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Disconnect/Reconnect

It seems to me that when we lose a loved one, we disconnect. There is an obvious break in communication with that person. We may still talk to them, but there is no response. It’s like speaking into a telephone and waiting for a reply but getting that silence on the other end, not being able to see facial expressions, to read the body language of the recipient. Panic.

Too often we lose other people connected to the person we lost. This is particularly the case when it’s a female that is lost. People gravitate to matriarchal figures. Grandmothers almost hold court. My maternal grandmother ran something akin to a soup kitchen on Sundays. From nine in the morning my uncles and aunts turned up with their children and the house was filled with noise. Her whole weekend revolved around this event. Saturday morning she would shop for breast of lamb, mutton and oxtail. She would then boil it all up on the stove and place the whole pan in the oven. It seemed to be a bottomless pan. On Sunday morning Grandma was first up and her main job was to thicken and brown the stewed meat. The smell wafted around the house and one by one, family turned up. Not just blood family, but friends of my uncles, friends of my cousins. She stood in the kitchen serving ladle after ladle of ‘stewpot’ to hungry mouths. It was never served in a bowl, always a plate and never a fork, just a slice of bread to mop it up. I liked mine with pepper on.

It was the way we connected. Sundays at Grandma’s house. I saw most of my cousins every week. Grandma had seven children and that meant a lot of cousins. Her garden had a bit of a bank in it and we all sat there with our stewpot. Then we would run amok.

On my paternal side, it was different. But if I ever saw my cousins, it was at Nanna’s house. The matriarch, again. She was the person I learned most from in my life. All the crafts I do, she taught me. Baking cakes, she taught me. Loving, she taught me. When she died in 2011 she left a gaping hole in me. I felt that was it, the end of my family. I missed seeing all the things she had, her china, her wool stash, her jewellery, her cuckoo clock. She was a typical Nanna with lots of trinkets. I felt disconnected when she went.

A few weeks ago my Uncle asked me to go and see him. So myself and partner went for the weekend. One of his daughters and his son were there. We had a fabulous weekend of drinking, playing games, reminiscing. It meant so much to me I cannot find the words to express myself (a rarity!)

All around me were Nanna’s things. The things I used to associate with just her. I saw old photos I’d never seen before. I feel completely reconnected to my Nanna. She hasn’t gone. She lives on in my Uncle. Her cheekiness is in him. Her generosity is in him. When we left he gave us a bag of vegetables from his garden, which is exactly what my Granddad used to do, but where my uncle gave us fresh beetroot, Granddad would have given us tomatoes. Seeing their things in my Uncle’s house was like being transported back into Nanna and Granddad’s house, the place I loved to be the most as a child. The place I was often denied by people I have no connection with. But that’s another story.

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It’s Results Day

Today is the day my daughter will pick up her exam results. She is at work and can’t pick them up until later. Already I am worried for her, thanks to the press reporting that this year’s are the worst results for a while. Well when they go up year on year, eventually something has to change, right? She had her next step all planned out: A’Levels in Sixth Form, place already confirmed. On the surface, she hasn’t looked worried. But last night she announced that next week she is going to the local college to find out about taking her A’Levels there. Why the sudden change of heart? I think she believes her results aren’t going to be good enough and has already decided she isn’t good enough to stay on at Sixth Form.

This is such a shame. In the German A’Level class there will be two students. That’s a fabulous student/staff ratio. Not to mention it’s closer to home, familiar to her and the pastoral care she has received at that school has been fabulous. It’s been more like an extended family. Sending a child to High School is a scary business and for someone like me, who didn’t have continuity of education, it’s a particular challenge. Finding a school that caters for their individual needs, personality quirks and individuality is a very intense process. Then supporting a child through five years of learning to spend every day with the same thirty children, their arguments, fallouts, parties, puberty. With the school we chose, I feel we got it right. I’m not expecting a stream of A*’s today. The reason for this is the amount of pressure my daughter felt was so intense I had to do something. She lacked confidence, felt she wasn’t good enough to be in the top sets because other children were better than her, had no self belief in her own intelligence. So we sat down together and talked about what was important. Which GCSE’s she really needed, and the grades she needed for sixth form. She doesn’t need a double science award, doesn’t ‘get’ science, cannot comprehend physics and has no desire to learn. I couldn’t understand this as I didn’t struggle with those subjects, but I could see it was causing her stress. So, rightly or wrongly, I told her not to waste time on them. She wants to follow a media career, how will Science benefit her? So she concentrated on German, maths, English, and saw her grades dramatically improve. She needs five passes at C and above, and if that’s what she gets, I will be deliriously happy for her as she can move on to the next step.

I don’t think people realise how hard it is to raise a child to be individual. I want my daughter to be confident, to embrace who she is, to enjoy life. And I think she does, on the whole. But the education system does everything it can to level children. It doesn’t embrace individuals. A National Curriculum is a ‘One Size Fits All’ kind of education and my girl is not a ‘One Size Fits All’ kind of kid. All children should be allowed to follow those subjects that capture their imagination. If a child doesn’t like art, and loves science, like my son, then they should be allowed to stop wasting time on a subject they hate and concentrate on the areas they flourish.

I will be going through all this again in three years time.

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