Well, the News of the World is no more. I can’t say that I will mourn it’s passing other than the fact that it has been in print since 1843 and it always makes me pause to witness the end of an era. I find it interesting that what caused the paper to stumble was not the voyeuristic and illegal ends it went to in order to titillate its readers but that it stepped over a moral boundary. I had begun to think that this country had no moral boundaries left. It wasn’t the taping of phone calls that we objected to, it wasn’t the invasion of privacy of some celebrity, it was the deletion of messages on a missing school girl’s phone and the fact that this activity gave her parents and police hope that she may still have been alive. It was this act that sickened the nation because we all understand the fear and horror of losing a child and we all understand how desperately we would cling onto any tiny hope.
Do I think that News International have done the right thing in shutting down the News of the World. Actually, I don’t. I think this was the most cynical act of “mea culpa”, a dramatic white wash. Who benefits by the closure of the paper? Certainly not the staff. Does the public? Well I don’t think they care one way or the other. Do Milly Dowler’s parents care and all the other people spied on? No, I imagine they would be more satisfied with legal prosecutions. So who does benefit? Well I think News International benefits from the closure. In the past six months alone the News of the Worlds sales figures have been about 7% down on the previous year, month on month. They haven’t been alone in this; the circulation figures for all newspapers are in decline and it’s no real wonder. As we become more online as a nation and satellite television brings us constant up to date news channels, something has to give. Print media is just part of a long line of changes, record shops, DVD hire shops, book shops, libraries; they are all gradually being challenged, threatened and re-moulded.
The Murdochs must have looked at this awful fiasco and realised that there was a way that they might be able to regain some public sympathy and shore up their finances at the same time. They “nobly” threw themselves on their sword, whilst stabbing their employees in the back with the same sword and cut away from a loss making enterprise with a swift clinical detatchment. Cynical? You betcha! I am glad to see that their bid to get the rest of the satellite market has been knocked back though. Looks like they haven’t managed to glide through this untouched.
However, I’m not particularly impressed with the police in the handling of this matter either. To listen to senior officers in the Metropolitan Police Force say we couldn’t pursue these claims because NotW wouldn’t cooperate are incredible. If I commit an illegal act and am accused of that act, then I’m thrilled to discover that if I fail to cooperate with a police investigation that the matter will be dropped. Maybe if I had close working links with the media and the politicians I would stand a better chance of getting away with stuff. It’s not a nice thought but it certainly seems to be the case.
Hogwash to the lot of them!
Once again, the school holidays are upon us. Our youngest son, who is still at primary school, broke up on Friday. He, of course, is overjoyed, much to the annoyance of our oldest son, who is at secondary school and does not break up for a few more weeks. This has caused much disgruntlement in the Hurley household and the cry of “it’s not fair” is regularly heard over the morning porridge. My husband, sympathy personified, fires back his standard witty response “life’s not fair” and gives his “best years of your life…” speech. Mostly on deaf ears though.
The youngest boy’s school really goes to town on the last day of the summer term. Parents, grandparents, ex-pupils, Governors, ex-teachers and Uncle Tom Cobley and all cram into the school hall for the final assembly and, the highlight of the school year, prize giving. It’s a time when sporting prowess and academic achievement are recognised and applauded. And, bearing in mind that it is a primary school, there are cups for things like best handwriting, politeness and most improved footballer. Each winner is called out and goes up to the stage where he or she shakes hands with the headmaster and collects the cup from the visiting dignitary whilst the audience clap and cheer. Proud mothers often wipe a tear away before the mascara gets smudged and fathers swallow the lump in their throat as their beaming progeny collect their treasured prize.
This year our lad won a cup for scoring the most rounders in the inter house rounders competition. In previous years he has walked away with the golf, football, tennis, cross country and swimming cups. Much to my disappointment the trophy cabinet has not been overly bothered by any academic awards. His father is very proud though but, as the ultimate competitive dad, feels that his youngest has been “robbed” of some of the cups. When some of the childrens names were announced I thought he was going to demand a stewards enquiry.
Leavers assembly this year was especially poignant as the headmaster is moving on to another post in Oman after 11 years as head and one of the most popular teachers is retiring. Also, the caretaker has decided to hang up his hammer and the head cook her whisk, as they both head off to retirement. The assembly was as much a celebration of them as it was for the children, and we all wish them the best of luck for the future. A new head starts next year and we will see how she stamps her mark on the life of the school.
In the meantime I have weeks looming ahead of me, trying to juggle work and bored children. At least being self-employed means a greater degree of flexibility than many, the problem is that if I don’t do my work no one else will and I won’t get paid. I can see some late nights ahead as the candle gradually burns away at both ends. Just as it nears the end of its wick and I, the end of my patience, the summer holidays will once more be a thing of the past and a new chapter will begin at our junior school.
You can tell that the summer term is almost over as the school sports day arrives. Incredibly we have never once had a rainy sports day, what are the odds of that? Once again we arrived at Par track to watch our children giving their all, whilst we munched on strawberries being sold as a school fundraiser. We have some very enterprising people on our PTA, I headed straight for the Pimms’ canopy only to discover that what they were selling may well have been fruity but it wasn’t intoxicating. Lured under false pretences – very clever! Sports day is one of those gorgeous moments in the school calendar where parents can lean over the rails and shout out encouragements and praise each other’s children and beam inwardly when their own children do well. It’s even nicer to see the whole school running along the last runner to encourage them over the finishing line.
How very different in secondary school or rather I wouldn’t know if it was different as parents aren’t invited. I don’t know if that’s a school thing or a pupil thing but I think it’s a damn shame. To make matters worse my eldest doesn’t even know if he has won anything. He came first in some heats but then they didn’t do a heats final so presumably it’s down to the fastest time and furthest jump / throw. His sports day was two days ago, maybe he’ll find out in assembly tomorrow? Year seven can be so difficult for children. They don’t know the routines of the new school and they’ve gone from being the top of the school, to being an after thought, right back at the beginning again. It’s also another example of how the role of the parent gets pushed back. I know parents need to start giving their older children more space but as children hit their teens and start to take exams, they need more parental support not less, albeit in a more background capacity.
So, do I have an Olympic athlete on my hands, who knows? Well, I do, and the answer’s I think not but I would have liked to have gone to the Olympics with the boys next year just to see and take part. However, I’m afraid that the whole application business left me in the dark. I went through various application forms and then had to make a stab at what I would like to see. Having entered all the events I was interested in I discovered I had committed over £3000. Eek. What if I got them all? How to give my bank manager a heart attack in one quick move. The more I thought about it the more I realised it was a nonsense. “What if I successfully got tickets for Day 2 and Day 10? Do I travel to London twice? Where do I stay? Do I want to watch the sailing at Weymouth, what will I actually see? Can I really justify the expense of the Opening Ceremony?” In the end I gave up. Apparently on some European sites you can simply buy the tickets for the events you want without this bizarre pot luck approach that we seem to have opted for and if that fails then next year I’m going to take the boys back to Par Track, get some gold chocolate coins and host my own Olympics, where the boys will of course win everything!
There are times when I find that there are not enough words in the human language to explain my situation and on other occasions I simply don’t have the vocabulary. The other week I found myself trying to think how to explain to Trevor what was wrong with my car. “Well, there’s a sort of quiet shwooshing sound from the back, then there’s an almighty twang, the car shudders a lot and then carries on as normal.” From Trevor’s previous expressions I know that he is a master interpreter of shwoosh and twang. It would be so much easier if I could say “the main differential over the manifold has warped along side the bottom sump” but then if I could say that then I would probably also know what the problem is. For what it’s worth I have no idea if what I’ve just said even makes sense, they’re just terms I’ve heard bandied around from time to time.
Of course there are other times when words fail simply because you don’t know what the problem is. My friend’s cat is unable to eat at the moment, several expensive X-rays later and they are still none the wiser and none the healthier. There is nothing as distressing as not being able to even offer a guess. “Seems happy, but can only lick the food.” If only they could talk as a rather famous vetenarian once commented. It seems daft to suggest that a cat is “not quite himself” but anyone who has a pet knows what they mean and thankfully vets tend to know that if you have a hunch that something is wrong then invariably you are right. Sadly though the malady is often not found. Even worse is babies crying especially if it’s your first. The amount of times I would look at my eldest in despair trying to decipher the unholy wails from the tiny bundle. Some doctors also seem less helpful than vets. For some reason most vets I have encountered accepted that I knew what I was talking about with my cats but many doctors would give me the patronising look reserved for new mums. The idea that my concern for my son was somehow a nuisance or detraction really shook me. I took advice from my mother who asked whose opinion I valued more, mine or theirs and what did I consider to me more important, my child or their timetable. As soon as she put it like that my doubt fell away and we finally got the situation properly diagnosed. Thankfully it was a one off case but it took a long time to sort out.
Of course most of the time in the early stages I and thousands of other parents would look at their wailing charges in desperation. They were fed, they were clean, they had just slept for hours, they were the right temperature, they had no rashes or sore neck (I would always go straight to Meningitis J) so why wouldn’t they stop crying? Please. Please stop crying. For the love of god stop crying. Of course I soon calmed down, sleep deprivation has the bonus of turning you into a mind numbed zombie and I soon accepted that sometimes some babies just like to have a good old howl. If only he could have turned to me looked me in the eye and said “Now see here Mother, you are doing a great job and I want for nothing but I am currently feeling the need to express my inner turmoil with my role within the universe.” Like would have been so much easier but as has been so often in my life, words failed me.
Well it’s been a sad week for me as my unreliable little car has finally gone to ground. I knew things were beginning to get a bit dire when along with not being able to hold a charge in the battery it started to drip oil and guzzle water. These failings became quite clear at the Royal Cornwall Show. We set off late on Saturday, just before lunch and we took our normal route via Burlawn, however we had never travelled so late before and I found myself stuck in the tiny lanes in a stationery queue of traffic. It seemed that the lower car parks had filled up and so we were having to travel past the showground over the A39 and into the top fields. It seemed daft for us all to be sat in traffic so Steve and the boys hopped out and walked the few hundred yards up to the entrance. As I sat there I noticed that the temperature gauge seemed to be climbing, now I’d topped up the radiator before I left so I wasn’t too concerned, 10 minutes later though, having only moved a few metres the gauge was heading towards red and I was now getting alarmed. The lane I was sat in was one car wide; if I broke down I would be the most unpopular person in all of Cornwall. So I decided we weren’t going anywhere quickly and turned the engine off to give the radiator a chance to cool down. A few minutes later and the traffic started to move again. I turned the key and heard the horrifying sound of my car feebly attempting to turn the engine over and then giving up. In the field next to me a couple were eating their lunch in the car park; we looked at each other in horror and then looked back down the line of traffic. I can only say that what she mouthed to me pretty much mirrored what I had just said to myself. Incredibly, where the car had broken down there was a tiny widening of the road, enough for me to be pushed out of the way. Embarrassed I got out asking for help from the car behind me and it was one of those lovely moments when out jumped 3 blokes from their 4X4. They pushed the car to one side and then gave the battery a jump! Grateful, I struggled on, and by the time I got to the top car park the radiator was in the red and all the warning lights were on and flashing “stop”.
From here on the car was on borrowed time. Did I go to the expense of replacing the battery and fixing the oil and water leak? I couldn’t help but feel we had passed the point of diminishing returns. Then one morning on the drive to school something gave a large metallic twang from underneath, the car jolted and shuddered a bit and then drove on normally. It did it three more times on the drive home and I was a nervous wreck by the time I had parked up. At 20 years old and with 2000000 miles on the clock I figured that it had probably come to the end of its life. Despite the car’s recent issues it has been a terrific powerhouse. It’s had to endure Harry moulting everywhere, fish defrosting in the foot well, pheasants bleeding in the boot and more sand than can be found on Par beach. It stank, was permanently dirty and looked dreadful, the body work looked as though someone had taken a blow torch to it and stripped off all the paint. Probably for all the wrong reasons I was always recognized out on the road, no other car could quite match my 205 for sheer awfulness. But it kept on going and cost very little to run and I was always very protective of my decaying little heap. Soon I will have something shiny, neither fish nor foul will be allowed to decompose, Harry will be banished to the boot and the boys will clean their feet before getting in. I’ll miss the old car but it will be nice to get in a car that doesn’t smell like an abattoir in summer and doesn’t break down at the drop of a hat.