Keep Calm and Remain Stationary…

I don’t need my iPhone display to tell me that September is upon us. You can feel it, see it and even smell it in the air.

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If July and August were all about shell collecting for me, then September brings the conker harvest. Memories of going to school with a carrier bag full of conkers and chucking the contents across the playground with an accompanied, “SCRAMBLE!!” (Wouldn’t happen today – the bags are 5p…)

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Of all the seasons, Autumn is my favourite as it reminds me of walking to synagogue with my dad to celebrate the start of the Jewish New Year. On our journey, we would look at the change in scenery, spot figs on a neighbour’s tree and I would collect conkers, storing them in his prayer bag to add to my collection at home. (Conkers, not prayer bags…)

You can just ‘smell’ autumn in the air – if I was cryogenically frozen a la Woody Allen’s ‘Sleeper’, I could easily sniff out Autumn.

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A futuristic conker

It may also be because there is another distinct smell in the air – that of parental relief that the kids are going back to school, quickly followed by the whiff of panic that a lengthy list of items needs to be bought from the uniform shop and stationers.

With a queue to rival that of ‘Thunder Railroad’, including ticketing and barriers, unfortunately the uniform shop ain’t no Disneyland. And there’s definitely no option to buy fast passes. (I would if I could.) Everyone is treated equally and there is no favouritism.

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There is a method of course…

Step 1 – Make a fucking list

Seriously – it’s uniform shopping 101. You have a line of bored, angry, frustrated, irritable people, many of them who would choose the returns queue at Zara over this shit. Make a list and make your time in the shop as quick and painless as possible.

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During a quiet period

 

Step 2 – Muster up lots of patience

As Axl Rose once sang, this patience needs to be doled out in bucketloads.954d455cd24bfa8eeac06c668042940d.jpgPatience with your kids, for other hapless parents and also for the poor staff dealing with your precious darlings who are arguing over the length of their skirt, itchiness of their jumper and the ridiculously oversized track suit.

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“It’s fine. You’ll grow into it.”

However, my patience wears thin when you consider that the usual staff count will have been bolstered with ‘holiday staff’. Under normal circumstances, I’m fully willing to give people a chance, but not the uniform shop. I have no shame in offering up the risky-looking temp staff member to the person behind me in the queue. I would much rather wait another few minutes for an experienced member of staff.

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The above rule also applies when it comes to buying school shoes. My youngest is ‘full of personality’ when it comes to shoe shopping and only one staff member will be able to fit her with minimal fuss. (She knows who she is.)

Armed with a supply of coppers to keep them occupied at the swirly-whirly helter-skelter charity box, I patiently wait until I get ‘my person’. Job done in just a few minutes.

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‘The Money Spinner’. (Trademark name fact fans)

 

Step 3 – Choose your branding wisely

Whether you go for sew-in, stick-in, stamp-in or reckless Sharpie daubing, the choice is yours when it comes to labelling it all. I have one friend who goes supersized on her sew-in labels, meaning her kids’ items can be identified from Mars.

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Personally, I opt for a mixture of all the possibilities listed above, but just know that I have it on good authority from a teacher friend of mine, that they’re more likely to hand back the easily identifiable stuff, than a biro scribble that has faded in the wash.

There is just so much to do, and we haven’t even covered my favourite part of it all – the stationery.

Much like new toiletries for holiday, there is nothing like filling a new pencil-case with smelly pencils, ridiculous rubbers and highlighter pens that never seem to be used for highlighting anything, just drawing emojis.

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I take it as a time to replenish my own home-stock – new sticky tape, glue, pens, post- its…all of which have depleted over the holiday with the amount of arts, craft and the slime factory which was shut down months ago, but I believe is still operating via an underground cell.

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The joy of throwing out the pencils that no matter how many times you try to sharpen them, the lead gets stuck in the sharpener. Or the pen that has no lid and has inked up the entire inside of the pencil-case. Colouring pencils that are down to the nub.

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And if you were ever in doubt of the correct spelling of the word ‘stationery’…

Stationery – it has an ‘e‘.. as in ‘envelope’. Which is a form of stationery.

(And yes, the use of ‘a’ in the word ‘stationary’ in the blog title is deliberate.)

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And proud of it

Good luck to everyone starting new schools. (Particularly those with correctly labelled stuff.) xxx

You’re Either a Swift or a Swallow…

Ahh, June. Weather gets (marginally) better, pasty white legs come out, fake tan gets badly applied in lieu of a proper spray tan and we can hear cheers of ‘COME ON!!! GO! GO! GO!!!’ at school Sports Day up and down the country.

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Or is that all just applicable to me? (The fake tan at least.)

My kids’ school has ‘Houses’ – the school splits into two and you are a ‘Swift or a ‘Swallow’ (denoted by the tie colour you wear to school.) Watching my two at Sports Day fills me with joy and fear in equal measure.

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Joy…

1. They’re ‘taking part’ and learning about team spirit.

2. They believe the medals are made of real gold. Youngest at least.

3. They know that a pre-midday finish means a going somewhere usually reserved for school holidays that will (hopefully) not be too rammed. Mega Jump here we come!

Fear…

1. If they hurt themselves. (Bag fully stocked with antiseptic spray, water, plasters, foil blanket like the Marathon finishers get given. Okay maybe not in my bag but I have one in my boot. No, I really do.)

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2. I’ll miss capturing the moment on my iPhone because husband keeps texting through to ask, “Well? Well? How are they doing?”

3. That the school will surprise us with a ‘Parents Race’. (I have nightmares about this.)

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If Carlsberg did Sports Day

So after all their ‘relentless’ training (running back and forth in the garden and jumping over ‘three tiles’ in the hallway) , it reminded me of my own Sports Day fifteen.. no, twenty.. shit, thirty-odd years ago.

Like the Swifts and Swallows, you were one of four houses: ‘Pine’ (green, me!), ‘Willow’ (yellow), ‘Rowan’ (red) and ‘Birch’ (blue). We had to wear those bands of coloured material across our chest to denote our competing House colours. We would then all pretend to have broken arms, using the sash as a sling. Crazy kids….

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Simpler times

Even today, given the choice of those four colours, I would till choose green. I stick with what I know. Pine through and through. A bit like my Spurs-mad husband, he would never ‘turn Arsenal’.

But every now and then I like to mess with the balance of my Libran scales and do things out of my comfort zone. Big or small, they (usually) make me feel happy or ‘spark joy’ as Marie Kondo the Folding Queen says…

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Such as:

Food – some people have ‘sticky chop’ night. ‘Fish night’. ‘Pot-luck’ dinner night. For my family, as previously mentioned, Monday night is up-the-bum chicken night. My family look forward to it come rain or ridiculously-sweltering-shine of recent days in London. In light of sweaty weather, last Monday I thought I would serve the chicken with a cold salad. No-one spoke to me for the rest of the evening.

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How she deserves to be served. With rice

Going out-out – Last year, a friend’s husband asked if I wanted in on Guns n’ Roses concert tickets and I immediately said yes. As the date came around I did question my 40+-year-old decision to trek to Hackney Wick on a Friday night, but it was the most amazing concert, which I wouldn’t have missed for the world. On the way back to the station, whilst trying to avoid eye contact with men pee’ing all along the barriers, my fellow giggers asked me if I enjoyed it. Yes, I said, as much fun as last year’s Secret Cinema ‘Dirty Dancing’ event. (I’m no longer invited to the Metallica gig.)

Online shop – It always comes on a Wednesday. Every Tuesday at swimming, I bore my swimming mum friend with what interesting things I can add to my final order. One week, friend didn’t show up and I got paranoid she was avoiding my food interrogation – so I went all gung-ho and swapped my delivery day to Tuesday.  Liberating I tell you. (I just run out of things by Thursday.)

New restaurants – I love food. Literally. Obsessed. So when we go to a new restaurant, I go with a vague idea of what’s on the menu. For those who are diet-restricted, I appreciate that checking beforehand is a necessity, but I love the surprise of a menu and checking out what dishes are going to other tables. when I go out with my Uni girls, one of them always seems to order wrong – it’s fine we’re used to it. There are five of us to basically feed her bits of our meal. She’s like a toddler that won’t eat something, but put it on your plate and she wants it. (Except she’s 41.)

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Diary – if you’re still a paper-diary fan like me, then you fall into one of two camps. Mid-year buyers (freaks) or January buyers (me, completely normal). I can’t be swayed on this.

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Petrol – I had a friend (still my friend 35 years on) whose mum would never let her petrol tank go below half-full. (Or half-empty depending on the type of person that you are.) A shrewd way to operate, sure, but often I quite enjoy that reckless feeling of ‘will I/won’t I make it’. That said, the initial thrill soon disappears when the petrol station you had in mind is closed. Panic sets in and you begin to sweat. “Does the car always judder like this?”

Some handy advice in case you didn’t know…

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… the arrow next to the fuel pump denotes which side your petrol cap is on, particularly handy on a hire car. nB. Not all cars have this, but lots do.

Go on – you know you want to check yours. Or maybe you’re one of those reckless types that parks up regardless and drag the hose the whole way across the back of the car if necessary.

(Sorry, but that’s not for me.)