Presentation skills

If someone told you that you needed to do something before Christmas, when would you have in mind? The week before Christmas? The middle of December at the earliest? I’m guessing not the 26th November. My English tutor seems to think this is what it means. I had to make a presentation, which is assessed, as part of the English course I am taking. Since the course started in September, he has been telling us that we will do this ‘before Christmas.’ I was just beginning to think to myself that I really needed to make a start on it when he dropped the bombshell that we would be making our presentations the following week. Giving me exactly one week to decide what on earth I was going to do it about, and write and practise the thing.

I have given many presentations over the years in a work capacity, but these have always been for a specified reason. This presentation’s topic, however, was not so precise. I could do it on anything I pleased. Sometimes, it’s a great idea to be given such a wide remit. You don’t feel you want to be constrained or limited by another’s defines. However, having very little guidance is not such a good idea when you don’t have a clue what to do your presentation on.

To be fair, my tutor did give me two suggestions. He suggested that I could do it on a sport I played or, perhaps, on my last holiday. I quickly dismissed these fine ideas. The mere thought of me playing any sort of sport is, quite frankly, laughable. As for my last holiday, that went something like this. My husband and I decided to take the girls to Dorset in the south-west of England. It is a very beautiful part of the world and, usually, gets the best of the summer sunshine. Unfortunately, the UK didn’t get a summer this year. It was the wettest on record for over one hundred years. We never got to use the patio table and chairs we paid extra for, and the car broke down three days before we were due to come home. The repair bill was over £1,000. Whilst this may give the rest of my English group a smug sense of satisfaction that their holiday was not as bad as mine, I’m not sure what this would tell them other than the perils of holidaying in Britain.

In the end I decided to make my presentation about archaeology. I have always had an interest in the past, studied History and Archaeology at university, and I’m a member of a local archaeology society. It seemed to make perfect sense. Besides which, I really couldn’t think of anything else. It’s odd how, once you have decided on a topic, you think that writing and practising a presentation will be easy. Particularly as I spend a lot of time writing. I should find it a breeze. Well I didn’t.

Firstly, I had to think of a clear aim for my presentation and then had to stick to it. I found this difficult as I had so many amazing anecdotes and interesting facts that I desperately wanted to share with my group, but that were not at all relevant to my specified aim. It was so easy to wander away from this, which was not the point of the exercise. This is not how I’m used to writing. I usually have an idea of the structure of the piece I’m writing. However, I find that once I start writing I don’t tend to stick to my original plan. Other ideas and thoughts come to me and the piece seems to take on a life of its own. It’s almost like it demands to be written a certain way, which is all well and good for creative writing, but not for presentations.

Once I had finally written the damned thing, I then had to practise it. I had to practise it quite a lot to be honest. It’s funny how you feel confident in your subject and remembering what you’ve written until you come to do a trial run of your presentation. I found myself tripping over my words and using far too many ‘errs’. So practise I did, over and over and over again until I was fed-up to the back teeth with the whole thing. I also went through the inevitable gamut of feelings when presented with such a task. From ‘I can’t do this; it’s complete crap’ to ‘it’s as good as it’s going to get’ with ‘why did I pick this topic?’ and ‘why did I agree to do this course?’ thrown in for good measure. This is why I really needed more than a week’s notice.

It was then I decided to go back and take another look at the pass criteria for the presentation. It said to achieve the required level all I had to do was present information and ideas clearly, and adapt my presentation to suit the audience, purpose and situation. I also only had to meet each standard once. That was it. As unhappy with my presentation as I was, it did at least do this.

As I berated myself for wasting time, energy, and turning some more of my hair grey I realised not for the first time in my life, in fact not for the first time in this blog, this was due to my failure to read something properly and thoroughly. Moments of self-clarity often enable us to examine our worst character traits allowing us to make changes to become a better, happier individual. However, I also realised that as I have spent approximately half of my allotted time on this planet behaving in such a slap-dash manner, I am very unlikely to change. Instead of my moment of clarity being a life-changing moment, it just depressed me. I did pass the assessment though.

Shopping with a dollop of culture

English: Self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. R...
English: Self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. Red chalk. 33 × 21 cm. Turin, Royal Library (inv.no. 15571). NOTE This image is in red chalk. Do not revert to the black and white image. Deutsch: Kopf eines bärtigen Mannes, sog. Selbstbildnis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the fiasco of my last shopping trip, I swore that I was going to do the rest of my Christmas shopping online. For some unfathomable reason I deviated away from this sensible idea and decided that it would be easier to actually visit the city centre again. However, just in case my trip was as stressful as the last, I had a plan up my sleeve to help soothe any ruffled brow or calm any frazzled nerves I may develop. There is an exhibition of Leonardo Da Vinci sketches at my local art gallery, and this seemed the perfect way to end the day. Besides, I might even see the man with bare feet again (see my previous post The man with bare feet).

I would like to tell you that I was right to leave the comfort of my home to go shopping, but I would be lying. Every shop I visited didn’t have what I wanted. I’m not really a browsing sort of shopper. I like to pre-select my gifts, which usually means I can be in and out of shops in record time. However, not having what I want throws me a curved ball. Firstly, I wander round and round the store checking every shelf just in case I’ve missed whatever it is I’m looking for. This wastes a lot of time and doesn’t particularly put me in a good mood. When I finally accept that they don’t have what I want I then have the dilemma of either selecting something else or going home and ordering it online. The latter makes more sense, but I’m in the store and I’m feeling fractious and want to buy something NOW. But what? After dithering for quite some time I usually end-up leaving empty handed. I am so obviously made for internet shopping I can’t understand why I convince myself otherwise.

I was feeling exasperated at both the shops and myself as I headed for the art gallery. Contemplating the work of a genius was sure to have me feeling at peace and one with the world in no time. My local gallery has been somewhat blessed with exhibitions lately. Last autumn, they were the first gallery to proudly display a new David Hockney work. This was followed by the Andy Warhol exhibition, and now the Da Vinci sketches. No mean feat for a regional gallery. I was looking forward to being able to quietly wander around the exhibition soaking in the work of such an incredibly famous artist. There is nothing like the peace, tranquillity and calmness of a gallery to ease one’s soul. Except when I got there, there was no peace, tranquillity or calmness, and my soul was definitely not eased.

What I hadn’t taken into consideration was that was a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to view the work of Da Vinci; arguably one of the greatest artists who has ever live. Also the exhibition had only been running for a few days. As you can imagine it was packed to the rafters. Da Vinci’s sketches were beautiful and intricately drawn, and it was truly amazing to see them. However, as they were sketches, they were small and trying to view them around a sea of heads was not without its problems. It didn’t help that many of the other visitors were peering at the pictures with magnifying glasses (provided helpfully by the gallery). I found the whole thing quite distracting and it spoilt my enjoyment somewhat.

There was something else that also detracted from my enjoyment of the exhibition, only this time it wasn’t the man with bare feet. He had very wisely decided to stay away. If only I had had the sense to. This time it was a film crew from one of the local television stations. The cameraman had obtrusively positioned himself in the middle of the gallery, whilst the reporter went around trying to find someone, anyone to interview. It was clearly a bad day at the office for her as, whilst people were quite happy to chat to her off camera, when it came to their fifteen minutes moment they all became camera-shy. This meant as well as having to view the sketches around magnifying glasses and people’s heads, I also had to contend with hearing the reporter repeatedly trying to cajole and coax the public. No-one gave in. We are from Yorkshire after all and such flattery doesn’t wash with us. Funnily enough the reporter didn’t ask me. I guess the expression on my face was enough to put her off.

Taking the first steps

I have said it before, and will probably say it many, many more times, but I really do need to get into shape.  I have to stop putting it off as, let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger and if I don’t make a change now it could be too late. The problem with anything that is good for us, whether it be exercise, food or just the way we live our lives generally, is that it is not anywhere near exciting as the things that are unhealthy. Shall I have that piece of chocolate cake or an apple? Should I go to the gym or slob in front of the telly? Will I have one glass of wine or demolish the whole bottle as usual?

Also, I’m still unsure of what exercise to do.  I need to find something I enjoy and that I’m likely to keep up. I have been a member of a couple of gyms in the past but, like most people, the novelty wore off after time. I started out with good intentions and went three or four times a week. This quickly reduced to once or twice a week, shortly followed by once a week, and not long after that stopped altogether. This is because gyms are boring. You’re stuck indoors, cycling at bike that goes nowhere, lifting weights and doing leg lunges. There is also far too much lycra and super fit people that make you feel envious and inadequate at the same time. No wonder most of us give it up.

There are dance fitness classes, and this is more my sort of thing. I’ve always liked dancing. However, I don’t like bossy fitness instructors. l could buy a fitness DVD and prance around in the comfort of my own home, but we all know how this ends. I will use it half a dozen times at the most, and it will then become a coaster. Perhaps I’ll leave my boogieing for nightclubs (although it is many years since I’ve done this). Cycling would get me out in the fresh air, but I no longer have a bike. Running seems to be very popular at the moment, and I can see why. The great outdoors, the wind in your hair, the stitch in your side, the ‘I’m about to keel over at any moment’ feeling. Maybe not.

What I do really like is walking and, according to the information I was given at my healthy heart check, all I need to do is take a brisk walk for thirty minutes five times per week. Simple! I can easily incorporate it into the other things I need to do. I can drop the girls off at school and go for a walk. If I need to pop to the shops, I can go for a walk first. If I’m meeting a friend for coffee, no problem, I’ll just go for a walk afterwards. Marvellous!

The only drawback to doing anything outside is that it’s November. Bitterly cold, blustery, wet and wild November. But I don’t mind this. As long as I’m wrapped up properly to face the elements, I’ll be fine. I do find the cold quite invigorating. I don’t know about you but my body seems to shut down and go into hibernation when autumn arrives. Everything takes much more effort. I’m sluggish, unresponsive, and most certainly not at my best. A walk in the biting wind is actually a welcome relief from all this inertia. It seems to recharge my listless body, mind and spirit. This is just what I need; something to give me a bit of oomph and stop me fusing with the sofa. All I need to do now is peel myself off it.

The best and worst of prizes

Different types of stuffed toys
Different types of stuffed toys (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Schools, I have found, are very devious. They invite you along to a ‘Friends of’ meeting with the lure of wine and cheese. When you get there you find that it is actually a PTA meeting and, worse still, they have forgotten to get the wine and cheese. I mean really. Talk about getting people there under false pretences.

The main business of the evening was to organise the school’s Christmas Fayre. Apparently, this is a much-loved event on the school’s calendar and is very well attended. However, as much as parents like to come and spend bucket loads of cash at the Fayre, they do not want to help out with the organising and running of it. I had gone along with a friend who works full-time, but would like to get involved with helping out at the school in some way. It was her lucky night as she is now going to run a stall. Of course, as I’m a total pushover when it comes to this sort of thing, I’m going to help her.

One of the big draws of the Fayre is the tombola and, obviously, you need a lot of prizes to run one. The idea was that the school would have a non-uniform day and children would donate a tombola prize. This meant that somebody had to collect and sort the prizes on the day. When it came to asking for a volunteer for this task those who had a genuine excuse for not being able to do it were very quick to make this known. This was followed by the inevitable silence, shuffling of paper, looking at the floor, and generally avoiding eye contact of those of us who were left.  Now, I can’t stand this. I find it excruciatingly unbearable and embarrassing, so before I knew it I had volunteered to help. If I was ever captured and interrogated for top secret information there would be no need for elaborate torture methods. All my kidnappers would have to do is leave a long, uncomfortable pause. I would be squealing like a pig in no time.

This was how I found myself heading to the school this morning expecting to spend the best part of a day collecting and sorting donations. However, when I got there I found that another mum was also helping out – Hooray! We got a nice little system going where she headed off with a trolley to collect the donations, and I sorted them out and stacked them in the PTA cupboard (which clearly says PTA on it, so what’s with this ‘Friends of’ lark?). This arrangement suited me as I didn’t know the school layout very well and, more importantly, I could have a good nosy at what everyone else had donated. Whilst rummaging it became clear to me that there were some things that I would really like to win on the tombola, and some that I absolutely, positively didn’t. So I compiled a list of my top 5 best and worst tombola prizes. Here it is:

Best Prizes:

5 – An Alarm Clock – my husband’s alarm clock is not working properly and keeps changing the time he has set his alarm (or so he says). As it always takes us an eternity to get around to replacing anything, this would save us a job;

4 – Hello Kitty Things– there were many Hello Kitty items donated, and winning one of these would make my girls’ day. And as everyone knows, a happy child makes a happy parent;

3 – M & S Shortbread Biscuits – yum, yum, yum!

2 – Soap and Glory Toiletries – do I need to write anything? They make fab products;

1 – A Journal – what else could I have as my #1 item? I do write a blog after all.

Worst Prizes:

5 – A Teddy – or any other stuffed toy. We have far too many of these already;

4 – Yogurt Maker – would only end up in the cupboard, gathering dust along with the popcorn maker, ice-cream maker, sandwich toaster etc;

3 – Cheap Chocolate – in my experience it is not a good idea to eat anything with an unfamiliar brand name;

2 – Lambrini – yuck, yuck, yuck! Who drinks this stuff?

1 – Unknown Named Perfume – not only was this a name I had never heard of, judging by the box it had been around one or two tombolas already. And, I guess, one or two others to come. If I win it (and I probably will) I will do the decent thing and throw it away.

So there you have it. My I really want and I hope not potential tombola wins. And it is a pretty fair bet that I won’t be winning anything from the first list, and quite likely that it will be something from the latter.

Christmas shopping nightmare

I decided to put plans for self-improvement on hold yesterday, and started the dreaded Christmas shopping. I love shopping and Christmas so you would think that the two combined would be a dream come true. Not so. I hate Christmas shopping. The shops are too hot and crowded, and the queues are too long, I am aware that there is such a thing as internet shopping. I do my weekly grocery shop online as I also hate grocery shopping. I find buying a bunch of bananas does not excite me in the same way buying a new pair of shoes does. However, when it comes to things other than groceries, I am still a bit old-fashioned. There is something about going into a store and seeing what something actually looks, feels and smells like that I find reassuring and comforting. Besides which, there was a sale on at one of the big department stores and I’d seen a dress in there I’d liked a few weeks ago. I was hoping that they still had it and it was reduced (not technically a Christmas present, I know).

The department store had sent me a very nice leaflet advertising their sale with lots of pictures of gift ideas in it. While I was in the city centre, I could also pop into a couple of other shops and pick-up some more presents. No messing about ordering on the internet, waiting in for parcels to be delivered, having to pop out for five minutes and missing the postman, and then having to make a trip to the post office to pick-up said parcels. I could also have my lunch at a very nice café I know. I was quite looking forward to it

I decided to start with the department store. I knew what I wanted and the store layout so calculated that I should be in and out of there in about forty minutes at the most. However, I had vastly underestimated how much a sale draws in other shoppers. I also hadn’t realised that the store had undergone a refurbishment and moved everything around. I wish they wouldn’t do this. I’m a head-down, in and out as quick as I can kind of shopper so redesigning a store disrupts my momentum. I lose my sense of purpose and wander around like an amnesiac trying to remember what the hell it is that I came in for. And why can you never find a shop assistant when you need one? They’re always there ready to pounce on you when you’re just browsing.

Instead of finding myself in and out like I’m on a military raid, I found myself roaming around trying to find anything that I had earmarked as a potential buy. I eventually found something I was looking for and made off around the store again looking for another item on my list. This, as you can imagine, took some time. When I had found everything I wanted, I realised that I had used up all of my allotted forty minutes, and this was before I had tried on the dress (it was reduced) and queued at the tills. I then tried to find the dressing rooms, but either these had also been moved or I had become so disorientated by the changes in the store I had completed lost my bearings. I eventually found them and looked in horror at the queue. It was very long and to make matters worse everyone seemed to have four or five pieces of clothing to try on. This was when I got to thinking that I should have indeed just have ordered everything online and waited in for days for it to be delivered, because anything had to be better than this. There was, however, worse to come.

Firstly, the dress I had fallen in love with and coveted so much looked hideous on me. Isn’t it disappointing when this happens? You see it on the rail, think it looks amazing, can imagine yourself looking great in it, to find that when you try it on you actually look like a sack of spuds. However, all was not lost as I had found another one that I liked. I then made my way to the till and found that the queues were even longer than the one for the changing room. Luckily, a very helpful shop assistant came along (where was she earlier?!) and pointed me to alternative tills with a promised shorter wait. I sped off before the words were out of her mouth and, did indeed, find a smaller queue. Then one of the tills broke down and I ended up waiting longer then if I had stayed in the first one.

Still I was home and dry now. I may have spent twice as long as I intended in the store, but I had made some purchases and was on my way out. I then noticed that one of the things I had bought was damaged. I won’t recap on the torrent of abuse I muttered under my breath at this point as I headed back to the floor where I had found the damaged item. I guess you can work that out for yourself. Needless to say they didn’t have another one. I then had to queue for a refund. The girl on the till did offer to see if they had another one in store, but I declined her kind offer and said, in a somewhat strained voice, that I would order one online instead.

This was when I decided to go home. Sod the other shops, sod lunch in the café. I was hot, bothered and extremely cross. I suddenly appreciated what a truly marvellous invention the internet is, and realised that you really can’t beat sitting in the comfort of your own home, clicking away. Except, I do need to go back to the department store as the dozy shop assistant forgot to take the security tag out of my lovely, new dress. And as I have to go back to the city centre, perhaps I could just pop into those other shops. It will save me the bother of waiting in after all.

DIY SOS

A few days passed and I was still quite fired-up about starting my decorating project. I always find it’s a good idea to leave it a couple of days before leaping into action. I really don’t want to start anything and then find I lose interest quickly. After all, I don’t want a half-finished bedroom.

I mentioned my idea to my husband and initially got the reaction I was expecting. ‘Really? There’s a reason you don’t decorate unsupervised,’ he said before heading off to work. However, after mulling it over for the day, he changed his mind and whisked me off to a well-known DIY chain before I had time to change mine. This may be somewhat surprising to you (and to me) but the only reason he did this is so that he doesn’t have to do it himself. I guess he thinks my last attempt can’t have been anywhere near as bad as he remembers (it was). It seems that time really does heal wounds, and his memory of my previous disaster had diminished. I mean, whatever possible reason can there be for him letting me loose again on the house?

He had also become rather enthusiastic about the whole idea. He seemed to have it in his head that I was going to complete the whole thing in record time and, therefore, we needed to buy everything I needed in one shop. After pointing out that this was a long-term project and it was unlikely to be finished by Easter let alone Christmas, we left with a tin of one coat, cupboard paint. This stuff sounded marvellous. All I had to do was sand down our old wooden furniture, give it a wipe with White Spirit, and give it one coat of paint (two at the most). This sounded so simple that even my four year olds could do it. Despite the simplicity of the task, my husband suggested that I started with just a drawer. Apparently, I didn’t want to run before I could walk.

It did start off well. It really was as easy as it said on the tin, and I was feeling rather pleased with myself by the time I had finished. For safety reasons, I had used the conservatory just in case I made a total pig’s ear of it. However, it seemed that I was just being a Nervous Nelly as somehow I had managed to paint something without getting paint all over the floor. Result! All I had to do was clean the brush, a really simple task. That’s when it all went wrong.

I was pretty sure that to clean a brush all I had to do was run it under a hot water tap. However, when I tried to do this all that happened was that the paint spread everywhere; alll over the handle and all over my hands. I looked at the mess in disbelief and then remembered that my husband usually used washing-up liquid to clean brushes. I opened the cupboard to get out the Fairy and got paint all over the kitchen cupboard door. If that wasn’t bad enough, the washing-up liquid didn’t work. In fact it made no difference at all. And then, I’m ashamed to say, I panicked. I should have thought the thing through logically but, instead, I rang my husband (and got paint all over my phone in the process). Just to be clear, I didn’t call him because he’s a man but because he is the one that usually does the decorating as I’m so rubbish at it.

I expected him to say ‘Of course you don’t use hot water and washing-up liquid, you dozy mare!’ To my utter disbelief he said, ‘Well that usually works.’ ‘Ah,’ I thought, ‘I’m not such an idiot after all.’ Then he said, ‘What does it say on the tin?’ It seemed that I was such an idiot. I mean, why didn’t I read the tin. I’d read it to find out how to use the damn paint, so why didn’t I think to read it to find out how to clean the brush? I guess I thought cleaning brushes was so simple you didn’t need instructions on how to do it. There is a lesson to be learnt here.

The tin did indeed tell me how to clean the brush. With White Spirits in case you ever find yourself in the same predicament. This not only cleaned the brush and my hands, but also removed the paint from the cupboard door, phone and everywhere else I had smeared it. I had managed to successfully downgrade the DIY disaster to a mere incident. No bad going for someone as useless as me. And now I think that, perhaps, this is as bad as it’s going to get. Maybe, the rest of my decorating endeavours will run smoothly. I will finish my project without further incidents. Well, one can hope.

A new project

Jack rocked it! He was amazing and sounded fantastic. As well as playing his solo stuff, he also played some White Stripes and Raconteurs so I was well happy.  My cake turned out fine and it went down a treat with my English group. However, I am not going to put myself under this sort of pressure again, and will just take in a packet of biscuits next time. Anyway, now that I have rediscovered my indie rock chick credentials, it will be vodka and fags for all instead.

The girls have also gone back to school, and I realise that half the first term has passed by without me achieving anything. I am no fitter, wiser or contented than when I first started writing this blog. I really need to get a grip on my life and sort myself out. What I need is a project to throw myself into. As I lay in my slightly-tired-around-the-edges bedroom this morning, looking around for inspiration, it suddenly came to me that I was staring at the perfect project. I could redecorate our room! This got me excited and I started to mentally plan what I’d like to do. My idea is not only to give the room a lick of paint but to also paint our furniture and reupholster the stool and headboard. I’ve not been so animated for months!

There are just two obstacles in me carrying out my plan. The first is my husband. My husband is quite good at DIY but absolutely hates doing it. He is also extremely busy at work. I did bring up the subject of decorating a couple of months ago and he was less than enthusiastic about it. In fact his response was, ‘but I did that not so long ago. Why do we need to do it again?’ I pointed out that it was long before the girls were born (they are now four) that we last painted our room, but he still wasn’t having any of it. The man really does hate DIY with a passion. You are probably thinking, why don’t you just do it by yourself then (no pun intended!)? Well, there is a very good reason for that and it is the second obstacle in me carrying out the plan. Me. I am spectacularly crap at DIY. In case you think I am making this up, let me give you two examples of how bad I am.

Whilst painting the walls in our first flat, I somehow managed to get paint not only all over myself but also under the dust sheet and onto our new carpet. To this day I don’t know how I did that. However, the best (or worst) disaster was shortly after we moved into our current home. My husband did not like some of the tiles in our bathroom and wanted to change them. As he was busy at work, he left me with the task of removing them. ‘It’s easy. All you have to do is give them a little tap and them lift them off with a scraper,’ he said. Why on earth he allowed me to do this unsupervised knowing how my previous attempts at DIY had turned out is anyone’s guess. I can only think he didn’t want to do it himself. He did, however, come to rue his decision.

To be honest, I had a great time removing the offending tiles. I’ve always quite fancied a job in demolition and this was the nearest thing I’ve come to it.  By the time my husband returned from work, I had nearly finished. ‘He’s going to be so proud,’ I thought to myself, ‘I’ve done this without cocking it up.’ Oh, how wrong I was. I realised this as soon as I saw my husband’s puce coloured, apoplectic face. ‘Did you not think to put a sheet down first?’ he said in a cold, steely voice. I didn’t, I really didn’t and I’m not sure why. After all, I’m a reasonably intelligent woman, and this should have been the first thing I thought of. I looked around at the carnage of bits of plaster and old tiles, and saw the bathroom through his eyes. No blooming wonder he was cross. Only this was not the only thing I’d done wrong. ‘I told you to tap the tiles gently. Not whack them as hard as possible,’ he yelled. I had tapped the tiles gently, initially. If this hadn’t worked then I’d tried again, a little bit harder. Well perhaps more than a little bit harder as I had managed to also dislodge some bits of plaster. Needless to say, after he spent more than an hour tidying up the mess, and the best part of half a day replastering the wall he hasn’t asked me to do anything since.

So you see a DIY project would really give me something to get my teeth into and would be quite an achievement when (if) I finish it. The only question is whether I’m really up to it. Will I just end up making one hell of a mess that only a professional can sort out? Will it push my husband over the edge? Will we end up sleeping in a half-finished room for the foreseeable future? Surely, if I take it slowly, one step at a time, and don’t rush it will all turn out OK. Surely, it will? Won’t it?

Stepford Wife?

The White Stripes at the 2007 O2 Wireless fest...
The White Stripes at the 2007 O2 Wireless festival in London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What was I thinking? Why on earth did I agree to bake something for my English class tomorrow? If that wasn’t bad enough, for some unknown reason I’ve decided to try out a new, never tried before recipe. What kind of idiot does that? Actually I know exactly how I ended up doing this. When someone mentioned bringing in a cake to our next class, my thought process went as follows: I like baking; I’m quite good at it; I don’t work so there is no reason why I shouldn’t offer to make one; if I don’t do it no-one else will.

I’m sure there are allsorts of reasons people volunteer, but with me it has always been guilt. Schools, I have found, are quite good at piling this on when they need parents to volunteer for whatever new activity, fund-raiser, trip, etc., etc. they seem to be currently undertaking. We NEED eight parents to help with the school trip. OK, I better volunteer as I would hate for the trip to be cancelled because they were one parent short. We REALLY NEED help in the classroom as the teachers are so busy that sometimes they don’t get the chance to hear every child read each week. Well, I’d better volunteer for this too as I don’t want to be responsible for a child not progressing as quickly as they should. We REALLY NEED you to take this course we are running to support your child at home. I’d better do that as well as I don’t want my kids to be disadvantaged, even though I don’t need the English qualification the course gives you as I already have it. You get the picture.

The problem I have is the fear that if I don’t offer to help out with whatever it is someone is trying to organise it will not take place. This will then be my fault. Guilt is powerful stuff. So powerful, it is now responsible for me making an Apple and Blackberry tray cake. As I wait for it to bake, I wonder how it is I ended-up becoming a Stepford Wife. The most reckless thing I do nowadays is try out a new recipe on a group of relative strangers. It wasn’t always like this. And to prove this point, tonight I’m going to a Jack White gig with my husband.

The last time we went to a concert was four years ago when I was expecting the girls. In hindsight, standing whilst six months pregnant with twins at a Kings of Leon concert was not the best idea we ever had. We were also supposed to see the White Stripes around the same time, but they cancelled as Meg was suffering from exhaustion. I am ashamed to say I made some uncharitable remarks about only sitting behind drums at the time, which was very ungenerous of me. As you can imagine, the thought of getting to see Jack play at last and do something rock and roll again, means I’m very excited.

However, I do wonder how rock and roll Jack actually is now. I mean, the concert is at the Bridlington Spa. If you are reading this and don’t know anything about Bridlington (or Brid as it’s known locally) I’d better explain. Brid is an East Yorkshire, seaside town that, like many of its kind, had its heyday in the nineteenth century when it was besieged with Victorian day-trippers. Unfortunately, its popularity has declined since then and it has not managed to reinvent itself as a hip, happening destination like Brighton. It doesn’t have a so cool it hurts arts scene or insane clubs or a retro vibe going on, which leads me to question what Jack will do after his show. Fish and Chips, and spending a couple of quid in the amusement arcades are all that spring to mind.

Perhaps this is all he wants. I guess the fact is that we all get older no matter how we try and fight against it. Many of us have responsibilities we didn’t have twenty years ago, and these responsibilities shape what we do and how we behave today. I think this is probably for the best. Who wants to be acting like a twenty-something in their forties and beyond? I mean, look at Keith Richards. He’s more than enough to put you off that sort of behaviour. I think there is just one question I’d like to ask Jack. Would you like a piece of Apple and Blackberry tray cake?