27 March, 2012

Working parents

I’ve come to the conclusion that primary schools hate working parents.

You’ve got your childcare all sorted out to the nth degree—Mum picking up at 3.10pm on Mondays and Tuesdays; Dad picking up at 4.30pm on Thursdays after netball club and 3.10pm on Fridays ready to make a mad dash to the leisure centre for swimming lessons at 3.30pm; after school club on Wednesdays (deep sigh of relief)—when, boom, something totally unexpected hits you and screws up all your carefully laid plans.

This sentiment is particularly heartfelt for me right now since it’s the end of the spring term this week. Now, every other day of the week (after school clubs aside) my kids’ primary school chucks out at 3.10pm. HOWEVER, for some unfathomable reason the school finishes at 1.30pm on the last day of term. Not on the last day of every
half term, you understand. Just the last day of every full term.

And this occurs just infrequently enough that my husband and I always forget about the 1.30 finish, which leads to a mad panic a couple of days before the end of term. We always end up having to beg from someone—a favour from friends to pick up our kids for us; a favour from employers to allow us a couple of hours’ extra annual leave. After all, you can’t just leave your kids standing at the school gate for an hour and forty minutes until you’re able to come and retrieve them, can you?

Oh for the days of nursery. Open five days per week, 8am until 6pm, no matter what. Maybe it was because we were paying?

20 March, 2012

Motorway signs

I was travelling to London en famille last weekend when something caught my eye. You know those overhead motorway signs—the ones they use to advertise temporary problems or hazards on the road? Well, we passed under one which said ‘Caution – queues ahead at J5’ and then, a mile later, one which said ‘To junction 5: 10 miles; 10 minutes.’ Peculiar. Had the queues really cleared in the minute or so that it took us to get to the next sign, or had they forgotten to switch one of the warning signs off?

On the way back, we passed under another such sign, which told us to take our litter home. While this is of course a very laudable thought, I’m not sure that it’s optimum use of a motorway warning sign. And that got me thinking about all the other times when I’ve been travelling on the motorway and seen interesting things displayed on the warning signs. Messages wishing me a safe trip, telling me the ambient temperature, advertising local radio stations...

I wonder who loads the information onto these signs and I wonder whether their job is so boring that they amuse themselves with competitions to find the wackiest message on display that day.

Answers on a postcard, please.

15 March, 2012

Time management

Something came up about time management at work today.

One of the younger members of the team had a catch-up meeting scheduled with the Director. For some unspecified reason, he (the younger member) missed the meeting. It was in his diary but, well, he just missed it. Forgot to look in his diary, apparently.
The irony is that a couple of days prior to this he had booked himself onto a time management course.

When questioned, his response was: ‘Perhaps I shouldn’t schedule any more meetings until I’ve been on my time management course.’


08 March, 2012

Sunday trading

We recently visited IKEA on a Sunday morning. Due to the Sunday trading laws, you’re not allowed to pay for any goods before 11am, but the store is open for browsing from 10am.

Given the scrum that we’ve experienced in the past at IKEA, this seemed like a good option. We arrived shortly after ten (easy to park, for once), negotiated our way through a relatively empty showroom (for once) and made a list of the aisle and product numbers for all the goods we wanted to buy (as always).

Then, at five to eleven, we went to stand at the top of the stairs leading down to the warehouse and tills.

It was a scary experience, especially with young children in tow. There was a throng of people there already, all pushing and shoving to be down the stairs and at the tills first. In fact, the situation was so bad that there were three huge security guards standing at the front, holding the crowds back.
And, of course, they didn’t let us through until 11.05, at which point all hell broke loose.

I don’t have particularly strong feelings either way about Sunday trading restrictions. But, if you have any desire at all to protect life and limb, I would suggest avoiding IKEA until after 11 on a Sunday.

03 March, 2012

Cappuccino and chocolate

There was a rare event one afternoon this week—I had a free hour when I had nothing to do. No work. No children. House reasonably in order. Yippee!

I popped to Costa for an indulgent cappuccino and slice of carrot cake.

When the barista served my coffee, he asked if I’d like chocolate on my cappuccino. I said that I would and he made a very pretty pattern of chocolate coffee beans with one of those purpose-made stencils that fits exactly over the top of the cup.

Sipping my lovely hot coffee, it occurred  to me that these stencil patterns change with the season. Hearts on Valentines Day. Stars at Christmas.

And then another thought struck me—Western civilisation has reached a rather ludicrous position if one of its chief concerns is how to make our coffee look prettier. Surely there are more important things to think about?

But, hey, let’s not get too heavy about this. I enjoyed my cappuccino—and that’s the main thing, isn’t it?