Stepping Up

In recent years I have noticed that my parents don’t appear to be as effective with my younger siblings than they were with me and my older sister. As they’ve gotten older, they don’t seem to have instilled much respect for themselves into my younger brother and sister. They say and do things now that I would never have dared saying, and yet seem to get spoilt a lot more. Some of this might be the sour grapes of age, but my mum and dad agree with me.

Yet, there is almost nothing they can do. In my mind, some of this is down to money. My mum and dad definitely have more money now than they did when I was younger. I knew we were quite poor, so I didn’t ask for much. Now, with peer pressure being much higher now than it has been, my brother and sister are exceptionally demanding. I sometimes wonder if the rise in presents and other things they get is related to the fact that both of my parents work now (in the past, only one of them did) and so these free gifts, no strings attached, are a way of making up for a lack of attention.

The reason why I write about this now is that it’s putting me in a different situation. I disagree with what I see. Yet I am now a responsible adult (allegedly) and I feel I am beginning to take on more and more “parental” responsibility with my brother and sister. I know that they look up to me, which is a bit daunting. But I know that the pressures of modern existence, where it’s impossible to escape through mobile phones, MSN, web cams and such, really need parents to be more watchful than ever.

Yesterday, I stepped up the pressure on my brother. He was orchestrating a number of friends to go and “play football” via MSN and the phone. He never does this. Then, he was caught red-handed on MSN bragging about how he was looking forward to “the fight” and how he was going to “bang” someone. I really don’t know who he thinks he is. My brother obviously feels he has to impress people in school, yet given his featherweight qualities, I feel the only person who would have been “banged” is himself.

So it was stopped. He wasn’t allowed out. My dad was going to let him go out, despite all the evidence. It was only because my mum put her foot down that it didn’t happen. I had some cross words with my dad later on about how he’s gone far too soft. My brother stormed upstairs, tearful, but pretending all the time that he was just joking, and that they really were going to play football. In fact, the tears were because he was, alas, going to miss out on watching some kids assaulting each other for no good reason.

A few hours later, my mum and dad were out, and I was the only adult in. Cue my brother trying to sneak out, obviously thinking I’m a complete idiot. I literally watch him leave, but wait to get more evidence. Along comes a gang of his mates, all laughing and joking (including several friends who are equally shitrips themselves, but are also being carried along with this desperate need to impress their mates) … and all huddled around together. Huddled around a mobile phone. Looking at the pictures of people beating each other up. Quality entertainment.

Never mind the fact my brother was out the house, and slowly sloping away (while my sister, who was at the doorstep anyway, earwigging, but is now the provider of useful information) … he was now taking part in what is truly one of the more horrifying things in today’s society, the mobile phone photo /video culture, which is seeing the mass trivialisation of brutality, reduced to a mere spectacle to be shared openly, especially on the internet.

I had no choice but to go out the house and shout. Loudly. I roared at my brother, demanding him to come inside. I didn’t care, and still don’t, about what people may think. I don’t care about embarrasing him. I will not sit back and watch my brother slip into a world in which life is nothing but a dead-end, existed in because there is no other option.

Not content with roaring at my brother, I shouted at the little bastards, giving them a piece of my mind about what they were doing. I hope they’re shitting themselves now, because the parents of many of those there will be informed very soon (as my mum knows them) and I’m sure that they will be horrified when they find out what their precious little darlings have been up to. You can understand when bad kids and bad parents go together. But it’s far far worse when bad kids come from good parents. We all make mistakes, and I’m not writing anyone off… but when they are made, a good parent will be there to set things right again, and to explain that things like this really aren’t something to be proud of.

Kids have been doing things like this since the dawn of time. But never before has this kind of behaviour been trivialised and distributed in such a way with technology. There are real changes in society today, and the challenges they throw up are immense. It’s critical that parents keep on top of them.

As I said, I, for one, will not let my siblings go down these routes. If it means I have to “step up” to be more like a parent than a brother, then I will…

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Rest?

Tuesdays and Thursdays are my normal day of rest at the moment. Weekends tend to be fairly busy doing lots of random stuff with my family.

So today is one of those peaceful days. There’s not all that much to do, but at the same time, there is an awful lot I could be doing. The reason why I can’t though, is that they almost all revolve around my football team, which is stagnating at the moment because of the involvement of my parents.

Put simply, they are just too busy to deal with the club. I spend all my time nagging them to do this, that and the other that I’m now really fed up with it. They can’t take decisions, and when they do, they tend to go against them. Which then makes them even less likely to take decisions in the future. It’s a terrible trap to be in.

What I need to do is to find some people who want to take over the overall administration of the club. Yet that is almost impossible. I want to run it, but I don’t want to run it with my mum and dad. They don’t share my ambition to make the club larger, to make it more professional, to get Charter Standard awarded from the FA. Which is fine for them, but frustrating for me. If I could do what I wanted, I would bring in new club officials, but could leave my dad as the manager of the one team we have at the moment. That way he can just concentrate on what he wants to do. He isn’t interested or motivated in bringing people together to make everything run smoothly.

So, in theory, I could be spending my time today doing all the things that we in the club need to to get the pre-season preparations sorted. But that’s not going to happen. Instead, every time I think I’m going to get some time to sort things out, something else happens which takes my parents attention away from it. I can understand that, as they have lives to lead. But I think it’s got to a stage now where they’re going to have to accept that they just don’t have the time to do what is necessary.

Most of these distractions relate to my family, and then the extended family, who are useless at the best of times. They also like to use us a lot. My elder sister, for example, despite being 28, and living in her own home just down the road, effectively lives here with my nephew, who I see as more of a brother because of this situation. This puts enormous strain on my mum and dad. My younger brothers and sisters don’t get the attention they deserve because my mum and dad are still dealing with my sister, who is so unindependent it’s untrue. To take one example, at least once a week there will be a call at 9:50pm or thereabouts, telling my mum that the electricity has gone off because the meter has ran out of money, so can she go round to her house, pick her up, take her the shop to charge the meter up again and then take her home.

I see the strain this puts my mum and dad under, and it gets me a bit annoyed. My sister can’t look after herself. She can’t take responsibility. And if my parents try to say anything to her, she throws back an enormous level of guilt-tripping.

It’s not exactly the nicest environment to be living in. The dynamic of this family is very frustrating. As for the extended family, I would go on forever if I wittered about their annoyances.

All of this brings me to the conclusion that I always keep coming back to. Much as I like my family, I still don’t think I can live with them. I definitely do not want to live here, in this city, all my life. I either have to move elsewhere within Britain, or preferably, emigrate to another country altogether.

Rest? There’s almost no time for it when my head is always formulating different plans to enact the changes I want to see. But still the opportunity to take them is too little. I can only hope that the potential of my life is much enhanced once I have my two degrees in the bag, and am able to unlock the doors which will let me cut the ties to here.

Seems terrible to say it, but I am beginning to accept this inevitability now. There comes a point where families do very little other than impede. It’s sad after they spend all your childhood and adolescence bringing you up and making you what you are. I couldn’t have got to where I am now without them.

Yet now I realise that to get further, I need to get rid of them. What a great way of saying thanks…

The Treble

Life has a habit of moving in stages for me, and Friday was yet another demonstration of that. After waiting for months to find out what’s going on with my new house when I move back to Hull in September, I got the news at long last that I had to fill in some forms. Why it took them three months to tell me this I really don’t know. It seems that if one of my future housemates hadn’t gone in the other day to check that everything was OK, nothing would have happened. But he did so, and that got them to check their files… Now everything is sorted. Good.

Later on that day, feeling quite pleased with the progress made, I decided to send a text to the person who moved into my house in London, asking them why they hadn’t sent me my ties back after I left them there by accident. They have been there for four weeks now, and they promised me they would send them back pretty much as soon as they found them, which was just hours after I left the house. This was an awkward situation. They were doing me a favour… I can’t exactly demand they return them. But they did promise. I had already sent a reminder… so this time I had to send a rather polite but firm request. I have said that I will send them the money to cover the costs. So I sent the text, and seconds later got a reply saying “OK, no problem”. So what’s the delay? I’m still not sure that I’ll ever see my ties again, but maybe there’s now just a chance…

Less than an hour later, my phone rang. It was my former landlord… the news just in, that he had just put a cheque in the post to me sending my deposit back. £450 worth of it – the entire amount. That was really good news. I was worried that he was going to start deducting money here, there and everywhere for trivial things. But it’s all there (my housemate also got the same amount) and so my financial situation will start to look a little more healthy again. In any case, that money will go towards the new deposit on my new house, plus the first month’s rent. It’s great to be paying less than half per month than what I was in London. I won’t have to conduct quite so much penny-pinching any more… though as a student, I am, of course, obliged to be very tight-fisted anyway.

As Fridays go, it was definitely one of the better ones. This unprecedented level of “getting on with things” will no doubt mean the next few weeks are an unbearably slow period of tedium.

Meanwhile, my job in school is going really well. This time, I am just working with Year 2 pupils… and it’s really got me thinking. It is very different when you work with the younger children, but it has its own charms. This has surprised me somewhat, as I was convinced that I would only want to work with older primary school age (Key Stage 2 as it’s called). But these past few weeks have really showed me that I could work with the younger ones as well and enjoy it as much. This is excellent news for me, as working with all of the age groups is an essential part of the PGCE Primary course.

The only down side at the moment is the appalling weather. So far, I’d say this is the worst summer I can remember. We had a couple of days of warm sunshine at the start of June, and since then it’s been rain, more rain, cold wind and storms. That is set to continue. This time last year we were in the middle of a heatwave. I hate looking out the window and seeing miserable darkness… it’s supposed to be summer! There’ll be plenty of time for all this rain and coldness in the autumn and winter. We get enough of it as it is…

The Sting

While enjoying a perfectly civil game of backyard cricket the other day, as I stood in a catching position awaiting the next delivery, in a brief interlude between the frequent rain that is the British summer right now, I suddenly felt a sharp poke just below my left collar bone.

It wasn’t the greatest of pains, but it was a damn annoyance. Then, I suddenly realised that it must be connected to my brother’s protestations only a few minutes earlier that he was being chased by a wasp.

It was then I got a little flustered. Because there was no wasp to be seen. But I could Hear it. It was buzzing frantically, underneath my t-shirt. I tried as I might to get the bloody thing out, but couldn’t. So I had no choice but to remove it, which is not something I like to do in public, because such people, who strip off at the merest glimpse of sunshine, annoy the hell out of me.

I took it off and delicately lifted it up and down. Still it buzzed and refused to leave. It had obviously got quite comfortable in there. I had to turn it inside out before the bloody thing flew away, quite pleased with itself.

This was the second time I had been stung in my life. The first time was when I got stung in the mouth about six years ago. That was when I was drinking a bottle of coke, and the wasp had flown inside it. I picked up the bottle, drink from it, and felt a rather disgusting, insect shaped lump in my mouth. Then a much worse pain than the one I felt the other day just below my gum on in the inside of my top row of teeth. I spat everything out and howled in pain, and the wasp managed to fly away. I don’t know how it didn’t drown.

The common theme between these two incidents is the internal nature of them. There can’t be many people who’ve been stung inside the mouth by a wasp. But this latest incident was under my t-shirt. A long sleeved t-shirt with closed arm cuffs. That means it must have flew up the bottom of the t-shirt, and crawled up my body until it found a good spot to sting. The bastard. Most people get stung on the arms and legs, you know, exposed parts of the body. Not me.

The following night I had a dream about bees, and a woke up with the thought that there was a bee sitting on my hand, which flew away out the open window when I woke up. I even heard the buzzing sound really loud after I was awake. I managed to convince myself that it must have actually happened… yet, of course it didn’t.

I swear my brain is trying to make me scared of wasps and bees when I never have been before…

Internetted Dad

Today is Father’s Day. And don’t I know it. Having spent yesterday trudging around virtually all day trying to find something good for my dad (whose birthday is on Monday, so I had to find two presents) and failing quite miserably, I’m now in the rather sad position of having bought only a pair of trousers and a shirt. Dull presents, in other words.

It’s always nice to receive such functional presents. Socks are usually given as the obvious example, but clothing in general is the same, as is any kind of toiletries. They are good, but no one looks forward to opening them. But this year, I have failed. I pride myself on the fact that I always try to buy a really good present for my family on their relevant occasions, without resorting to tired old cliches. Something they actually want, yet doesn’t cost much.

I had a good idea for my dad, but it was on Friday, and it was on the internet. No chance of getting it here in time. Maybe I still will. But what yesterday really did bring home to me was the utter failure of the high street, and even the out of town supercentres, to deliver what it is I want. I’ve realised just how reliant I have become on the internet for shopping.

I went around ASDA George, Matalan and dozens of high street shops looking for the right shoes for my dad. He’s extremely fussy when it comes to shoes, and I’m convinced he’s been wearing the same pair for 10 years because of it. But none of them had what I wanted. Size 8, dark brown, and fairly sensible… casual, but smartish too. Yet, on the internet, I have found a pair with almost the minimal of fuss.

I never leave anything to the last minute, but yesterday I did, and have now paid the price. I don’t know what I’d do without the internet for my gift shopping now. It’s made me think – just how reliant have I become on the internet? The answer is a very high percentage, and not without justification. The pain of yesterday, the endless disappointment, the massive inconvenience, wasting seven hours of my life… that is my eternal memory of Real Life shopping. I don’t think it will ever die away for certain items, but for a lot of things, it means I can get on with doing more important things, such as firing up DOSBox and playing the ancience but wonderful PC classic “Dune” for the fiftieth time.

So, I count my chickens to be living in such a privileged age. My dad wasn’t so lucky, but he has at least caught on to it. Though there will be no way of replacing his once or twice weekly to the local Somerfield supermarket after work to buy us all a marked-down chocolate croissant/pastry of some description.

Here’s to him, and all the other great fathers out there who make life worth living. I know not everyone is so lucky, and they have my support. People find their own way around it. Not every dad is a fantastic person, but we can’t let the minority spoil it for the well-meaning large majority.

Happy Father’s Day. And I sincerely hope that one day someone may wish that to me…

In Praise of Gordon

You know things must be going well when you suddenly realise that it’s been a long time since you posted, and the only reason for that is that you’ve been so busy. Which I have.

Since my post last Tuesday, I have been extremely busy in the school helping out where I can. Which is almost everywhere at the moment as I’m working in Year 2. Year 2, with kids aged 6/7 (mostly 7 now) is quite demanding on the teachers, due to the pressures of the end of year SATs exams. They are out the way now, but they have resulted in a large amount of paperwork, which I have been helping with. Plus I’ve been doing the usual display work, and this time I’ve been helping out a lot with the additional teacher assessments, which is quite fun, but somewhat soul-destroying. It’s awful when you have one of the less-able children to ask questions to, and they get every single one of them wrong.

On top of that, on Saturday it was my nephew’s birthday, which resulted in a good celebration for all the family. We had hired out a local function room and invited as many people as we could. It went very well, and, as I helped out a lot, it was quite rewarding when it all went smoothly. It’s always good to see all the family anyway. First proper chance I’ve had since I’ve got back.

Then on Sunday it was the last match of the season for my brother’s football team. Or rather, my football team, since I am still a Club Official. We did appallingly badly, as usual, but there is a certain level of optimism about the future now, as the summer presents us with the opportunity to ring the changes. Plus, there is a genuine chance that the whole enterprise could expand in future, which is the kind of talk I like to hear. I love running this football team, and it would be my ambition in life to be involved in the administration of a very large grassroots youth football movement. I suppose it doesn’t necessarily have to be of my own making, but it’s good to at least get the experience together now. At the moment we only have one age group, but, with all of our procedures in place, there will be no reason why we couldn’t expand that.

And the top hat on everything at the moment is the weather. Which apparently is not going to last. Though it might be nice to have a brief respite as I did get sunburnt a bit on Sunday at the tournament, and it’s stinging in the strong sunshine.

So I’m quite happy, and if things carry on this way, my next post will be some months away. But I’m convinced that won’t happen. The only thing I have to moan about at the moment is the fact that I still haven’t got my ties back from the person who moved into my former house in London (after I foolishly left them hanging on my bedroom door). It’s extremely annoying, but I’m trying to push those negative thoughts away. I will have to call her…

Oh, and my new computer is excellent. Mind you, it should be, the money it cost. Well, I guess it was time for a little reward… though since it’s come out of my student loan I’m only going to pay it back in future. With interest. Thanks, Gordon.

Cursed #2

This morning, on the day I’m about to start working in the local school again, I have woken up with a big puffed up eyelid over my left eye.

I cannot believe the appalling timing. Just when things were slowly working themselves out (though I am still waiting for a pathetic eBay seller to send an item I bought last Tuesday) this kind of nonsense happens. Working with kids, some of the world’s biggest critics, it is not ideal to give them ammunition. Of course, nobody’s perfect, but if it makes you look like you’ve gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson it seems like an avoidable position to be in.

I can only hope that it goes away during the day. It already feels slightly less bulging now but that might just be because I’m getting used to the weird sensation above my left eye. I’ve put an ice cube on it but it’s not doing enough quickly enough.

Annoying.