O’ Level exam results in the Summer of 1980………

It’s been a tense time in the Taylor household waiting for and finally receiving our daughters GCSE exam results and it all worked out well in the end, but it has made me think back to the time I received my O’ Level results, in August 1980. They were not stellar, they didn’t set the world alight, but they were enough to get me into college, so I could study for three A’ Levels.

Perhaps it’s not so much the grades themselves that matter but what you choose to do with them and how you choose to move forward with what you have.

Pittabread Sept 2 2018

So, in no particular order, here is what I managed to achieve in the Summer of 1980:

Maths grade B, thank you Mr H, you were a brilliant maths teacher who knew exactly when to move me up and down through the sets.  I also remember with your tall frame and square shoulders we all thought you looked a little like Frankenstein and you were okay with me being the first to laugh when you suddenly slipped and fell in one of our final year classes. I did genuinely try to stop myself from being the first to laugh aloud, after the initial hush from the rest of the class.

Pittabread Sept 3 2018

English Language, grade B this was one of my favourite subjects and the one where I was hoping for an A.  Though my mark might have been related to my habit of writing over complicated plots and then once I became bored with my own story, I’d kill off my characters in quick succession. Still I got over this and it was all good.

English literature, grade C, I remember long hot, tedious afternoons in the school library listening to someone read from Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. Sorry 😐, but to this day I still couldn’t give a sh*t about Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba Everdene. I was too busy messing around with my two mates Sarah and Nuala, doodling in our exercise books as we attempted to draw each other’s hairstyles.  Or I was busy trying to locate and extract various pencils and pens from my Afro.

Chemistry, grade C had more fun with this subject at A level, especially when our fume cupboard broke down one day and chlorine gas was being released into the chemistry lab. Made me laugh 😂 when a PhD student attempted to analyse the atmosphere as we were being led out.  He would have stood there a little longer if someone hadn’t pointed out that the green gas billowing out into the lab was poisonous, Chlorine.

Physics, grade D, I might have soft pedalled a little on this a bit after being told by my prospective college that a grade D would be good enough to get me onto the A level course. I very much doubt this would happen today.

Who remembers CSEs, certificates of secondary education? A grade one CSE was equivalent to a grade C at O’Level.

Geography, CSE 1 enjoyed the subject but can’t remember much more than that.

German, CSE 1, found this far easier than French and it was an easy choice for me to make. Loved the fact that I was able to continue learning it at Poly as part of my degree. Also ended up staying and working in Switzerland for three months during my four years as an undergraduate. An amazing experience and opportunity.

Food and nutrition, grade C, I remember various culinary disasters with this subject and how we had to present our dishes at the end of each lesson. The funniest and best part of the lesson as far as I was concerned. I also managed to burn the apples for my Apple Charlotte in the practical exam. Luckily my teacher was able to nip out and grab a jar of cherries, which looked far better. This might be why cooking has never been a favourite pastime of mine.

Pittabread Sept 4 2018

And what did I end up doing with these?

Well, for some bizarre reason which I still do not quite understand I simply opted to do Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics without really thinking too deeply about it. This would not happen today. I just plucked them out of the air and thought I’d give them a go.

May well have had Biggles running through my head along with dreams of becoming a fighter pilot. But there was no notion in my head of not being able to do it because I was a girl. I finally let go of this ambition when someone told me that I wouldn’t get in with my flat feet.

Luckily, my wise and observant head Mrs G took one look at my options and intervened, suggesting I would be better off leaving school and applying to the local college. I need to thank her for pulling a few strings and helping to get me an interview.

My interview with the college chemistry teacher Mr G didn’t start well, especially as he explained to me ‘we don’t normally consider pupils from your school. 😝’ That was a real confidence booster I can tell you. Though he did relent and offer me a place if I achieved a grade D in Physics and a pass in everything else.

Today as I look back I am deeply thankful for the choices I made then and the support of my school head in getting me a place at college. Especially as no one, including me would have been aware of my Dyslexia.

Sometimes you just need someone to give you a break.

So, there you have it, until next time.

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

PS after two great years at College, some great teaching, great support from the other students and a lot of bloody hard work I passed all three of my A’ Levels.

 

Word Count: 973

Who let the parrot out?…..

It was me and after almost forty-five years it is probably time to ‘fess up’ to the disappearance of our family’s African Grey parrot. Time to admit to my role in liberating it from the living room of our South London flat.

Over the six months (I think) it was with us this bird became the bane of my life.

It was a battle of wits, between bird and human each time I had to clean out its cage, top up its feed or refill its water bowl. It was all about speed and dexterity. Was I always able to withdraw my hand quick enough to avoid being bitten? Not always. I really had to keep an eye on it else I’d end up with bloody fingers from its razor-sharp beak.

Pittabread June 2 2018

I quietly grew to hate that bird and started to dream up ways of getting rid of it.

Standing at eleven inches tall, I can see it now tracking my every move with its watchful eyes. It was intelligent I could tell, and I relied on this when planning and executing its liberation.

So, I bided my time and took the opportunity presented to me by a hot summers day and an open sash window.

It was one of those hot, sticky days during the long school holidays; me and my sister and a few others were playing outside by the bomb shelters around the back of the flats. We were probably messing around jumping off each shelter or deciding whether to head round to the front of the flats for a quick round of ‘Cannon’. In any case I needed the loo, so leaving my sister behind I ran around to the front to let myself into our empty flat.

I can’t remember what prompted me to go into the living room possibly a squawk from the parrot but as I poked my head in to look I noticed the sash window opposite the bird cage had been left slightly ajar. The important thing to note here, is that it wasn’t me.  I was already framing how I would present myself if questioned. At the tender age of eleven I had decided which lie I might just get away with.

This was it, the opportunity I’d been waiting for, it was mid-afternoon and no one else was due home for at least an hour. This would give me plenty of time to set everything up and allow the bird enough time to make its escape.

All I needed to do was help the parrot along whilst covering my tracks. If I was clever enough it would look like the bird had escaped of its own accord through a series of ‘unfortunate events’😉.

Though I couldn’t be too long setting things up as I’d left my younger sister outside playing with friends.

The first thing I did was hitch up the sash window a little more to make sure the eleven-inch parrot could fit through the gap. True to form I could see it was watching me very closely. This was important for the next stage which was to loosen the clasp on its cage door, with the bird’s eyes on me I wanted it to see that it’s cage door wasn’t quite as it should have been.

Pittabread June 1 2018

I felt, this bird was more than capable of undoing the cage door if given a bit of help and encouragement and that was precisely what I intended to do. Once I’d taken care of the cage door and the window, all I needed to do was withdraw, making sure to close the living room door tightly behind me. I didn’t want an irritated African Grey flying around the rest of the flat.

And I certainly didn’t relish the thought of trying to recapture it. My sincere hope was that the intelligence I read in its gaze would be enough for it to realise how to fully open the cage door and make its way to freedom through the open window. All I was doing was smoothing the way.

The whole operation took no more than five minutes or so and I am pleased to say that it’s disappearance was discovered a few hours later, once we’d all gathered together in the evening. As I recall there was some discussion about the window being left open, but no one ever connected its disappearance with me.

Though I do sometimes wonder if mum had her suspicions and chose to keep them to herself. 😉

Until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

 

Word count 755

Me and my piano…………..

This month’s post, adapted from a piece of homework from my writing course, is all about my regular piano practice and how it helps me to stay calm and focused in times of stress and challenge.

Me and my piano

Heart rate slows, breath steadies and time stills as my fingers touch the keys and I start to play.

Every practice starts with the same three pieces:

  • Melody in C, by Felix Le Couppey, the first piece I learnt to play properly with both hands.
  • German Dance in A, by Franz Schubert, my only solo performance piece, played at the Springboard music festival, some three years ago, now.
  • Jest in D Major, by Bela Bartok, the last piece taught to me, by my piano teacher.

Each played through quickly and efficiently to warm up my fingers and my brain.

These are my comfort pieces, the ones I can play straight through from memory. I need this regular reminder, the reassurance that I can still play a tune, that I haven’t yet started to lose memory and focus. Satisfying some vague fear, that I’m not losing my faculties.

Pittabread May 1 2018

And all this after pressing the on button, to my Yamaha P90, electronic piano. It takes only a second or two for the green light to appear and I can settle in my chair, plant my feet on the floor and then….

It seems I need to run through a few more checks😉

Where’s my cushion? The one that supports the small of my back and stops it from moaning and groaning throughout.

Are my glasses clean and firmly in place? These days, the notes on the sheet are just a blur without them.

What time does it say on the mantelpiece, clock? I’ve usually got thirty minutes or so before I need to check on dinner.

Am I warm enough or am I too hot? In the winter months, my hands rasp and catch as I rub them together for warmth. In the summer, I need to feel a breeze.

Where are my elbows? Oh yes, they are here resting comfortably on the cool metal handles of my chair.

Is that dust? I should have bought a cover for the keyboard, when I had the chance.

In any case once I finally get down to play, I run through my comfort pieces, add in a few major and minor scales, throw in one or two arpeggios and then, and only then do I get to the new piece:

The Policemen’s Song, from the Pirates of Penzance, by Gilbert and Sullivan.

This will be a wonderful addition to my somewhat limited repertoire and once I have fully mastered it I plan to move onto; Mozart’s, Romanze from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525, second movement.

So, as I play, I listen carefully to the music I am making, at times confident smooth and without error or hesitation. At others bumpy with small pauses.  If I find I’m starting to stumble too much, it helps to close my eyes and allow the muscle memory in my fingers to take over. Let them dance across the keys with no direction or guidance from me.  Though there are times, when I have no option but to go back to the music on the sheet and focus on a single problematic bar.

However, the real reason for sharing this, is that I find I cannot play and be stressed at the same time. It really doesn’t take long for even my playing to still the chatter in my head, slow my heart rate and drain the cortisol from my body as everything slows and comes into focus.

Even the occasional gurgling of the radiator behind me, seems a fitting accompaniment when I’m playing.

So, until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

Word count: 622

 

Learning to earn as a teenager……………….

It all started with a paper round when I was twelve years old and I really wasn’t that interested in doing it. However, mum had heard a whisper about an opening and she was determined that I was not going to miss out on this opportunity, despite my lack of enthusiasm.  Luckily, for me this was a job share position, one week on and one week off and this is how I ended up sharing a paper round with Paul my co-worker for almost four years.

Pittabread April 5 2018

I wasn’t thrilled, but I did enjoy having a wage, which in those days was around £3.00 per week, excluding tips. My most vivid memories from this time are of tramping around with a heavy bag of papers in the cold evenings.  It used to take me just over an hour to complete the two/three mile circuit and I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the actual paper I delivered. But I do remember the cold winter evenings and the struggle to retrieve pennies from my money bag with numb fingers and the very few people who would stand waiting for their change as I did this.

Though to be fair Christmas time was good for tips and in time I grew used to earning my own money and deciding how it was going to be spent. So much so, that as I was about to start studying for my A ‘Levels I decided to get myself a Saturday job, after four years both Paul and I had grown tired of the paper round.

As I initially wanted to avoid the hour-long bus trip into town, I decided to try my luck at the  local holiday camp, Allhallows-on-Sea, to see if they had any openings there. Things didn’t sound too promising to begin with and as I had already given up my paper round I reluctantly decided to try for something in town.

Armed with my one-page CV, I caught the bus into town and visited Boots, British Home Stores and a few others to see if they needed any Saturday staff. Some stores were potentially interested, and others had no current openings, so after a few hours I decided to call it a day and get the bus home. It was whilst walking to the bus stop that I noticed John Farmer Ltd, the Clark’s shoe shop and on a whim decided to pop in and ask. The manager wasn’t available at the time, so I left my CV and just managed to catch my bus.

Pittabread April 6 2018

I was really pleasantly surprised and relieved when I received a call from the manager at John Farmer asking me to come along for an interview. I have no memory of the interview itself, but whatever was asked my answers must have impressed as a week later I had a Saturday job.

And then very quickly a Sunday job as the owner, Terry from Allhallows-on-Sea had after some thought decided to give me a trial run. I ended up working at the camp on Sundays and during school holidays, sometimes in the restaurant and other times in the grocery shop next door. Which incidentally was where I discovered a young lad attempting to leave the shop without paying for a bottle of coke.

I can still picture Terry, dealing with this situation. He was calm, firm and measured giving the young man a severe telling off and then sending him on his way.

So, within the space of a month I went from no weekend job to two, alongside studying for three A-Levels. I managed both jobs for the time it took to complete my studies and I am still truly grateful to both Mr Hyner from John Farmer Ltd and Terry and his wonderful family, at Allhallows-on-Sea holiday camp.

Isobel on beach 2016

Both jobs gave me much needed work and life experience, enough to get me started. Now as I observe our fifteen-year-old daughter starting to show some interest in earning her own money, I’m looking forward to seeing how she manages it.

So, there you have it until next time

Pittabread

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

My daring adventure, part two………

The clocks have sprung forward, and we are now officially at the start of Spring, what’s happening for you right now? What are you looking forward to as the new season beckons?

Well I’m looking forward to completing the first year of my two-year creative writing course, which I started in October of last year. It has been and continues to be a bit of a of a roller coaster. It has been a real eye opener, having to submit work on a regular basis for both critical and constructive feedback from people sitting across the same table as you. Feedback that has overall been, robust, honest and carefully thought through, but it’s still not always a comfortable experience when you are on the receiving end.

So, I have needed to remind myself of the quote, by Brene Brown:

Pittabread March 2018

I have lost count of the number of pieces I have submitted for feedback and with the help of in class writing prompts, have written stories, extracts from my life and even attempted a bit of poetry.  It must be said though; the poetry hasn’t yet been shared and may never see the light of day 😉.

Surprisingly, what I initially wanted to write about when I started the course has completely changed. I’m certainly clearer now about what I don’t want to write about, though I do find myself more drawn to stories, based on magical realism and history.

Certainly, the one thing that has changed as a direct result of the course is my commitment to journaling every day. Interesting as I have never in the past managed to keep up with a diary or journal, they always fell by the wayside after a few short weeks. However, with the creative writing course I have been making the time to write at least 500 words each day and have been doing so since 9th December last year.

Especially since I’ve discovered a great range of unlined A4 books (I don’t do lines, 😉) so I can scribble away, doodle and draw to my heart’s content, without feeling limited by a load of lines. This has been a great discipline for me as prior to that I tended to write only when I had a deadline to meet, or on a bit of an ad-hoc basis. I certainly didn’t write with the determination and focus I have now.

It’s been emotional and not what I was expecting, and it’s opened my eyes to a new world of writing. I’m amazed at the opportunities to enter competitions, join groups, participate in workshops, hear writers read their work. There are a lot of us out there, scribbling away, ‘doing our thing’.

The course is also helping me to uncover a new, quite unexpected story that will take some time to unravel and reveal itself. This new story will allow me to review past choices in a completely new light and with a fresh perspective.

So, there you have it, until next time.

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

PS If you are interested check out part one of my daring adventure, via this link:

https://pittabread.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/my-daring-adventure/

 

A journey home………………….

Today’s story is from my days as an engineering student in the early 80s, long before social media, email or mobile phones. Our channels of communication were limited to talking face to face, writing letters or making calls from a public call box or using the phone at home, the one with a dial 😉.

As I write this I’m reminded that all the parenting in the world won’t necessarily shield you from your own ill-thought out and potentially dangerous impulses. And I was at the time considered by my mum to be a sensible and level-headed teen, it just goes to show.

Pittabread 2 Feb 2018

Anyway, to my tale, it was the end of my first term at Poly and as an 18-year-old undergraduate I was packed and ready to travel home and had already rung mum at one o’clock to say I was on my way. She would have reasonably expected me home at around four o’clock the same afternoon. Well, I did eventually roll in at 11pm, though today as the mother of a fifteen-year old I cannot quite believe that I put my mum through this as I was effectively missing for six/seven hours.

So, as I was about to leave campus, I happened to meet one of the older male students on my course. He was a year or so ahead of me, so when he asked, ‘where are going?’ I simply replied, ‘home.’ When he suggested that we travel to London together, which was where I needed to go for the first leg of my journey, I wasn’t too fazed. I knew him slightly and was quite flattered. This would have been around one-thirty in the afternoon.

The journey to London was uneventful and when, let’s call him Tony, suggested going for a drink, I was not perturbed it was still early. Making a call to mum passed fleetingly through my head, but that’s all it did, somehow it seemed too much trouble to find a call box and dial some numbers.

Pittabread 3 Feb 2018

We ended up in a wine bar, had a few glasses of wine, a nice chat, a nice time. We also spent some time walking around taking in the sights. As it was getting dark, I realised I was no longer in a part of London that I was as familiar with and beginning to think it was time to make a move for home. Sharing my concern with Tony, he suggested we take a taxi to the station I needed for the next part of my journey.

So, now we are both in the back of a black cab on the way to Victoria, when Tony stretches out an arm and leans in. In an instant, my happy haze clears completely, and I ask to get out of the cab. Realising that I am not interested in his overtures, Tony immediately backs off and insists on taking me to Victoria station where I can get my train home.

Which is what I did, still not thinking to call mum.

Pittabread 4 Feb 2018

Looking back, I was naive and a bit too trusting, but fortunate, that Tony understood and respected my ‘no.’ It could have been a whole different story with somebody else.

As I remember it, mum was remarkably, or at least appeared remarkably calm and composed when I breezed in around 11pm and brushed off her questions with ‘Oh, out with friends.’

I didn’t feel it necessary to fill in the details. Sorry, mum.

I could have been, at the very least stuck in London late at night with no money and no clue as to where I was and had placed myself in a vulnerable position.

The lesson was well learned.

So, there you have it, until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

Our GCSE Manifesto………………….

I’m sure like many thousands of other parents, my husband and I are counting down the days until the end of June 2018, when our teenage daughter will have completed her GCSE examinations.

Have been astounded by how stressful we’ve both found this two-year period and can’t wait for it to be over.  Back in the late 70s, I genuinely do not remember my parents or me for that matter being this involved or anxious about my O’ Levels. At that time, they were just a set of exams to take before moving onto either work or some form of further study.

So, what’s changed? Quite a lot I should imagine, but this months’ post isn’t going to be an in-depth treatise on the pros and cons of the current education system. Life is too short. 😉

But what I would like to do, so me and my husband can support our daughter through the next six months and retain our sanity is to lay out our GCSE Manifesto.

Isobel on beach 2016

So, to our daughter we’d like to say:

We don’t need you to finish with nine, 9***********, or however the hell the top marks are described these days. A smattering of reasonable grades is absolutely fine with us, thank you very much.

Get yourself through this but look after yourself too, your physical and mental health is our top priority. We want you to be resilient and that might mean sacrificing a few marks, here and there.

We do need you, to put in the ‘effort’, this is probably the biggest and most important predictor of success in these exams. So, if you can look us both in the eye and tell us, you have tried your hardest and your best. We will be proud.

These exams are a gateway, a set of stepping stones to a future we cannot fully predict or control. They may lead you to where you want to go, but they may also lead to unexpected or unanticipated opportunities. So, as such they don’t have to determine the rest of your life, that is for you to do.

Real learning is a joy and is for life, so don’t allow this small part of your education to put you off. If you can keep your mind open to learning and your heart open to friendship, compassion and kindness, your dad and I will have done our job.

And remember, whatever happens on the 23rd August when the results come out, there is always, always a plan B and we will be with you, come what may.

Life will go on, all you need to do is make the best choices from wherever you happen to be.

Love

Mum and Dad

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk