Planning and Poetry

Last night I promised an update on our little village’s planning saga following my husband’s return from the meeting in the Church. All sounds a little bit ‘Vicar of Dibley’ with a packed church of NIMBYs wanting a say in where 100 houses should be located. Everyone was given a pair of dots (green for yes and ….. yes you guessed it… for no). They then placed these dots on a map of the village.

We are self confessed NIMBYs. We back onto a field with uninterrupted views of the countryside and lots of sky – we are very lucky considering our heavily populated island. Forgive us, therefore, for wanting to preserve the bit of green out back. We also live on a council estate, one of three estates in a small area (hard to imagine isn’t it?) One the one side there are lots of fairly ugly post-war houses built to accomodate families bombed out of London. On the other rolling fields, trees, a bit of a wasteland/ hunting ground for owls and buzzards and the odd pylon. This field, like many others surrounding our village, is owned by developers keen to cash in on the local authority target to build 100 houses in the area over the next 5 years.

At the meeting a lot of red dots were placed on the field near us. However, there were a few red dots on the other option. I don’t envy the people trying to put together this ‘neighbourhood plan’ as you can’t keep everyone happy. What I resent is the short-termist thinking of our successive governments. For example, two schools in neighbouring villages were closed down in the past decade. Yet within the past few years, more and more families have moved into the area following an increase in housing. What a surprise, the schools are now oversubscribed and class sizes are bloated as a result. Doh! They seem to think its OK to dump housing down like they are playing The Sims with no thought on infrastrcuture.

Anyway it looks likely that the conclusion will work in our favour. The council don’t like putting social housing amongst existing social housing developments for fear of creating a ‘ghetto’ (“Too many low income people in one area is bound to cause trouble darling”). Snobs in the village, however, prefer it that way – “at least we can keep an eye on them when they are all together, God forbid we have a mixed population across the village”. Yes the class divide is still as strong as it ever was in Great Britain – particularly in the rural South-East. I will let you know the result…

Changing the subject completely, I aim to get my daughter in bed by 7pm. I could count on one hand how many times I have managed to achieve this during the Autumn term, in fact, the whole year. Tonight she was a ball of enthusiasm and did  everything she was asked without any protest (thanks to some harsh words about her behaviour last week). After completing some work on maths and English (we bought those books that ‘support’ the curriculum at home) she started talking about poetry writing, as her class is currently learning about poetry. The subject is the great fire of London and they are learning about adjectives to use in their poems. Lots of sparking and igniting going on. My daughter said she was struggling a bit and I wanted to help her out before school the following day (although it was 7.30pm already so bang goes the rule on bed by 7pm). I dug out one of my old poetry books in the hope that she would be inspired by poems such as The Jabberwocky by CS Lewis and The Listeners by Walter de la Mare (I think!). She was engrossed and then started writing a couple of lines herself about fire. I was amazed how it quickly went off on a tangent about poos and loos but she was enjoying herself so if toilet humour gets her inspired so be it.

It made me wish I had appreciated my school days more, because in my case, once you have analysed and assessed the text for an exam, it is rare that you pick it up again for pleasure. If I returned to the classroom now I would have enjoyed the experience so much more. But Im glad my daughter is enjoying school….I think it has come along way since the state system in the 80s and 90s. I just hope Michael Gove doesn’t cock things up again – I don’t believe the Torys have a good track record when it comes to education.

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Crying over Charlotte

My daughter has just finished reading Charlotte’s Web. Well I should say we have just finished reading it. Being six and a half, my daughter has an attention span long enough to listen to a chapter a night. So every night I have dilligently read each chapter and, in doing so, have rediscovered the pleasure of reading children’s classics. I recall reading the book as a child but the only bit I remembered was that something sad happens to Charlotte – why do we always remember sad memories better than happy ones?

In Chapter 21 Charlotte dies. The prose is very moving as the spider takes her last breath and I am struggling to read the book like someone reading an epilogue of a loved one’s life at a funeral, blubbing all the way through. I turn to my daughter expecting her to be equally moved and she is grinning at me like a cheshire cat. “It’s only a spider Mummy, you are such a baby!”.

There have been few instances when I have cried and my daughter has found it hysterical. We were watching a programme about Zoo animals and the vet “sadly had to put Imogen the giraffe to sleep as she wouldn’t get up once the anasthetic wore off” (I found it hard to believe that that was the only solution but what do you do when a giraffe won’t get up?) Anyway they started playing a sad song and that was it, I was blubbing like a good’un. “Oh Mummy” my daughter said, “She was old and the zookeeper has her babies to look after now, it’s OK”. I couldn’t believe my ears, talk about role reversal. Are we going to be like Saffi and Eddie out of Absolutely Fabulous where she is the Mum and I the child?

Maybe its my age. My daughter does seem to be able to control her emotions rather too well for six. Maybe I should be worried about that?

Anyway,back to literature…..Through my daughter I am re-discovering old classics and I am loving it. At the other end of the spectrum I am reading Peepo Baby to my 10 month old and am enjoying that too. The Ahllberg’s illustrations are enchanting because of the little things – the coal in the back-yard, drying the washing on the stove door, teapots in teacosies, a rainbow rimmed mirror and granny living next door. You can almost hear the theme tune to Dad’s Army as you read it. My son loves it because he can poke his chubby fingers through the peepo holes.

It just goes to show that books are enjoyable at any age and that it is not too early to read to kids. I am looking forward to starting the Harry Potter series soon (I missed out when it was first published) plus the Secret Seven, Famous Five et al. I’m also glad I saved my Classic Adventures series carefully collated week by week in my early teens along with a magazine on the storyline. My dad used to save them for me when I went to his for the weekend. There  must be at least fifty of them – some of which I haven’t read because I didn’t get round to it. They are stored up on the top shelf of our bookcase and occasionally my daughter stares at them wistfully imagining being old enough to read them (the text is a bit small).

I just need to toughen up a bit – Black Beauty is next and I don’t fancy my chances of getting through that without a Kleenex.

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