Tag Archives: kids

Tutoring Tales

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The very warmest of salutations to you, lovely reader, on this long-awaited day of Fri.  On an unrelated note, my brain is very fuzzy and I am in desperate need of coffee.  Would you like anything from the kettle?

To supplement my rock ‘n’ roll writer’s lifestyle (ahem), I tutor some kids in English and Maths.  The kids are aged between six and ten, and I love them all to bits.  Some of them have their “challenging” moments, and to be perfectly honest I’m not always in the mood to rehash the five times table, but there’s no question that I love my job.

I also love the bizarre (but usually fairly sound) wisdom that my students come out with.  Here are some of the funniest, sweetest and weirdest things my little ones have said during lessons.  (By the way, I put a couple of these on Facebook as and when they occurred, so apologies for the repetition.)

1) The would-be dinosaur owner

Child: did the dinosaurs go to heaven?
Me: oh, yeah, definitely.
Child: do people in heaven get to have dinosaur pets?
Me: probably.
Child: you’ll go to heaven before me, because I’m only six and you’re about a hundred. Will you save me a dinosaur?

Yes, you evil little legend. Yes I will.  Although I should point out that I am twenty-five, which is A LOT nearer to six than it is to a hundred.  I wouldn’t usually mind too much about something like that, but we were at the ends of a Maths lesson…

2) The future feminist

Me: So what kind of characters do you usually find in fairy stories?
Child: Baddies and witches and a Prince Charming.
Pause.
Child: Why isn’t there a Princess Charming?
Me: I don’t know. Why?
Child: Because us guys are sometimes stupid and we need girls to help us.

The cutest thing about this one is that the kid genuinely wanted to know.  It was obvious to him that men need saving as much as women do, and he was baffled by the notion that men didn’t get a chance to swoon and women to ride in and kill the dragon.  Feminists, rejoice and be glad: this kid is a winner.

3) The paranoid artist

Child: I can’t finish colouring this picture in.
Me: ‘Course you can.
Child: No.  No, I can’t.
Me: Why not?
Child: I’ve been poisoned.
Me: …with what?
Child: Poison.
Me: Ok.  Who poisoned you?
Pause.
Child: Robert Mugabe.

Either this kid has been watching too much evening news, or he is an incredibly well-disguised political enemy of Zimbabwe’s current government.  I sort of hope it’s the second one.

4) The sibling swapper

Child: My brother is so annoying.  Do you have a brother?
Me: Yep.
Child: Do you get annoyed with him?
Me: Nah.  We used to wind each other up when we were your age, but we’re very close friends now.
Child: Is he nice to you?
Me: Yeah, he’s very nice.
Child: Can I borrow him sometimes?  You can borrow mine.

Seems fair, doesn’t it?  No?  I’m not allowed to abduct a six year-old boy who can burp the alphabet in exchange for my twenty-three year-old brother (who is pretty busy with his degree but would totally be up for this because it’s an excuse to play with Lego)?  Well, I wish someone’d said.  

5) The one who won’t be fooled

Child: Mum says I need to know about Maths for when I’m a grown up.
Me: She’s absolutely right.
Child: She says if I don’t know Maths no one will talk to me and I’ll have to wear a big pink badge saying “I don’t know Maths” and people will laugh at me.
Me: …
Child: I don’t really believe that, though.  I think I just need it for looking after my money and stuff.

God bless that mother, trying so hard to capture her son’s imagination when all she had to do was tell him the truth.  Apparently, six year-olds are ok with their future financial responsibilities.  Who knew?

Have a glorious Friday, you lovely thing.

The Upsides to Unfair Truths

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Good morning, and happy Thursday to you!  I hope you are feeling very well-rested today.

I’m a very lucky girl.  Yesterday I got to spend a sunny afternoon in a kids’ playground, chatting to my lovely mates and escorting my friend’s eighteen-month-old son on his (many, many – seriously, millions of) excursions down the climbing frame slide.  Apparently, some things are not made boring by relentless repetition.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we grown ups still found utter delight in something as simple as going down a slide?

I think that one of the reasons we don’t necessarily have the same capacity for joy as a toddler in a playground is that we know something the little ones don’t: life is full of hard truths.  Here are a few of the most annoying/inconvenient/unfair, each with a little optimistic upside to help us recapture some joy:

Television Shows End
I feel very sad for the people who watch Community, which I hear was cancelled recently.  It sucks to fall in love with a show, invest in the characters, get emotionally involved with the storyline and then discover that the big, bad L.A. producers don’t agree with you.  How very dare they.  The upside here is that new shows come out all the time: when Friends ended, nobody could have predicted that something as fun as How I Met Your Mother was on its way from the same brains.  So don’t panic, Community fans: you never know what’s around the corner (of the television executives’ board room table).

Justice is Unfair
Bad people hardly ever get what’s coming to them, terrible things happen to the loveliest people, and the theoretically just concept “freedom of speech” means that the BNP Youth are allowed to upload horrible campaign messages to YouTube.  We just can’t win.  the upside to this is that our instinctive “that’s not fair” reaction leads us to have interesting debates, learn lessons from bad situations and work out which horrible people to avoid in future.

Feelings Make No Sense
You can know what you love or hate about a person – their sense of humour, their attitude, their hair style – but you can never know exactly why you feel that way about them.  We fall in love with the least suitable suitors, and we cannot bring ourselves to fancy the people with the best emotional prospects.  The upside here is that the lack of logic makes love more exciting, romantic, weird and wonderful.  Wouldn’t it be horrible (albeit slightly more convenient) if a physical trait plus a personality characteristic automatically equalled love?  We’re not robots.

Life is Short
Scratch that: time is short.  I mean, it’s Thursday already; how did that happen?!  As we get older time seems to go by faster, and our to do lists get longer instead of shorter.  We forget to text people back, we miss birthday parties and there is always at least one household task that we’re just never going to get around to.  (Mine is hoovering the stairs.  It just isn’t going to happen.)  Here is our upside: the diem is ours to carpe.  Go on that holiday, take up that hobby and tell that person how you feel about them.  Go on, I dare you.

Wasps Exist
I can’t think of an upside to this one.  Sorry.  Wasps are just mean.

Have a brilliant Thursday.  I hope that this day goes down in your personal history as Unbelievably Delicious Dinner Day.

Commute Like A Champion

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Good morning, dear reader.  How are you?

If you are a London-based commuter my heart goes out to you on this, the first full day of the tube strikes.  What a nightmare.  During the last strike it took me three hours on loads of horrible buses to do a forty minute journey.  In hindsight, I wish I’d just hired a Segway and had a bit of fun getting to work.

Given that public transport is not huge amounts of fun at the best of times, I have decided to compile a list of ways to improve our lot.  After all, if we are obliged to spend a couple of hours a day on trains, buses and enchanted broomsticks, we may as well have some fun with it.  You’re a very busy person and your time is precious, so don’t waste those hours being bored or annoyed.  Use the time to your advantage.

  • That is Fascinating

Music is great, but if you’re listening to a podcast by these guys, for example, you will be learning about all kinds of fascinating things just by sitting on a train.  Granted, when I listened to their podcasts on the way to work I tended to have a perpetual “surprised and intrigued” face that looked a bit odd to other people, but it’s hard to beat the feeling of having really learned something before 9am.

  • Story Time

This one might just appeal to me and my friends because we’re all silly drama types who like making stuff up, but it’s basically a fun extension of people watching: make up stories in your head (ONLY in your head) about your fellow passengers.  This one is particularly fun when there is an old lady on board, because I like to think that it’s the queen in disguise monitoring her loyal subjects.  This is especially fun when you get to “Green Park – alight here for Buckingham Palace” and the old lady gets off the train.  What more proof do you need?

  • If You Had To

Again, this is almost definitely something that my friends and I are peculiarly drawn to, but it does pass the time.  You have to select three people from the individuals in your carriage/on your bus whom you would spend the rest of your life with: marriage, kids, mortgage, everything.  (Again, this is just in your head or, if playing with friends, in VERY quiet discussions.)  The joy of this is that at each stop your selection pool changes, and the joy of playing this with male friends is that they take it incredibly seriously.

  • Magic Tricks

If you commute for long enough you learn all sorts of transferable skills.  You can essentially teach yourself Houdini-esque body contortions by boarding a train bound for Marylebone from Aylesbury before 8am, and ladies tend to get very good at applying make-up in extreme turbulence.  Think of your commute as an opportunity to hone these magic tricks of yours, and be proud of yourself for mastering them.  I personally am at Level 6: Liquid Eye Liner on the DLR.

  • Make Someone Else’s Day

This is as fun for you as it is for the other person: smile at someone (BRIEFLY – this is England, for heaven’s sake), give up your seat, help an old lady with her granny shopper or a mum with her pushchair.  It  takes two seconds and you’re making someone else happy.  Plus, you know, you can legitimately feel pretty smug for at least half an hour.

  • This is My Stop

I have actually done this one on a lift before, but one day on a tube train (two seconds before my stop, obviously), I really want to open my handbag, peer into it and say “have you got enough air in there?”  I will then close my handbag, look at the other passengers suspiciously and draw my handbag closer to myself in a fit of protective fear before sweeping off the train with a haughty sniff.

Have an absolute cracker of a Tuesday.

Let’s Kid Ourselves

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Good morning, lovely reader!  How’re you doing on this fine Friday?

Thank you very much for the birthday wishes yesterday; I had a really lovely day, and feel thoroughly spoilt.  I do not, however, feel twenty-five.  A few people have said “ooh, this is your last big birthday before thirty!” which I think is a lie based on the fact that humans like nice, round numbers, i.e. multiples of five.  This is a nice birthday for sure, but if I want to make my twenty-seventh birthday a “big” one, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll do it, convention be damned.  Two years from now we will all be meeting for afternoon birthday tea at the Ritz, OR running around a fairground that includes at least one bouncy castle and some dodgems. (No clowns, though.  Definitely, DEFINITELY no clowns.)

But this is the problem, as you can see from my two top party choices: everything in a twenty-something’s life comes back to trying to decide whether to be a grown-up or a child.  When is it ok to be silly, and when do we have to be on our best behaviour?

I am currently working on a really exciting digital project with two lovely lads, both of whom have a lot of expertise in creative and technical production.  They are perceptive, talented and passionate people who are an absolute joy to work with.  They are also old friends of mine who share a ludicrous sense of humour and the tendency to enjoy silly voices, so you can see why we all get on so well.  Anyway, we had a meeting a couple of weeks ago about the project, which was a seriously mature affair.  We took minutes, for crying out loud.  In the midst of a very technical, important, official discussion about equipment and release forms etc., one of the boys said “oh my God, this is so grown-up!” and the other immediately started singing a little song that went “we’re grown-ups, we’re grown-ups”, complete with hand-clapping.

So obviously as soon as we realise that we’re being adults, we feel compelled to do something to return to our childish roots.  Whenever I discover that someone my age is getting married, it immediately makes me want to balance out the universe by eating a McDonald’s Happy Meal (or something).  When I find out that someone my age has gone clubbing in Watford on a Friday night, it drives me to read a furniture assembly instruction manual.  We are grown-ups or big kids depending on the occasion, and I think that that’s absolutely fine, for two reasons:

1) We are supposed to be enjoying our lives.  As long as we can separate the silly moments from the serious, why do we have to behave a certain way all of the time?  Why can’t Ash and I impersonate the bunnies from Gnomeo and Juliet when we want to?  Not that we ever do that.  Ahem.

2) No matter how grown-up we get, we will never be completely free of our younger selves.  People who are married, buying houses and having kids still say that they feel like they’re pretending to be adults, and that they’re playing at being responsible.  There is a surreal and scary quality to adult life that we have to defend ourselves against by letting out the childish impulses once in a while.  Perfect example: my dad started his day at 8am by running down the stairs singing “tra la la!” very, very loudly and for no discernible reason.  The man is knocking on sixty and he’s still got time for childish behaviour, so I think the rest of us can give ourselves a break.

Have a spectacular Friday.  I hope that your post-work social plans are the highlight of your week.

Top Ten Things We Are Officially Too Old For

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Hello, reader! Long time no see!  How was your week?

After a few days’ hiatus while I was running amok in Paris, I am back in Blighty and brimming with blog ideas.  I also appear to be massively over-using the letter “b”, for some reason.

My favourite bit of the Paris trip was visiting the Eiffel Tower.  It says a lot that this was my favourite part of the weekend, because we had to queue for TWO HOURS to get inside.  Being British we were completely comfortable with the queueing process, but Mario and I were nonetheless obliged to play some fairly silly games while we waited, including the classic Would You Rather.  Here’s an example:

Me: Would you rather live in a cave for the rest of your life, or at the top of the Eiffel Tower?
Mario: Would you be able to leave to go shopping and stuff?
Me: Um…no.
Mario: Top of the Eiffel Tower, obviously.
Me: How would you get your shopping, then?
Mario: I’d get it flown in.
Me: How?  There’s no helipad or anything up there.
Mario: I’d get the people to throw the stuff at me and I’d catch it.
Me: Oh, of course.

In front of us in the queue were two families, both British, with five kids between them of various ages between six and twelve-ish.  Understandably these kids were as bored as we were, so they ran around, played games, annoyed each other and climbed on the railings.  I have two problems with this:

1) There is no way on earth my parents would EVER have let us behave that way when we were kids.  If we so much as raised our voices in public when we were little we didn’t know which way was up, I can tell you.  It’s so unfair that these kids can get away with messing around when I never did.  Mutter, grumble, back in my day etc.

2) Damn it, I’m a grown up now!  I’ll never get to run around and play silly games in public!  I’ve missed my opportunity forever!  More muttering and grumbling.

With this horrific injustice in mind, Mario and I came up with a list of the Top Ten Things We Are Officially Too Old For.  By “we” I mean people in their mid-twenties,  and by “officially” I mean “according to me and Mario, who are not qualified to be authorities on this kind of stuff, but we’re pretty sure we’re right”.  Let me know what you think:

1) Running around and messing about in queues
Even as a drama graduate with a Masters in (essentially) Messing About and Doing Silly Voices, I know that that’s not cool.

2) Ordering kids’ meals in restaurants
I tried this one in a Wetherspoons last week.  I’ve never seen such fear and confusion on another human being’s face before.

3) Drinking Nesquik
Mario argued this one, but would you drink it in public?  No.  Same goes for Panda Pops, sadly.

4) Friendship bracelets
Unless some kind of bizarre retro-kitsch fad comes around (and I’m not ruling it out), these lovely tokens are off-limits to us now, even ironically.  If you want to give your friend something that says “I like you, you’re pretty fun” you have to buy them a pint.  Or a puppy or something.

5) Weird hair ornaments
Scrunchies, Alice bands, smiley-face hair clips, glittery hair bobbles – basically anything from Claire’s Accessories is a no-no.

6) Crying in photos
As a baby or small child, crying or looking grumpy in photos is completely fine, and often makes for ammunition that your parents will use when you bring home your first girl/boyfriend.  I know of several school/family photos that meet the gleeful criteria of parents in those circumstances, but nobody cries in their graduation photo (I hope).

7) Light-up trainers
I waited MONTHS to get a pair of blue light-up trainers when I was a kid, and to this day they are my favourite of every pair of shoes I’ve ever owned.  As a grown up I own lots of shoes that I like, but none of them make me feel like a super hero.

8) Having tantrums in public
Let’s be honest: sometimes lying down on the floor, kicking your heels, pounding your fists and screaming blue murder is incredibly appealing.  But as adults we have learned that that’s not always the best way to get what we want, so we have to do more boring things like compromise and negotiate.

9) Drink Calpol
This one makes me the saddest of all, I think.  If I’m ill I have to wander wistfully past the purple syrup of magical well-being and head to the boring, tasteless Ibuprofen.

10) Ask simple questions
There are lots of questions that are seen as cutesy, typical kid questions: “Why is the sky blue?” “What’s love?” “Why can’t we feel the Earth spinning?” and I STILL don’t know the answers to most of them.  I’m too old pull off the eyelash-batting, adorable curiosity thing, so in my ignorant adulthood I turn to a different long-suffering parent: Wikipedia.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend; I hope your Sunday dinner involves the best roast potatoes in the universe.