Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Game is Up

Being in charge of the care and well-being of our 12-year-old grandson means we have been thrust head-long into the pitfalls of parenting in the 21st century. Our biggest problem has been coming to terms with and controlling Sam's access to modern technology. As he is not interested at all in girls or matters sexual (yet) we have at least not come across any of the problems as mentioned by one of my favourite bloggers,  John Gray today...

We have had a problem of another sort. I would call it Addiction to Games. In our house, he has had access to two gaming machines: an X-box and a portable Sony Play Station. Both of these have been confiscated. An I-Pad, which was given to him by one of his aunts in Korea just before he left to join us, has also been taken away from him and he is given only very limited access.

When Sam plays a game he becomes transfixed, mesmerized. If you speak to him, he does not hear you. His face becomes beet red and the eyes glassy. If he plays for much longer than an hour he will develop a headache and he will vomit. I think it's a kind of allergic reaction.

For the first few months Sam was here we wanted to show that we trusted him and we also wanted to allow for some 'mistakes' in order for him and us to learn about each other and our boundaries. When it comes to games, we can not trust him as far as we can throw him... A few weeks ago, I caught him red-handed at night when he was supposed to be in bed -- lights blazing playing the X-Box. I later learned that he had been doing this for quite a while. I removed the 'controllers' and they are in a place where he can not get to them. It will be a long time before they will be available to him again.

As for the Sony Play Station -- I/we told him that he would be allowed to play with that when we went on long journeys in the car. As a matter of trust I kept it in the bottom drawer of my desk. I later discovered that rather suspicious behaviour on his part was because he was plugging the damn thing in from the bottom drawer and playing his little heart away when I was busy elsewhere! I thought he was watching television. Well, the Play Station is now where he can't get his little mitts on it! He can now spend more time looking at the scenery!

I asked him one day, if he felt he wanted a cell phone. He said he used to have one in Korea, but that his parents had taken it away from him --

'I got in trouble', he said.

'Games?', I asked.

'Yes', he replied, with a sigh...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

For My Doggie Lovin' Bloggy Friends!

This should bring a smile to y'all! You might even applaud... (N.B. this is not my video! Compliments of The Internet!)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Laying Down the Law -- Grandma Style

This 'parenting' gig has been quite an adjustment for me. I didn't like parenting much when I was 'mommy-ing' it a few years ago, and now it's not so much a question of 'liking' or not 'liking'. It's more a question of remembering how to do it in the first place! Like, for example, Homework!

Since living in England this has been a struggle for me. Not because I have a problem with my children having homework. My problem was that I just believed them when they said they didn't have any! To put it bluntly they were Lying Toads. In the Connecticut town where I spent my homework years, I  would not have dreamed of not doing my homework and it would be done on time, too. I had homework in every subject every night -- hours of it in high school. We had to turn it in. It was part of our grade come report card time. There was no escaping it!

And that is another thing. The schools here don't have report cards! In fact my mother kept all of my report cards and gave them to me a few years ago! Report cards came out 6 times a year and had to be returned, signed by a parent. Report Card Day was a big was reported in the paper, the names of A and B honour roll students were in the paper. The kids could not keep it a secret very easily.

So it never occurred to me that my boys would not do their homework or that they would deny having any. I don't know where or when it was, but alas and alack for Sam, I have discovered how it works. First of all I now know about 'homework books/diaries'! I know that I'm supposed to sign them each week. I also know that if I don't sign them, I won't hear anything from the school.

My brother has a theory about homework -- at least it's true for where we went to school. He says that if you do your homework every night, you will do well in school ...

Homework here is quite different. But then school is different. In Sam's school the schedule is over two weeks and you do not have the same core subjects every day. Core subject to me are English, history, a foreign language, mathematics, science.

Now it is 2013 and we have the Internet. Things have  modernized! Sam's school has a website and on the website there is a 'Learning Zone' where I can go and download major project assignments -- like two that Sam is working on at the moment -- and which I am over-seeing. I look at my job as teaching him the difference between doing what is 'necessary' and doing what is 'the best' he can do. Usually, we have to compromise. But I only compromise a little!!! At the moment he has two projects about medieval castles. One, in history, entails learning enough about the nature of a castle to design one himself and to develop a budget from a list of what you would need for your castle and to defend it from enemy attack. The other project is to design two medieval characters to be used in an animation for an IT game. The biggest problem is that Sam tends to be sloppy and lazy in his work and convincing him that he should use the computer and transform his sloppiness on the computer. He is always pleased with the result, but it's always an matter of firmly insisting he do it!

But the third assignment is the 'jewel in the crown' for me! The assignment is to research 5-6 ofShakespeare's plays. Imagine being 12 years old and not knowing anything about Shakespeare -- other than having heard of Romeo and Juliet!!!! How does one begin -- besides joyfully, that is? The best part is that Sam is loving it! I confess to have chosen the six -- two tragedies, two comedies, and two histories. (Of course, he only wanted to do five!!!). I am not making him read the plays -- He has found synopsis and I shall pick out a couple of famous passages for him. The first one he read was Richard III -- which I chose because it is topical and I thought it a good opportunity to read about the play that has made it so topical. He was completely absorbed. Now he reading the synopsis of Hamlet! I'll let you know what he thinks -- but he has been quietly reading for a while now and seems to be giving out very thoughtful signals ... Coming up are Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, and Henry V. And then write his own version of what each play was about -- he probably won't like that bit ... but you never know!

Friday, March 08, 2013

More than Pretty Lakes Beside the Seaside by Morcambe Bay

The last weekend in February The Man, Sam and I took leave of Southport and headed for Ulverston in Cumbria for a visit with close friends who had moved up there last summer. Ulverston is in the southern part of the Lake District and I would think less of a tourist attraction. But it is interesting, nevertheless.

My friends live in Baycliff, a pretty little village overlooking Morcambe Bay. Morcambe Bay is an unusual area of sea and sand noted for its rich stocks of seafood and dangerous and fast-moving tides. Carnforth, which I wrote about in my last post, is located on the opposite side of the water from Baycliff.

When The Man was a navigator in the RAF he often flew over this area of Britain and was keen to visit Barrow-in-Furness and to check out little Piel Island while we were there. I had only recently heard of Piel Island -- by way of television actor and personality Martin Clunes in his program Islands of Britain'. 

The drive to Barrow was interesting, but not particularly beautiful. Our first stop was the Roa Island Life Boat Station and Piel Island Ferry landing. Windswept and cold is how I shall remember it best! Fortunately the gates were locked shut so we didn't have to endure a walk around the building!
My first glimpse of Piel Island -- looking quite
mysterious and a bit forlorn!

It is actually possible to reach the island by foot when the tide is out. Needless to say it is important to keep an schedule of the tides if one wants to cross and stay dry! This view of Piel Island is taken from Roa Island, which is very tiny and connected to the mainland by a causeway. Though we didn't eat at the cafe/restaurant there, I understand from  my friends that it is a good place to stop for lunch!

Considering its small size, Piel Island has quite a story to tell! From the middle ages when King Stephen in 1127 gave the island to the Savignac monks to 1487 when German mercenaries made for Piel in an attempt by John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, to wrest the throne from the Tudor king, Henry VII. Around 200 years later Charles II gave the island to one Duke of Abermarle and from then activity seemed to revolve around shipping, industry and salt. By the 18th century Piel was an important trading post and there was a large contingent of harbour pilots and customs officers in order to combat piracy and smuggling. Their cottages are now used as summer residences...

Currently, the island is occupied by the publican of the Ship Inn and his wife. Soon after taking possession of the pub the publican was crowned King of Piel Island. His coronation can be seen in the following clip, a testament to a certain quirkiness best found in these sceptred Isles, no doubt!!

What better way to end our day than with a meal in a local Baycliff pub/hotel, The Fisherman's Arms, followed by another glass of wine before the fire of the very English Farmers Arms on our way home! Cheers!

Friday, March 01, 2013

An All Too Brief Encounter with Carnforth

I had an inkling many of the Brits would know where I was in my last post!

One of the most iconic British films ever made, Brief Encounter, is a bitter-sweet story of two people who meet while waiting for a train. Both are married to other people ...

When the film was in the planning the world was still at war and a decision was made to do the rail station scenes in Carnforth, Lancashire. It is said that Celia Johnson was not very happy at having to spend several weeks filming in darkest Lancashire! Anyone interested can see the entire film on You Tube. 

Wikipedia explains the concept of the movie very well:
Brief Encounter is a 1945 British film directed by David Lean about the conventions of British suburban life, centring on a housewife for whom real love (as opposed to the polite arrangement of her marriage) brings unexpectedly violent emotions. The film stars Celia JohnsonTrevor HowardStanley Holloway and Joyce Carey. The screenplay is by Noël Coward, and is based on his 1936 one-act play Still Life. The soundtrack prominently features the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff, played by Eileen Joyce.
Several years ago, The Man was in the area and decided to visit the train station. He was rather impressed with the fact that it had been turned into a fascinating museum that paid tribute to the movie by keeping the station as it was as a movie set. All of the pictures I used in my last post were in the movie. So on our way home from a lovely visit to Ulverston in the Lake District The Man decided to take an alternative route to the M6 Motorway, which took us through Carnforth.

Sometimes it really is lovely to be transported back to another time -- if only briefly, if only in the imagination.

My enduring memory of the movie is of the clock in the background here. I suppose that 'time' figured heavily, even poignantly, in the story.

Unfortunately, we were running late and did not have time to stop for a cup of tea. But it looks like we will be visiting our friends in Ulverston from time to time, so I see the distinct possibility of a not so Brief Encounter!