Archive for the ‘achievements’ Category

The offer

Gabe

The letter arrived on a Wednesday morning, L’s non-working day. She sent G a text asking if she should open it. He vacillated (of course), then said ‘yes’. The envelope was thick, which L thought was encouraging. Inside was the offer to study History at Lincoln College, Oxford on the condition of achieving three A grades.

Gabe was surprised and so pleased. We had a celebratory pizza. A few days later, he went to a schoolmate’s 18th birthday, where he celebrated in more traditional style, arriving home late and worse for wear.

No sooner has his achievement sunk in than mock A Levels remind him of the task ahead.

Robin

Before school restarted, Robin and I had time for one lengthy ride. He loved it and loves his bike. He has ridden to school every day so far, bar the morning I stopped him for fear of icy roads. One afternoon, approaching home, he realised he wasn’t ready to unseat and come home, so took off for a further lap of the neighbourhood.

Eliza

Eliza has found a second line of income earning, to supplement the hours she spends each weekend running birthday parties at the gym. She has picked up a baby-sitting gig, courtesy of L’s neighbourhood WhatsApp group. She has completed one assignment so far, which was uneventful.

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University visits

Gabe

In the space of two weeks, Gabe visited Oxford, Durham and Cambridge. The second he disliked. At Oxford and Cambridge, he attended sessions on applying for history and took in as many small, central and traditional colleges as his patience would allow. Oxford is his preferred destination. I asked if he could explain why. “No,” he said – he couldn’t put it into words. He seems both realistic about his chances and motivated to give it his best effort.

Amongst all the sights of academic excellence and ancient architecture, my strongest memory of the visits was from the very start of our journey to Oxford. To Gabe’s annoyance, I said we would take the tram to Piccadilly Station. As the tram pulled in, he baulked and like a nervous horse, refused the ‘obstacle’. I spoke quietly, but urgently to him and when the next tram came, he put aside his fears and stepped on board. 45 minutes later, we took our seats on the train to Oxford. A teenage girl sat on the seat to our right. She was being fussed over by her Mother, prior to travelling alone. My phone buzzed. There was a text from Gabe, stating just ‘Home schooled’. The swing from highly anxious to contemptuous had taken less than one hour.

Eliza

Eliza’s Duke of Edinburgh expedition took place on one of the hottest weekends of this hot summer. The supervisors made a humane concession, relaxing the requirement that the participants carry everything they will need with them, by providing supplies of water at their check-points.

Eliza’s group didn’t repeat the navigational mistakes that saw them fail their practice expedition. On Sunday they rose early, left camp an hour ahead of schedule, made good time and arrived hours before they were expected. Eliza was lying on the ground, tired and bored when we pulled up, almost three hours after the expedition ended.

Robin

Robin won two awards at his school presentation event. One for being part of the league-winning football team and the other for being the best cricketer. He was unimpressed that they were not ‘proper’ awards. More to his liking was the day he spent at the Chill Factor skiing, snowboarding and tobaganning as part of a select group of students rewarded for their achievements during the academic year.

Birthday walk

Most years, I have insisted on the family walking in the countryside as my birthday treat. It has provoked bad temper and resentment. As this year was a special birthday, I had three days walking, at which the kids only had to join for one day.

Eliza and Robin

Amongst the 30 walkers who set out on Saturday morning were Eliza and Robin’s friends E & A, also brother and sister.  They entertained each other throughout the hilly walk to the pub and the flat, canalside return. As the adults trudged through the afternoon, weighed down by lunch and beer, in the unseasonal hot weather (which made me very grateful for the summer hat that Eliza had given me as a birthday present), Robin and A covered much more distance than was needed, by running back and forward along the canal.

In the evening, these four had a table to themselves in the room set aside for our dinner. But the walk had taken its toll, as the two boys fell asleep on the sofas in the bar area, while we dined slowly.

Gabe

Gabe has in prior years been the least reconciled to my birthday walk, but rose to this occasion. He puffed hard as we followed the hilly trail in the bright morning sunshine, asking regularly how much further to the pub for lunch. But he kept up a good pace, staying with me as I hurried to reach the pub in time for the other guests’ arrival. On the return, he walked with Malc, L and me joining in our contented chat. In the evening, he milled and mixed with my friends who stayed for dinner.

A highlight of three wonderful days’ outdoors, was Gabe’s decision to walk again with five friends and me on Sunday. We were back into the hills and there was rain as we set off. But he was at his sociable, mature best. Towards the end of the walk, he conceded that he was so tired as to feel in a daze, but he saw the trip through without complaint.

 

Inflatabirthday

Robin

Robin’s birthday came and so did his agonisingly chosen guests – three from his new school, two from his old. They had an hour at Inflatanation – bouncing in a warehouse of inflated shapes. Two mobile phones were lost and both found. At home, sitting down for tea, without the outlet of physical activity, some awkwardness returned, but fortunately new friend T is garrulous and kept the chatter going. Robin was happy with his birthday, signing off with a sleepover for old friend A. A week later, and Robin has invited his first school friend, M, home after school, and they had a kickabout in the garden.

Eliza

Eliza’s school PE class was set a challenge: do as many sit-ups as you can, keeping time with a ticking clock. Eliza stopped in the 80s, but could have continued. She was conscious that the rest of the class, all having given up, were looking at her. Her legs were a bit wobbly afterwards, she conceded.

Gabe

Gabe has been making slow progress with his 5,000 word extended essay (aka EPQ), on 60s music and social change, which is due for submission in March. He asked me to read the first 1,500 words. He is stuck trying to unpick what was a cause of social change and what was an example of social change. Access to abortion, he points out, was a social change and created social change. ‘Spot on’, I reply. But he wants certainty and clarity not real world ambiguity.

Fourteen

Eliza

A teacher training day fell on the day after Eliza’s birthday giving her the perfect opportunity for an evening birthday party at home. Seven or eight friends arrived – one girl as tall as I am. They sat and chatted in high-pitched voices, laughed, ate pizza, played with their phones, occasionally bust into song, accompanying something being played on someone’s phone. It was a great success.

Gabe

Gabe attended GCSE awards evening where he and his classmates collected their exam certificates. A local MP and school alumna gave the address. Gabe received a faculty award. It could only have been more unlikely had it been Food Tech. It turned out that the boy who lies around for hour after hour, shirks exercise and has left his GCSE courses much less fit than he started, won the PE award.

Robin

Robin, following Gabe’s lead, returns from school and keeps wearing his school uniform through the evening. Even when we’re going out, as we did tonight to Eliza’s gymnastics competition, he chooses to keep on his blazer, tie and trousers. When finally, it’s time to get ready for bed, the blazer comes off and is tossed to the floor. L & I are trying, without much impact, to instil in him the habit of removing his blazer and hanging it up.

Hot chocolate with head-teacher

Robin

Recognising his engagement and participation in class, Robin has been invited to share a cup of hot chocolate with his head-teacher. Lessons are an aspect of school that Robin seems most at ease with. He has found the early weeks, lacking any close friends, quite tough and has often been unhappy at the end of the day or in the morning before school. Before the summer, he was keen to go on the school residential trip in October. Now, he has asked to be taken off it. The call to the head-teacher’s office may provide a welcome boost, though it’s the call up to the football team that would probably mean more.

Gabe

Barely four months after becoming an owner of a record-player, Gabe has decided to upgrade his audio equipment. Using money from the sale of his games console, he has bought an amplifier (he considered getting the same model that I had bought in 1986 and sold three years ago) and is now looking at a better model of turntable. While this equipment procurement takes place, he has taken a 30 day self-denying vow not to listen to any Beatles music – he’s worried he will stop liking it if he plays it too often.

Eliza

Eliza has reached the second phase of her orthodontist treatment. In addition to the braces, she has plates for her upper and lower jaw, designed to correct her over-bite. These plates were very uncomfortable to begin with and continue to affect her speech, as well as altering the shape of her face.

Virtually flawless

Gabe

Gabe’s GCSE results were virtually flawless, comprising A*’s, two 8’s and a 9 under the new scoring system for English Language, Literature and Maths [on appeal, the 8 for maths, was later raised to a 9]. Music was the exception – a common A.

He is, understandably, very satisfied and L hopes it may trigger a switch in his mood. What it hasn’t done is make the case for hard work. It’s hard to quantify how much time he spent revising, but it didn’t exceed the hours spent lounging around, listening to music and watching YouTube videos. I hope the results give him confidence to challenge himself, but it could just as easily reinforce his view that his considerable natural academic talents will allow him to coast.

Eliza

Eliza asked to go running each evening. We have managed several outings. She has settled into a steady running tempo, while I alternate hard running for a minute with walking (to protect my right knee). I had thought I could match her pace with a 2:1 ratio of walking and running. It wasn’t the case, as by the end of our route, my minute of sprinting didn’t bring me level with her. One minute running and one minute walking kept us closer.

I think Eliza’s motivation is that at the start of each school year, the girls have their fitness measured on a test called the Cooper Run – a 12 minute activity to see how far each participant can run. She has her sights set on improving her previous result and probably ranking higher in her class.

Robin

Robin has a mobile phone. He has endured a year as the only one of his peers without a mobile device. Barring a brief period of nagging last autumn when the degree of his exceptionalism became apparent, he took this disadvantage equably. And within the family, a rule has been consistently enforced (by L, as I was ready to bend it): no phone until just before starting at secondary school. Now he has the phone, he and it are rarely separated.