Friday 25 July 2008

Travel Day

On Saturday we left the house at an ungodly hour and headed for the hell that is Heathrow Airport with an extremely patient taxi driver at the wheel. We had some last minute shopping to do so he drove us around until we found a 24 hour petrol station which stocked what we needed.

Check-in was a piece of cake, as long as you don't mind standing in a queue for 30 minutes for the airlines to dispatch adequate staff to check-in luggage. So was breakfast, if you don't count that my husband threw away my half drank Starbucks coffee which was my very first one since the start of my diet back in March. He almost didn't get to go on the trip with us and I warned him to not be quite so zealous about tidying up. That must have been a first.

Our seats weren't together so I had Sebastian and Marc had Abigail in the row behind us. Sebastian fell asleep not long after dinner. Abigail did give Marc a bit of a rest but she was so excited she was literally bouncing. Glad I wasn't in that row.

Connecting at Chicago wasn't without its usual stresses. First off we realised that our flight was delayed by 50 minutes although at the time we didn't know why. We needed to take a train between terminals and just as one arrived, Abigail announced she needed to wee. Seb and I got on one and Marc took Abigail to the toilet.

Then as I was passing through security, the alarm went off. I knew it was the underwire in my bra. It always is. I was told I needed to pass my passports and boarding cards to my husband who was trying to corrals our carry on luggage and our children and our shoes whilst I waited for that ever elusive female security guard to pat me down. I handed these to Abigail with clear instructions to her to hand them to Daddy. Naive of me, yes.

The female guard finally appeared and confirmed that my bra had some serious metal in it but nothing that could be used to commit an act of terror, thank goodness. I went and helped Marc to pick up our bits and bobs. and we made our way to the gate for the next leg of the journey. As we sat down I asked Marc where he put the boarding cards. He looked at me blankly. I looked at Abigail. I panicked.

I went running back to the security station. We turned that place upside down and couldn't find our passports or boarding cards. I went back to our gate and started unpacking our carry-on. Lo and behold in the front pocket of a backpack, there they were. We have no idea who put them there. Abigail says she gave it all to a man. Someone was watching over us and being extremely helpful which just never happens at Chicago O'Hare Airport.

I called my Dad once my blood pressure had returned to normal to let him know we were going to be a bit behind schedule. He then informed me our delay was probably because a place had skid off the runway at O'Hare earlier in the day so he thought we might be a bit delayed.

Back up went the blood pressure. I headed for Starbucks.

Once in Kansas city, the humidity (90%) and the heat (100 F) hit us like a brick wall. We boarded a bus to go to get our hire (rental) car. Once we had confirmed that the air conditioning was operating at deep freeze we set off for the final leg of our journey.

What the children hadn't realised was that our final destination was still a couple hours away and every 5 minutes the are we there yet chorus would crescendo. As we turned on to State Highway V, I informed the children that after a taxi-plane-train-plane-bus-car journey we were nearing Popa and Gramma E's home. We came up over the last hill and we could see the big red barn.

Now Abigail and Sebastian (and I) were bouncing. We had arrived! Finally.

Thursday 17 July 2008

Football Camp

My son does ballet and my daughter does football (aka soccer in some remote regions of the world). I should say my daughter thought doing football would be a great idea but when it came down to the practicality of it all I think there was just too much physical activity what with all that running around. She must have decided that since she couldn't carry her hand bag so she would just look great standing about which she did a lot of. She still got a medal and a certificate. Must be for attendance. Oh no, that can't be it either since she threw several tantrums and didn't go to one. Whatever!

Wednesday 16 July 2008

The Valerie Palmer Cup

At the end of every school year, the schools here in England have Speech Day. Year 2 is the first year that students attend so this was our first Speech Day. It is held the Sunday before the last week of school in the awe inspiring architecture of St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.
Awards are given to the Year 8 Leavers and special awards are given to each class year for most improved and kindness. The are also special awards for achievement in dance, science, sports, etc.

I had spoken to Marc about this and evidence of some fairly deep childhood trauma emerged as my husband was refusing to attend what he considered to be the most boring event of the year. I did point out to Marc that it was always possible that Sebastian could receive an award and he wouldn't want to miss that. Marc said that if Sebastian was going to receive an award he would know it. I interrogated our son and he assured me he wasn't going to win an award.

I gave Marc a pass, took up the gauntlet and duly performed my parental duty of representing our family at the ceremony.

The Canon of St George's Chapel gave a sweet introduction and the headmaster of St George's, Roger Jones, gave a wonderful speech about the school's achievements in the past year as well as a reminder of the school's philosophy for the educational and social commitment to our children. It was reassuring to find those still roughly aligned with ours.

Then the long list of awards began and I applauded for those I didn't know and those I did. And then the most astonishing thing happened. My son's name was called.

Sebastian Clare-Panton is the proud recipient of the Valerie Palmer Cup. This is an award given to a student of St George's Pre-Prep department who has attended all 4 years of pre-prep and has made a positive contribution to the classroom ethos. They display a positive attitude and just get on with it no matter what comes their way.

I am so proud of him. I wanted to hoot and hollar. I had to remind myself that I was in a most sacred Chapel. And Marc missed the whole thing!

The Outcast by Sadie Jones

After struggling through every word, every page, and every paragraph of The Sound and The Fury, I was initially relieved to have a book which was easy to read. I flew this book and was able to read without having to think. But the novelty wore off rather quickly.

This is Jone's debut novel and despite what the critics say, you can tell. It feels rushed. And sophmoric.

Lewis is an odd boy to begin with. He is smothered with love by his eccentric mother and thrown completely off bablance when his father returns home after fighting in the second World War. He was only 2 when his father left and he doesn't know this man who has suddenly commandeered all of his mother's attention. During a picnic with his mother, she drowns.

This was only the first plot device that seems contrived. She was a good swimmer and whilst his mother was tipsy from far too much wine in the afternoon it is never clear to me how she drowned or why he couldn't save her. It is amazing how sobering a dip in very cold water can be. Trust me, I know. Just don't ask how!

Lewis is surrounded by broken people, far too many broken people. Not a single adult steps in to help or offer comfort. Now maybe that is the time and the place but it didn't ring true to me.

This could be a good book and maybe the author's talent will mature. The characters are only superficially developed with the exception of Lewis. And his oddness seems false and manufactured, the way a teenager dramatises their difference when trying to establish their own identity separate from their parents. I'd give this one a miss. There is just too little time to waste on mediocre literature.

Book Group Verdict: Everyone loved it but me. Maybe I need a new book group. I should have published this post ages ago but I forgot!