Fresh beginnings

More on the Earnest Teacher Situation. About a week after Otis discovered his Magical Superpowers of Maternal Shame (whereby he gets his mother into trouble by grassing on her), I was asked to step aside and have a word after school with his teacher again.

This time, the issue stemmed from a PSHE day – PSHE standing for Personal, Social and Health Education. In this country, PSHE lessons start when the kids are four and they learn about hygiene and friends and personal space; it carries on over the years into more age-appropriate, thorny topics like puberty and sex. PSHE education for me is a non-issue because I believe that knowledge is power, and I don’t get very shy about talking about potentially awkward things. I want them to be informed about their bodies and its functions, and I want them to have the right messages regarding sex and porn and consent and love and pleasure (importantly, not just theirs…I don’t think we are taught to expect women to enjoy sex).  I haven’t had any of those moments with the boys where I feel unsure about how to answer a question or broach a topic because I figure life is like a farm and we are the cows and chickens and that life, birth, death and everything in between is just farmlife.  Beautiful, abundant, glorious, mysterious, scientific, Godly, good farmlife. Anyway, I digress.

So on the PSHE day, the five and six year olds were asked to write down any worries they have and post them into the Worry Box which the teachers then go through in case the kids highlight anything that seems peculiar and in need of further investigation. The teacher told me that Otis’s worry was very unusual. I internally rolled my eyes. It was this:

OTIS: “I am worried about Mum being in a cage, because she was kidnapped by a monster with very bulgy eyes and very sharp teeth and the key was buried underground. I couldn’t find the key and I only had ten minutes before the monster ate Mum. Then she was just bones.”

Cue the teacher deciding to check with me about this, and to ask why Otis might be worried about me being in a cage. I put on my most passive aggressive face and said I HAVE NO IDEA. Then she called him over and asked in a very sweet voice, “Why are you worried about your mum being in a cage?” Perhaps, she said, he was seeing something he shouldn’t be seeing?

I got a bit cross then. I said that with the best will in the world, a kid with four older brothers (three of whom are in secondary school), won’t be sheltered from everything. That, unlike many of the kids in her class, Otis has accidental exposure to things that will be undesirable from time to time, but that I could assure her I would do the best I could to keep him from seeing and hearing things he shouldn’t be. I said that context is everything. She seemed happy with that, but I walked away, cheeks ablaze, wondering what I had to do to prove to her that I wasn’t a Person of Interest. Also, wondering why Otis wasn’t being seen as a brilliant storyteller rather than a damaged innocent. I went straight over to the other school site and asked the teachers that I knew very well there  – 11 years well – why the new teacher had not spoken with them to check out how dodgy or not we were as a family. Because, at some point, you want to be able to get on with the job of childrearing without being nervous about the authorities. It is a hard enough job to do without being called in once a week.


This, and the double-dropoff-two-school-sites thing and the stress and the drama and the morning shouting and the long ugly walk up the A40 to get to a school by 8:15 made me think it was time to go to the local school and so we did. The two middle littlest now go to the school that almost all the kids in our neighbourhood go to. It is tiny and it starts at nearly 9am and the best thing of all – the very best thing of all – is that it takes me 4 minutes and 38 seconds to get there. It means I have an hour extra in the mornings to go for a late 7am run and make coffee and read the paper and waft around in a dressing gown. It is like Saturday every day! I don’t know why I didn’t do it years ago.


  1. I went to a Mary Katrantzou sample sale yesterday and bought a green maxi dress that was once a princely £4000 but was reduced to £200. I will never need to wear a silk high necked floor length butterfly jacquard gown, but I can. I just might.
  2. I turned 42 last week. I was given a lot of chocolate, bought myself a bit of an ugly expensive present (I had a tense eBay situation where I thought I had put in a bid for a flowery Gucci watch at a maximum £310 but discovered, after I won it, that I had used a “9” instead of a “3”), went to Ottolenghi for brunch and had a fight with the kids who decided to use our furniture as the base for a knife-throwing competition. I’ve had better birthdays.
  3. The baby has slapped cheek syndrome and has cried most of the night for about a week while four teeth have ripped through his gums. We are done in.
  4. I have started making sourdough and have become a sourdough bore. See my Instagram stories for proof of this.


Buckwheat sourdough(complete with stray hair):


Baby on a swing:


Otis in a synagogue:


Baby eating an Ottolenghi cinnamon brioche on my birthday:


What happens when you accidentally run SLOWLY in a penis shape:




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8 Responses to Fresh beginnings

  1. Evelyn Laybourn says:

    Another great read .

  2. Max says:

    Brilliant! I thought his wit and sense of humour is genius!! I’m glad your all happy!!! We I will miss u all ! Especially seeing your outfits everyday!

  3. rose says:

    THANK YOU FOR WRITING! Wonderful as always. SO GLAD YOU IMPROVED the school situation. New teacher clearly has a great deal of reality to learn and you may well have a wonderful budding author in your crew. Consider harnessing his imagination and putting him to work creating books for children … do you also have a budding illustrator for the proposed books? I can see the Slavoring Monster, Desperately cowering mother (in the gown previously sold at 4KPounds), the stack of bones …. really the profit might even pay for a large cup of coffee but maybe not cinnamon roll as well; not a glass or two of delicious red wine for you though. Lordy the young are VERY young still and that is a very very young and sheltered teacher.
    Hoping your new year only improves from your birthday. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.
    PS: the baby is absolutely adorable and your sourdough amazing (I love sourdough.)

  4. Clare says:

    It’s amazing how hard it can be to change something that’s a total pain in the arse just because it’s become part of the daily routine. The new school sounds great so well done on taking the leap! I am also 42 and realise it’s not crazy old and all that, but still feel knackered and a bit fat and can’t really be bothered wearing heels anymore and am spending increasing amounts of time harvesting chin hair and… it’s not going to get any better is it?

  5. theharridan says:

    Nope. We will also increasingly resemble our mothers and want to stay in, even on weekends.

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