Starring Stella

It's life, but not as we know it

Me and The Olympics

 I love the Olympics. The colours, the drama, the opening and closing ceremonies. Countries you’ve barely heard of coming through and grabbing medals in obscure sports. The Superstars putting on a show and it not mattering whether they’re from your country or not. Lithe bodies in tiny swimsuits and leotards doing amazing twists and turns, somersaults and splits. You have to admire the amount of work and preparation these athletes put in. There have been times in the past when we’ve not really been a Nation that won a lot so we’ve tended to just watch and appreciate the sport.

In London in 2012 we did the Olympics proud, and there has been some criticism regarding how expensive it all is, and whether Rio could afford it. There have been lots of unsold tickets so empty seats which we didn’t have in London, but I don’t think that’s detracted from the Sport.

There’s been quite a lot of Political shenanigans too. Should the Russians have been completely banned after the Doping Scandal? Probably, if I’m honest.

And here’s the brilliant thing – Team GB have been sensational in Rio. As we are this small nation we have done really, really well, dominating in Rowing, Cycling and doing so well with our best Swimming medals ever. We’ve also won Gymnastic medals, and Diving and Sailing and Shooting and Equestrian. And Andy Murray retained his Gold Medal in the Tennis.

I’ve been watching so many different sports…I have to say that I’ve never been a horsey person, but I have loved the Dancing Horses – Dressage to give it its proper title. I also watched the Synchronised Swimming and although it is a bit bonkers they’re dancing, upside-down in a pool with noseclips for 4 minutes! Amazing stamina! I can’t even put my face in the water!

Watching the racing in the Velodrome has been fantastic. Every member of our Cycling Team have won a Medal…some more than 1. The Omnium is a weird thing to work out with many different elements -like a heptathlon for cyclists – but it’s given us some nail-biting, heart quickening moments…and Gold for both Men and Women’s with the Golden couple of Jason Kenny and Laura Trott…so emotional!

As of today, we are Second -SECOND!- in the Medal Table…wow! If it hadn’t been for that pesky American Michael Phelps in the pool, we might be at the top…but as Shrek might say “That’ll do Donkey, that’ll do” I’m extremely happy to be a Team GB Supporter from my sofa.

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Me and Letting Go

My son is leaving home.Like really, properly leaving home. He has a job as a teacher for the beginning of September in a city that he loves – so that’s good – and has organised himself a little place to live. A proper grown up single person’s abode. Tiny…but that’ll make it easier to keep clean and tidy. (Yes, well – he’s not awfully good at that but then I am his mother and I’m not terribly good at that either!) I know that he’s quite excited and somewhat apprehensive. He’s organised furniture (being delivered today) and Broadband – well, der! – and is adamant that he won’t need a tv or a place to sit. Really it’ll be a place for him to do his work, play online games, record his music and sleep. And he will have slightly more room than he has at the moment in the bedroom at home he’s had since he was 6. He knows the city well as it is where he went to Uni, so he already knows where the good hangouts are.

And me? Well…its not the same as when he was going to Uni even though he is off to the same place and we know that we can do it as a day trip. He won’t be coming home for weeks at end of termtimes. We won’t be able to sit and watch silly things on Netflix together that he has recommended that I watch – and usually gets it right. We won’t be able to just hop on a train up to London to see a Concert or a Show on a whim.

It will be really strange. I know that he’s a grown up and that he couldn’t afford to move out if he’d stayed in this area and that this is a sensible and good thing for him to do, but still. He’s my boy. Always has been, always will be.

It’ll be a learning curve for us all.

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Me and my NQT Son (Loud n Proud)

My son graduated from University 2 years ago with a First Class Masters Degree in Electronic Engineering. Obviously I was so proud. Why wouldn’t I be?

But its what he has done since then that has made me oh so much prouder.

He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with his Degree. He knew that he didn’t want to join any Military based organisation, and his interests are to do with Analogue Synthesisers – that’s what he did his Thesis on. He signed up with a few Agencies, and went on a few interviews. But although they liked him – he interviews well – nothing hit him squarely in the forehead that he really wanted to do. We made him sign on at the Job Centre because he was entitled to. He hated that, but did the work experience jobs that they threw at him to his best ability and it made him realise that he really didn’t want a desk job.

At Christmas 2014 he came to us and said that what he really wanted to do was be a Teacher. He had been a bit reluctant at first to mention it as he thought his Dad might think it was a waste of his Degree but both his Dad’s Parents had been Educators so it didn’t  come as that much of a shock to me. In fact I had mentioned it several times while he was at University as he had got involved in a program that involved showing youngster, particularly girls, that STEM subjects were a good thing. And he loved it.

Anyway – have you any idea how tricky it is to start any Teaching Qualification at any time except September? There he was, ready, willing and able and it was looking like he had to wait until the following September.

In February I saw a local advert for an Academy chain which have several local schools for a Teacher Training day. He went along and was contacted pretty swiftly the next week by one of the Schools who said they would be interested in him starting in September, but in the meantime would he like to go and be a Teaching Assistant to cover the Naughty Kids room. They would get him into classes to make sure that it really was a good fit for him and them. Not one to say no to a challenge, and realising that this would be a good thing to put on his CV he decided to take the job.

It wasn’t easy. He was in a Senior Girl’s School and they really were the naughty ones. He stuck it out for a Term and a half until the Headmaster came to tell him that unfortunately there wasn’t any way there would be a job in Sept, so he left. Basically he had been used as a babysitter and had hardly stepped foot in a classroom at all.

It was around that time that we discovered that there was a Post Grad course locally specifically to get Teachers into schools. It was funded by a Government Bursary, so he would be getting money to live on – although he still had to pay £9k for the Course! He was accepted on the Course immediately. Let me tell you, its been a hard slog. As well as doing his PGCE with one day a week at Uni, hes had to plan and teach for 30 hours a week – Years 7-13. Sometimes he’d be up until Midnight getting things done. But it has made him realise that this is what he wants to do and the kids have responded to him well and his colleagues at the 2 schools he’s been in this year have had nothing but nice things to say about him. I think they’re a little miffed that he is moving out of the area!

On Monday they had their Graduation Evening and he got his Certificate. He’s properly a Teacher!

He has a job lined up for September  – they offered it to him on the spot at Interview -which is away from home, and that’s the only downside for me. I know that he needs to move out and forge his own path and if he had stayed in this area he couldn’t afford to have his own place.

I am so very proud of him.

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“MumofThree

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Me and Positivity

I am quite a positive person. I try not to let the worries of the World get to me – which is not always an easy thing.

But this past couple of  months have been shocking. So much negativity when you put on the tv. Nothing to take our minds off the atrocious things that are happening in the World – displaced people, people trying to escape dreadful situations, drowning families, camps of refugees, politicians and heads of sporting excellence behaving like complete nincompoops. Not enough money for schools and hospitals. This instills a feeling of dread in most of us and brings out the worst in a few. I don’t think 24 hr rolling news helps.

Is is sad that the best thing that came out of a Politicians untimely murder was that just for a few hours it brought a lot of us together? And that because of the few who decided that the Brexit vote meant that they behaved badly to those that they deemed “Foreign” some of us decided to wear a Safety Pin on our clothing to say that we did not agree? 2 ideas that were a positive thing to come out of Social Media. I think the truth is that the majority of people know what is and isn’t acceptable and act accordingly. We cannot and must not let the idiots win.

When I look out of my windows the view I see is exactly the same as it has been for all the time I have lived in this house with my Family. Its not too bad a life . We shall get through this because intrinsically Humans are good…maybe that’s a  bit of a simplistic view, but I need to believe it.

happy thoughts

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Me, Education, and Taking Holidays in Termtime

I’ve just been watching a news report about a Dad who refused to pay a fine regarding taking his child out of school for an extended family holiday during Term-time. He went to Court and because his child had an Attendance rate of over 90% the Judge agreed that he didn’t have to pay the fine. I’m really pleased that the Judge saw sense.

All of us parents who have looked at holidays will know that Holiday Companies hike the prices as soon as School Holidays start. It can be as much as double the price. Most of us either pay up or change our plans to something we can afford.

I believe in Education. I was a School Governor for almost 10 years. My kids almost always had 100% attendance. I only asked for permission to take my son out of School for a holiday when he was in Year 1. It was granted. I asked the Headmaster if it would be OK for me to take my son out of School to see a Johnny Ball Maths show when he was about 9 and he said of course! He deemed it educational.

 I believe my attitude is the probably the norm. Fines to stop people taking children out of school were brought in to stop those children who are out of school often, with bad attendance records. There can be all sorts of differing reasons for these absences, and I really think that the Teachers and Head Teachers should be the judge as they are probably more aware of individual circumstances. Obviously if a family is having a day off a week and a holiday every term, something has to be done. But it isn’t this type of family that makes the headlines.

And what about Homeschoolers? They have the flexibility to decide when and if they want a trip. They can decide what they may learn on their travels. And taking your children out of school for a year to travel could be a fantastic adventure. 

The Jobsworths who say that taking your child out of school is disrupting their education are missing the point. Schools are closed several days a year for voting – a real bugbear of mine. If you can give blood or have a Boob checkup in a trailer in a carpark, why can’t you vote in a similar setup?

I’m so glad the Judge in this case saw sense and took all the circumstances into account. That’s exactly how it should be.

 

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Me and April Blog A Day 16: My Hometown

I was born in the East End of London and lived in Barking in Essex for a while. We moved around a lot until I was 10 when we moved to the leafy suburbs of Orpington.

But to me as soon as I get on a train and find myself at Charing Cross I get a real buzz. I love the fact that I can go to the theatre and get back home easily, I love meandering along the Southbank. I love the big red buses and the architecture of the buildings, historical and modern. I love the underground, the galleries, the shopping and the hustle and bustle and the parks. I love all the different cuisines. I’m definitely a London girl.

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Me and April Blog a Day 11: The Last Time I Cried

I have got to a point in my life where water leaks from my eyes fairly regularly…even adverts can set me off!

But the last time I cried was on Saturday. I’d bought the Annie Lennox cd Nostalgia and was playing it while I baked. The track that really got to me was Someone To Watch Over Me. My Mum used to play a Frank Sinatra version of this track so I’ve known it since I was young. It was totally bitter-sweet and I found myself blubbing. I miss my Mum.

  

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Me and April Blog a Day 10: Dream Job

When I was 8 I wanted to be a Ballet Dancer

When I was 10 I wanted to join the Navy

When I was 12 I wanted to be an Air Hostess

When I was 16 I wanted to be an Interpreter – French and Russian were my A level and then Uni choices

When I was 18 I wanted to earn money so I didn’t go to Uni

When I was 21 I didn’t know what I wanted to do

When I was 32 I became a Mother…and I found my dream job. It’s not always easy, but it’s the best job in the world.

  

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Me and April Blog A Day 8: A Favourite Recipe

This is a tricky one, but most people who know me know I love to bake, and Bundts are my favourite. I blogged this Chocolate Mud Cake recipe last year, so I shall just leave it here for your delectation.

https://stellabranch.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/me-and-world-baking-day/

  

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Me and April Blog a Day 6: Piercings and Tattoos

So…piercings and tattoos. These days they seem to have been given a new name…Body Modifications.

When I was young mostly it was girls who got their ears pierced – just the once – to wear earrings. That’s all I have. The only people I knew who might have tattoos were sailors, soldiers and bikers. But then in the 70s came Punk Rock and piercings got to be more profligate. Noses, eyebrows, lips and many along the ear became more apparent. Then in the 80s the New Romantics joined in and many a young man began to sport one earring. And then during the Pop Punk era the stretchers became more visible. It seems that the bigger you can make the hole in your ear the better! Urgh! Not for me! And in the 90s I think girls started getting their belly buttons pierced possibly Britney Spears was the influence for that. If you have a good belly, it looks very nice.

I’m not sure when tattoos started to become more mainstream. Sometime mid 80s I remember my brother getting a tattoo “Made in England” round his belly button…my Mum though he was ridiculous! But not many of our friends had them. And possibly only the more Heavy Rock bands had proper sleeves of tattoos…

But suddenly it seemed that the girls started. The “Tramp Stamp” – a tattoo just above the bum – became the thing to get done in The 90s possibly because some pop star was papped with one in some Celebrity magazine and girls went “Ooh!” And now boys and girls almost all have them. They’re everywhere you look. Wrists, ankles, behind ears, shoulders, ribs. It would appear that they’ve become either a Right of Passage or the result of a drunken holiday in the Balearics somewhere. 

That’s not to say I have anything against them. I’ve seen many that are beautiful works of art. My Daughter has a smallish one on her wrist that is pertinent to her. But…I do wonder whether all of these people will regret what they end up with. And indeed you only have to watch Katie Piper’s TV programme or Tattoo Fixers (guilty pleasures of mine, both!) to see that not all of them are a success. I’m also surprised at how much people will pay especially when they have ones that they can’t even see themselves. I also understand that once you start it can become quite difficult to stop.

Still, each to their own. If I did consider having a tattoo I suppose it would be something to do with Stars given my name, but I feel that Rihanna has that particular symbol well and truly covered…so I shan’t bother. 

 

 

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