Book Review: Lonely Castle in the Mirror

Lonely Castle in the Mirror, by Mizuki Tsujimura (translated by Philip Gabriel), was a number one bestseller in Japan where it won two highly influential literary prizes. The publisher explains that, according to a recent UNICEF report,

“While Japanese children ranked first in physical health and often lived in relatively well-off economic circumstances, instances of bullying in schools, as well as difficult relationships with family members, lead to a lack of psychological well-being.”

The success of this story may well be testament to how it resonated with so many readers.

The story is mostly told from the point of view of Kokoro Anzai, a 7th Grade student (age 12/13) living in Tokyo who stopped attending her Junior High School after just a few weeks. This followed a run of upsetting incidents involving her new classmates. It opens in May, the second month in the Japanese academic year. Kokoro wakes up each morning suffering from severe stomach aches and apprehensively tells her mother that, once again, she cannot attend school. Kokoro is an only child and both her parents go out to work. She spends her days cooped up in her bedroom, often keeping the curtains closed and sleeping or watching soaps on TV. She does not wish this to continue but, unable to find the words to explain what happened and how it made her feel, can think of no way to return to a place that triggers her debilitating anxieties.

It is on one such closed in day that the full length mirror in Kokoro’s bedroom starts to glow with a bright light. When she gets up to investigate she discovers it has become a portal to a large castle. Here she meets six other children and the enigmatic Wolf-Queen. The latter – a masked and child-like figure – explains that the group have been brought together to partake in a quest. Until the following March they may come and go as they please by day – so long as they do so alone and vacate the castle by 5pm. Their quest is to find a hidden key by solving clues, some of which she has already given them. If they succeed then the finder will have one wish granted, after which the castle will be inaccessible to all of them.

The children are unsure of the cryptic nature of what the Wolf-Queen reveals. However, the castle becomes their refuge from the upsetting reality of the home lives they are each currently leading. The children are all of an age when they should be attending Junior High School. For a variety of reasons they have not fitted in and lead lonely existences. Within the confines of the castle they are accepted, albeit guardedly. Their experiences have rendered them painfully self-conscious and lacking wider emotional literacy.

The story of these seven misfits is told over the course of the remaining academic year. It employs the language of young people and is distinctively Japanese in its sometimes abrupt and detached expression. Some of the phrasing felt a little off at times but this came to be explained. Until close to the end the reader may be confused about certain elements of continuity.

The children are struggling to navigate a world driven by the cool kids and the teachers who favour them. Kokoro has loving parents who wish to support her but cannot break through the generational language barrier. It is only in the castle that she feels she belongs, despite her occasional missteps. As March approaches, the idea of losing this refuge – and the friends she has made there – must also be managed.

At times the curious directions the tale took made me question what I was reading and whether to continue. Oddities grated and I pondered if I was enjoying the often static and opaque developments. Throughout, however, the story remained strangely compelling. The author has captured the voices of distressed and anxious young people. Their often fraught interactions remain plausible and poignant, even when they behave badly towards each other.

The denouement pulls each thread together with the Wolf-Queen’s role and her clues explained. Dark undertones have the classic fairy tale feel for a reason. Magical elements and use of metaphor may not be for everyone but provide a thought-provoking conclusion, albeit a curious one.

An unusual bildungsroman that powerfully evokes the damage caused by school bullying, familial trauma and abuse. In portraying the impact through interaction rather than lengthy exposition, reader empathy overrides inevitable judgement.

Did I enjoy the book? Not entirely while reading, as indicated above. It is, however, growing on me as I consider it further. A worthwhile read I will be pondering for some time to come.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Doubleday.

Nepotism

I am not a blogger who plans and prepares ahead. I tend to just type in whatever I am thinking at the time and hit publish. Sometimes I get an idea and want to write about it but don’t have time. I might set up a few prompt lines in a draft and try to come back later to flesh it out. More often than not these unfinished posts end up in trash.

One thing I would like to do more often is write about light hearted things. I don’t think of myself as negative and do not wish to be considered so. Today, however, I am going to cover a topic that is making me feel annoyed, frustrated and despondent. I am going to write about student work experience.

My daughter would very much like to be a doctor, which does of course require that she gain a place at medical school. When she first started talking about this aspiration I thought that the big challenges would be producing a noteworthy personal statement, impressing the university at interview, and gaining outstanding exam results. Whilst all of this is still necessary, and a tough enough challenge for any aspiring medic, it seems that she also needs to have proof of regular work experience in a variety of medical settings prior to applying.

Having obtained good enough GCSE results to keep her dream alive, in September of this year she started writing to local hospitals and doctor’s surgeries about the possibility of them accepting a work experience student. It seems that our home county has very strict data protection rules that preclude such schemes. As most of the recipients of her letters and emails failed to respond it took her some time to find this out.

In October she started writing to hospitals outside of our home county. She was comfortable with the idea of travelling by public transport and staying over in a cheap hotel or B&B for the week or fortnight that she would be working. Between fifty and a hundred missives later she finally got an explanation as to why nobody would take her; she lived out of county. If she could find someone to personally accept her for shadowing then that would be acceptable, but the Trusts would not take on a student from out of county except on this basis.

November has been spent writing to everyone we have ever known who has some link, however tenuous, with the health service. With one exception, who we have still to hear back from, these people do not work directly enough with hospitals to feel able to help. We are running out of ideas. It seems that to become a doctor you need to personally know a doctor. Or not live in Wiltshire.

I have family and friends whose children have won places at medical school. Their kids worked hard to get the exam results, impressed at the tough interviews, and got work experience through family friends or school contacts. They also went to fee paying schools, the sort of schools that doctors send their children to. My daughter attends a state school.

This is why I am annoyed. Nepotism is alive and well and it appears that I do not know the right people; I feel as if I am letting my daughter down. If she failed to gain a place because she didn’t get good enough grades in her exams, or bombed her interview, that would be unfortunate but her call. It seems that getting work experience is down to the parents. Either they somehow find the money to pay for a school that will help with such pupil aspirations, or they make sure they befriend the right people. I have managed neither so it seems that my daughter will struggle to fulfil her dream.

Even our local care home for the elderly has ignored her. I would have thought that a care home would welcome a regular, volunteer helper. I have read so many times about how the elderly are supposedly lonely in these places, yet my daughter’s requests to meet with someone to discuss the possibility of volunteering go unanswered. There are other care home options to explore but I am now wondering if we need an inside contact for that as well.

I have a Facebook friend who is vocal in her belief that writers and other creative types should not work for free. With the proliferation of internet news sites and amateur bloggers who welcome exposure she is finding that, as an experienced journalist, there are outlets who are unwilling to pay her fees. If too many people are willing to work for free then this trend will increase. She believes that content quality will deteriorate and talented, creative people will be exploited.

Last week I noticed that she was raising this issue with a sixteen year old aspiring journalist. The young lad was writing for, what I understand to be, a respected publication. He was working for free and trying to recruit other young people to do the same. Whilst I can sympathise with her argument, I think that in this particular case the young lad was to be applauded. He had managed to get his foot in the door of a competitive industry and was gaining experience. That experience is worth more to him than any pittance that young people can earn. I mean, have you seen the level of the minimum wage for a 16-18 year old?

A lack of work experience may prevent my daughter from even being considered for medical school. No matter how good a doctor she may make, because her parents don’t have the contacts, she may not be able to get that all important proof of interest in her chosen field of study. Sometimes it is not about the money; experience and contacts now seem to be the vital ingredients if a competitive industry is to be entered.

There are way more people wanting to get into medical school than there are places available. No matter how good my daughter may be she will not be missed (although if she ended up in the field of medical research who knows what she may achieve).

At an individual level though, through no fault of her own, she will miss out on attempting to achieve her dream. As her parent, I think this system sucks.

School-of-Clinical-Medicine-University-of-Cambridge    ‘The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.’

When boys were dangerous

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

RTT new

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.

17441_1124102882400_4251632_n   40001_1258205154705_6082879_n

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.

Teachers?

This week’s blog hop is about teachers. Remember the time you had that awesome teacher? Sorry guys, but no. I mean, I did have lots of different teachers with varying personalities teaching me over the course of my fourteen years at school. Some of them were good and some, well, not so good. I just didn’t experience any that I remember clearly and think of as inspiring, or incredibly amusing, or even, you know, a little bit special.

I considered writing about my very first teacher, Miss Holt, who I made very angry by telling her a dirty joke when I was five years old. I did not understand the reaction and was utterly mortified. At the time I had no idea that it was rude; when I had heard a big kid tell it, as I did, everyone had laughed hysterically.

My third year teacher at primary school, Mrs Dodds, kept cards in slots under her blackboard with Maths problems on them. Each slot held several different cards and each card had about ten sums to solve. From left to right under the board the problems on the cards got harder. I loved doing sums and relished the opportunity to work on problems that the other children found hard. I can’t remember how far along I got, but I don’t believe I made it all the way to the right before I gave up. At seven years old I learnt that I wasn’t as impressive as I had thought.

Then there was Mr Kerr who taught me in my last year at primary school. He kept an old trainer that he called Willy under his desk and beat the boys on their behinds with it when they misbehaved. Even though I was only eleven years old I was annoyed at how sexist this was. Determined not to let such a situation pass without protest I misbehaved until I became the only girl he ever beat. Looking back, I must have been considered a weird kid.

My all girls grammar school was full of characterful teachers. Miss Kloss and Miss Jackson used to march around the school grounds together every lunchtime. I think one, other or perhaps both of them had a dog. What I remember is the marching, Miss Kloss with her hands behind her back, both of them deep in conversation. They seemed so old to me at the time, but were probably younger than I am now.

We had a student teacher for Geography one term who wore high heels and called female sheep ‘Yow’s’. The heel on one of her shoes snapped in class one day and we thought this was very funny. School kids can be so cruel.

I had an English teacher who was very thin and had red hands that turned blue where the skin touched the bone at joints. I found it difficult not to stare at those hands as she clasped and unclasped them, trying to engage with us and share her love of literature. My most abiding memory of her lessons was when we were studying Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘Cranford’. We were required to dress up as the characters in the book and hold a tea party. I hated, hated, hated role play. I could never put together a convincing outfit and felt foolish pretending to be someone I was not. It was only when the BBC produced a television series of this book that I reread it and found that I actually enjoyed it. Teachers must despair of truculent pupils, refusing to endorse their ideas when they are trying so hard to share their enthusiasm for a subject.

Throughout my time at grammar school I took extra curricular music and was taught to play the oboe by Mr Osborne. I took all of the ABRSM exams up to Grade Eight, and then spoke to him about studying for my diploma. He had a fairly direct manner and informed me bluntly that I was technically competent but was not a musician as I could not feel the music. I gave up the instrument forthwith.

I did not enjoy school but managed to come away with enough exam qualifications to get me into university and on to a job that I enjoyed. Whatever I may have thought of the various teachers through whose tutelage I passed, they must have been doing something right. There may have been none that I loved but neither were there any that I hated. I did not disrupt the class and always did my homework, but would still guess that a few considered me troublesome. I believe that I was the only regular member of the school Scripture Union not to be made a prefect.

Both my brother and my sister made teaching their career. It is a job that I could never do, at least not in a formal setting; I would find the students much too intimidating. I did home school my younger son for a little over a year (Why I became an amateur teacher). I wonder how he would rate me.

25859_373294611754_3943335_n

You can read the other great posts written by others taking part in this blog hop by clicking to view on the link below

School photographs

Another post created for the ‘Remember the Time’ Blog Hop. 

RTT Blog Hop

This week my daughter, newly enrolled into sixth form, had her photograph taken by the official, school photographer. She looks good in it; she looks natural, beautiful and totally herself. I was amazed when I saw the sample print; this is a first. We have many good photographs of my lovely daughter, but none from her secondary school; none until now.

Whoever said that the camera never lies was lying. A good photograph is a rare and precious thing; a good school photograph practically unheard of. I have perhaps one or two good photographs taken of my children at school, mainly from when they were so small and cute that it would have been hard to make them look otherwise. The greater part of the historical record of my own school attendance is best left where it is, gathering dust in the darkest recesses of my parents closets in another country.

Not all school photographs are dreadful, but most are embarrassing. The first photograph taken of me by a school photographer shows an image of a happy and smiling if slightly chubby little boy dressed in the close fitting uniform of my primary school.

P1010764

Except I was not a boy. Everyone who looked on this photograph commented on my lack of femininity. I was unperturbed; at six years old it was my heart’s desire to be a male of the species when I grew up. I was delighted when my mother gave me a two piece swimsuit as I could discard the top half and pretend. The skirts and pinafores that she made me wear from time to time were an irritation.

The next school photograph that I remember was taken a few years later and included my older sister. As I wish to stay on good terms with her I will not include it here, but it records a moment when we sat side by side, looking awkward. Again I was short haired and chubby in close fitting clothes. How do some young children manage to look cool? I would wonder if style is genetic except my mother was always on trend; how she must have despaired over me. Perhaps the tight clothes were a denial on her part that I carried as much weight as I did. I certainly loved my food.

At some point after this I decided to grow my hair and the moment was captured in school for posterity. If I didn’t look so world weary in this it might have been considered an improvement on the previous effort. The shadows under my eyes suggest more cares in the world than a nine year old should be aware of, and why oh why did I button that shirt up to the neck?

P1010765

Moving on a few years and photographs of me in another uniform appear as I moved up to grammar school. Despite the restrictions of sensible pinafores or A-line skirts topped by woollen jumpers and ties, some of my peers looked good. I did not. As a late developer with bad skin my school years were spent trying to remain invisible. I believe that I largely succeeded. If official school photographs of me exist at this stage then I do not have the copies. I know I was there though because of the existence of images such as this one. The hair has gone again but not the goofiness.

169768_1270289853413_4556705_o

I remember as a teenager going round to friend’s houses and looking with interest at the school photographs that their parents proudly displayed. How, I wondered, did these people manage to look natural and happy when recorded in this way. Even now when I am put in front of a camera my smile is overdone, my head held at the most unflattering angle and my body arched to resemble the shape of a potato. Please reassure me that the camera can lie.

In a way I am pleased that these old photographs exist for us to cringe and laugh over. Much of childhood is forgotten as we age with only the particularly memorable, happy or traumatic events etched into our conciousness. I do though remember each of the days when these photographs were taken. I wonder what that tells me.

Whatever turns you on

A Facebook friend, who lives in America, recently attended an event at her young child’s school. Like me, it would appear that she does not enjoy school events. I derive my feelings of awkwardness from concern about showing my kids up by not blending in enough with the other mothers, and thereby embarrassing my offspring; an invisibility cloak would be useful to ensure that I am not noticed. My friend did not comment on the children so much as the parents and, in particular, the Trophy Mums who she described as follows.

‘A trophy mom is in tiptop physical shape and dresses in the latest fashions for an elementary school open house/end of year pageant. She wears three to five inch heels even though she is walking on dirt and has a perfect pedicure to match her outfit. Even though it’s in the high eighties, her hair is perfectly highlighted, coifed, and worn down, mirroring the style of Jennifer Aniston or the Duchess of Cambridge. She wears large sunglasses and carries a designer bag. When she recognizes others of her kind, which she always does, she is impelled to join them in a small cluster during which they discuss shopping, Pilates and Chick Lit.’

This made me smile as I recognised the exaggerated description from my own experiences. There are many types of mothers, but it is the particular groupings that are the most noticeable at the school gate. When my children were at primary school, I felt most intimidated by the Organising Mums.

These ladies sit on the committees, sell raffle tickets and ensure that all volunteer run events happen as they should. Despite the demands this puts on their time, they manage to take their kids, who often excel in various sports, to the endless training sessions and competitions that need to be attended. They somehow find the energy to organise their meetings, produce baked goods to sell, drive the kids around and socialise together whilst feeding their families and the many extra children who they regularly look after (often children of other organising mums) wholesome and nutritious food. These whirlwinds of activity never ceased to make me feel incompetent as I struggled to achieve half of the tasks that they seemed to take in their stride. My baked goods were a regular disaster.

As well as the groups of mothers there were the solitary, Professional Mums. Although rarely seen locally, they would appear at the most important school events and performances dressed in expensively tailored suits, often arriving just as the show began, to sit alone and take photographs of their progeny. The final applause would barely have died down before they would slip quietly away with perhaps a nod of acknowledgement to the head teacher. These elusive beings rarely stayed at the school long as the demands of their Very Important Jobs would require regular house moves. They remained an individual curiosity rather than a feature of school life. I rarely learnt their first names.

Throughout the years when I couldn’t avoid turning up at the school gate on a daily basis, I observed: the Creative Mums with their individual but still carefully put together style of dress; the Sporty Mums who came straight from a visit to the gym that they had managed to squeeze in before school pick up and their evening run; the Stressed Mums who, although looking fine outwardly,  talked endlessly of their health and family problems. As a keen observer of human behaviour I would try to understand the priorities of these ladies, and be amazed at the number of activities that they all seemed to fit into their lives while I struggled to keep on top of the comparatively undemanding requirements of my home and family.

In different ways I admired all of these ladies. Whether they derived satisfaction from their jobs, appearance, level of fitness or community work, they all came across as belonging in the niche that they had chosen. Most were friendly towards me and I could enjoy their occasional company even when I felt an outsider. However, my personal interests seemed esoteric compared to theirs; I would struggle to find topics of mutual interest beyond our children.

In most social situations I have difficulty keeping up the flow of small talk. My predilection for intelligent debate (I am something of a sapiophile) means that I have little interest in looks, popular entertainments or social achievement. I want an incisive, inquisitive, insightful, irreverent mind; I want philosophical discussion with someone who sometimes makes me go ouch due to their wit and evil sense of humour. My problem, I guess, is that I am not one of these admirable beings. Much as I enjoy their company, I am as much an outsider to this grouping as to any other.

The feeling of never quite belonging would be difficult to cope with if I were not accepted as I am by my own family. Within the confines of our home I can be myself and know that this is okay. I can look out on the world and wonder at the ease with which so many seem to cope in society. It is an act that I can only achieve with effort; it is an effort that I am currently struggling to find the impetus to make.

I would not wish to live in a homogeneous society. The wealth and variety of individuals attitudes and behaviours contribute colour to our life experiences and allow us to grow. It is natural to be drawn towards those who live and think as we do, but we also benefit from understanding differing points of view and accepting these as interesting alternatives rather than flaws. We do not need to be like anyone else. We should not condemn others for failing to live up to our personal ideals.

Chick Lit

And so Cinderella went to the ball

My sixteen year old daughter has spent this afternoon preparing for her school prom. Her beautiful dress was bought months ago at a discount store; the accessories have been cobbled together from bits and pieces that either she or I already owned; the transport would have been a decorated trailer with straw bales and ribbons, organised by friends, but this became impractical when the weather turned seriously wet and windy; they will now arrive in parent’s cars. She has done her own make up and requested that I help with her hair. As neither of us has any expertise in this area, I can only hope that we have created a look that will be in some way acceptable for such an event.

I dislike this sort of ostentation with a passion. If it were marketed as a simple party then I would question the timing (GCSE exams start in earnest next week) but could shrug my shoulders and let it go. If it were a Leaver’s Do; a chance for classmates to enjoy a final get together before heading their separate ways; then I could understand the significance. However, most of the two hundred plus students attending will return to school next week to sit their GCSE’s, and be back next year to prepare for ‘A’ levels. In my mind it is an expensive, American import that does not fit with the structure of British schooling where there is no high school graduation. It is an extravagant excuse for the cool kids to flaunt and compete in the dress and beauty stakes.

I am blessed to have a very beautiful daughter. Not only is she gorgeous on the outside but she is independent, original and sassy in her thinking. Not for her the dyed blonde hair, fake tan and must have, fashion clothing. If her hair needs a wash or her legs need a wax then it is probably because she was too engrossed in her writing to think about such fripperies. If the way she looks raises negative comments then she considers such concerns to be other people’s problems. Whose business but hers is it what she looks like? Loki is her hero: ‘I do what I want!’

When she announced in the New Year that she wanted to go to prom I was a little taken aback. She generally eschews crowds, unless at a rock concert, and complains bitterly about the banal music played too loudly at disco’s, where she prefers to stand at the back drinking tea with a few close friends. Prom, with it’s pretty dresses and prettified girls (who could look so lovely without the spurious interventions), seemed the antithesis of what she would consider to be a fun night out.

Having recently cleared out her bedroom and unceremoniously dumped everything pink in favour of black, I was curious to see what sort of dress she would wish to wear. The one she found looks amazing on her, but is so different to her normal look. Still feeling a bit bah humbug about the whole event I refused to fund any purchases beyond the normal cost of a dress (kudos to her for finding a suitable garment in this price range) and the entrance ticket. Being the girl that she is, she managed to beg or borrow all that she didn’t already own and to blag a lift with some friends who had already organised their transport. Whilst I admire her resourcefulness, I am still surprised that she has chosen to attend.

Nevertheless, I helped her to get ready and provided the taxi service to get her to the required meeting point near the expensive venue where the prom is to be held. I sincerely hope that she and her friends have a fabulous evening. I think it is ridiculous that her school promotes this sort of endeavour, but am aware that there are many who find the prospect exciting and who have poured hundreds of pounds into their preparation. Perhaps my daughter wishes to witness the extravagance as much as take part; I guess even I am looking forward to seeing the photographs that she has promised to take.

For the sake of all those who are making the effort to create a memorable event, I hope that the forecast heavy rain and high winds take a break to allow for the arrivals; the competition for transport originality is often amusing if preposterous. After the anticipation, it would be such a shame if the dream of looking like a prince or princess for a night were washed and blown away by the weather before the festivities could even begin; I do not wish to see anyone’s reverie ruined.

For my daughter though, I do not believe that she has too high expectations for the evening and regards it as an excuse to party with friends. From what she has told me, many of those at her table are well grounded about the whole rigmarole; they will hopefully be able to enjoy a laugh together however it goes. I have no issue with my daughter thinking differently to me and wishing to attend. She looked stunning done up in her finery; I hope she has a ball.

375128_3092252441339_1445342517_n