Thursday, 16 February 2012

And this is why I'm learning to drive:

Until about 6 weeks ago I had never driven a car.  I was too busy to learn when I was 17 while all my friends started their driving lessons. (Not too busy with A-levels you understand. No, I was far too busy combining kissing unsuitable men in rock bars, working in the local pub, not eating enough and all the associated counsellors and psychologists that I had to see as a result and sitting in my room listening to John Peel, feeling misunderstood. That I passed my A-levels at all is a complete miracle).  After that, I didn't have enough money to take driving lessons.  Then I lived in town so I didn't need to.  Anyway - I didn't really mind not driving.  I like walking and it keeps me on the right side of curvy, and I am really good at public transport - catching connecting buses and hurling myself through the closing doors of a train that's about to pull out like Indiana Jones.

2.5 years ago, something happened to change my feelings towards learning to drive though.  Allow me to explain.

Person With Car Goes On Journey To Unspecified Location With Toddler:

1. Place toddler in car seat.

2. Get in car.

3. Drive to destination.

4. Be at destination.

5. Come home.

Person Without Car (Me) Goes On Journey To Unspecified Location With Toddler:

1. Two hours before needing to leave the house, start planning route with military precision.

2. Think I've got it sorted, then realise I have no change for the bus so I'm going to have to walk the 20 minutes into town to change some money before I can go anywhere else.  Swear a bit.

3. Re-plan route to take account of walking into town.

4. Get dressed.  Have crisis.  Last remaining pair of jeans have developed an indecent hole overnight, so can't wear jeans and trainers.

5. Have NO other clothes that are compatible with trainers.  Will have to wear a dress.

6. And tights because it's cold.  Last remaining pair of tights have a hole in the toe.  Ignore, ignore, put them on anyway.

7. Oh crap, have just remembered that the only pair of boots I own have high heels.  No flat shoes remain apart from trainers due to poverty.  So much walking to do today.  Feet are going to be in agony after 15 minutes.  Never mind.

8. Explain to Rory what the plan is for the day. Rory wants to leave immediately. He does not understand the concept of "in half an hour". What's more, he wants to wear only one sock and a Spiderman t-shirt and take his scooter.

9. Ponder the wisdom of taking the scooter.

10. Come to the conclusion that this would be foolhardy.

11. Oh.  He's going to want to walk isn't he? Do I let him walk and add an extra half an hour to the plan and spend all day trying to keep him out of path of steamrollers and the like or take the pushchair and risk decapitating self when trying to load it onto the bus. (flashback to horrific memory of pensioner maiming last time I attempted this).

12. Ah, feck it, we'll take the pushchair.

13. Attempt to get Rory dressed and ready. By now he's decided that he doesn't want to leave the house at all and instead will run laps of the ground floor of the house whilst sticking pieces of toast and jam to the walls.

14. Capture and dress him.

15. Haul pushchair out of the cupboard under the stairs whilst trying to avoid injury.  Kick it a bit and call it a bastard.

16. Meanwhile, Rory is gleefully unpacking the neatly packed bag in the corner.

17. Re-pack bag, strap Rory in pushchair.

18. Rory decides he needs a "just in case wee".  Unstrap him from pushchair and sit him on the potty.

19. Strap him back into the pushchair.  He wants to take a toy car with him.  Fine.  "Which toy car would you like to take, Rory?"

20. Oh, the one that you just threw into the urine filled potty. Of course.

21. Rinse off toy car and ineffectively dab with a disinfectant wipe.

22. Leave the house, frantically re-calculating route in my head as we are now too late to catch the first bus.

23. Five minutes down the road it starts to rain.  Jesus.  Put rain cover on pushchair which makes Rory shout at me as if he is being abused.  Have no hood on the coat I'm wearing so put umbrella up.  Lurch down the road like slightly lame hunchback due to having to steer pushchair with one hand and one elbow while the other holds the umbrella.  Rory kicks a hole in the rain cover then complains that he is getting wet.

24. Change money and arrive at bus stop just in time for bus.  Only the driver won't let me on because there's someone else with a pushchair already on it so no room for ours.

25. Smile politely at driver and say "not to worry" safe in the knowledge that I will track that stupid bastard cockwomble down and defecate on his doorstep. Or BURN him.  Can't decide which.

26. Re-calculate route in head again.

27. 20 minute wait for the next bus in the sort of rain that prompted Noah to build an ark.

28. Next bus arrives.  There is space for us, so I un-strap Rory and threaten him with a fate worse than death if he dares to run off while I fold up the pushchair, trapping my finger and knocking over a bin in the process.

29. Struggle onto bus with demon pushchair and similarly afflicted child.  Sit down.

30. Spend entire journey a) trying to stop Rory from repeatedly pushing the 'stop' button and b) shooting apologetic glances to every passenger that he insults. ("Oh look mummy, that man is extremely fat.", "Oh, two men getting on bus. one's a lady.  That lady looks like a man.").  Bus gets stuck in traffic several times.

31. Get off bus taking spring loaded weapon of mass destruction (the pushchair) with me.  Rory refuses to get back into it but we have another 20 minute walk until we get to where we're going.  End up pushing empty pushchair and trying to control spring loaded weapon of mass destruction (Rory) at the same time.

32. Big toe being forced through hole in tights with every painful step. Agony.

33. Feet really really hurting now. Stupid heels.  Maybe could have worn flip-flops.  Stupid tights.

34. Still raining.  Wind picking up now.

35. Abandon umbrella, which keeps blowing inside out and resign self to getting soaked.

36. Arrive at destination looking like a bedraggled tramp. Rory very wet also and whinging.  I can see passers by looking at me like I'm an unfit mother.  Pushchair sodden.  Left the house over two hours ago. Entire journey would have taken 15 minutes door to door in a car.

37. At destination, steaming gently as we warm up.

38. Leave destination.

39. Repeat the entire process again in reverse.

40. Gin.

And that is why I am learning to drive.

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is a pointless thing.  I was taught how to write one when I trained to be a teacher and very swiftly realised that it had nothing whatsoever to do with keeping your pupils safe and everything to do with covering your backside, should anything untoward happen at any point.  I got marked down in a lesson observation once for failing to point out that there was a risk of pupils stabbing themselves in the eye with their pencils.  Now, I've taught some kids who have done some pretty stupid things in class before, but poking pencils in their eyes is not one of them.  Poking their fingers down their throats to see how far they could get them down there before vomiting* - now that's something I've dealt with.  Emptying the contents of a pencil sharpener into someone's ear - I've dealt with that too ("Quick, turn your head on one side and give it a bash with your Numeracy book.").  Not pencils in eyes though.

The thing I've come to realise over years of working in schools and a couple of years at home with a small child is that you can never be fully aware of all the risks.  You childproof everything only to find them scaling the curtains one day.  You remove all small and pointy objects from a grab-able height only to discover them under the computer desk clutching a dismantled ball point pen, a biro spring protruding from one nostril.

My technique these days is to worry about the big stuff - heights, poisonous things, road safety - all that jazz.  I don't panic about the little things.  Rory got hold of a box of cocktail sticks earlier.  I continued to check my emails and let him get on with it in a "Meh, he'll be fine.  He's not stupid enough to impale himself on one of them" sort of way.  And he wasn't.  He did, however, create a lovely scale model of a porcupine by sticking them all in a nice fresh turd in his potty.  Assess the risk of that, OFSTED.

*not very far, apparently.