Friday, 4 May 2012

Life through a whiteboard

Life in our house is complicated, but it is governed by a very simple device.

We have a whiteboard in the kitchen. Just like you might find in any office or school. A simple, effective and absolutely essential addition when there are six people in the house who are likely to be travelling in at least three different directions at any one time. So a year or so ago we invested in a whiteboard and since then have came to absolutely depend on it. The calendar industry is very narrow minded. You cannot get a "Family" Organiser with more than five columns on it. Why? Simple really: Marge + Homer + Bart + Lisa + Maggie = 5. They don't like Santa's Little Helper because he's a dog. Pooh + Piglet + Eeyore + Tigger + Kanga = 5. They don't like Christopher Robin because he's, well, "special" 

Of course, I can't claim any credit for discovering the massive benefits the whiteboard provides. We stole the idea, plain and simple. Worse than that, this was theft from a friend, but I'm sure they don't mind. And even if they do, it was hardly a copyrighted idea, was it? Our friends Susan and Paul are simply fantastic for me. They were friends-of-friends and I was always aware of their growing family when we were younger and have to be honest and say that I was mildly surprised when they finally stopped the six kid mark. They had had five girls in a row and then one boy and they are fantastic for me because they know exactly what it's like to live in a house that's never quiet - which reminds me of something weird that happened this week. Siggy bbm'd me on Sunday to say that he had suddenly found himself home alone.Every child had left to go somewhere and taken their friends with them (more about that later). His message read curiously "Strangely alone in the house - all out  and not really sure what do with myself". Now I know what some of you are thinking and to the best of my knowledge no, he didn't. To be clear on that "To the best of my knowledge" means that I didn't actually ask him, but the fact that I got another bbm shortly afterwards saying "Donald home, that was nearly seven  minutes" gives me a degree of confidence that he couldn't have got up to much in that space of time.

Enough of that though, back to Susan and Paul. We have Mount Ironing in our hall cupboard, permanently attached to which is Ben Sock. The strange thing is, Ben Sock can at times be higher than Mount Ironing, but of course Mount Ironing goes down every so often when I get a surge of domestic godessness and attack it in a cloud of steam and heat. Ben Sock, on the other hand, only ever grows and grows. We gave up properly pairing socks some time ago and as long as they are vaguely the same colour and length, they will be worn as a pair. Siggy was delighted with himself on Wednesday because he was actually wearing TWO socks that said Wednesday on them. He's achieved that before, but they were different designs and one was embroidered whilst the other had one of those kind of stick-on motif things.

Sorry, I digress again. Paul , as the only adult male in a room with six women, has commented on the fact that they have  a black leggings room - a whole room - where black leggings live in perfect happiness and appear to breed in a similar way to Tor Sock in our house. So similar in fact, that at least one of their girls has been known to wear two or even three pairs at one time just to get both legs fully covered. She swears that she didn't need to as ripped leggings were the in thing at the time but Susan, in an uncharacteristically concerned way, felt compelled to utter the maxim she never thought she'd utter. You know the one - "you're not going out looking like that, young lady."  This is not the same girl who climbed - no, wait a minute, really can't tell that one. Nor is it the same girl who, no, never mind, can't tell that you that either. You get the point. We live an a madhouse, they live in a madhouse. And we're all very happy about in our respective asylum.

So when we were at theirs for dinner one evening, my eye was drawn to their whteboard which contained scribbled notes, shopping lists etc and a very strange big number - I think it was 21 or something and it changed daily,as it was the number of days since both of them had given up smoking (I'm delighted to report that they are both still off the ciggies - very well done both of them). Anyway, we then went out and got a whiteboard.

There is a difference with our whiteboard though. It has been subjected to my OCD (or CDO, to put the letters in the correct order as Toni keeps reminding me to do) and it is all neatly drawn lines and colour-coding. Menus are in black, shopping green, appointments for everyone in a neat box for the week in red and finally blue for any notes or reminders. Siggy occasionally rebels and writes notes in red and puts items on the shopping list in blue. He still only writes in block capitals though, he's not that brave. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a foolproof system. I had a BIG note - in blue - for weeks reminding Siggy to put oil in my car and he just ignored it. Eventually, I asked about it and he said he didn't respond to instructions in pictures - just because I had drawn (very neatly) the car badge on it as well. What an ar*e he can be.

Which brings me to a lowlight of the week. The twins are sitting their exams just now which, as I'm sure all of use remember is a hellish time. I have never understood what the kind of a civilised society takes the most fantastic years in the lives of its youth and totally and utterly buggers those years up by making them sit awful exams just at the best time of the year  - spring heading into summer - at an age where no matter how their parents want, they can't kick them out of the house because they're still just too young to get jobs and house of their own. Come the revolution, when I'm in charge,exams will not be legal until you are at least 22 years old (although no-one will sit them because, as a favour to parents, I'll also make it legal for people to start working at age 13 so they ca be booted out of the house into their own flats on precisely the day after they first announce that "it's not fair, you don't understand what it'slike to have fun") 

I know, I know, get back to the point. Siggy, in a strange bout of support for the twins study plans - he never had study plans himself because he was a self-confessed lazy and disorganised git as a teenager (he still is, just isn't self-confessed now). Perhaps that's what made him feel he had to use the whiteboard to put up a study plan for the twins and write - in black and in capitals - a reminder that they should check on Tuesday that they had calculators for their exam on Wednesday. It probably also explains why he remembered to ask Gordon on Wednesday morning if he had his calculator. Amazing though it is, Gordon actually did have his calculator, showed it to Siggy and left, which meant Siggy could get on with some work and start his videoconference at 10am. 

Siggy hates videoconferences. He says that when you work from home, it feels so much more of an intrusion to have your work colleagues peering into your home, but more than anything else, he hates the fact that you have to sit in the same bloody place for hours and cant just get and make a coffee, which he generally does every 20-30 minutes when he's working. He has even considered just recording himself for a few hours some Sunday when he is hungover and not feeling like moving too much so he can then feed it it in to videoconferences instead of actually sitting there. he gave up on the idea when he realised his colleagues would the wonder why he only owned one shirt and never said anything, which is the genuinely hard bit for him, argumentative so-and-so that he is.  

Anyway, he gets onto the videoconference at 10am. at 10.05, he received a BBM from Peter:

"Are you still in the house"

"Yes. Why?"

"Forgot my calculator, can you bring it up" 

"No, am in VC. Will BBM mum"

So he sent me a message, which I received just as I finished with a psychologist (for one of the children at the nursery, not personally of course), so I bolted out of work and came straight home, flew into the house and ran around - really quietly because I hate anyone on the other end of Siggy's videoconference hearing me - couldn't find the calculator, but eventually did. I went past Siggy's office, waved and jumped back in the car (which now has oil, I'm pleased to say). 

Twenty's Plenty? As Jim Royle would say,my arse. I must have hit sixty before I was 200 yards down the street and didn't slow down from there until I screeched to a halt in a cloud of smoke and burning rubber outside the exam hall. I abandoned the car and ran in the door, waving the calculator madly in the air at the girl behind reception who smiled back and pointed. In hindsight, that should really have alarmed me more than it did and it should certainly have alarmed her as they are really strict on exam rule and the like. Unfortunately, as has been pointed out to me by every "friend" I have spoken to since, the school are so used to my being in and out of the place that they barely batted an eye.

I spotted Peter - hard not to when he's 6'3" - but couldn't get anywhere near him. Luckily, however, about half of the 200 or so kids shaking nervously waiting to go into the hall have, at one time or another, been served breakfast in our kitchen after staying overnight in the garage, so before I knew it, one of them had seen me,seen the calculator and said "Oh Cheers, Mrs A, which one's it for?"

I think I mumbled, "Peter," in response and the next thing I knew, all I could see was the calculator being crowd-surfed across the hall at a rate of knots with a slight buzz of "Peter" moving through the room like a whispering wave. Next thing I knew, I just saw a thumb up in the air some 80 feet or so away and the boy who had taken it from me turning and saying "Sorted" 

Seconds later, the room had cleared and they were in the exam hall. Made it by the skin of my teeth. I went  home, played commando again to pass Siggy a quick note telling him that it was delivered safely (Note:"Playing commando" isn't as much fun a it might sound. I once inadvertently went into Siggy's office when I didn't know he was on a videoconference and took some paper out of the cupboard behind him. As I walked out of the room, without him having said a word to me, all I heard was Siggy saying "Oh yes, that was Aud." followed by "Probably not, I'll tell her later" and laughing. I asked him about later and he said it was just Richard at the other end  asking if I knew my bum was on screen for whilst I stretched to get the paper out. Therefore, I now have to play commando to get any messages into the room).

So, need to go now as the Whiteboard says it's a big weekend of rugby and I'll need to get organised for it all. 

I "heart" my whiteboard. I hate that phrase. See you next week.

PS - Admit it, how many of you scrolled back up to see if Siggy used the right colour for the calculator note? He didn't, that's why it didn't work.

PPS - As i finish this weeks blog, Siggy is taking out the recycling bins. In case anyone passes and notices that the glass bin is overflowing and has a box full of bottles on the top, we missed it last month.  Honest.

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