Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Blogging Story

Kelly has memed me to find out why I blog.

It started with a book. “Where Did It All Go Right by Andrew Collins. It’s a very funny, warm account of growing up in the 70’s however there was something else about that book which was to lead me to the world of blogging. On the front inside page was a website address ( and I was intrigued. Following the link (as I believe is the correct terminology) I found a whole website devoted to the book and further investigation uncovered the blog.

Discussions ranged (and in many occasions raged) from birdwatching to homeopathic remedies to 9/11 conspiracy theories all in the space of a couple of weeks. I was fascinated and began to experience the first flutterings of envy. In the best tradition of a small school child I wanted one of these toys too. Of course, not being technologically minded I hadn’t the slightest idea of how to get one. And to be perfectly honest I’m still not too sure how I got one. One day I clicked on a button which brought me to a menu. I followed the instructions and “hey presto” I had a blog of my own. Now, due consideration had to be taken with what to fill it with.

My first post was about Breadmaking. Not perhaps the most exciting subject but perhaps I hadn’t yet grasped blogging conventions. It would appear that most blogs are either controversial or funny. Sadly I fear I don’t really know enough to be controversial (I could quite easily confuse Osama bin Laden and Barack Obama and then there would be trouble) so I thought I would go down the humour route. Humour never hurt anyone apart from the man squashed by a sixteen stone comedian.

It may have been around this time that I started considering my fellow bloggers. If you post a blog and no one reads it, did it really exist in the first place? In the course of my travels in blogland I found a number of other blogs which I found to be funny, warm, amusing and lots of other lovely words. It’s wonderful to be able to visit all those other bloggers and read snippets of their lives – all in so many ways so different from my own. I visited and these kind people visited my blogs back. Now my blog posts really existed and it was, and still is a lovely feeling.

I blogged regularly (at least twice a week) until this summer when I lost one job but gained roughly three others in its place (including the one I lost but that’s a whole books worth of a story). As a result I haven’t been able to blog as much as I would like. I now have a routine of one blog post and visits to other blogs a week and if things change I might be able to come on more frequently again. I do miss it when I’m away and love the feeling now of sitting typing a load of daft words onto a page and knowing that someone out there will read them and hopefully put a comment into my comment box. And that my friends is why I still keep coming back for more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It’s Only a Victoria Sponge

It was a Monday night and at the Youth Group we were attempting to make a Victoria Sponge. Not an onerous task you might think and not worthy of starting World War III over. Sadly ten teenagers begged to differ.

The trouble started almost at once when they decided that they would rather make Chocolate Cake. I tried to reason with them that the Victoria Sponge decision had been taken with their full support many weeks ago. “I wasn’t there that day” one whined “P. must have made that decision. Why does she always get her own way? It’s just so unfair.”

“Because life’s unfair.” I almost spat but then stopped myself. “We only have ingredients for Victoria Sponge and if you are going to keep on arguing you may as well all go home because I don’t have the patience for it.” was what I actually said. At this there were a few nervous laughs as they hoped that I was only joking. I assured them that I was not joking and, after some persuasion they finally helped in the cake making effort. When I say helped, I have never seen eggs broken and added to the mixture through a small hole in the bottom of the shell and have also never seen such a lacklustre effort made to cream a mixture. All this went on under the malevolent glare of a few of the girls, still unhappy, standing at the door of the kitchen with their arms crossed defiantly. If they were hoping to see some sorrow in my face they were disappointed.

Soon the cake was ready for the oven and in it went, with cries of “It doesn’t look right”. “You’ve ruined it.” and many more I have erased from my memory.

Despite all the valiant hopes of the youngsters that the Victoria Sponge that was not a Chocolate Cake would be ruined thereby giving them some small measure of vindication, it popped out of the oven 20 minutes later no less than perfect. You might think that that would be the end of our woes, but sadly it was not to be.

The traditional method of filling and topping of a Victoria Sponge is jam in the middle and icing sugar on top. Generations will testify to the unblemished nature of this method and the exquisite taste therein. However, for the sake of my teenagers I was prepared to use whatever filling and topping they desired. Somewhat naively I considered this to be a good ploy. Of course I didn’t count on the fact that 10 teenage girls are not readily going to come to a unanimous decision. Not knowing the meaning of the word unanimous probably also doesn’t help.

“We can fill it with jam” I started “ but I’ve also got skooshy cream and chocolate spread so we….”

“Eurgh it’s not Nutella” said one “I’m not eating that.”

“OK, I’ll put it away so what will we do then?”

“We should use jam” said another starting to enthusiastically dump dollops of jam all over the cake and spread it in.

“That’s not fair” a small voice wailed “I’m allergic to jam and she always gets what she wants and I never do”.

This may of course have been “It’s just so unfair” from earlier on but I forget.

“But it’s got to be jam” said the enthusiastic spreader of the sticky stuff.

“Well I don’t like it, and I also don’t like Chocolate spread or cream so that means I can’t have any. It’s just (you will now be able to fill in the blanks).

Her cries were then taken up by all ten girls each arguing with one another about what should or should not go on the cake and the reasons for each thing meaning the ruination of the cake for each individual. Eventually I cut through their cries, but not with the jammy knife because that would just have been messy.

“Right, that’s enough” I said. “I’ve had it up to here with you lot. I’m going to take the cake into work tomorrow and give it to people who will appreciate it since you certainly don’t. Out of my way”. As I bore down on the cake the opinions of the girls remarkably gelled as one as if exposed to extra strong jam making pectin.

“OK” they said, and I could see real fear in their eyes “we’ll eat it ourselves”. At that all thoughts of allergies and personal dislikes were miraculously lost and the cake was reduced to a few paltry crumbs in less than five minutes. It was a truly remarkable transformation.

After that they went home and I thank singledom that I don’t have to take one home myself.

The best quote of the night came at the end from one of the girls in the older group who had been watching their antics and stuck her head round the door as they were leaving and said “You guys suck”!

On the basis of Monday night’s performance I was very inclined to agree.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pulling Teeth

The phone call came early in the morning, at the point at which I had arrived at work but long before I had officially woken up. “This is your Dentist’s surgery” snapped the voice at the end of the line. “Are you aware that you haven’t been in to see us since APRIL?” The word April was exaggerated to give the impression of the committing of some heinous crime. “We don’t exactly FORCE our patients to come into the surgery but when we haven’t seen you for such a LONG TIME we do feel the need to contact you.”

As you can imagine the idea of visiting the dentist is not exactly one of those things which I excitedly mark in the diary and then count the days down to with a heightening sense of eager anticipation. The last time an appointment had been made for me I had managed to get out of it by having to go to a meeting at work. After sending them a letter explaining how sorry I was I just stopped contacting them and hoped that they would forget about me. Little did I know that the receptionist had a detection system second only to that of an over enthusiastic bloodhound. For all I know she had been trailing me for months, waiting for just the right moment to pounce.

I’m not actually very strong willed in the face of such administrative authority and mumbled that yes, I would take the next available appointment.

“Ah but that’s not good enough” she said, with what I’m sure was a note of satisfaction in her voice.
“You have been away so long now that you will need TWO appointments”. “One for a check up and one for a scale and polish.”
“What’s a scale and polish” I said feeling like a car about to face an MOT.
She didn’t give me a definitive answer apart from saying ominously “The dentist wouldn’t suggest one if he didn’t think you needed one”.

By now, feeling utterly press ganged and not even receiving a king’s shilling to show for it, I asked her to suggest a date.

“Well, by this stage there’s no free dates until January, but we SHOULD be able to fit you in then”. she said with a sigh which appeared to indicate that there being no free dates until January was in some way my fault.

The date made, she rang off, in order to harass some other poor individual who also was under the false apprehension that he had thrown the dentist off his scent.

Shaken, I resumed my work and to prove how out of sorts I was, proceeded to ask a colleague who lives in Glasgow if she needed travel and accommodation organised in order to attend a training course in (yes, you’ve guessed it) Glasgow.

I think I need a holiday!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Not Mountain Biking

Obviously I’m devastated. Due to the likelihood of inclement weather and the fact that many of our number were not very well, our bike ride was cancelled. All I can say is that, as of this moment, I would much rather be sitting here in my nice warm house than struggling through the countryside while others much fitter than me purposefully cycled on ahead.

The text message to inform me of the lifting of the terror which has been hanging over my head for well over a week now came last night as a friend and I left the cinema after seeing Ratatouille. The film was OK and I felt for the rat as he juggled multiple jobs for many and varied bosses. Let us just say that I can relate all too well too the joy of multitasking with a wide variety of hats, although none of them, as yet, is that of a chef. I suppose however, that that might come one of those days.

Glasgow last night was filled with hundreds of kilted chaps and chapesses celebrating the result of some football match which apparently we had won. I had to ask because I just don’t have a clue about such things. I was accompanied on the train journey home by a vast number of fans – all very drunk but very happy nonetheless. As I sat down in my seat I put my foot in what I can only hope was tomato ketchup. On getting up to leave the train I slid in this gloop and sailed down the aisle to the bemusement of the befuddled supporters. It was only through sheer luck or perhaps my relative sobriety that I did not land on one of them. I suppose it might have made for a more interesting end to the evening.

I have only just switched my mobile phone back on. My theory being that if, by some strange twist of fate, the cycle ride was back on, I would not have known about it. I believe that there is talk of it being postponed to another date. You can be assured that on the appointed date, I will have a prior engagement.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Loneliness of The Long Distance Mountain Biker.

One might ask what a supposedly responsible PA in high heels was doing riding a muddy mountain bike around a dingy garage. One might even wonder why she was pulled out of a high level meeting in order to do so. It’s a dark tale of cruelty and despair – or at least it will be come Sunday!

A couple of weeks ago we were, at work, invited (if that is the correct term) to take part in a sponsored cycle. Not wanting to appear uncharitable I feigned interest. This was of course a mistake as this pseudo interest was immediately snatched upon in the manner of a door-to-door seller persuading you to buy something you neither need nor want. I was, in a word, sucked in to taking part in an activity which now fills me with much fear and dread. On Sunday I will be expected to cycle for 26 miles and then “we might catch the train back home or depending how we are feeling we might just cycle back”. Can I just say here and now that when I agreed to this, the exact number of miles was cruelly kept from me. A couple of miles I could have coped with. 26 of them is an entirely different journey of fear. Abject terror would now be an understatement.

Back to the mountain bike. In a futile attempt to get out of this horror, I stated that I didn’t have a bike. In actual fact I do, but it is currently slowly decomposing in my parents’ garage so I would imagine that in its present state it would be somewhat inoperable. It may not even resemble a bike anymore. Sadly this lame attempt at an excuse held little truck with the organisers of the event and an alternative bike was procured. This bike (the aforementioned muddy mountain bike) was ceremoniously rushed to the garage underneath my office. The important meeting I was attending at the time was stopped in order that I could go out and check that the bike and I were compatible.

I tentatively descended to meet my fate in the basement. The bike leaned nonchalantly against the wall and silently laughed at my unsuitability for riding it in full suit and high heels. I swung a rather stiff leg over the bar straining to keep my shoes on my feet and started pedalling. As I wobbled all over the garage I wondered how long ago it was that I had actually ridden a bike. Ten years might be a possible count. You know what they say about never forgetting how to ride a bike – it may have been a lie – especially in my case. Eventually I seemed to be able to make it go and more importantly make it go straight. My high heels rattled about the pedals in a most ungainly way and threatened to either get jammed in the pedals or fall onto the floor. That’s when I bashed my knee against the very low handle bar. “Aha” I thought. A last ditch opportunity for forgoing the bike ride presented itself and was immediately dashed as someone fetched a handy allan key and righted the problem. He tried very hard not to laugh.

The day of doom draws closer and the fear I am feeling is rapidly accelerating in a manner which I am unlikely ever to attain on the bike itself. All the known excuses are gone and no more will be accepted. It’s down to me and the bike and I think I know who will come out on top.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Fresh Faces and Sticky Paws

Sometimes I just love the synchronicity. I’m working at the moment with two quite different groups of girls within our Youth Group, I’m doing Cookery and, oh joy, they both want to do something involving chicken. This makes my job very much easier when negotiating the aisles at Asda. If these girls had any inkling whatsoever that they had caused my life to be made easier they would at once have changed their minds so I won’t be letting on any time soon.

I have been working in and around Youth Groups since I officially ended my tenure as a youth myself. In my local community there has always been a strong emphasis on promoting activities for teenagers so the natural progression for me was to work as a youth group leader as soon as I was old enough. I have put on plays with youth drama groups, made the most delicious messes in numerous kitchens, eaten myself silly at sleepovers and taken trips to places like Alton Towers. How else could an adult do these things without fear of ridicule.

Of course this is not the only reason that I do it. There are of course some people who would beg to differ but I feel that it is vitally important to support and help the youth of any community. Kids these days (as at any time) face enormous challenges, whether it be something such as their best friend falling out with them or problems with parents. To have someone other than a parent or a teacher who they feel that they can talk to or who simply takes an interest in them can make all the difference.

I admit that sometimes all the good feelings can be forgotten when you have a group of 20 screaming teenagers in a room who cannot master the correct dance moves for the show taking place next week. However the mere fact that they come back week after week gives me some confidence that we must be doing something right and that one day they may look back and admit that they had fun.

And that, my friends, is a brief resume of the life of a Youth Group Worker. If you have any specific questions, please ask and I will do my best to answer them. I think as a last word I would add that, if nothing else, it keeps you young.

P.S. Apologies for the lack of regular blogging in these parts. I am now working for my current boss, my previous boss and doing quite a bit of preparation work for the youth group. It makes life interesting but time melt away. I will try and keep up the blogging but it may be a little less frequent for a while.