Random Musings: Going up and Coming down

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It is the end of the summer, the August Bank Holiday weekend. I am nearing the end of my fourth, big summer read and I am hibernating from the world. It has been a summer of highs and lows.

We managed only a few days away; once again there was no big family holiday this year. The children could not agree on where they wanted to go or commit to dates when they would be free. Even the weekend we booked was boycotted by elder son who preferred to stay home alone than come away with us. At least this precluded the need to organise a chicken sitter as he can be trusted to look after our feathered friends.

Yet these difficult to please children provided me with the major highlight of the season when they managed to achieve straight A’s in their exams. Elder son can now apply to the universities to which he aspires. After two years of focused effort daughter will be going up to medical school in October. I am so incredibly proud of their achievements.

I announced to the world that daughter had achieved her dream and was accused of crowing. Other friends quickly stepped in to reassure me that I had every right to feel proud. My view? It would be sad if, after dealing with all the crud that teenagers throw at their parents, we were not permitted to take enjoyment from their successes.

Life goes on. After the highs of family celebrations came the inevitable low. I have been through this often enough to know that it will pass but have still to deal with the noises in my head. I unfold each of my strategies: good food, regular exercise, fresh air, early nights. The lethargy of body and relentless questioning that anxiety brings drain my reserves.

Thank goodness for my books. I have read some wonderful works this summer. I discovered Urbane Publishers who sent me ‘Leaves’ and ‘Eden Burning’, both of which I enjoyed immensely. Another small, independent publisher, Influx Press, sent me two non fiction works which turned out to be fascinating reads; look out for ‘Imaginary Cities’ and ‘Total Shambles’. I had the big books set aside for summer to enjoy: ‘Purity’, ‘The Bone Clocks’, ‘Wolf Hall’ and the incredible ‘A Little Life’. And then there were a slew of less demanding but still thoroughly enjoyable works. I have written reviews for them all, do check them out.

We now have this long weekend at home before school resumes for my boys. Both are entering academic years which will culminate in yet more important exams. Daughter will be with us for another month before going up to Imperial College in London. There will be shopping to do, packing for her move and then the challenge of a drive into the city to settle her into her new home. Husband is already saying that he does not wish to deal with the inevitable difficulties of traffic and parking so I, the reluctant driver, will be taking on this challenge.

Life goes on. I received no new books in the post this week. My husband is pleased as he tuts at the size of my overflowing TBR mountain. He is not a reader. He does not understand. Although I feel no entitlement to ARCs the buzz of receiving them never diminishes. When a publicist offers me a book and it does not then arrive a little part of me shrivels. Do I not write good enough reviews? Is my readership not big or diverse enough? I comfort myself with the thought of the books which I already own that I can now read instead.

I had planned to attend an event last week to hear an author, whose book I enjoyed over the summer, talk about her work. Then my little car died. Husband diagnosed the problem, ordered the necessary part and left elder son to fit it. I was dubious but he did a careful, effective job and my car is once again on the road. I should have more faith.

I should have more faith in myself. That is my biggest challenge.

 

 

When boys were dangerous

This weeks Blog Hop theme: Remember the time you broke a rule

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I have been ruminating on this week’s theme for a couple of days now. I thought about recounting the time that I was caught by a traffic policeman driving at 80mph in a 40mph limit (and talked my way out of a ticket!) but I have already mentioned that, albeit briefly, in a previous post (The Hot Rod). I thought about the term in my penultimate year of school when I would leave early on a Friday afternoon to go play squash with a friend. I had no classes but should have been studying. Leaving the school grounds was certainly against the rules and I was in big trouble when I was eventually caught (darn those fire alarm roll calls). The little tale I have opted for though sticks in my memory as a time when I got into trouble (again) for doing something that I did not even know was against the rules. Looking back, I suspect it was considered so awful by my accuser that I should have just known not to do it. I mean to say, it involved a boy.

There were a lot of subjects that I did not enjoy studying at school. I have never had a good memory so struggled with recalling the detailed facts that were needed for the essay style answers that most papers demanded back in the day. I also struggled with science, except for maths. I just didn’t get a lot of the concepts that I needed to understand in order to progress. Thus, when it came to choosing my A level subjects at sixteen, there was little that I wished to continue with.

As luck would have it, that year my school introduced a brand new A level subject: Computer Science. I cannot really remember why I chose it alongside Maths and Further Maths. Perhaps I thought it sounded cool, perhaps the unknown just seemed a better option than the subjects I knew I did not wish to pursue further. Whatever the reason, I and half a dozen or so other girls signed up.

These were the days of the Sinclair ZX81ZX Spectrum and, for those willing to spend more, the BBC Micro. Companies used mainframes (IBM was probably the front runner) but schools had yet to invest in any sort of technology beyond the typewriter. In order to offer this subject, my school bought one machine with software that supported the BASIC programming language. Each pupil was required to take turns to complete their practical work in school during study periods or in their own time.

I grew to love this field of study. The logic and practicality appealed to me, as did the messing around on a machine. As with most schools, space was at a premium. The new Computer Science ‘lab’ was created out of what had been a store room for sports equipment. It had no windows and a heavy, sliding door. There were a few chairs stacked up inside and the computer was placed on a high bench. The easiest way to work on it was perched on a tall stool or standing up.

In my final year at school and with my coursework deadline approaching, I arranged to visit the lab during a half term break. I had been in town with my boyfriend that morning and had an evening out planned. He offered to drop me off at school and, when we arrived, asked if he could come in to see the computer (still something of a novelty). I saw no problem with this. We entered via the main door of the school where I acknowledged the school secretary sitting at her desk, and my boyfriend and I walked down to the lab. From habit, I slid the door shut; perhaps this was my mistake.

My boyfriend was intrigued by the machine. I fired it up, loaded my software, and showed him how it all worked. I then got on with the changes I needed to make, tested that all was well, took care to switch everything off and we left the lab and the school. I had not expected my boyfriend to hang around but he seemed genuinely interested. Naturally, I did not object to his company.

I thought no more of this. The holiday progressed, I made several more visits to the lab and returned to classes on the following Monday pleased with the progress I had made.

When I was summoned to the school office I had no idea that I was in serious trouble. The secretary seemed beside herself with rage. She told me that I had abused the trust that the school had placed in me, letting myself and my teacher down. I should be ashamed and was ordered to apologise to my teacher who would be left to decide the details of my punishment. My crime? I had brought a boy onto school premises and shut myself in a room, alone with him. God knows what she thought we got up to in there; I suspect she had a rather more salacious imagination than I possessed in those days. Why she did not just walk in to check on us if she was concerned I do not know.

I left my severe dressing down feeling shaken and genuinely concerned that I was going to be thrown out of class just a few months before my final exams. I was aware of the advice given to girls if in a boys company (always carry a large book and an apple; if he makes you sit on his knee, place the book between you; if he tries to kiss you, bite on the apple) but had still not foreseen that openly entering the premises with such a being would cause such consternation.

When I managed to track down my computer science teacher I really didn’t know what to say to her. I stumbled through an apology, which she listened to looking as embarrassed as I felt. She then told me gently not to repeat the misdemeanour and walked on. The subject was never mentioned again.

Looking back I am unsure if anyone other than the school secretary felt concerned at my behaviour. She made it sound as if I had committed high treason and I could not defend myself. Telling her that a stuffy lab on school premises was probably the last place on earth where I would wish to make out with my boyfriend would probably have got me into even more trouble. Does it show a lack of imagination that I hadn’t even considered it an option?

I came top of my class in computer science and my picture appeared in our local paper when my coursework was used by a sports tournament to create the round robin fixtures list required for that year’s competition. I went on to study the subject at university and worked in the industry for ten years before I had my first child. I have still to make out with anyone in a computer lab.

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Old school badge: star, loom, ship; aim high, work hard, go far.

Read the other posts in this blog hop by clicking on the link below.