Plenty of things have been happening here, although nothing really all that newsworthy. Still, in the interest of keeping track of my life, I am writing it down.
I found a painter who has time to paint our living room and the entire hallway, top to bottom. He said he would start on Monday.... this caused a bit of frenzied decision making last weekend. Which shade of not quite white should we choose? At the moment, our living room walls are a dirty shade of unbleached bread flour white. The hallway is a very light shade of grey with smudges of greasy fingers along the wall up the stairs and scuffs and dents. Some places are shiny from all the scrubbing away of smudges. Not a pretty sight. I always think that I am not that fussy when it comes to choosing the right shade of paint but faced by 14 different shades of light grey, I felt completely overwhelmed. I was also shocked about the price of paint! I peaked into the living room this morning, I think I can live with our choice.
I got a quote for fixing the windows that need fixing urgently.
Annie was supposed to go on a Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition last weekend. The moors and hills were still snow covered, the forecast was for torrential rain, the temperatures hovering only marginally above freezing. I think it is unreasonable to expect anyone hiking and camping in these conditions, unless they were really keen. Annie wasn't. That's unusual because she is very adventurous and not usually bothered by the weather. She is also only 14. Her last expedition saw temperatures around -8 degrees in the night and she barely slept despite having adequate equipment and clothing. I had contacted the Scout leader the previous weekend to say that Annie would not be participating in this planned trek. I asked if it might be possible to move the expeditions to later in Spring as it had been particularly cold and snowy and the countryside had not recovered yet. The answer was no and that this would mean no DoE qualification for Annie this year. This is nonsense of course, there are plenty of opportunities to plan and undertake DoE expeditions, privately also. I confirmed twice more that Annie was ok with that and that she would not participate. Two other parents also made the same decision. I was surprised that at no point were any of the parents acknowledged. The leader kept sending updates for route cards etc until Friday night at 8pm. Apparently the route needed adapting due to atrocious weather. It had moved from the Leapmoor area south of Glasgow up to Aberfoyle and back. By that time I was so wound up, that I nearly cried but we did not waver in our decision. At 9 pm we got an email saying that the expedition was now cancelled because three young people had pulled out and that there were not enough youngsters now to meet the required minimum numbers. My upset turned into anger, it wasn't just a last minute decision to withdraw the kids, he had known for almost a week. He then went on to moan about the effort it all took him to reorganise the route to adapt for weather conditions and finished by saying that there would be no further expeditions until the new school year. What a dickhead. Communication skills of a dead parrot and a reluctance to work with youngsters and parents, not good attributes for a scout leader. I am so glad we stood firm. Richard happened to be out in the expedition area with his bike club by sheer coincidence and said the conditions were really hostile. I was absolutely delighted that the heavy rain and wind didn't stop once all Saturday and well into the night, it made me feel a bit better about making a fuss.
I also found out that the last (accompanied) expedition was not just miserable because of the subzero temperatures. One of Annie's friends broke the silence to her mum and said that the leader was really unpleasant on this previous trip and that the girls in particular were humiliated and ridiculed on more than one occasion. We are talking about a second dickhead scout leader here btw. He thought for example that it was hilarious when the drinking water in their bottles froze. They were not allowed a camp fire and were sent to their tents at 5 pm. No wonder the night was so long. It is not the first time that we had to deal with this kind of behaviour. Sam in fact left scouts because he felt it was inappropriate to be treated with so much disrespect. I am torn between appreciating the effort and time that goes into organising scouting activities (and the effort it must take to keep 15 teenagers under control) and the urge to demand loudly that scout leaders be compassionate, supportive and inspirational rather than disparaging and irascible. What should I do? On the whole, Annie really loves scouts.
For mothers day, Annie made waffles with bacon and maple syrup for our breakfast (just as well she wasn't camping). It was a nice treat. James and Alistair made me cards. Alistair composed a poem, which states that I sometimes cook, always wear the same coat and always likes to give him hugs. James drew a landscape with giant bumble bees (the queen bumble is wearing a crown), and a parrot. He drew the family but ran out of space and missed out Sam and Annie. Alistair ran out of time, there is the essential people (mum, dad, James and himself) and the legs of another not-specified sibling. I am not sure what to make of these family impressions. I may have to reflect on that for a bit. Sam told me on Saturday, when I picked him up from dishwashing, that he had a present for me. I was rather excited. It turns out it is eternal love. I guess that's good enough for me. For dinner, I made salt and pepper prawns. It was a bit of a faff but quite enjoyable. I accidentally bought king prawns that had their shells on and were not deveined. Deep frying is not something I often do but it was worth it.
I am not sure if you are aware of the UCU strike actions against the planned changes to the pension plans of university employees that are members of the USS pension scheme? The strike action is huge, this is the third week of strike. I think this goes beyond the USS pension scheme and is also about the gradual erosion of many other pension schemes. Some of these may not have strong unions behind them. I am participating by working to contract (this is called action short of strike) because this is an action I am relatively comfortable with. Probably due to my upbringing, I am profoundly uncomfortable with strike action. If you are familiar with academia, you'll know that working to contract is pretty much unheard of. There is no paid overtime and every single professional (academic and non-academic) I know works very long hours. In fact, the best time of day to catch a bloke I am working with is from 10:30 pm onwards. So this is what we do, communicate after 10:30 pm to get our course organised because there are too many meetings and other commitments during the day. Anyway, I am supporting the strike action within the artificial limited boundaries my own mind has erected. Yesterday I joined the picket line. It was like a really big thing for me, I worry about the repercussions and consequences a lot but I owe it to my colleagues that give up two weeks of pay to fight for my pension (which has been worth less and less since I first joined the pension scheme). I am pleased with the huge support the action has from student bodies. It is good to see that education is seen as more than a financial transaction by a reasonable number of students. A show of hand unanimously rejected a proposed agreement at a members meeting this morning. I don't think it is a decision that people take lightly because it means more strike action. I have vowed to myself to participate in at least one full day of strike in the coming weeks and to make a donation to the strike fund. Wish me luck that I find the courage to do it.
James is out for a whole day of outdoor adventures with school. He packet his own bag following the instructions on the kit list. Only he packed both spare kit and the kit he was going to wear, and a bag of crisps. I thought this was quite funny. I unpacked one set for him to wear, which he thought was a bit puzzling.
My regular yoga teacher is back after a prolonged period of absence due to sickness. I had forgotten how hard it is to remain in downward dog for several minutes! My triceps are still tingling.
I bought a notebook today in the hope to keep track of my achievements and failures. Maybe it is easier to stay on course if I take a moment or two every day to reflect and take notes.
That's my Tuesday mixed bag of news. I think it reflects some of the conflicting Christinas quite well. Thanks for stopping by. x