Being the beginning of the new school year, education is where it's all at last week and this.
Last Monday we took middle son to look at the University of Essex. Very sensibly, he doesn't want his parents tagging along, so I got dropped off at the nearest bit of river and spent a very happy couple of hours walking around an old village, marvelling at the hideously out-of-place nature of the new riverfront "apartments" and finally, sitting quietly watching the tide coming in from my seat on a pub terrace.
On Wednesday we did last-minute shopping and trying-on of school uniform and PE kit. To my great joy, that's the last time I will have to go through this extremely tedious exercise. If the youngest one stays on next year he'll be in Sixth Form, which requires a business suit rather than school trousers and a blazer, and they don't have to do PE. So I will be able to get rid of all the uniform items I've been hanging onto for spares etc.
On Thursday middle and youngest went back to school. I spent far longer than I had planned on the phone to insurance companies sorting out cover for eldest son's possessions on the journey and in his new house, given that our buildings and contents company wasn't interested. Trust us to be insured with apparently the only company in the UK that treats a student going back to uni as "moving to a new home" and thus not covered in transit, while all the others treat them as "travelling to temporary termtime address" and definitely covered in transit.
I then spent the rest of the day packing up oldest son's kitchen stuff, crockery, pans, food, and all his towels etc and termtime bedding, while he packed up his clothes and all his bits and pieces. With some trepidation - because it often goes wrong - I decided to get organised, and wrote a list of exactly what was in each bag and box, and checked it all off against my list of where I'd put everything when he brought it home in June. The extra time paid off when he fired endless questions at me very early on Friday morning as to whether he possessed this, that and the other, and where they were.
Once middle and youngest got home I did a reasonable job of putting oldest aside and asking them about their experiences in their new classes; everything seems to have gone OK.
On Friday I got up at 5-15 to support oldest in his getting up and getting ready (by which I mean that had he failed to get himself up by 5:30 it would have been my job to run up and downstairs calling him and being shouted at to go away). Happily, not to say amazingly, he got himself up in plenty of time. At 6:30 I switched into normal schoolday mode and got the younger two up and out, then at 7:30 we set off on our 6-hour journey to uni-town. Just before we went out, I emailed the checklist to oldest son, so he can check for himself where everything is. He's sharing a house with two people he knows from school plus a handful of people they variously got to know during the first year. The room is adequate although quite small, but the desk is tiny. I can't imagine how he's going to work with it, so I'm looking around to find out if there's anything cheap I can order and get delivered to him. We arrived home after ten at night; happily the trains had run on time in both directions for the younger ones getting to and from school.
On Saturday I took middle son to look at the University of Surrey. I dropped him off and went looking for a toilet with some urgency; it didn't help that I had forgotten to take any change with me for car parking. Once I'd eventually got that sorted, I found somewhere seemingly in the middle of nowhere to park and decompress for a while. I was there for about two hours; in all that time five cars passed me and one of those was the post van. You wouldn't think it possible in Surrey, less than five miles from Guildford, but it was very relaxing. Now OH has gone (very) part-time, I get very little time to myself, and I really do need quite a lot of silence and time to myself, so that was very pleasant indeed. Then I drove around for a while looking for a river to sit by; I couldn't find one where I could park close by but I did happen on a nature reserve with a lake! So I sat there for an hour until middle son phoned to say he was ready.
Today middle and youngest have gone off to school as usual, and then OH went utterly mad at me because I "crept up on him" and "made him jump". This is something that happens quite often (the "creeping up on him", not - luckily - the getting viciously angry about it) and I said to him that we honestly don't know what we're supposed to do. I firmly believe that it is not our fault he refuses to do anything about his increasing deafness, nor is it our fault that he apparently has zero peripheral vision. But when I asked in all seriousness - but with decreasing politeness, it has to be said - what he wanted us to do, given that none of us ever deliberately creeps up on him, he said "Call out from fifteen feet away or something. Just never, ever, do that to me again." So then I said I would inform the boys of his requirement and he got even more angry. He seemed to think I was being sarcastic, so perhaps that means he realises what a stupid requirement that is. The really annoying thing is - you walk up to someone and they completely ignore you, what are you supposed to do? This morning I was standing out there on the drive waving my arms about trying to make a shadow that he would notice moving (he was sitting in the car looking down at papers on the passenger seat), but he just didn't notice. In the end I said very quietly "hello?" and he nearly hit the car roof. He claimed afterwards that I'd "crept up" and "suddenly shouted", so now I'm totally pissed off with him and wondering whether I'm supposed to shout from the kitchen to give him warning that I'm going to approach the sitting room. Luckily he's fucked off out (without saying he was going, or where or for how long) otherwise I wouldn't feel comfortable coming into the sitting room to use the computer.
Anyway, back to education: middle son now has just over two weeks left to finalise his personal statement and his university applications; youngest son has until the beginning of December to decide what A levels he wants to do and put in his application; oldest son has to find himself a placement for a year in industry, preferably sooner rather than later.
While I've been typing this post, a newsletter has arrived from the school. That will presumably contain the dates for this year's "Year XX is a really hard year" meetings. Thank heavens there's only four of those left - two this year and one each for youngest son's sixth form years.
The sun is shining outside so I think I might get the washing and washing up underway and sit out there for a while to calm down. Ready of course to leap in and look busy as soon as I hear the bad-tempered bastard coming up the road. (That was a tip from my mother-in-law, of all people. She said to me once "Men are stupid - if you're sitting down when they come in from work they somehow think you must have been sitting down all day. But if you're working when they come in, they assume you've been working all day. I always made sure that whatever I did during the day, I was always busy in the kitchen when [ father-in-law ] came home.")
Just had a quick glance at the school newsletter: they've apparently decided a return to Victorian Values would be a good thing. There is a new rule - at the start of every lesson, students are to stand quietly behind their chairs and wait to be told to sit down. Right, because thirty boys standing up are bound to be quieter and better behaved than thirty boys sitting down.
I realise it's not always possible for the teacher to be there first, but the boys' primary school head made a point of making all his teachers be in their classrooms when the children came in in the morning and when they came back from break and lunch. He said it's a proven fact that if the teacher is there already, "owning" the room, the students are better behaved, and that certainly seems to make sense.
Anyway, that sunshine is still calling me. Time to go and say hallo.