Maths – No More Passing The Buck.

“You’re just not getting it, are you?” The man said in a tone that made it clear he was losing his patience with my obvious stupidity.

Later, as I was retelling this story to Mark, he stopped me at that point and said: “That’s when you went ballistic, right?”



Standing at the tills in the high street shop, even though I knew, I KNEW, I was right, something stopped me from pointing out he was being incredibly rude.

And that something?

Simple maths.

I’d gone to the shop to take back a dress I’d bought Freya which came down to her ankles. The deal was the dresses should have been £8 each but if you bought two you got them for £6 each making them £12 and saving £4 (every little helps).

My plan was that I’d pick a different style from the ones in the same deal and swap it.

I explained it politely to the man.

He nodded.

He scanned the old dress.

He scanned the new dress.

He said: “That will be £2, please.”

I reached for my purse before I realised that no, that wasn’t right.

He pointed at the receipt and said: “You only paid £6 for the old dress and this one is £8.”

“I know but if I buy two dresses I get them for £6 each. That’s the deal. I have two dresses but I want to swap this dress for that dress using the same deal. I shouldn’t have to pay anything.”

He tried to explain it to me.

I tried (again) to explain it to him.

Then he resorted to insulting my intelligence.

I really hate rude behaviour (and I’m quite capable of saying so normally) but maths is my achilles heel. He was so adamant that he was right that I felt a tiny tingle of doubt; maybe I had got it wrong after all? I started to get bit flustered, even considered giving him the £2.

I’ve been feeling cross about it ever since.

I’m not sure when I realised I was rubbish at maths. Junior school, maybe? Certainly in high school when I was placed in the lower set (I got a D in GCSE maths, for the record).

It’s something of a standing joke within my family now.

The strange thing is, it’s not really the hard stuff I struggle with – I really enjoyed algebra, for example (maybe because it has letters in it!), and later, at work, I quite liked picking my way through council/company reports trying to work out where the money had gone.

It’s the basic stuff, especially if it’s on the spot, where I stumble. My brain just doesn’t work that way. Never get me to work out splitting a bill – unless you’re willing to pay for a bit of my lunch (at least that’s my excuse).

In those long months of pregnancy, I worried about who would help Freya with her homework (because, clearly, I didn’t have enough things to think about) but I told myself “Oh, Mark can deal with that side of things”.

This man made me think.

Passing the buck is no longer good enough.

I don’t need to be good at everything but I do wonder whether I’ve switched off to even trying now – and that’s not a great lesson to teach Freya. “Oh you can’t do it, let someone else do it for you.”

That’s why I found myself insisting to the man in the shop that I was right. I was just about to ask him to get his manager when he suggested refunding both dresses and starting again.

He gave me £6 back for some reason.

“I’m sorry it’s all coins,” he said, which was a bit bewildering.

“That’s ok, I’m going to give it back in just a second.”

He did his thing, eventually scanning the two dresses I wanted. They were indeed £12 and so I pushed the coins back across the counter to him.

I saw the exact moment it clicked in his head what I’d been asking.

I’m not sure what was going on.

Maybe he couldn’t put it through the till any other way. Maybe I didn’t explain what I wanted well enough but there was no need for his rudeness.

He did me a favour in one way because I’m determined to start having a go from now on (and I’ll hopefully get better at it).

Have you ever worried you’re not good enough in a certain subject or don’t have the right skills to be able to help your child?



Is Living In A Flat With A Child “Selfish” Parenting?


Have you seen the story doing the rounds about a couple in America who were sent an anonymous letter accusing them of being “selfish” for raising their two boys in an upstairs flat?

The typed note, clearly from a neighbour, says “shame on you” for not having a “yard” with “a swingset” or “trike to ride when they want to”. Because obviously a house with a garden is not only the dream but also attainable for everyone.

There are many reasons why people live in flats. From a lifestyle choice to the financial benefits and lots in between. And, of course, ultimately it’s no one else’s business – unless you’re the phantom, judgemental letter writer, who has made it so.

Apparently the “selfish” parents want to live near the beach and that’s why they are living in a apartment. If that’s the case, I don’t blame them. How lovely to bring up children with the beach on the doorstep. The chance to play in the sand, paddle in the sea/ocean and enjoy the fresh air as often as they want. Surely that trumps a “yard”? Even with a swingset (which nearby parks should also provide).

Does Freya miss out by not having a garden? Actually I would say she benefits, if anything, because we go out and explore more. Plus she gets a different swingset at each – even better!

From a parenting point of view we give her the best life, filled with things we things are important, we can –  and living in a flat enables us to do that. I’m sure the American couple are the same, at least according to the news reports which followed the note being revealed. I don’t think you can ask for much more than that?

Personally, I don’t think this letter is about “selfish” parenting at all; it is something entirely different.


I get it, I do. I’ve seen it from both sides.

Having lived in flats for more than a decade, I know how cross I used to get at being woken up – although in my case it was by adults who should know better, not children. Did I write nasty letters? No, I bought earplugs and got on with my life.

Unless you can afford a detached house, you will always have neighbours – in a flat you just have more of them. We obviously try and keep the noise to acceptable levels – especially in communal areas – although children now call all but two flats (one is empty) in our block home and so we are all roughly in the same (loud) boat. I actually quite like the noise, it feels comforting to know there are always people about and I think I would really struggle in a house.

I bet the letter writing neighbour has been disturbed by the children but they can’t really complain about that so they are attacking the parents (and making themself look ridiculous in the process).

The letter ends: “I don’t know this but I doubt either of you had to grow up in these conditions.”

These conditions? A loving home, with an entire beach as a playground. If they didn’t, I’m sure they wish they did!

What do you think? Is flat living only for people without children?



Killer Clowns – So Much More Than Just A Harmless Prank.

Clown pic by Davocano, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

Hot topic among the bigger kids gathered outside the local shops before school this morning? “Killer Clowns”.

The boys were showing a lot of bravado, talking about what they would do if they came across one, but I suspect in reality, like most people, they would be utterly terrified.

And rightfully so.

I can’t see anything remotely funny about being confronted by a grown man (or at least a grown teenager) in a mask, often in a quiet, dark or secluded spot. Children have even been followed to school by them.

If you haven’t heard about it, apparently inspired by pranksters in the US, “Killer Clowns” are now making appearances in many UK towns and cities where their aim is to scare or intimidate children and adults.

What a life goal (or should that be #lifegoals), huh?

To me this isn’t a “prank”, which the dictionary defines as “a trick that is done to someone usually as a joke”, it’s far from it – in some cases they are carrying knives, for goodness sake. Even if they don’t mean to use them, violence is implied.

I feel such anger towards the people doing this. There are enough genuine things in the world we need to worry about without something this ridiculous on top.

It’s not just about taking something innocent from childhood, a clown, and turning it into something nasty and horrible – that’s been done before. Who can forget Stephen King’s malevolent Pennywise from It? (Incidentally even the author has had enough of this strange craze.) But usually people choose to view that scenario rather than have it thrust upon them.

No, it’s far bigger than that.

Freya and I like to roam. Quite often in places that are a bit out of the way or secluded – even our local park is far from overflowing with people. It’s part of the adventure. And why shouldn’t we be able to do that?

What if we came across one of these people?

I’m not generally a violent person but my mother bear instincts roar into life if I feel she is being threatened. And by acting in this way, they are clearly being threatening – however much it might be played down as a harmless high jinks.

I’m sure I can’t be alone in feeling like this. In fact, I know I’m not because one of the dads this morning was telling the boys what he would do to a clown if he got close enough – and it wasn’t give him a hug.

One of my fears is that a confrontation will eventually end in violence and someone will be hurt. Lives will be altered, one way or another, and for what?

What do you think? Harmless prank or something more sinister?