were free to go.  In fact, I believe our last words to the man in charge were “But what happens if we hit something?”  Of course he laughed.  Fool, little did he know.

Once we’d successfully navigated our way out through the waterways and onto the river we were relieved to find that steering a boat is much like riding a bike. My son donned his full pirate outfit within minutes of setting off and both kids were in their element as they took it in turns at the wheel. The final member of our party however wasn’t quite so happy; he was clearly having difficulty finding his sea legs. This does of course raise the question of why old sailors are often referred to as ‘Sea Dogs’.

Having been incredibly tentative about setting a paw onboard, Charlie became even less enamoured with the whole idea as we headed off down river. He whined at the passing boats, barked at every passing duck and positively howled when a swan dared flap nearby. And then, as if to really drive his point home, he pooed all over the floor. In lots of little brown, liquidity puddles. It’s amazing how fast doggy diarrhoea spreads when travelling across an uneven surface. And how much it smells when out in the fresh air. And how many wet wipes are required to mop up the mess.

Feeling rather sorry for himself (and possibly embarrassed) pooch took himself off to the back of the boat, laid on the cushion and peered rather gloomily over into the water. Every so often he looked our way with a hangdog expression that clearly said: ‘I didn’t ask to be brought along on this bloody boat you know’.

Forward onto the return journey – after a semi-successful mooring for lunch and the only sun hat somehow making its way into the water – and all seemed to be going fine. So fine in fact that my daughter was now in charge of steering the boat and both responsible adults were sat at the back, feet up, admiring the view and drinking a cup of tea.

Well when I say all was fine, I mean except for that small incident when my husband’s (very expensive) sunglasses somehow took it upon themselves to leap from his face, onto the canvas awning and into the murky depths of the river. I would have been more surprised at this rather unfortunate happening, but the memory of him managing to dropping our camera (with a weeks worth of holiday snaps) into Sydney Harbour the last time we were on water is still fairly fresh in my mind.

Approaching the narrowing waterways as we came into land/park/moor up my husband thought it wise to take control of the boat, so he sent my daughter back to sit with the sea-sick dog. Suddenly Charlie’s bowels opened more, this time all over the cushion, and then, as he was pushed off that, all over the floor of the boat. He then skidded around in it a bit and tried to clamber back on the cushion, trailing the mess from all 4 paws and a rather matted, manky looking tail.

This led to a rather rapid chain of events that involved my daughter letting out a squeal of horror and disgust, my husband turning around to see what the hell was going on, the boat banging straight into the side of the riverbank, me flying backwards inside of the cabin and my son falling head first off the seat. It wasn’t the best 15 seconds of the trip it has to be said.

It took a fair few minutes to take stock, mop up, scrub the dog and rectify the damage – all with the few remaining wet wipes. It took quite a few minutes more before my husband managed to prise our boat off the wall … and straight into the path of another, much larger boat that was speeding towards us on our side of the river. To say it got a little bit tense would be an understatement, especially when I didn’t immediately offer to throw myself over the edge of the boat to push us off the wall. Something to do with the fact I was still up to my wrists in poo perhaps.

By the time we limped into our mooring space the owner was already there waiting and the next family were ready to hop on board with their picnic. I’m rather hoping they never noticed the rather suspicious looking stain on the underside of the cushion, or the multiple bags of liquid mess I was holding as I clambered off. I’m pretty sure however (based on the fact they were busy mopping out the boat) that they did notice us hanging around the car park for another 2o minutes, as Charlie continued to drip out his business from one patch of grass to the next. And then throw up all over the nice (new) leather seats when he was finally loaded into the car.

All in all it was a great day out. Slighty messy and rather smelly, but fun nevertheless. Look forward to doing the same again next year, though it obviously goes without saying we’ll be leaving Charlie at home on dry land and I’ll be in charge of the wheel when we’re coming in to dock the boat.

xgf

After 10 long years I’m finally in heat

I know some people simply don’t have the time for the likes of Heat magazine. In fact, they’ll make a great show of haughtily flapping their broadsheets right in your face and declaring that your IQ is bound to have dropped several points just by picking it off the shelf.

I’m not one of those people, I love Heat. Don’t know why, I just do.

Admittedly it may not have the editorial content of The Independent, or offer an in-depth analysis of world events – much beyond weight gain, wardrobe malfunctions and celebrities who can’t make up their mind who to date. But that’s the whole point of a magazine like this.

It isn’t meant to replace ‘The News at 10’ or ‘Question Time’ and it never claims to help improve your exam results or boost your earning power. Rather, it’s half an hour of total escapism every week – and, if we’re all honest, an opportunity to reassure ourselves that those celebrities who ‘have it all’ often don’t.

Because, whilst the average reader may not have the fame, fortune or enviable shoe collection of most of the people featured week after week, at least us unknown, relatively broke, Louboutin-less readers are safe in the knowledge that we won’t be photographed nipping out to Tesco in our ill-fitting tracksuits, with hair that looks like an unwashed birds nest and eye bags down to our cheekbones. And we won’t make the headlines when we meet, marry and divorce in the time it takes a normal person to draw breath. And we won’t cause a national panic because we lost a bit of weight, or god forbid, ate too much for lunch.

So I reckon that magazines such as these actually work as a rather handy and incredibly cheap form of therapy for Joe Public. They give you a glimpse into the sort of lifestyles most could never hope to afford – unless your mum was a Rolling Stone groupie and you’ve just found out you can move like Jagger – and then show you that the grass isn’t always greener in La La land.

And it’s for that reason – and the handy TV guide – that I have been buying Heat since Issue 1. Now, 12 or so years on, having produced 2 children, lived in 3 continents and survived one life crisis after another, I’ve carried on buying it every week. And yes, I still have a go at my husband if he dares flick through it before I’ve read it cover to cover.

Granted, I often feel like I’m on the wrong side of 30 for the fashion spread and technically I guess I’m also old enough to have given birth to some of the Torsos of the Week, but what the hell. All those years of trivia and escapism haven’t done me any noticeable harm and I’m pretty sure my IQ hasn’t diminished over the last decade – and if it has, I’ll put that down to having children.

So all of that said, it would be something of an understatement to say I was a tad excited to open Heat this week and see I’d finally won Letter of the Week – I think I might actually have let out a squeal. So overcome was I with shock that I immediately had to call my husband (who totally understood my joy) and my sister, who initially thought I’d won the lottery.

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It’s a funny thing that after all these years of writing, having published a book, kept countless clients happy with copy and received fairly respectable hits on my blog, it’s having a letter printed in Heat that really makes my day. And winning the prize of course…

Now not that my 25.5 seconds of fame have gone to my head, but just in case a member of the paparazzi has driven down the A11 by mistake and is currently ambling around rural Norfolk looking for a way back to civilisation, I think perhaps I’ll make the effort to brush my hair before doing the school run later today.

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Do record GCSE results mean kids are getting cleverer?

All morning news has been coming in that it’s been yet another record-breaking year for GCSE results. In fact, the pass rate has risen for the 24th consecutive year since the exams were first taken in 1988. Why does that not come as a surprise?

No disrespect to all those happy teenagers (mainly girls it seems) who are currently basking in the glow of their multiple A* passes, but these ever-improving grades simply show that surely exams must have got easier over the last couple of decades. It’s either that or kids are getting brighter year-on-year, and let’s be honest, why would that be very likely.

You only have to hear many of them speak – or not, as the case may be – to know that this is not a generation where all teenagers come with a staggering IQ or an unusually high grasp on politics, current affairs, the English language, history, world geography or even basic common sense. But this is hardly surprising.

Generation Y is one that has grown up with a rather unhealthy obsession towards body size, fame, fashion and endless low-life celebrities. It’s a generation who seems to believe that 5 minutes of fame on the TV or a few hits on YouTube will automatically equate to a gilded life free from work. It’s a generation who spend 99% of their time physically attached to a mobile or laptop and experience genuine withdrawal symptoms if unable to access Twitter or check their Facebook feed. It’s a generation who have all but obliterated good grammar and basic spelling from the English language, just to ensure it’s quicker and easier to text.

So when those in charge of all things ‘education and exams’ rubbish claims that exam questions are being dumbed down and expectations lowered, or in the case of  Andy Burnham – Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary – claim that “Exams are not getting easier; young people are working harder than ever before” you know it’s all a load of tosh.

Go back 20 years and those sitting GCSEs – the incredibly smart kids included – simply weren’t achieving the ‘record breaking’ 13 A* grades that so many now seem to get. So does that mean we were all dimmer back then or just didn’t try quite so hard? Hardly. If anything we had far more time on our hands to get the work done and a lot more motivation to pass.

We were a generation without celebrity lifestyles to emulate and affordable fashion to religiously follow. We were a generation without mobiles, computers, social networking and trash TV. We were a generation who knew that the only realistic way to earn any money once leaving school was through plain hard work.

And on top of all that, the subjects that we had to study were restricted to the traditional (harder) academic ones such as foreign languages, science and humanities. Of course we may not have actually enjoyed these subjects we were forced to choose from but at least we all covered the basics: the monarchy that shaped this country; the wars which changed the world; the geological forces that formed the planet; the human biology that keeps us reproducing; and those all essential language skills which enable us to ask directions to the nearest railway station when lost in La Rochelle.

Today students are turning their backs on these subjects. Why? Because they find them ‘boring’ and ‘completely irrelevant’. The truth is they also find them a little bit too much like hard work. After all, why waste your time learning about rivers and volcanoes or trying to memorise the periodic table when instead you can pass the time getting better grades in music, drama and P.E? Nothing against those subjects I hasten to add, but at school we covered them in addition to our other lessons, we didn’t plump for an ‘A’ in recorder and a ‘B’ in advanced trampoline.

Of course those in charge of ‘education and exams’ will once again claim these vocational subjects are more geared up to the job market today. But how can it be better to miss out on so much? If students aren’t learning a broad range of subjects at this age how can they possibly emerge into the workplace with a well-rounded education?

Surely that’s the whole point of school isn’t it? As far as I was aware, all those years spent stuck behind a desk were never intended to be a walk in the park or as enjoyable as a day out at Alton Towers. School was meant to be a place where children filled their sponge-like minds with as much information about as many things as possible, not to mention learn that sometimes in life you just have to do things you don’t always enjoy. But obviously I’m well out of touch with the whole point of  education today.

Yes it’s true that I’ve probably forgotten all of the German and much of the French I learned, and I’m sure I probably yawned my way through 100’s of years worth of mind-numbing historical facts. I certainly hated chemistry with a passion and maths sure as hell hated me. But regardless of that, or whether any of it has been relevant to my adult life, I still had the opportunity to find out a little bit about everything.

So it does seem a great shame that traditional subjects such as English, history, geography and science are being ‘dumbed down’ and so many schools are not even offering core subjects anymore, let alone encouraging students to give them a go? Because let’s be honest, there’s no point studying drama, media studies or sociology at GCSE level if, when you then open your mouth as an adult, you have absolutely nothing of interest to say – or think that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1966 and Asia is a small island located off the south of France.

Obviously there’s no disputing there are countless students who worked like demons and deserved the high grades they received. Or the exceptional clever clogs who passed maths at the age of 6. Or the many great schools which produce brilliant results. But what about the others – the majority that make up the rest of the exam entrants?

There are 10’s of 1000’s of kids who don’t bother listening in class and plenty more who don’t bother showing up until the day of the exam? There are kids who, through no lack of effort on their part, just don’t make the grade. And let’s not forget the huge numbers of badly performing schools which apparently produce consistently poor results year after year?

If GSCEs really are as tough as ever how on earth is it possible for nearly a quarter of all girls sitting exams this year to have been awarded an A, not to mention the 1 in 12 who are also expected to also earn a coveted A*? Doesn’t really add up to me, especially when the average exam-sitting teenager I come across these days seems more interested in straightening their hair, updating Face Book and completing a 140 syllable tweet.

Hopefully next year things will change as the Government look to introduce the English Baccalaureate – a school ‘leaving certificate’ that rewards children for gaining at least a C grade in the five disciplines  of English, mathematics, science, foreign languages and humanities.

The bite-sized modules that pupils can re-sit to boost their overall grades in favour of traditional end-of-course exams will also be abolished and, more worrying for pupils who live to text, those taking English language and literature will now be penalised by as much as 12% for the grammatical errors they make.

My grammar probably isn’t what it should be, but here’s a couple of helpful hints for those currently ploughing their way through endless poetry or The Catcher in The Rye: ‘8’ (as in gr8 or h8) is not an acceptable replacement for any vowel and writing ‘bcoz’ probably won’t win you any brownie points.

sdgsd

Celebrity? Big Brother

So it’s started again. I know because I heard the music, saw the eye and clocked a couple of people stumbling down a platform towards the cameras. Right after that my husband came into the room with a cup of tea, gave me something of a withering look (edged with a hint of thinly veiled desperation) and said “No, really, you can’t make me watch this.”

So the channel was changed and an ancient episode of Brothers and Sisters was put on as a compromise. But Hubby is away this evening so I had a chance to check in and at least see who has been shoved into the house of horrors this year.

From what I can gather there are as follows: 2 women who are famous because of their (ex and probably soon to be) husbands, teenage twins who lost a singing competition because, well, they couldn’t sing; a model that nobody’s heard of; an actor still in nappies; a man with a hairdo like a cockatoo; a gypsy who speaks a whole other language; an ‘actress’ better known for her bodged surgery; an Essex girl famous for being incredibly thick; and last, and most definitely least, a past-it, celebrity obsessed, bankrupt recovering drug addict who spends more time hounding the press for attention than they do her.

So with that lot clogging up the screen – albeit on Channel 5 – for 3 weeks, it really only leaves one thing to say. Isn’t it a bit of a misdescription to call the show Celebrity Big Brother?

I mean I like crap TV as much as the next, but..

gsgs

Help! Police! I’ve been told to tidy my room.

It’s all happening with 11-year-old kids this week isn’t it. Over here in the UK we’ve got a girl being prosecuted for rioting and looting and in Germany, a boy calling a police emergency line and complaining he was being subjected to “forced labour” at home.

So what of this poor little lamb? Did his mother have him scrubbing floors at midnight? Force him to wash dishes from dusk to dawn? Shoe-horn him up a chimney with a brush between his teeth? No. She asked him to pick up paper from the floor. God forbid, imagine if she’d also asked him to pick up his toys.

As the boy stood there phone in hand, bleating to the officer that he had to “work all day long” and didn’t have any “free time”,  you can only imagine his mother’s reaction when she realised he’d actually carried out his childish threat to call up and complain. I can just picture her face – total disbelief, quickly followed by shock, fury at the stupidity of her son and finally horror at how it might all end.

In fact, instead of being made to just stand there and listen, her face the colour of an over ripe plum and steam pouring from her ears, I’m sure she could quite easily of grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and hauled him off to sit on a naughty step for 24 hours. Or, heaven forbid, clipped him around the head and read him the riot act for being so dumb. Obviously she’d have quickly realised that either of those tactics wouldn’t have helped matters much, as then he’d only have added child abuse to the complaint.

Thank god common sense for once prevailed. The officer in question asked the boy if he even knew what ‘forced labour’ meant – apparently the boy claimed he did – and then requested to speak to his mother. Her explanation would make parents all round the world roll their eyes in empathy.

“He plays all day long and when told to tidy up what he’s done, he calls it forced labour.”

It does make me wonder how this scenario might have ended in this country though, at a time when some children obviously need far more discipline than they’re getting, but many parents are too scared to lay down the law – for fear of getting on the wrong side of it themselves.

Chances are it may well have played out like this: the police would have taken the complaint seriously, social workers would have been called in, the child would be taken into care and the mother who dared to try to teach her child the importance of keeping the floor paper free? She’d have received a criminal record, lost her job, her home and the rights to her son.

asad