Thursday, 23 February 2012

Superheroes in suburbia

As mornings go, this one has been a little different.  I have been given strict instructions to acquire a collectable comic for my 7 year-old with his remaining birthday money.  Now that he has discovered Spider-Man, he is suddenly a Marvel Comic connoisseur.  This newfound hobby just so happens to coincide with a former colleague launching the first issue of his own comic, the dark, fantastical, exquisitely illustrated and wholly-inappropriate-for-7-year-olds “No Place Like Home.” 

I am a comic book virgin of sorts.  My very limited experience to date is adequately covered by a handful of Beano comics purchased by my father and a cursory glance at an old Eagle annual handed down by some distant relative.  The Beano comics in no time at all became landfill.  The Eagle annual remained on my bookcase, gathering dust until such time that I finally appreciated the merits of the genre.

This discovery of comics – aside from being attributable to parenthood, also stems from having worked for a time for a TV production company amongst artists, self-confessed geeks and creative types.  A few lasting friendships were formed at this company and we are all now hitting that difficult age where we are bidding goodbye to our youth and staring down the barrel of impending middle age.  But we are not going down without a fight.  This has been non more evident than in recent birthday and Christmas presents I have received, which have included DVDs I would hitherto not have elected to watch, but now relish, including Kick-Ass and X-Men.  In short, I am not so much revisiting my youth as reinventing it.

So, intent on bagging a first “investment” issue to stash in my loft (not to read by torchlight under the duvet like a guilty teen, you understand), I decided to further investigate the Spider-Man stories.  It’s a minefield out there!  I have never seen so many variations on a theme.  There are enough villains to ensure the simultaneous running of several world wars.  Also, aside from the copious volumes on Spider-Man, there is “The Amazing Spider-Girl.” There are Spider-Man “Revelations,” and stories where he teams up with other Marvel heroes, such as Wolverine.  I’m sure a lot of you are reading this and wondering whether I have been living under a rock for years, but it has opened up a whole new world to me.

I eventually opted for Spider-Man:  Origin of Species and feel very proud of myself for becoming notably cooler.  I know a little about these things now.  I also know where to find them.  OK, it’s a Southampton mega store, but it deals in cult entertainment.  Cult, you see?  There is a difference.  Already I am sounding like a comic book nerd.  Maybe I’ll be bitten by dust mites and will morph into some kind of leaping, flying super heroine, able to drain the blood of suburban baddies while they sleep.  Watch this space.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Perfect Pancake

This may be my shortest post yet, but it is no less significant.

It's not too late to share what could be the perfect pancake accompaniment.  Warning:  This is not for the dedicated gourmet cook.  It is not for the old at heart.  It is certainly not sophisticated or demanding of any culinary skill.  It will also only apply to those of you who can be bothered to venture out to the supermarket at this late hour.

So here goes.  My recommendation is as follows:-

Pancake mix and execution as per Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Family Cookbook.
Cook until a little crispy.
Spoon out a generous helping of Ben & Jerry's Caramel Chew Chew ice cream and sprinkle with fresh raspberries.
Roll and devour.

Go on, do it.  You'll thank me for it!

Contended Cat

I wish I could be as content as my cat.  He is currently spread eagled on the bed - paws in the air - totally void of inhibitions and insecurities.  I think it would take an overweight pigeon flying into the Velux window to induce any change to his demeanour; such is his level of relaxation.  If I could bottle this, I would be an overnight sensation.

I meanwhile, am fretting about completing my blog, washing my hair, preparing pancake mix and making some semblance of a start on preparations for our evening meal in the two hours I have remaining before the school run.

Ideally and somewhat selfishly, I would also like to fit in some Internet research pertaining to holidays.  Do you know Easter is only around six weeks away?  These things take planning.  My husband is my polar opposite in many ways.  He is as laid back as I am uptight.  His approach is to “see what happens”.  Mine is to “make it happen.”

Ironically, the one thing holding me back on the holiday planning is our aforementioned cat, Mowzer.  We’ve only had him since October.  He is six months old and has yet to master using the cat flap.  Mowzer currently views said cat flap as simply another doorway to the house and one, which also requires human intervention to facilitate his entry.

In terms of stress relief, Mowzer the cat is not delivering either, preferring to occupy a chair, the top of a radiator or a bed as opposed to my lap.  I am viewed as a potential mate (yes, he has reached that age) at around 8.00 pm each evening, which technically, is my down time.  Watching Masterchef, whilst a maturing Tomcat grips my wrist with his teeth, all the time attempting to do something unspeakable to my arm is not conducive to relaxation I find.

However, all this will change tomorrow, when Mowzer the cat makes his scheduled visit to the vets.  My guilt is palpable.  I won’t relax tonight and tomorrow night I will be wrestling with the guilt of playing God.  No peace and all that…

Mixed messages and Pancake Mix

Before I begin, let me make one thing clear.  I respect our teachers and believe that on the whole, they do a great job.  I spent one day assisting on a school trip to Warwick Castle, chaperoning a gaggle of 6 year-olds and spent the best part of a week recovering.  Also, I still wince at the memory of my son, Caleb, in his year at nursery, deciding that the most effective way of communicating to the teaching staff his intention to go home earlier than scheduled was to deliberately wet himself in the middle of the classroom.  The ruddy complexion and slightly dishevelled appearance of the nursery teacher who greeted me at the end of the session spoke volumes.  She was the chosen one – the teacher to make Caleb realise that his plan was fundamentally flawed.  She was the one to introduce him to the bottomless lost property basket from which any number of alternative outfits can be assembled (although she was clearly no Gok Wan).  The haunted look in her eyes as she relayed the physical challenge of re-dressing my hysterical son in the oversized jogging bottoms and red Wellington boots is forever etched in my memory.  So whenever I feel like joining in the school gate banter and having a pop at the teaching staff, I recall this memory.

That said, I am struggling to suppress a rant today. 

From the outset, the teachers at my son’s school have been at pains to promote independence in pupils.  Within weeks of entering Reception, the children were encouraged to enter school unaided, laden with coats, PE bags, book bags, water bottles and lunch boxes and to locate their own pegs and carefully find homes for all their equipment.  We would receive reports of teachers refusing to assist the children in fastening the top buttons of their shirts after PE (I still struggle with this uniquely stiff button!)  They were also encouraged from the start to fasten their own coats.

Similarly, in Year 2, the quest for self-reliance continues and quite rightly so.  The children are responsible for transferring newsletters from their trays into their book bags at the end of the day.  They are expected to select their own reading books and remember to bring them home.  So far, so good.

So imagine my surprise when my son came home last night and told me that the zip-up fleece (standard uniform item, bearing the school logo) could only be worn at playtime and that he should wear a jumper.  Given that this fleece cost me £16.00, I decided to query this with the Head of Year.  I was advised that as it is warm in school, perhaps it would be better for him to wear a jumper as the classroom is quite warm, which means he would have to take it off and then again, the school hall can be quite cold, which means he would have to think to put it on again. 

Am I missing something?!  Would this not apply to all outer layers or is this just specific to the zip-up fleece?  More to the point, is my son incapable of appreciating when he is too hot or cold?

Now, he does have a jumper and a sweatshirt, which he also wears.  But in the spirit of independence and with the temperature in school being tropical and the temperature outside being somewhat variable, I thought it best to send him in a zip-up fleece in order that he could exercise free will and easily remove said item when he was too warm. 

Clearly I have a lot to learn about independence.  It’s perhaps too complicated for a 7 year-old to neatly and tidily unzip a fleece when feeling a little warm in class.  It is in fact much easier to remove a sweatshirt where the head hole is always a little too small, the action itself produces enough static in the hair to power a village and where the results are a skewiff tie and untucked shirt (definitely not regulation compliant).

This morning, I have therefore delivered my son to school in a jumper, standing little chance of ever coaxing him back into his pricey but practical fleece now that a teacher has turned it into such an issue.

OK, deep breaths.  Rant over. 

On the plus side, today is Pancake Day.  (See how I moved so smoothly from mixed messages to pancake mix?)

For once I am completely organised.  We have eggs.  We have flour.  We have milk and maple syrup.  We have sugar and lemons.  We have ice cream and berries.  We have all the components for a teatime taste sensation. 

However, we also have a wilful and independent child who will no doubt wish to take part in pancake preparations as well as their consumption.  It could get messy.  Best remove that jumper before we start, otherwise I’ll be forced to return to the forbidden fleece!