Annoying People and Leslie Fightmaster

Lesley Fightmaster


I discovered YouTube yoga-teacher Lesley Fightmaster one Saturday.

I often work Saturdays, but that day my calendar had a reassuring square of blank.  What’s more, hubby and the kids had somewhere to be that morning……



Friday had been stressful.  My last patient had been Fido –

Soddit.  Let’s be honest:  no-one calls their dog ‘Fido’.  This is 2015, the midst of an ‘Alfie’ epidemic.

‘Fido’ is a fabrication in liu of a real case (client confidentiality and all that).  His owners had been given great veterinary advice by Yours Truely, on the back of years of training and experience.  Fido’s owners had completely ignored that advice.

It’s not fiction:  it happens regularly.  Perhaps the owners decided not to give Fido his medicine; or insisted on treating his flea allergy with one of those products that Definitely Doesn’t Kill Fleas;  or let him lick out the frying pan despite his recent pancreatitis bout.

Whatever it was, Fido’s owners had made him worse and me furious.

After work, I called at the supermarket for soup.  I like to walk in, grab what I need and get out again.  But I spent too long stuck behind a tiny, frail old lady with an enormous bag on her shoulder.  She was blocking the aisle, looking for her favourite flavour of Covent Garden.  I hovvered with my fists clenched.

Then I got stuck behind a learner driver doing 20MPH in a 40-limit going home.



Back to Saturday morning.

The house was a tip:  hubby had left a trail.   Boxes littered the kitchen work-top; the kids’ sticky porridge dishes were abandoned on the table; hubby’s empty tea-mug, next to the armchair, was already swamped by a thick layer of disguarded pyjamas, toys, shoes, newspapers, works-of-art, banana-skins and – of course – porridge.  Grrr!

On a good day, tidying’s OK.  It introduces calm and coherence to my household; sets my mind in order; helps to reduce any tension.

On a bad day, I’ve just been left with all the fucking cleaning-up again.  I found the lap-top, played some jazz and tidied aggressively.

Interestingly though, I didn’t test my blood sugar.  My doctors gives me excellent advice (based on years of training and experience) but sometimes, you see, I ignore it.  My kids weren’t even there to use as an excuse.

Fido’s owner probably had an excuse.  Perhaps her mother had just died, or perhaps I hadn’t made something clear enough.  Or perhaps she was just distracted, or overwhelmed….

When the floor was clear, I settled down for my yoga session in weeks.  I was dreading the discovery of how far downhill i’d slipped.

Of course, I was a learner driver once.  And I hope to live long enough to be a little old lady who takes forever choosing soup.  I will still want to walk into supermarkets, grab what I need and get out again, but that’s probably all she was trying to do, wasn’t it?

And of course, there are plenty of times when hubby has come home to a messy house on my watch.  Why can’t I just bloody get on with things instead of getting cross and criticising people all the time?

The yoga instructor had a superb cleavage jutting out of an impossibly slim frame, meticulous make-up and stood in front of a magnificent urban view, somewhere with palm-trees, that was probably from her balcony.  Her work-out was one I’d become fond of, tag-lined ‘hardcore.’

It started easily enough.  But within minutes she came to one-sided planks and my shoulders collapsed.  I pressed STOP, decided that maybe I was hypoglycaemic and threw something heavy at the floor.  My own fucking fault, of course.  Stupid diabetes.

Maybe, I thought (crunching sweets a few minutes later) there’s an easier hour-long yoga video.  I started flicking around Youtube and that’s when I found her.  As well as a cool name, Lesley Fightmaster had patterned leggings and a cosy jumper.  No cleavage; no portentious background.  Just a yoga-mat and some grass that could have been in any park in Sheffield.


During the warm-up, she was flapping at something with her hand.

‘There was a little mosquito,’ the commentary explained.

Later she hoiked up her trousers because they were too big and starting to slip.  ‘I’m sorry if that’s distracting.’

And I thought:  ‘That’s like me doing yoga’.

Except that she can do all the poses, obviously.  She did muck up a balance at one point  – ‘I could take it out and make it prettier, but that’s not real life‘ – and I just warmed to her.

I already know that pet owners can’t ‘make’ me angry.  People do what they do, and I interpret it as I choose and I feel the way that I feel.  It’s my own choice how I respond to those feelings.

I responded OK; I talked through the situation very clamly with Fido’s owner and offered my best solution.  I wasn’t rude to the old lady in the supermarket (although I shuold have helped her to find the soup) and I didn’t beep my horn at the Learner Driver.  It’s good to be compassionate.

Hubbies are different though.  I yelled at Hubby when I got home and saw the mess. I got quite angry with myself about that later.

Have you ever noticed that people who want to think harshly of other people are the ones who want to think harshly of themselves?

Lesley Fightmaster is not hard on herself.

‘It’s about Practice,’ she says, transitioning into some side-planks.

‘Show up, do your best and let the results go.’

I found myself smiling and doing the side-planks with her.  It felt luxurious but was actually quite essential, to have the space to stretch my body again.


Where Coffee = Compassion

Autumn woman against a fence and maple leaveswoman against a fence, maple leaves


What will happen, asked my friend Claire, if I knock on your door on Halloween Night?

I considered suggesting that my daughter (who thinks she’s Elsa from Frozen) would turn her into a pumpkin.  (An ice-pumpkin.  Obviously).

Luckily I didn’t promise that, because by the time Halloween came round I was sick of pumpkins.  Having popped into a budget supermarket to buy some milk around the beginning of October, I’d acquired two massive ones.  I’d declined to pay for carrier bags and of course mine were still in the car.  The only practical way to lift up and carry two pumpkins without a bag made me vulnrable to the smirks of other shoppers.

Anyway.  I got my pumpkins back to the car and tucked them away under my coat.  Then I forgot all about them.  Until three weeks later, when I decided to investigate a new and putrid smell that had started to emanate from the rear seats.  I reached under a coat; my hand penetrated rotten pumpkin skin and plunged into slimy flesh.  Why hadn’t I remembered to carve the blasted things?!

It’s because I’d been distracted.  In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’ve been working damned hard.  I’ve also been studying neurology, looking for a babysitter, making plans to exercise  – and usually cancelling or rearranging said plans.

The whole family has been ill in the space of a fortnight, there’s a slow puncture on my front left car-tyre and the tumble-dryer’s on the blink.  I’ve also been meaning to buy some new work-shoes ever since I wore mine to fish my daughter out of some quick-sand a few weeks ago, but I’ve never quite made it to the shops.  One morning I hurried out without my bank-card.  I ended up having an argument at a petrol station about my right to pay for the £5.00 worth of petrol that I needed to get home, with the scrumpled up Scottish fiver that I had excavated from a pocket.  I drove home still arguing with the guy.

Autumn makes a lot of people think about death, but it doesn’t do that for me.  Autumn is about survival.  Even the trees are like wild working parents; a bit untidy with mussed-up hair, bodies under stress, branches not knowing which way to bend, the signs of aging suddenly apparent.  They support creepy-crawlies, birds, squirrels, fungii.  It’s a good job they’ve got big roots.

Times are rough.  You know the fog that insulates your mind a little bit too much?  The vortex of wind that skitters leaves about?  You know the cold rain that can never decide which horizontal direction to rain in, but always manages to ooze between your neck and collar bone?

Bonfire night was cold and damp.  Navigating to the blaze was a bit of a project (the whole family and our friend Fred crammed into my little car, which still sported a temporary mini-wheel because of the puncture).  Getting two kids across a busy, dark field wasn’t easy.  I went off and found burgers, apple juice and magic flashy balls, then elbowed through the crowd and located my family again.  My daughter whined inconsolably:  she had apparenly wanted a toffee-apple and a light-sabre instead.  I said something harsh but I let her lean on me to watch the bonfire.  She’s a strong, heavy leaner.  I fell over onto the mud a fair few times – I wish I’d gone to the bonfire in my quick-sand-damaged work-shoes, but I hadn’t thought of that.  My trousers and a second pair of shoes got trashed.  I might have sworn a bit. I might have moaned when I realised that she wasn’t actually watching the fireworks.

I’m glad I watched them.  They were stunning.  I just wish I’d been less grumpy about it.

‘Do you think,’ Fred said later, in a gentle way that he has, ‘that you would benefit from being more calm?’

‘Maybe I could learn mindfulness.’ I said.

We were sitting in the living room, forced by the darkness to spend the evening inside.

‘Do you know about mindfulness, Fred?’

We began to Talk.

Which makes me mindful of returning to Claire, who did indeed knock on our door on Halloween Night.  What happened?  She was invited into our chaotic, untamable home, handed a beer and settled down into the leaf-litter to gossip, of course, just like Fred and I were doing now.

Remembering that autumn trees are beautiful.  Listening to the trees rustling outside.  Plotting survival.


Changing my Colours

Here is Becky wearing her red dress:


Becky loves her red dress.  She’s pretty tall and she stands taller when she’s wearing it.

But someone has pointed out that red is not Becky’s colour…..

Oh Dear!

“What if I’ve got it wrong?  What if I’ve been going round all this time in my beloved dress, and it actually looks shit?”

What, indeed?  I reiterate:   she doesn’t look shit.  But apparently it’s not mine – or even Becky’s – opinion that matters.  Becky wants to know what’s ‘right’.

It frustrates me that anyone should be worrying about looking ‘right’.  How come there are ‘wrong’ ways to look?  Why – for example – is it ‘good’ to look ‘youthful’ in a world where aging is the only thing everybody has in common?  Our very culture sets people up for failure.

Anyway.  Where were we?  Becky’s red dress.

Becky has a solution.  She’s going to get her ‘Colours Done.’

That means, she’s found a person prepared to relieve her of quite a lot of cash and drape her with different cloths and tell her which colours are ‘right.’

She is Facebook-fishing for people to go with her.

FFS.  I am a strong independent feminist whose confidence is Defintiely Not connected to what I look like.  Becky should be like that, too.

My reply is regrettable: I am so scathing that I temporarily forget to reply considerately.  Then I remember something.  My best-dressed Auntie suggested I got my colours done……

While I hesitate, Bea clears her throat.

Bea is a woman who can always defend her position in an argument.  Which must be useful because she has some pretty radical positions.  But I wasn’t expecting this:

‘My parents bought me my ‘colours’ as an eighteenth birthday present. 

It was possibly the best gift they could have given me.’

Bea says that she spends very little time shopping because she goes straight for the Right colours.  She never buys things that she later regrets because she buys the Right Colours.

Moreover, she says she looks great in everything she wears, because she wears the Right Colours.

Endurer Events picture

I nearly fall off my chair.  Mostly in admiration.  Bea publicly admits that she looks good?  Is this a real, live woman talking?


But back to colours.

It is undoubtedly true that some colours suit some people better than others.  Even I can see that.  A quick google shows that Bea does seem to choose colours that compliment her and perhaps this is linked to the fact that she looks good.

Further, Bea says, ‘Whatever you think about the woo-woo world of colours, I enourage you to support a friend who chooses to invest in herself.  She is worth it.’

There is an arugment here.  Maybe society shouldn’t make such a ‘thing’ of people’s appearances, but it does.  Appearances matter to Bea and Becky.  There is no point saying ‘they shouldn’t’:  you can’t tell a person what to feel.

So if Becky can hand over some cash and come away feeling that she has done something nice for herself – if it gives her confidence in her wardrobe akin to Bea’s – then perhaps it might be a good use of money?

In fact, what’s my problem?  Someone’s going to suggest that Becky picks colours off the clothing rail that compliment her features, not tell her she’s inadequate or should change her weight or inject toxins into her face.  Perhaps having your colours done isn’t a slur on feminism…

My sticking point is still the implication that Becky’s current taste in dresses might be labelled inadequate, or ‘wrong.’

This person who ‘does’ your colours – what do you call them, anyway?  ‘Colourist’ is a different thing.  The ‘Expert’?  The ‘Rainbow’?  The ‘Oracle’?  – how is their opinion ‘right?’  Surely colour is an aesthetic judgement?

I try asking Bea what would have happened if, in a parallel universe, they’d handed her a ‘wrong’ shade of blue as she’d walked out of the door.  Would she have led a less successful life?

It’s a difficult question to answer; Bea says she knows intuitively if her colours are ‘off.’

So I try my other criticism of Bea’s arguments:  is she sure she doesn’t look good for some other reason?  Because of her hair-cut or her figure or her confident stance or because of being in love or because of her engaging eye-contact?  Or even the confidence that believing her colours are right has given her?

Bea says that despite all this, she’d look ill wearing beige.  Or orange.

Orange isn’t my colour either.  My favourite running-top is orange and I know it clashes with my face, espcially when I turn red after a couple of miles.  But I wear it because I like it and I defy anyone to say I look ‘wrong’.  Wearing my orange top doesn’t damage my self esteem.

The start of the Wirksworth Undulator. I'm in orange.Although – I admit I do feel a bit awkward when I’m wearing clothes I’m not happy in.  And I definitely stand a bit taller if I’m wearing something that I beleive makes me look postively good.

So maybe I, too, would benefit from knowing what colours were deemed to suit me best?  Even if I still decided to wear orange…..

“How much is it?” asks hubby.

I look at the numbers on the screen.

“I’m not telling you,” I say.

Only stupid people never change their minds in an argument. My curiosity has been piqued and I am going to get my colours done with Becky.  Perhaps I will become radicalised:  perhaps I will come back discussing ‘better’ or ‘worse’ or ‘my’ or ‘not my’ colours.  Using phrases like ‘Spring moving through to Summer.’  But maybe I might learn something, too.

As Bea says, ‘I want to be the best version of myself that I can be.’

Yet no matter whether the Oracle says, there is one thing on which I won’t be moved.

it will always be my opinion that Becky looked fab in this dress:


Vets and Slugs

Last week, I worked 59 hours.

For many vets, this is normal.

And no emotional picnic: we do things like administering lethal injection to people’s pets because we can’t find a way to give them a nice quality of life.

Little wonder we score so highly in the professional leagues of suicide, injury and divorce.

It also astonishes me that lots of veterinary parents reckon that 15-hour night-shifts are the best chance of a family-friendly career.  Shouldn’t there be better ways?

I am day-vetting. But Tiddler’s nursery closes half an hour before most of us have seen our last consultation. With Big-Sprog’s school closing mid-afternoon, I am trying to find a sensible way to keep a locum job I’ve grown fond of when hubby leaves again.  It’s not easy – which is why I’m a locum.

But let’s not rant about the social concerns of the profession. I enjoy my work and – in absence of having much home-life this week – I thought I’d share some veterinary stuff.

After work I drove to Leeds. I followed my sat-nav to a big hotel, walked into a spaceous lobby where I was greeted and directed to the buffet. I ate a beautiful curry and a chocolate cake, found a free elaborate coffee machine that made elaborate coffee free and picked up a complementary copy of the Independent. I read it overlooking the impressive entrance room, occasionally staring down at some impressive bits of art.

Yes, I realise that for some of you this is routine. But my working day had involved squeezing anal-glands and examining a rabbit’s poo-covered genetalia.  Today’s vet surgery is still being built, so I was working in a mobile unit.  It’s pretty servicable: it even has a porter-loo (which is amusingly behind a combination-lock door and has a separate padlock and key, making it the highest-security porter-loo on which I have ever parked my bum).

Walking into the hotel toilet was heaven.  After that, it was time for the conference.

Mostly about this little guy.  Angiostrongylus Vasorum

He isn’t very big.  His larvae live on the inside of slugs and snails (or frogs who have eaten a slug or snail). They stay there, maturing into big larvae, until the slug / snail / frog is eaten by a dog.

Of course, they end up in the dogs’ tummy and intestines. They wriggle through the intestine walls, through the liver and into the dogs’ heart.  It’s a rite of passage for the mini Angiostrogyluses; by the time they get there, they are of age.

They lay their eggs which move through the bloodstream to the tiny blood vessels of the lungs. The eggs hatch out into the airways. The dog coughs them up and swallows them; this time they go straight through the intestines and are pooed out into the park, where a passing slug or snail comes along and gobbles them up.

Angiostrongylus doesn’t mean any harm. The slug is its home and the dog is a convenient warm place to breed. But as far as the dog is concerned, larvae hatching into your lungs will make you cough.  More concerning, the presence of the parasite in the bloodstream can trigger the blood’s clotting system to work overtime: hundreds of tiny microclots might start flying around the blood vessels, triggering more tiny clots until the body’s natural clotting chemicals are all used up.  If its blood no longer clots, the dog bleeds. .

A switched-on vet will give worm-poisen and a blood transfusion with clotting factors.  The people who make worm-poisen have spent the last ten years telling anyone who’ll listen about this. Preventative lungworm treatment is sold to owners of healthy animals, on the basis that reported lungworm cases have been rising steadily so lungworm must be sweeping up North from France.

I was always sceptical of this one.  Are we sure that Lungworm wasn’t always here in low numbers, and that we are only diagnosing it more because the drugs companies have educated us so well?
Yet there is new evidence.  Lungworm also affects foxes. In 2008, a team from Bristol University scraped up roadkill foxes and dissected them for lungworm. The worm was found in 7.3% of foxes.  In 2015 they repeated project using the same techniques. Now they report the numbers at 18.3%. So maybe lungworm is becomming more common in our environment after all.

There’s now a way to detect lungworm larvae in slugs.  If slugs are tested from different parks around the UK, perhaps we will learn where dogs are most likely to pick Angiostrongylus Juniors up.  If practices know whether or not their local slugs are heavily infected, maybe they can give out better worming advice.

At the hotel in Leeds, the meeting disbanded.  It was now 10pm and most delegates had been working all day.  Did they leave the room quickly making a bee-line for the car-park?

No. We queued up for a ‘slug-collecting kit’, complete with tuppaware box with air-holes and a set of instructions as to how to best harvest slugs (go out with a head-torch at night.  Don’t let them dry out. Slugs are quite happy, apparently, clinging to the sides of the box in the post. Perhaps there is someone whose job it is to open the slug deliveries at the other end and put them somewhere nice to crawl about before they are tested).

I listened to gleeful chatter all around me, making plans for slug-hunts on top of long and stressful working weeks.

I realised something.


We vets must love what we do.

It’s a bugger, because it means we care too much about our cases, work too hard, and have some of the highest suicide, injury and divorce rates going.

And yet, it’s actually rather wonderful, isn’t it?

Cheshire-Cat-Thomas and the early morning run

Tiddler’s favourite pyjama top is very faded.   All that remains is Thomas the Tank Engine’s disembodied face and funnel grinning out of a blue background where his body used to be.  Many’s the morning I’ve opened my eyes to this startling Thomas-Cheshire-cat, and to a jolly Tiddler grin just a short distance above it.

‘Morning, Mummy!’ shouts Tiddler cheerily.

I really hope I don’t scowl every time.  I try hard not to.

Tiddler might be a morning person, but I most definitely am not.

In fact, getting out of bed is usually the worst part of my day.  Having done so, I tend to be a grump. I flounder through the house getting ready, loosing things and snapping at people, before gradually stablising and stumbling out of the door.  When I’m not working, hubby plays with Tiddler first thing and Big Sprog and I tend to sleep for longer.  I can concentrate on anything at two in the morning, but at something-to-seven I am useless.

Anyway, did I tell you about my 10K?  The race is called the Percy Pud and it’s a little bit like Glastonbury in that at 7pm on the night of Monday 5th October, runners all over Sheffield waited in front of their computers for a special link to appear.  When it did, we all tried to register at once and met a frantic ‘loading’ signal…..

Still, with a bit of persistance I managed to get a place.

The Sheffield Striders, the club who organise the race, claim that what makes it so popular is the potential of the course for personal bests; or possibly the friendly, Christmassy atmosphere.  But we punters will tell you that we’re doing it because you get a Christmas pudding at the end.  This year, two-hundred-and-fifty runners registered within ten minutes of the link appearing; by the end of the night, it had sold out. Percy pud is definitely a race for people who know how to be quick….

Bea and I are getting quicker.  Yes: I’m running with a partner, the first time I’ve found someone to run with that’s been mutually convenient.  I proved too slow for Naomi, lived too far away for my friend Sarah, avoided roads too much for Becky and to take the hubby along would require a baby-sitter.  Bea and I rub along nicely though: Bea can set a pace well enough to stop me steaming off, getting ridiculously out of breath and having to stop in the first ten minutes, which is what I normally do on my own.  And she brings a gorgeous staffie along and we chat.  The only trouble is, finding a good time to run.

Bea, you see, has a business to run and two children to educate.  And I have to go to work.

‘How about 6.30 Thursday morning?’ asked Bea.  (Bea is a morning person, like Tiddler, only I don’t think she’s got a Cheshire-cat-Thomas pyjama top).

Fast-forward to Wednesday night.  I’d put myself to bed really early and lay there reading.  Hubby (who is actually the source of Tiddler’s early-morning genes – although he doesn’t wear pyjamas at all) let out a sudden loud guffaw.

I nearly jumped out of my skin.

‘What is it?’;

‘Is Bea really going to knock at our door at half-past-six in the morning to go running?’

‘Yes.  She just texted to confirm.’

‘And you’re going to get out of bed?’  He rolled over, snickering.

Actually, when Bea knocked on the door at 6.30am we were both out of bed, hubby completely starkers and scrabbling for a towel.  We were looking for a) the head torches I’d just put down somewhere before I went to the loo and b) the front door key, so we could let Bea in.

But to my utter surprise, I was almost smiling:  having gone to sleep at ten O’clock rather than my usual after-midnight, i was – if not full of beans – far from being empty.  So we went for a run and it was nice.  We started off in the dark but suddenly I noticed that it was not so dark as all that, and five minutes later I suddenly realised it was daylight.  How lovely!

We finished an hour after we’d started and I had just put the kettle on for a coffee before work when Tiddler came out creeping out of his room.  He was heading for my bedside to say Good Morning.

Then he looked up and saw me in the lounge already.  He grinned until his face cracked in two, Cheshire-Cat-Thomas grinning along with him.

And that morning, I found myself grinning right back.

September Goals

A whole generation on from my own schooling, the school terms have stayed with me.  September is still the time of year when I make a new start and set some new goals.  My new goal is –

– but we’ll come back to that.

First, meet my friend Lisa.  Lisa had her third baby within a year of me having my second.  When I started exercising again, I lost weight and got too thin for my funky new orange skirt.  Because it’s a very nice skirt, and because I had never had chance to wear it (and because Lisa has, ever since I met her, been a couple of sizes bigger) I sent the hubby to her house with it.

Hubby brought the skirt back again:  Lisa had been exercising and it was too big for her too.  In fact, Lisa had taken up running seriously, joined a club and was ‘training.’

Last year, I am smug to report, I beat Lisa in a fell-race.  But that was only because, once she had been miles and miles ahead of me for quite some time, she ran the wrong way too enthusiastically and got lost.  This year, she did the 9 Edges in less than four hours.  In wet conditions.

Two days after that, you’d think she’d be chilling out.  But no:  she asked myself and a few other nutcases if we’d like to start training for a triathlon.

At first, I dismissed it.

But then I thought:  hang on.  I’ve turned myself from a hormonal lump of blubber to someone who can actually do pull-ups (and did I mention black routes at the works?)

I could do a triathlon (albeit slowly) if I wanted!

But do I?

I’ve not a very good swimmer.  I was taken to swimming lessons every week for nearly ten years as a kid;  mostly kicking and screaming.

And then there’s cycling:  apparently I was the only kid in our Junior school ever to fail the cycling proficiency.  I failed it twice.

Crikey.  The only fun bit for me would be writing another of those irrit – i mean, inspirational blog-posts about how I did it against the odds.

And hubby is gonig away a lot this year.  But never mind!  I could always put Tiddler into nursery every other day so I could train.

And I could –

Once I’d bought a bike.  And a new swimsuit  –

I could – Er –


Maybe not.

It dawned on me that I have no real interest in two of the three main skills required for a triathlon and no child-care to train.

But I was inspired.  Imagine – if I started a different challenge and succeeded as magnificently as Lisa probably will in her triathlon  – then one day I might do this:

or maybe this:

Or maybe even THIS!:

When I was looking for the handstand one, I searched back through some likely people’s Facebook pages for about an hour.  No joy.  So I Facebooked:

-Whoever posted a video of an amazing one-handed handstand please would you send me a link?

And of course (thankyou Linds), the link arrived.

As did a message from another remarkable woman, Bea:  founder of YES!  parenting and probably the most positive person in the whole entire world.

Bea:  Are you working towards doing one? x x

Me:  No, Bea.  Just fantasising.

Bea:  You could totally do this if you chose to x x

Me:  Have you [even] seen this video, Bea?

Bea:  no, but I still believe in you.


I saw Bea a couple of days later.  It turns out, that she is working towards a one-handed handstand herself.

WITH a wall behind her, but still.  She can already do an upside-down handstand squat.  She did one in my living room.

Maybe I could do this too!  I could do pull-ups, after all!  I turned a handstand just to see if it were possible, but the feeling of blood rushing to my head was just horrid.  And when I bent my arms to squat, I couldn’t get them straight again.

And then I realised that pull-ups use the antagonistic muslces.  My push-up muscles are still to be developed.

Damn it!  I wanted a goal!  Like Lisa had a goal and like Bea did.  After all, it’s September and September’s a time for new starts.  But I did want a goal in something that looked promising to start with.  So I kept looking.


The other thing that happens at this time of year, is that I go off to work.  This year, I took two jobs – one at three days a week with the odd Saturday extra and the other two days a week with the odd Saturday.

I promised hubby some climbing days, too.  And then I remembered how many days there are in a week.

On Monday night, I had planned to do some yoga.  But I was tired after my 7.00pm finish an hour’s drive away, so I went to bed.  Tuesday was much the same.  On Wednesday night, I considered yoga.  I got as far as picking remnants of the kids’ squashed dinner out of the carpet.

On Thursday I went climbing because I’d agreed to meet a friend.  But an evil two-finger hand-hold did something sore to my ring-finger tendon.  After work on Friday, I got an e-mail lfrom the Royal Vet College reminding my that I’d signed up for an intensive on-line neurology course that required six hours’ study a week.

Spare time is like an oasis in the desert – tempting from a distance but as soon as they arrive, the damn things fade away.

And that’s how my shit-it’s-now-actually-past-September goals came about.  My realistic, working full-time goals.  Not to break personal records in my exercise capabilities:  simply to make sure I do some exercise and don’t return to complete un-ninja status by Christmas.

So forget triathlons.  Forget one-handed handstands.  Let’s embrace the acheivable.

I have signed up for a 10k.

The School with the Excellent Students

“The students at this school are excellent,’ says the Head, making very engaging eye contact.  ‘We really do have excellent students at this school.’

I remember some advice I was once given for listening to politicians:  say the direct opposite statement back to yourself.  If that would sound ridiculous to everyone concerned then there is nothing of any substance being said.

If I was in the 1% of the population who doesn’t automatically conform in such situations, perhaps I might raise a hand:

Please Miss!  Are the 4-year-olds at the school up the road not excellent?  How does your selection process sort them out? (as far as I can see, the form only asks for their religion).

But I am one of the 99% so I look as though I’m paying attention, dismiss it as sales-gumph and move on.


Then I lie awake at night:  excellent students?  Has she thought about that statement?  Is she thoughtless?  Or is she patronising me?

And above all:  How do I choose a primary school?

My teacher friends all advised that I follow my ‘gut instinct,’ but my gut instincts seems to be based on personal bias.  The Head’s choice of rhetoric is just one example (and I didn’t meet any other Head Teachers –  maybe theirs was worse).  In the school with the excellent students, pupils automatically learn the clarinet; in another they learn brass.  I was always most successful as a brass player which makes it almost obligatory to regard the clarinet as a fancy bit of firewood.  But surely this is no sound basis for a choice involving your child’s whole education?

I have reasons for not trusting my gut.  People follow their guts when they choose their vets.  I have worked at multivet centres where the person we unanimously agreed was the best clinican was the person the fewest clients wanted to see.  This could be down to something as simple as their accent.  I have heard clients call vets ‘excellent’ who I wouldn’t want treating my pet, but luckily these are few and far between.  More commonly, I have heard clients moaning about a vet who is actually doing a great job on their animals but is noticably less good at sucking up.

Of course, there are more concrete things to rely on – like Ofsted.  Unreliable, say my teacher friends. Anyway, the schools are all “accademies” now so I can’t access recent enough reports.

I ask my daughter what she thinks, but her answers are inconsistent.  Apart from that she wants to wear uniform, which is just as well:  there’s uniform at all the state schools round here.

In the end we pick the school with the religious leaning that matches my husband’s and the kids’.  My husband says church schools are very caring, which is nice.

Personally, I have always judged religious segregation to be a poor way to distribute pupils between schools.  But it isn’t exclusively religious.  And it is also nearby, friendly and lovely to stand inside.  The pupils look happy and my gut feels content with that.  The bemusing Head-teacher, I decide to overlook.  Also, it appears that my husband is actually feeling really very strongly about the religious bit.


So three weeks into Primary School, how is Big Sprog?  She still leaps out of bed, puts on her uniform, bounces out of the front door and is still bouncing when she hits the gates.  It’s a very parent-friendly school and they invite me to ask questions and stay for coffee once a week.  They sent me letters and newletters and communications and all the rest.

All the same, I haven’t a clue what she does there because she ‘can’t remember, Mummy.’  Today she presented me with a peice of paper decorated entirely with variously recognisable letter ‘m’s.  Whether this was a writing exercise or an art project or just something she wanted to do herself, I can’t tell.

How I used to ridicule those scraps of paper detailing every poo, pee, mouthful of food and emotional change during the 6 hours she’d spent at nursery.  What she’d played with.  Who she’d played with.  The only detail missing was the number of farts.

I miss it.  Today I have gleaned the most information yet: Big Sprog drew Ms and apparently she ‘had an accident’.  Why did she do that?  She never does that. Was she frightened or worried about something, or was she just too engaged in drawing ‘M’s to go to the loo?

At any rate, the teacher stopped and asked me to impress unpon her that there was nothing to be worried about.  That she mustn’t be scared to come and tell her next time. That’s a sign of a teacher with her interests at heart, I thought.  My daughter says she’s ‘nice.’

I trust that she is.  Sending my kids to school, I am finding, is an exercise in trust.  Trust that they treat her well, feed her decent food and that she’d tell me if she were unhappy.  Trust that they’ll support her and help her grow.  Trust, indeed, that she remains the excellent wee soul, both when wetting her knickers and when writing her first sentence, that she is right now.

It doesn’t seem so strange any more that the head said they had excellent students at that school.  Every school is full of excellent children, with parents just as worried as me.  Maybe she wasn’t contrasting with other schools; maybe it was just her way of reassuring us that she’d noticed their excellence.

So, I am mollified.  But I still can’t say I’m looking forward to hearing that clarinet.