Archive for the ‘owning things’ Category

Seven, seven, seven..

Robin

In the final week of Robin’s first half-term of secondary school, L and I attend an evening meeting with his form teacher. The girls’ PE teacher fulfils too many stereotypes of that subjects’ teachers – drowning in the shallow end of education. But she’s enthusiastic about Robin: he plays in the school football team and he’s academic. She shows us a table of his progress, with scores extrapolated ‘by a machine’ for GCSEs in five years time. Sevens across the board – A’s in old money.

Robin broods when we tell him this news. He’s unhappy. Why don’t they think he’s going to get eights and nines (A* and A**s)? It’s early days, we say. To be told you’re going to get sevens already is amazing. He looks determined.

Gabe

Gabe’s acquisition of a hi-fi system to enable him to play his vinyl is proceeding slowly. Having sold the record player he received for his birthday, as well as his X-box, he bought an upgraded record player and an amp. They were not compatible and so, when he next had money, he bought a pre-amp. That came without an output cable. Soon, he will have bought that, which leaves the connection to his speakers. Until that combination is sorted he will listen with his headphones, but for the time being, his vinyl stays ensleeved.

Eliza

Eliza has visited the world war one battlefields. She left by coach late one night, returning three days later. One hundred years ago many servicemen returned shell-shocked and unable to relate their experiences in France and Belgium. Eliza had no such trauma, but other than acknowledging enjoying visiting the trenches and the chocolate shop, she’s giving little more away.

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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.

Sprint champion

Robin

Sports day was held in the week before the half-term holidays. That evening, responding to my question, “How was your day?” Robin urgently informed me, “I beat L in the 60m sprint!” Beating his classmate, Man Utd junior footballer, ranked as a higher accolade than simply being year (probably school) sprint champion. 

Eliza

Eliza’s last 24 hours or so have featured: two 2-hour gymnastics sessions, a trip to a local trampolining centre and a sleepover with her gym friends which involved no sleep until they finally keeled over at 8am. She has gone to bed very weary tonight. 

Gabe

Gabe has left the house in the last two weeks solely to take exams and for two shopping trips. As previously reported, this hermit-like behaviour doesn’t mean he is revising from dawn to dusk. Revision is happening, but not in the quantities that a two week confinement would suggest. 

On his shopping trips Gabe has added to his LP collection. Unfortunately he has experienced the downside of vinyl: scratched records, so must go out again to take back a couple of discs. His other acquisition has been a blue suit, which will become his sixth form attire from September. 

Turntable present

Gabe

Gabe’s birthday fell in the midst of his GCSE language oral exams and in peak revision period. He opted, as last year, for a quiet birthday. His main present, which we bought on an outing to the Trafford Centre, was a turntable. An object of desire for this 16 year old eager to place his beloved Beatles’ sound under the added scrutiny of vinyl. He has not been disappointed. 

Robin

Robin has completed his year 6 SATs. These tests, for which there has been an ominous build-up at school, have made him more anxious than I would have expected, given they hold no significance for him. Walking to school on the morning of a SAT, he has been frisky, a few minutes of energy and daftness traded for the serious stuff coming later that day. He reports that each test went well, some were easy. He’s looking forward now to a relaxed final summer of primary school. 

Eliza

Eliza, having dropped her phone in the toilet, has a new phone. It is Gabe’s old iPhone and there is a dispute brewing about who owes whom what for her to take on its possession. But even with a new phone, with no competition for the TV, on a sunny Sunday morning, Eliza admitted to missing Robin who had not yet returned from a sleepover. 

Eleven plus (for the last time)

Robin

The last few weeks in the run-up to Robin sitting the grammar school entrance exam had seen some progress in his practice tests: faster working, more reliable calculations, better understanding of maths problems. But to some extent it felt that L and my efforts were focused on building his confidence. He still seemed some way short on the verbal reasoning paper, in particular. 

L took him to the grammar school for the test. He coped with the crowds and the tension waiting to be admitted and then he was gone. Three hours later, L & Eliza collected him. 

“How was it?” 

“Fine.”

He seemed happy with his efforts; he completed all the tests (on the practice tests he rarely was able to). But no detail was offered, or sought. He went to school, reluctantly, that afternoon. Now we wait for the result. 

In the meantime, he has owned up to L that he really, really wants to go to the same school as Eliza & Gabe. Two nights ago, Eliza and I found him wearing her blazer. The only insight he’s offered on the test was when he heard the word ‘eavesdrop’ and chuckled – he’d remembered what it meant when it came up in the entrance exam. 

Gabe

Gabe’s yearning for a new iPhone has forced the issue of him receiving a monthly allowance. Immediately, he converted his new income into an iPhone 5 and ordered a Beatles themed case. When he first had a phone, his obsession was taking selfies. He’s moved through stages of YouTube addiction, Instagram and now his phone, and speakers, give him a perpetual soundtrack.

Eliza

Eliza and I began reading ‘To kill a mocking bird’ on holiday. We have both enjoyed it greatly. We’ve tried to adopt the accent, we’ve paused to look up words (‘scuppernong’) and ridden the wave of the narrative with Scout. Twice, during the most gripping passages, though, Eliza has fallen asleep wile I’ve read. Once during Tom Robinson’s trial, and then again when the story reached its climax on a dark night in Maycomb. 

In the trenches

Gabe

Gabe went away in the early hours of Thursday before half-term holiday. The school history trip to the Belgian battlefields of the Great War had been over-subscribed and Gabe too late to express interest. But a couple of weeks before departure he took up a vacated place.

Trenches (real and simulated), cemeteries, chapels and the towns the war plagued were visited. Each student had a local soldier to research before departure and search for some marker of their death when in Belgium. Gabe found the site of the mass grave of 35,000 German casualties the most affecting. It was, he confirmed, the best school trip he has had.

Robin

Robin was picked for Sale’s under 12 team in the indoor winter cricket league. The step-up in intensity, particularly in the field, energised him. He coped well, bowling strongly and batting reliably, pushing singles to share the strike with the skipper, only swinging hard at deliveries aimed at his legs that he could shovel square. While his teammates batted, he hung on the edge of his group, likely as not returning to me to sit on my lap: an endearing mix of young affection and physical prowess.

Eliza

choc towerOn her desk is built a chocolate tower. Weeks after Christmas and barely touched are chocolate reindeer, a selection box, Lindor, a bar of chocolate, a chocolate Santa and a tub of Heroes. That same ration barely saw Robin and Gabe into 2016. Eliza is unlikely to finish hers before Easter. It’s a sugary monument to her self-control and her understanding of the value of a pleasure deferred.

Internet shopping

    Eliza

Eliza saves up and finds the things she usually wants to buy – clothes – are bought for her. An MP3 player is a new departure. It’s a gadget that matches her activities: she’s self-possessed, reading, writing or creating and very often singing. L bought it for her and I collected it from Argus. She called me at work to find out when I would be home with it and she was waiting for me at the front-door. It’s pink and has a cheap fragile feel, but I hope it stays together long enough to repay Eliza’s investment.

    Gabe

Gabe played in the nets with a friend who had a fielding practice bat. Gabe’s kit obsession zeroed in on this object and he ordered one. It arrived while he was in London visiting cousins. He called me checking whether it had arrived. It may be a bit of a disappointment, not having the ping he thought it would provide.

    Robin

Robin was required to wear some second hand trainers when his feet were seen to have grown at the start of the summer. But they haven’t fitted well and he got blisters. New bright orange trainers were bought on a school shoe shopping trip. So was a new City kit. Apparently it lacks a dark stripe featured on the senior kit. Gabe seems to be encouraging the idea of sewing on a piece of material to make it look more authentic.