Monthly Archives: July 2013

Teenage pregnancy

Following on from yesterday’s post, I started thinking about pregnancy generally.

My experience tells me that there are still many young girls who believe that having a baby will be the answer to all of their problems. Firstly, they will have someone in their lives to love them – and this might be quite a novelty for some. Secondly, they have a misplaced vision of motherhood – some romantic ideal of baby powder and little, cute clothes, when, in reality, it is more like poo and puke.

My own daughter told me once that she was angry that many girls from her year group in school had deliberately got pregnant as they got a house, furniture and a nice cheque through the letterbox regularly, whilst she worked hard to get enough money to have a home of her own. I had to admit that her comment was backed by my experience from over thirty years of working in Secondary schools. In my first year of teaching, a fourteen year old in my tutor group was pregnant. This was actually quite a rare occasion. I remember visiting her in a home for teenage mothers. It was dire and the expectation was that she would give her baby up and go back to being a teenage girl at school. She didn’t.

As time went on, there was a much more relaxed attitude to teenage pregnancy and cases where those girls continued with their pregnancies and kept the babies themselves seemed on the increase.

What concerned me in more recent years was the gradual change which led to girls deliberately planning babies as a perceived escape route from their mundane lives, bolstered by the benefits that would be available to them.  I am very much in favour of those in genuine need being supported by society – the disabled, the elderly, those who really and truly can’t find work – but have to admit to having doubts about those who choose to go down the benefit route when there are real options available.

Children deserve to be brought up by a loving parent with adequate resources to feed, shelter, educate and clothe them. This is my ideal world, far removed from reality I suppose.



My own personal experience has rather coloured my view on abortion. In 1982, I was in a hospital side ward fighting to keep a little boy and failing, whilst the lady in the next door side ward was deliberately throwing hers away. The injustice of it all scarred me for a long time.

However, this does not make me anti-abortion as I know that there are circumstances when it is the only sensible option. What it does make me is exasperated that we focus more on whether abortion should be legal rather than educating people to not get pregnant in the first place. Yes, accidents happen. Even the most careful people can get it wrong and sometimes nature works against us.  However, there are still too many unwanted pregnancies and, as every child should be really wanted, this only leaves one option. We don’t want to go back to the days of backstreet abortions and so it is right and proper that abortion is available to those who need it.

Two points though. In the old days, parents who were desperate for children but couldn’t have their own had a ready supply of children for adoption. This is not the case today. I have been watching the Monday night programme about separated parents and children and this has made me feel differently about the effects of adoption but there are many happy, healthy children who have been adopted. Children who couldn’t have good lives with their birth mother, but had good lives with parents who desperately wanted them.

Secondly, I watched the argument on the news this morning about abortion in Ireland. Someone stated that it was a breach of human rights to deny a woman an abortion. It made me wonder where the rights of the unborn child were and when they begin. My little boy was born at 24 weeks. The staff at the hospital told me there was no way he would be born viable. There was nothing available to help him when he was born and the nurse attending put him in a silver metal kidney dish and exclaimed in disgust that he was trying to breathe. I saw his tiny hand raised in the air and he wiggled his fingers as if waving. That was all I ever saw of him. I so regret that day and not demanding more of the staff there, not holding him, not preventing them from just taking him to the sluice room for ‘disposal’. Babies born at 24 weeks survive now.

Yet abortion is legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy and beyond that under certain extreme circumstances..

Weather Whingers

Does it get on your nerves when people whine for months about the cold, wet, windy weather and then when we get a hot weekend they whine because it is ‘too hot’? It really annoys me. I love the sunshine. It makes me feel so good. I have more energy, a big smile on my face and a general joie de vivre. I love the heat. I was meant to be a Mediterranean child, not a north east England girl. So if we have some Mediterranean weather, I’ll be out there, lapping it up, not whingeing about it.


I must say that since our move, we have been very lucky with our new neighbours. But there’s always one, isn’t there? The sun brings them out. They drink too much, play raucous party games, shriek at the tops of their voices, the dog barks incessantly, they have a bouncy castle and a trampoline. You get the picture?

Well, tonight’s the night. Sadly, it is also the night when my small grandsons are sleeping at my house. I’m hoping that the Addams family have the decency to stop the noise at a reasonable hour. If not, bright and early tomorrow, the paddling pool will be out, the boys will be very active and noisy and we’ll hope that this will exacerbate their hangover heads.


Now some of you reading this might think that this is about allocating a number and letter to a child. No! I’m talking about getting things level. I have spent the day sweating buckets digging up grass, preparing the ground for an arbour. I thought I’d sit it on four small paving stones to make it firm as we are covering this area in decorative gravel. How hard can it be to put down four paving stones and sit a wooden arbour on top? Well I can tell you – very hard. Armed with my large, yellow spirit level I was like a woman possessed. In the end, I gave up and will tackle it again tomorrow. That darned bubble taunted me by just slipping towards the right of the middle section. No matter what I did, it laughed in my face in a bubble sort of way, refusing to slide just a teensy bit to the left and sit nicely in the middle. 

Anyone else would have said ‘That’ll do. Close enough.’

It’s hard being a bit OCD sometimes.

Reinventing the wheel

All through my teaching career I have watched the same old ‘new’ ideas go round and round. Take French as an example. When I was at school, French was drilled into you. Good old Whitmarsh served us well but it was hardly exciting or stimulating. Then we moved into an era when teaching grammar was considered bad and children learned entire phrases without truly understanding which bit of the sentence was what. Next came ‘using the target language’. All lessons had to be conducted using only French. The naughty pupil with the stink bomb at the back had to be disciplined in French and he had to give his excuses in French. If someone wanted to go to the toilet, they weren’t allowed to until they asked in the target language. Oh how the caretaker laughed, mopping up those puddles under chairs! Oh how the language of the children improved.

Hand up.

Oui, Simon?

I want to go to the bog.

En français, Simon?

(shout) I want to go to the bog.

Non, parlez en français, Simon

If you don’t let me go to the f*****g bog I’ll p**s myself.

Happy days. Then suddenly, grammar became important again. Teachers everywhere wrung their hands, remembering how they used to do it ten years before.

So, this morning we hear of ‘new’ vocational education. With employer engagement and work experience and everything! I sit here crying at my laptop, remembering BTECs and NVQs, Diplomas, Connexions, City & Guilds, YOPs, ROSLA and ONCs and wondering how much money has been wasted reinventing the wheel, training staff and deceiving our children into believing they are doing a qualification which actually means something today and will still mean something in ten years or twenty years from now.

Weather forecasting

Is it possible to get a weather forecast that is the definitive version do you think? I listen to the radio first things and it tells me that the maximum temperature will be 15 degrees. I come downstairs and the TV weather tells me that it will be rainy on and off and 18 degrees. Then up pops a weather account on twitter which says sunny intervals and 20 degrees.

I know that meteorology is a difficult subject but do the various media not start with the same data? Who would have thought that they could all interpret it so differently?

So, today I’ll wear a vest top, covered with a long-sleeved shirt and pop a long cardie on top just in case. Now, where’s me wellies?


My calendar is usually quiet-ish. I have the odd thing dotted here and there and that is probably just as well really. With an elderly man to care for and two active little boys in my life, I do enough considering this is retirement.

This week, however, is fast becoming a bit of a nightmare. Each day is being squeezed as a rash of dentist appointments, blood tests, parcel deliveries and hospital visiting slots battle for space. Where myself and Mr. Whinge have overlapping appointments, we are swapping vehicles, removing baby seats from one vehicle to another, ensuring that we each know the other’s movements and scheduling that around actually making time to do things together whilst my dad is in hospital –  a rare treat when he is at home. Tomorrow a parcel is coming. I am at the dentist and Mr. Whinge is at the doctor’s. We also have an active 23 month old boy with a bad cold to look after. What do you bet that the parcel (which has to be signed for) arrives at that precise fifteen minute overlap while Mr. Whinge is out and I haven’t yet got back from drilling and filling? 

I sometimes wonder how I coped with constant pressure at work. In retirement, I find I’m seeking an easy life but feel a lot more stressed when it doesn’t turn out that way.


Thanks to @NuttyA10 for this one.

Why do flies fly at just the same height as an opened window?!

More to the point, once they have entered your home, why can they not do the same trick on the way out? They buzz round and round landing everywhere, bouncing off ceilings and curtains in their excitement at getting in. But can they find that same open window? Oh no. The skill they had on the way in now seems to have disappeared.

Now I’m basically a pacifist and it grieves me to actually kill anything. Even though flies are spreaders of disease, even though they have walked all over a pile of poo before arriving in your home and paddling all over your work surfaces, I’d rather let them out rather than swat or spray. I actually feel upset if I spray them and they lie on the windowsill buzzing in circles on their backs, presumably in agony. I have stood there for ages, encouraging said fly to find the widely opened window by various hand waftings but the little blighters always double back and fly into the depths of the house again. Its mission then is to fly around various rooms randomly for days until exhaustion finally sets in – but not before it finds its way upstairs to the bedroom and waits until you have turned off the light. It then dive bombs your head and bare shoulder, just to remind you that you didn’t manage to get it out of that open window.

Flies are definitely worthy of a Daily Whinge.