Four Corners, Santa Fe, and the Very Long Drive

Yesterday we traveled for twelve hours.


It was exhausting.

We left the lovely Rose Cottage at 6am with a packed breakfast (my golden rule of no-food-shall-ever-be-eaten-in-my-nice-new-car having lasted just over a month, so that’s quite good really) and set off towards Four Corners Monument because it is one of the places that Eleven has been desperate to see ever since we started planning this trip. Eight has not read any Harry Potter yet so we decided to listen to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (narrated wonderfully by Stephen Fry). It’s very long as an audio book and perfect for a journey like this one.

If you are not familiar with Four Corners, it is literally just a place in the middle of seemingly nowhere that the state lines of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado meet and it is on Navajo land. I can’t say it was somewhere I particularly wanted to see but it’s important that the kids had some say in the route and it wasn’t too far off the way to Santa Fe so off we went.

Driving from Kanab, the route took us past the Vermillion Cliffs, and on to long, straight roads with scrubby, dry bushes around and the odd farm here and there.

open roadBut along the route the scenery changed quite quickly becoming more hilly in places, greener in others and then, in Arizona again (how does it keep changing so mystifyingly?) back to dry and bare.

After about four hours we arrived at Four Corners.

The place itself seems pretty bleak; you turn off a smallish road on to a dirt track, pull up to a ticket booth where an extremely grumpy Navajo woman charges you $5 per person (free for the under sixes, but no dogs of any kind including service dogs so if you’re blind or deaf, tough luck). You can see a number of flags flying beyond a row of breeze block buildings and the day we arrived they were all at half mast due to the recent death of a Navajo person of some importance. The monument itself is literally a circle of flags around a concrete floor which has a compass written into it and a place where you can stand with your feet in all the four states.


Enclosing the circle of flags are forty or so local Navajo vendors all selling jewellery, arrows, t-shirts, and other souvenirs. My dad bought Eight a knife made of buffalo rib – quite beautiful and absolutely lethal if one were to wish to stab open a letter, and Eleven a necklace with (predictably) a horse on it. The man who made the bone-knife told us he was also the local medicine man which was interesting. Could he cure wounds inflicted by his own weapons? Disappointingly the fry-bread stand was closed so we were denied the opportunity to buy something delicious that would also make us feel sick in the car minutes later, but you can’t have everything.  I wondered later if the dead person of importance was also the fry-bread baker although this might be a little farfetched.

We drove on for an hour or so, hoping to see the cave dwellings at Mesa Verde, but we didn’t quite realise that once we arrived at the parking lot, it was a further hour to drive to the dwellings and another hour back. Then we’d still have four hours to go until Santa Fe. By this time we’d been in the car for five hours so we decided, reluctantly to skip this sight and I will go back and look at it another time.

Over the next four hours, Harry, Hermione, Ron et al. got into various scrapes and thrilling escapades while we drove through the lush meadows and alpine hills of Colorado, and back into red rock and dusty scrub of New Mexico, and I was very, extremely glad to pull into our lovely hotel, The Drury, in a renovated old hospital in the heart of historic downtown Santa Fe.

The hotel itself is very pleasant, with extremely warm, friendly staff, big rooms with comfy beds, a pool, a hot tub, and an outdoor patio. Here is the view from there.


Included in the rate is breakfast and what they call ‘kickback’ which amounts to free drinks and hearty snacks from 5.30-7pm which was most welcome when we arrived at 6pm, starving hungry. In fact both nights we ended up not eating supper out but getting full at kickback’ and then treating ourselves to ice cream on a walk through town.

Santa Fe itself is very beautiful. We admired its lovely adobe buildings, pretty Mexican style square, much like the zocalos I remember from Merida or Oaxaca (only smaller) and it has a crazy number of art galleries. I’m sure in the non-touristy part of Santa Fe they have normal shops but I liked being a tourist in this part. Today we also walked down to the train depot which not only has trains still running, but museums, a lovely park with a play area for children, restaurants, a farmer’s market, and an old locomotive that you aren’t really supposed to climb on but I did anyway, scandalising my children and worrying them that I might be arrested.

I have few pictures of today because I forgot to charge my phone yesterday (DUH). I am hoping at some point to get some from my dad but until then you will have to make do with my paltry descriptions, hampered by tiredness and snoring small boys.  We leave tomorrow at 6am for Abilene Texas by way of Lubbock, where many of my favourite Texan musicians come from (Buddy Holly, Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett) and we have prepared an appropriate Lubbock playlist with said artists for the journey.

I’ll check in again in a couple of days.

On a totally random side note, we managed to watch the season finale of Game of Thrones tonight. Anyone else find it a bit meh?

Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon

*Warning – long post alert – it was a MEGA couple of days*

Eight had been complaining of feeling overly sleepy from the dramamine so we decided to risk not giving him one yesterday as an experiment. We left Death Valley at about 8am, stopping briefly to look out at Zabriskie Point of Antonioni movie fame. It is seriously weird and post-apocalyptic looking. Eight was thrilled by the oddness of the landscape and wanted to run out into the desert like a mad dervish but we stopped him, fearing we might never see him again.Zabriskie Point







We drove on for a couple of hours, out of California and into Nevada where Eight spotted a Dennys (what IS it with that child and that place?) and begged that we stop for breakfast. No sooner had we got inside the restaurant than he bolted to the loo and threw up. He did recover fairly swiftly and wolfed down a large plate of pancakes with a side of motion-sickness pill, but the lesson here is do not ever let him in the car undrugged again.

d lost his debit card which nearly sent him into the slough of despond, not least because when he phoned it in, the lady on the other end of the helpline, presumably in the Philippines somewhere kept asking him to identify himself via his debit card number and there was quite a lot of barely repressed shouting of

This could have gone very badly wrong but my amazing new car came to the rescue by finding us a branch of his bank within a mile of our location and on our route, and within 30 minutes we had a physical replacement for the lost card and were back on the road. I love modern technology (the car and the bank. Woohoo!)

The next few hours were spent pleasurably listening to an audiobook of The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber. If you have children (or even if you don’t) I recommend this book for its delightful poetic language, dark humour and fantastical turn of event. It features an evil duke who likes to slit people from their guggle to their zatch. What’s not to like?

By 2pm we were at the approach of Zion National Park.

A short break here to boast of my UBER EFFICIENCY in having purchased in advance an America the Beautiful parks pass for $80 which entitles one, plus every person in one’s vehicle to free entry into all of the National Parks. Otherwise it’s generally around $25-$30 per park for a seven day pass so you can see why this is a good bargain if you’re going to visit more than a couple over the course of a year. They did ask for ID, interestingly, so you can’t just buy one and pass it around to all your friends. 


I hadn’t particularly meant to go here, but it was sort of on the way and both Husband and Father had insisted it was worth seeing. I am SO glad we did.  We stopped and played with tadpoles in a stream on one side of the red mountains. The children got filthy and muddy (their favourite state) and even I poked around in the water with my bare toes.

zion mud

Then we got back in the car for a terrifyingly winding climb up the mountains. I’m not brilliant with heights and exposure and after a mile or two I had to hand the keys over to my dad and let him drive. I’m glad I did. The next thing we did was go through a mile long tunnel which is 4000 feet up in the mountain, but when we came out on the other side the scenery had changed subtly. Still the same red rocks and flat top mountains, but more green and gentle foliage around us, and then we saw these guys!


Ooh, the excitement! I love goats. Unfortunately they weren’t nearly as interested in me as I was in then and soon pushed off. I feel this has happened to me quite often in life, though admittedly more often with attractive members of the opposite sex, but I digress..

We drove on to Kanab,  Utah to our rental cottage (we stayed in The Rose Cottage) which was quite charming and much better than I had hoped it would be. Three bedrooms, a fully stocked kitchen, a cosy living room with fireplace, and a back yard with a gas bbq. And it had its own laundry room with laundry powder already there. You have no idea how much I loved that part. I spend a stupid amount of time worrying about how to get clothes clean. I HATE having dirty clothes and hair. It’s on the point of obsessive.  Dad took the children to the hotel pool around the corner and I bought food for supper which we ate looking at the red mountains in the distance from the patio. It was blissful.

The next morning we got up early and headed for the north rim of The Grand Canyon. This part is far less populated than the heavily touristy South Rim as there is hardly any accommodation nearby (thus our 2 hour drive from Kanab). The only lodge at the North Rim gets booked up a year or so in advance by people more together in their planning than me.  I have to say I never had much desire to visit The Grand Canyon (hereafter referred to as TGC). I’d seen photos. Ok. Big crevasse, I get it. I’m scared of heights. I don’t like to be too hot. I loathe crowds. I don’t like to commit to too much time in a place that’s hard to leave or is far from a decent cup of tea (!) So again, I hadn’t particularly planned on this being part of my cross country trip but I felt a bit guilty at sort of passing by and not showing it to the children.  Turns out that guilt was a good impulse. It’s completely amazing. I don’t think I quite took in that the layers of rock that make up the edges (is that the right word) of the canyon represent literally millions and millions of years and totally different eras of our planet.


Unlike the way we tend to regard America as a country – new, hilariously short-historied as opposed to Europe, full of plastic toys and cartoon mice etc, this was so ancient, so awe-inspiringly mighty, that I felt quite humble and worshipful in a pagan, nature-loving sort of way. Does this sound mad? Perhaps. It’s late and I’ve done quite a lot besides hiking uphill at 8000 feet elevation including laundry and making multiple sandwiches.

We are back in Kanab tonight but tomorrow at 5am we leave for Santa Fe, New Mexico by way of Four Corners (thank you, Eleven, for this obsession) and Mesa Verde. This means nearly nine hours in the car so a long day ahead of us. I’ll check in in a few days. Feel free to say hello in the comments.

Into the Valley of Death

Day 1: Death Valley

We left home at 6.30am with the car packed full and a trusty travel mug of tea at my side. My father had arrived the night before from a work trip in Seattle and was all ready to take the first part of the journey with me and the children. The outside temperature was 60 degrees fahrenheit.

I gave Eight a precautionary dramamine which sent him back to sleep almost immediately and Eleven sat quietly in the back, probably in shock from having to get up so early. Dad and I chatted companionably and we made good time getting out of Santa Barbara and into the inland of California. The time sped by as the scenery changed. The landscape became flatter, more agricultural and less pretty, and we passed a lot of ugly strip malls and dull highways. After about 3 hours driving we hit the small town of Mojave, (I say town, but really it’s a strip of road with a few commercial establishments and a railroad station) . By this time everyone was quite hungry so we stopped for breakfast. We looked for somewhere local but were intimidated by the blackened windows and empty parking lots of El Jefe  and thwarted by the distinctly closed look of The Desert Inn, so ended up at Denny’s which had a reassuringly familiar menu and clean bathrooms. I can’t believe how many pancakes my children can pack down their small gullets!

As we left the parking lot we spotted an Army and Navy store which we couldn’t resist having a poke into. It was like military surplus vintage heaven. All sorts of uniforms from all eras and areas, including a vintage Bobby’s hat (how did that get here?) and a WWII machine gun (not for sale). Eight bought an army cap to replace the one his aunt’s boyfriend, who is a proper soldier, had given him and that he had tearfully lost on a field trip, and was only narrowly dissuaded from spending all of his savings on an axe (I have decided not to think through the implications of this particular desire).   Intriguingly, the pink haired lady behind the counter old us she used to live in London. I wondered how she reconciled that with living in Mojave, town of two dusty streets.

We set off again after filling the car and drove through Red Rock canyon which was quite beautiful and extraordinary but by the time I thought of taking a picture we were past it. This happens to me a lot. Consider it a MIRACLE that I have taken any photos at all.  By this point we were quite high up, an elevation of 3000ft, though I hadn’t noticed a significant climb, but from here on the road got steeper. We went up and up to 4000ft quite quickly and stopped at an overlook with a spectacular view. Here we met some Harley-riding septuagenarians  who engaged my father in an enthusiastic conversation about obscure 70’s rock bands. I observed with interest, that no matter your culture  or creed, the music of your youth unites you with your peers and this does not fade with time.

From this point (see picture to the right)  the road grew windy and steep going down and within 20 minutes we had dropped to below sea level and there was nothing green to be seen. Eight woke up from his second dramamine induced nap of the day and announced that Death Valley was the lowest point in North America. The things he knows!

We pulled into the lovely Furnace Creek Resort at 2pm and checked into our rooms which were thankfully air conditioned. Outside it was 113 degrees. Ugh. After eating lunch in the restaurant where, to our astonishment, we met a waiter who had lived for two years in a street literally around the corner from where my family lived when I was in nursery school, my dad took the kids to the pool while I sank into a much needed deep sleep for a couple of hours. I love naps.

When I woke up we drove another 17 miles to Badwater which is literally the lowest point in North America.

It’s a dried up salt lick. You are walking on salt and other minerals and it is strangely beautiful and weird.   On the way, we passed a young coyote who was hanging out at the side of the road, looking like he wanted to hitch a ride. Cute, but dangerous (this is how I like to think of myself, too..)


We came back, had some drinks on our balcony, another swim and a late supper in the restaurant. We were all too tired for more than a quick look at the incredible night sky before we sank gratefully into our beds.

It’s been an amazing first day of the trip and I’m definitely ready for my beddy-byes. More in a day or two when we move on to Utah


We leave at dawn on Friday. Nobody except me is glad about the hour of departure but I love getting up early to make long drives and getting a good three hours in before stopping for breakfast. I’ve started to pack clothes for myself and the children, trying to strike the right balance between packing light and not having to wash out the same pair of knickers and t shirt every night, and I’ve acquired a number of essential items (at least that’s what I told myself whilst gleefully pressing ‘One Click Order’ on Amazon) to ensure road-tripping is a pleasant and streamlined experience. In as much as it can be with a tween, an eight year old boy and blistering heat. Here is what I have so far:

A travel kettle (this is America. They NEVER have them in hotels)

A teapot and teabags

A cooler for the car that runs on 12v power and has an adaptor to work on A/C

A mini clothes line you can string up anywhere

A bottle of bourbon for my dad

A first aid kit

Bottles of drinking water (driving through the desert!)

A roll each of loo paper and kitchen towel

Wet wipes

A thermos, for tea. (notice a theme?)

Every kind of pill for every kind of conceivable ailment. Just in case.

An inflatable mattress and sleeping bag for when we just don’t want to share a bed with one of the kids.


I will report on the usefuless of toting these items with us as I go. If you have any essentials to suggest, please do!
I’ll check in again once we’re on the road




On the Road

I have neglected this blog for so long I haven’t even looked at how many months it’s been. Too many.
I must admit, between writing my book, teaching music in school, wrangling the children, now eleven and soon-to-be-eight, and a suddenly rather full social life I feel  I’ve hardly had a minute. Plus once I’ve put in three hours of novel bashing in the morning I can hardly bear to look at my computer for the rest of the day.

HOWEVER, I am going to revive MTFF, if only temporarily, to document our Great American Road Trip upon which we are embarking next Friday.  I am beside myself with excitement.

I bought a BRAND NEW CAR (ooh! shiny!)

which is approximately eight times the size of my previous vehicle, and I’m packing the children and my father into it and heading across the country to see what we can see.

I’m not bringing any iPads or similar electronics for the kids.

Yes. You read that correctly

I would like to claim that it’s because I’m so extremely above that sort of digital entertainment for my progeny but actually my son pukes as soon as he stops looking out the window and he can’t be trusted not to watch Eleven’s device in the back so that is that. We have lovely audiobooks to listen to and Sirius radio (please God protect me from Hits 1 and the never ending cycle of Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding). Between that and looking out the window there might be some brief respite from the I’m-boreds and the are-we-nearly-there-yets. Right?Right?

We set off from Santa Barbara and head to Death Valley, then the north rim of the Grand Canyon, Santa Fe,  then Lubbock and Austin, Texas, where my dad will jump ship in order to fly to a wedding (so he says. Maybe a week is all he can take?). Leaving me to take the children from there to his house in Virginia via Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia and we will rest there a spell until Husband joins us and we head back west, taking a more northerly route via Chicago, South Dakota (Little House on the Prairie!), Mount Rushmore, Jellystone National Park (eh, Booboo? a pic-a-nic basket?), Utah, Vegas, and home again home again jiggety-jig.


I hope this will be entertaining for you as well as us, and I promise to post photos and recommendations along the way. If you have any to share, please do so in the comments!!


Amazingly, still alive

Dear Reader (s) (?)

Firstly allow me to apologise for not writing a post in forever. I have been consumed by life. Or rather I have been consuming life. That doesn’t sound quite right but I’m sure you know what I mean..

Since I last wrote, much has happened. I have been busy penning my novel which has now expanded itself to over 90,000 words and needs a good edit. Hurrah! Sort, of.
I have also become, somewhat mystifyingly to myself, at least, the music teacher at my children’s school which is both more gratifying and exhausting than I thought possible. I am genuinely thrilled by the enthusiasm of the kids – their little excited faces remind me of why I spent so many years pursuing a career in music, but some of the smaller naughty ones – and there are quite a few of them – are extremely vexing and not only do I pace around sedately with my hands behind my back, but I find myself saying things to seven year olds like,

“Ah, Mr. Smith (not his real name). Given that you’ve shown a clear preference for falling off the steps of the stage to singing ‘Waltzing Matilda’, I must ask you to remove yourself to the office and spend the remainder of music class considering whether this is a good use of your time.”

Child “Huh?”

Me: “Go to the office. Now.”

Jesus. Next thing you know I’ll have a mortarboard and Molesworth will be in my class.

My darling offspring are now aged 7 and 10 respectively, the latter so tall and beautiful that she both terrifies me and borrows my shoes (is that the same thing?)

I work two days per week at school and the remaining five I am spending as much time as I can writing my book as well as the usual shouting at children to finish homework, put on their shoes, take off their shoes, turn off the BLOODY iPad, have you washed your hands etc. I’m still spending a lot of time wondering what to make for supper although it’s true that people will eat more interesting things than they did a few years ago.

Today is one of my writing days. I have been feeling rather guilty that despite spending nearly five hours sitting at the computer (minus forays to FB and the news) I have only managed to drag about 400 words out of my sluggish brain. I think this might be because I had a horrid migraine last night and although I haven’t got any pain today, I still have a sort of hangover from it. Do any of you get that? I believe it’s called the postdrome. A sort of draggy, stupid feeling accompanied by guilt that one hasn’t managed to achieve things and also feeling too stupid to catch up or prevent one’s child from watching unsuitable things on Youtube. And writing meandering pointless posts on defunct blogs.

Still, I thought I’d say hello, and on a random note, what are you buying your children for Christmas? Mine want a pony and a ‘mote control anything, neither of which they’re getting. Suggestions gratefully received.

Simple Math Equations.

I read yesterday that fewer Americans truly believe that hard work = success than they did five years ago. Still, I think that the general willingness of the citizens of this country to be happy for those more fortunate and wealthy than themselves, believing that it’s a goal that is equally attainable for all is quite astonishing. I’ve never understood the logic of people living in poverty blindly worshiping the rich to the point where they’re willing to vote for tax breaks for billionaires over minimum wage increases for themselves. Even those of us who are fairly comfortable yet squeezed by rising costs and stagnating wages will frequently defend the rights of the superrich to use immoral, if not illegal means to keep their spoils firmly to themselves because of the off-chance that we could join them at the trough one day. This perhaps naive lack of envy, or questioning fairness has always baffled me slightly, though I do admire the generosity of spirit that underpins it. I just don’t subscribe to the hard work equals success equation. I’m sure it’s quite difficult to be financially successful if you just sit around doing nothing unless you inherit a shedload of money (as many wealthy people do) but to quote George Monbiot,

“If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire. ”

And so would teachers. Because, God knows I don’t have the mettle to be one, though I’m not afraid of work and I love kids, and I challenge every Goldman Sachs employee to spend a year working in an elementary school classroom and see if he or she is up to the task. I’m betting no.

Mondays are always a bit of an awkward day for me. I spend Sunday night planning out my week (in my head, at least) and it’s always full of goals and good intentions regarding writing, exercise, and various other achievements I wish to make but by 9.30 on Monday morning I’m so exhausted that I often do nothing else of much note for the rest of the day until I slope off to dance class at 6pm.

The reason for this is that I (somewhat foolishly) volunteered to teach maths in Six’s class for an hour every Monday morning and, quite frankly, it nearly kills me. I don’t know how the real teachers stay there all day and still retain their sanity.  Honestly, they are a special breed. I do like being with the children, most of the time, but they also drive me a bit bananas and I have to say I now have quite a bit of sympathy for my own teachers. I was that annoying child who was more than capable of understanding the lesson but preferred to stare out the window and daydream, thus missing the crucial point, although that didn’t stop me from making multiple trips to the teacher’s desk in order to have long division explained to me individually. I wanted to know what we were learning, but on my own timetable. Most of my classes contained around thirty five children and one teacher with a short temper who would not hesitate to slap us over the knuckles with a ruler or send us to the headmaster if we misbehaved. I didn’t get smacked much – I was polite and well-behaved, if inattentive –  but I know I taxed their patience and was the recipient of many an exasperated sigh or sharp comment. I always thought my teachers were (in Six’s words) Big Fat Meanies but now that I spend time in the classroom on the other side of the desk, as it were, I find myself spouting their words almost verbatim when my group begin to lose the plot.

“Sit on your bottom!”

“Stop rocking back on your chair, you’re going to have an accident.”

“Pay attention. Eyes on me. Now!”

“I’m sure you had a very interesting weekend but right now we’re talking about place value so why not save that for recess?”

and, worst of all,

“You two keep talking so I’m going to have to separate you.”

I have a lovely group of eight or nine wiggly six and seven year olds each week. I know them all quite well by now and understand their personalities, their differing academic abilities, their quirks, the different ways to get them to work and pay attention and I have to say it’s quite the juggling act. They’re all good kids with big hearts and I am very fond of all of them although it can be like herding cats to get them to do the most basic of tasks. I always have Six in my group which is lovely although he insists on sitting next to me and it’s quite hard to keep him in his seat, partly because he’s always jumping up to hug me (adorable but disruptive). This is a clever strategy on the part of the school, though, because of course one is committed to helping in the class if one can be with one’s child. That’s part of the incentive, right?Now, three of my group are extremely quick and good at math. They understand concepts almost immediately and they whip through problems very swiftly with almost no mistakes. They’re very bright, vivacious kids and they’re full of ideas about all kinds of things, not necessarily and usually not related to maths,  so it’s important to keep them occupied and focussed so they don’t chatter loudly and distract the others. You’d think it would make sense to put them next to each other but I have discovered this doesn’t work as they just wind each other up and we end up with people jumping out of their seats to perform impromptu theatre or displays of ninja style. However, you also can’t reliably place them next to the two or three ‘solid workers’ who are very capable but might need a bit of time to get to where they’re going with their work because my bright sparks expend a disproportionate amount of energy trying to coax the solid workers into mischief once they’ve finished their own problems which they do almost before you hand them out. I could probably handle this easily but, to add to the mix, I have my challenge kids. I have an English-learner who needs extra time and explaining because of the language barrier. There are a surprising number of words in their maths books. I have sympathy for this child. I sometimes see an effort being made, but I can also see a sense of personal defeat present in its eyes (forgive non-gendered pronoun, but this is to protect identity). As if it is already accustomed to not getting things right because this is the way it is, and will always be. I do my best and sometimes I get through, but once the kid in question signs out and decides to faff about, the best I can do is limit the affect this choice has on the others. My other challenge child has a learning disorder that, quite apart from making it hard for it to take things in, renders the little person terrifically grumpy and aggressive which can be hard to deal with first thing Monday morning. I really want to help this kid, I do. I can see that when it applies itself, it completely understands everything and is very bright. I’ve been told to be firm and keep said child on task and remind it of our expectations that big first graders step up and do their work, but inside this poor kid’s head there is clearly a maelstrom of thought and emotion that gets in the way of this. And when it’s not on top form, the coping mechanism is being endlessly demanding, distracting to the other children, making itself as unpleasant as possible, and zoning out.   I’ve been told I can dispatch any non-compliant kids to the teacher, but I don’t really want to. What would be the point of having volunteers if they didn’t actually do any of the difficult work?  It would be lovely, I’m sure, to have a group of perfectly behaved little geniuses every week, but these kids are who they are, they have the needs that they do, and I see it as my job to do whatever I can within the confines of my hour and my ability. But wow, I can only do it for an hour. Then I’m spent.

I come back and although I honestly mean to pack up my things and go to the library (where I cannot get internet access and therefore have very productive book-writing sessions), I just can’t. I’m too knackered. It’s all I can do to scrape myself to the grocery store (that’s on a good Monday) and sit staring uselessly at my computer before the children come home from school where their teachers have been cooped up with them ALL DAY.

Our school board recently voted for yet another less-than-the-increase-of-cost-of-living pay increase for teachers. Several of the board members actually have children at the school and are quite put out that the greedy thieving educators actually want to be paid not-less (in real terms) than they were a couple of years ago. There will probably be a meeting about this but I am going to do everyone a favour and not attend in case I explode in rage, talk too much, and am branded a FUCKING SOCIALIST (this has happened before). Because, you know, I think that entrusting our kids all day every day with people who love them, even when they’re awful, who teach them things they might not be completely willing to learn, and would quite possibly take a bullet for them if the most awful scenario were to unfold. Well, I think these people might deserve a raise in line with inflation, cost of living, and experience.

Is that really so radical? I don’t think so. It’s just basic decency and common sense. They do a great job, let’s keep them incentivised.  I know there is a shortage of funds in education general, but taking it out of the teacher’s already meagre pay might not be the best reallocation of funds. I don’t know, I’m not an accountant but maybe the school board could consider other means to find the money. I could give them tips on running their own ice cream sale, for instance. Or we could vote to take money from other stupid programs like tax breaks for people who don’t need them and give a small raise to those who deserve them.

And you know what? Go ahead and call me a dirty commie or a crazy socialist. I don’t care. I’m not worried about whether I make six figures or drive a BMW. I just want to know that all the people doing the real day to day hard work are not gypped by the system. That my Six and Nine and all your four through eighteens continue to be taught by motivated, fairly-compensated people who stay in the profession for the same reason they joined it – they care about kids and education. It’s a simple math equation*. All the problems, in the end, are simple math equations.



*Once we’ve done that one, I have some very solid suggestions for redistributing the Koch billions to the hard working women of Africa


Sick and tired

We went on a holiday to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday. It was in Florida, the weather was mostly nice, it was sunny and warm (though not particularly sunnier or warmer than home), and a good time was had by nearly all for most of the trip. There were twenty people present, including six of us under ten, and many of us had come from Europe or similarly far away (us, from California) and the birthday boy was suitably amazed and surprised to see us all there as he’d been swindled into thinking he was having a weekend at a boutique hotel with his partner.

There were the four of us, of course. My half sisters came, battling the storm on the East Coast and multiple plane cancellations but made it nonetheless. There was the aunt and uncle from London who brought three of their grown sons, one bringing his lovely wife,  toddler, and 4 month old baby. And also my pretty, slightly scatty cousin whom I haven’t seen for literally years came all the way from Ireland, bringing along her two delightful little girls and a giant dose of the plague which they generously shared with the rest of the family.

Actually, we were fairly lucky during the trip and escaped the worst of it. That was until the last day when Six and I came down with a fever and ceased being interested in living anymore. My fever was a paltry 101 which was unpleasant enough, but his was just over 103 degrees. He lay beside me shivering and boiling and I lay beside him like a limp rag, unable to believe we had to get on a 10 hour plane journey later in the day.

But we did, because there’s nothing worse than being ill and not being at home.

That was a LOOOOONNNNGGGGG flight.

When we got back I thought we’d be better in a couple of days.

But we weren’t. It went on and on and on. And then Husband and Nine got it. All four of us in bed, wishing for death, snotty, sweaty, running out of food and drink and barely able to get to the door let alone the supermarket.

It’s taken over a week for me to get back to I won’t say normal, but perhaps functional. I still feel subpar. Six has recovered and is disgustingly bouncy but Nine is still in bed and has watched so much TV in the last 7 days that I think she could actually direct her own show by now. Husband is shuffling to work in a mournful, Eeyore sort of way and I am wishing I could go to a spa for a month or some other restful vacation.

I think I won’t be going on one of those big family trips again anytime soon, though.



A new year, a new me..

Well no, not a new me, it’s exactly the same me as before although possibly my trousers are a bit tighter than they were before Christmas due to the copious packets of crisps and glasses of champagne I consumed during the festive season (what is more delicious than the combination of ready-salted and Tattinger? Except ready-salted, Tattinger and Smarties, perhaps). However, I’ve decided to break with tradition and not try to go on some mad diet, attend the gym every day, or declare this (as my father does annually) “The year of muscle definition”. It never works anyway and somehow I’m pretty much the same size and shape, give or take a bit of southward age-related droop, that I was when I was 18. I eat more fruit and veg these days (thank you, California) and I exercise more thanks to my dance addiction, but essentially I remain the same type; unable to deny myself that third piece of toast and butter and really, why the fuck should I? I work hard, I’m nice to my children and husband (most of the time), I try to add positive things to the world in my own miniscule way so if I don’t look like a supermodel, I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

There are plenty of other people who’ll do that for me, right?

I noticed, whilst standing in line at the supermarket today, that almost every magazine cover at the checkout was full of pictures of famous or semi- famous women in their bikinis and skimpy outfits and all the headlines were a commentary on their size and shape. The ones deemed overweight were vilified and ridiculed. The ones deemed ‘hot’ were lauded for their efforts, as if eating carrot sticks and spending all day preening themselves for the camera was worth of a Nobel prize. You buy the magazine on the strength of this media-fuelled bitchery. And it’s not confined just to the press. The interwebs, that great equalizer, now enables any tosspot to take a photo of some unsuspecting woman who dares to look less than camera-ready fuckable and post her on a public forum for the collective troll-cauldron to dissect with vicious, hateful commentary.  In Nine’s grade, the little girls are already aware of who’s pretty, whose clothes are nicely put together, who is a ‘dork’ and therefore who is going to be singled out for insidious bullying by the more popular and less scrupulous children. It makes me sick to my stomach. That when I was a kid we thought that things were going to get better for girls, that we’d be valued more on our minds and abilities and less on our appearance and yet somehow a massive u-turn was made in the ’90’s and here we are, desperately, actively playing along on both sides of the equation.

So here is my resolution for 2014.

I’m not going on a diet. I’m not going to talk about how much I dislike the physical signs of ageing. I’m going to celebrate my joy in the physicality of dance, not my obligation to exercise because it burns calories. I’m going to wear whatever the hell I want and make sure I’m comfortable, amused, and feel good about myself. I’m going to throw away any socks that don’t match or have holes in them and buy new ones that are expensive and cosy. And next month on my birthday I’m going to make sure I have a tube of Smarties as well as a packet of ready salted to go with my bottle of Tattinger.


Happy New Year.

Lost at sea

On Wednesday I am going with Nine on an overnight field trip with her class (God help me) on a tall ship so we can relive what it was like being a sailor in the 1830’s.

I already know it was bloody awful for the hapless salty dogs of yore, with rat infested ships, sadistic captains who ruled with an iron fist, horrible food and brutally hard work for little pay,  but I think this trip might be quite fun in its way for us modern types especially as it’s only overnight and we won’t actually be leaving the harbor. Nine is thrilled that I’m coming along which is rather sweet.

I tried to pack the list of items we have been told to bring, including a change of clothes and a warm jacket, hat and gloves for each child but I was thwarted in this endeavour because it emerges that Nine has LOST her polartec fleece jacket AND her thinner fleece jumper. Both of them. I saw them a couple of weeks ago and washed them before I went to England thinking we would need them for this trip. It’s been an average of 80degrees farenheit since June so I doubt she’s really needed either item so WHERE THE &@(!@!!!! are they?

Similarly, while I was in the UK, a number of other things mysteriously went AWOL.

They are as follows:

Six’s (expensive) metal water bottle

All the tops to the reusable glass milk bottles. But not the milk bottles themselves*

Six’s shin guards

His electric toothbrush (how? HOW??)

A cat food bowl

Nine’s wellies. (it has not rained for literally months)

Perhaps the most vexing thing about all this is that when I ask where, perchance, any of these items might be, I am met with either blank or furious looks and defensive “I dunno”s followed by sulks, as if it were somehow rude to ask in the first place and certainly nobody else will be helping either to find or replace them.

Of course I could just let it all go and let them freeze/die of thirst/get bruises/get wet/have rotten teeth, but that is not in my remit as good mother.

So I’m going to replace them all (from the joint account which I shall not replenish) and comfort myself with the fact that if this really was the 1830’s and this house was my ship I would actually be the sadistic captain and, as I have been reading, I could tie them to the mast and flog them.



*I am not the environmental purist in this house. If it were up to me I’d just buy the tetrapacks and be done with it but apparently that’s bad so the unwieldy plastic bottles that nobody except Superman can lift must be bought and decanted.