A distinctly Trini dilemma: scammed by my school

Waking up in a hurry is not one of my strengths as Laurence could tell you. There’s lots of moaning, groaning, dozing, jolting and complaining involved. In between all of that, I start checking my iPhone (bad habit, I know – it prolongs the process!). But yesterday, a Facebook message is what got me out of bed, fully alert and energized with a heady mix of confusion, amusement and righteous anger – make that rage.

The offending article? I found this message in my Facebook inbox:

hi adele congrats on ur wedding u look good. do u remember the trip to norway? well we still owe some $for it and the school board would like u to pay something to lessen the cost”

Sounds like a scammer, right? It’s got all of the characteristics of a scamming message, complete with a total disregard for grammar.

It’s actually a message from a teacher from my secondary school in Trinidad, St Stephen’s College, Princes Town. Now, this is not really aimed at the teacher. I’m sure she’s under pressure from the school board. But to give this context, she’s asking me to “pay something” for a school trip that I took almost a decade ago when I was 16. On Facebook.

Well, I get vex like a Trini one time. The text Laurence get from me was so mash up in dialect, I surprise he even understand what I was saying. If yuh scrunting, ask for ah lil alumni donation or something. Doh come here assuming I have some big setta money to throw away so you could work out someting you shoulda work out nine years ago.

It doesn’t matter how long we live in England, my children will learn some Trini when mama gets mad.

Basically, we weren’t informed of any additional cost we were expected to pay for this trip. This either means: a) it didn’t exist, b) the school intended to subsidize it, in which case they can’t change their minds about that after the fact, or c) the school is so disorganized they took out a loan without working out how to repay it.

My husband thinks it’s hilarious. He calls it a distinctly Caribbean dilemma. “Only in the Windies” were his words.

It’s true. This would never happen up here. This is not to say, that this would happen in every Trini school and I’m sure that Trini readers will be as appalled as I am.

But it’s just so informal, so laid-back, so unmannerly, so outside of any recognisable system that I can’t help but call it a product of cultural or at least infrastructural difference.

I find it funny too but in a tragi-comic way. What I feel is humour laced with disappointment.

So I responded formally, firmly and courteously, asking the school to contact me in the future by post. And I told them just what to do with their unethical, unprofessional and ridiculous request.


Watching “One Born Every Minute” while pregnant

Whenever I mention that I obsessively watch One Born Every Minute, someone wonders if this is my way of masochistically preparing myself for the inevitable.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it (i.e. you live in another country, you don’t watch television or you’re too high brow for this base form of entertainment) the Channel 4 “documentary” series – Ok, reality series – follows two women giving birth in every episode.

Some women are all about the drugs, others are really committed to natural birth. All go slightly mad at some point in the ordeal. With interviews before and after, the crew behind the series manage to mould stories that are strangely compelling in their simplicity.

So we watch…and we cry. The crying may just be me. I do a lot of that lately. Television commercials, parents with babies, the mention of the word “family” – hormones are a scary thing. And my family could tell you I was a cry-er before (in private, mostly) so now I’m am absolute blub-fest. Especially when I watch One Born Every Minute though I know it is manufactured reality rather than the real thing. I don’t mind. I love fiction.

Of course, it holds special interest for me since I’ve got the birth on the brain. Doesn’t it scare me? Not in the slightest, really. Childbirth hurts – who knew?

But I do find myself over-identifying at times. When that guy yelled at his partner this week, blaming her for saying from the outset that she didn’t want a C-section, I identified too deeply and wanted to take Laurence’s head off – even though he wasn’t around, would himself have been appalled and wouldn’t do the same (of course, I don’t know what he’ll be like but that kind of thing would be bizarrely out of character).

I made him suffer through the program with me once. I could see his stress levels rising with the opening scream. When the head popped out of the vagina in the intro, he literally jumped. Later on, when a woman gave birth to a purplish-grey child, his response was: “Blurrh! I’m glad you’ll be holding the baby first. I don’t want to touch that.”

Charming.

But I’m sure he’ll rise to the occasion when it’s his own little creature, covered in guts and unmentionables.


I’ve forgotten what not being pregnant feels like

Today marks six months of my body hosting the creature. Of course, that excludes the two weeks when she actually wasn’t there at all but that are just tacked on to the time scale to count from when my last period started. And then, it probably doesn’t fall into six calendar months either. I haven’t expended the energy working it out. Also, according to those who like to count months by four weeks, I hit the six-month mark two weeks ago. But in pregnancy calendar-ing, today at 26 weeks (half of the 52 that make up a year) I am well and truly at six months.

The moment the test turned positive (ok, tests – it took a while to sink in) doesn’t feel long ago at all. In another sense, I can barely remember what having a flat stomach or an unbroken night’s sleep feels like. It’s a bit like having the cold. I’m not calling pregnancy an illness. Relax. It’s natural, healthy…yes, all of that. But what I mean is, somewhere in the middle of a cold, you begin to think: “I can’t remember what it feels like to breathe through my nose normally.” And this is how it is.

Every week I forget something new. I’ve forgotten how I used to pull my Converse on while standing. Sitting comfortably on the floor is a distant memory. Actually, make that “sitting comfortably at all”. Seeing anywhere beneath my belly button without sitting or having a mirror, having an innie, being surprised by something moving independently of me under my skin – was there ever such a time?

These changes integrate themselves so easily that I don’t notice how rapidly they happen. Until I catch view of my bikini-clad body in the mirror at the swimming pool. Or until Laurence notices. Like last night. I was changing for bed when he wandered into the room. His eyes grew wide and he may have even gasped a little. For a moment I forgot the protrusion and assumed that he was thinking, “My wife is so sexy.” Then it clicked. He was thinking, “My wife is MASSIVE.” He insists that it was both. I’ll let him stick with that story.

In two weeks we’ll have officially hit the third trimester. The home stretch. Already, I’m looking forward to meeting the creature. But, as with a blocked up nose, I can’t imagine not being pregnant. Memory won’t help me.

Image: Ethan Lofton


Addicted to the last minute rush

Tell me I will outgrow this.

I glance at my phone and it’s one o’ clock. Television aerial guys – come and been. Laptop, lipstick, both bits of my driver’s license, my test appointment letter – all in my long-suffering Ollie and Nic wonder bag. Time to leave.

Except my phone is about to die and I can’t find a physical Bristol map anywhere. Crud. Victim once again to my total lack of direction. Not to worry, not worry. I’ll just charge it up for, say ten minutes.

I need the time to read the “Accidents & Emergencies” section of the DSA Theory Test book anyway. Section finished. It’s eighteen past. Oops. Good thing I’ve left loads of time to get to the exam centre.

How about a last look at the appointment letter. What?! The test is at 2.00pm not 2.30?! I’ve even written the correct time in my iPhone calendar. Bad word. Bad word for using bad word. Must unlearn bad words before end of May.

Grab keys, lock up, run up to bus stop, ignore SPD, pray pray pray that there’s no traffic. Get there AT 2.00pm. Take test, chest still heaving, convinced I’m messing it up (this bit could have something to do with my basically cramming the whole thing between last night and this morning).

Passed.

Sheer, pure, utter relief.

Image: sangeight


Baby-shopping-mental vs my shopping shame

My cousin’s wife started it. On a visit to Aberdeen back in November she gave me a bag full of 0-3month baby clothes and a bouncy chair.

Before then, I was still coming around to the idea that the creature existed and was wrecking havoc on my figure, let alone starting to think that she would need things once she bursts out of here. It was a weekend of chatting about buggies and car seats and why babies and socks don’t go together.

But I practised restraint. Christmas and our tight bank balance helped with that. And maybe a touch of superstition held me back from gawking at online baby stores too.

Then the bulge leaped out and I became obviously pregnant. Every time I sat I’d feel a head or a hand or a foot, sometimes lodging itself in quite extraordinary places. And I’d actually be able to guess what body part it was rather than thinking “random kick”.

One night, while we were watching The Hussle on BBC iplayer (please, please, please sort out our TV antenna, lovely letting agency) I lifted my top to let Laurence see where she was kicking me hard. We looked at each other. Man, this is really happening. The visibility of it was startling. “I’m terrified she’s about to jump out and start demanding food and cuddles,” he said.

Anyway, I think that kind of helped him to visualise her more clearly. Which was good news for me because when it made me go baby-shopping-mental he was slightly less bored than he’d been. He still managed to zone out while I was sorting through the reusable nappies we got off a fellow Freecycler (I keep reminding he’s got to get his head around how to use them before the great poo producer emerges) but he held his own at the NCT nearly new sale last weekend.

Gosh, give the man a list and shopping turns into a sport. He held his own amongst the vulturific mummies and daddies. I spent most of my time slowly mulling around, taking things in, occasionally picking something up here and there.

He, on the other hand, bagged a baby bath within seconds of us walking into the place, stalked a moses basket until three other sets of parents turned away and even picked up sleeping bags – a novelty I hadn’t even considered. Check, check, check.

The effect all this has had on me is to make me feel like it’s ok to look at baby things and even buy something here and there. He keeps reminding me it means we’re spreading the cost. For him, it’s all a very pragmatic process. But for me, shopping taps into something emotional or even primal.

We couldn’t do much of it when I was growing up. Mainly hand-me-downs clothed us. Buying a new pair of jeans was something special, often a birthday treat. I don’t mind this now. I think it’s taught me to be a responsible consumer and to embrace material simplicity.

Later on, when money became easier, shopping became something my mother and I would do on holiday or in preparation for something. It was still a treat.

But the idea of going out on my own and buying something for myself “just because” strikes me as frivolous and riddles me with guilt. Food, experiences, gifts for others, I have no problem with, but an item of clothing or makeup or some such thing for myself….it feels wrong.

And that’s mainly what’s held me back from buying anything for this baby. Because she’s seemed like an extension of me, I felt like shopping for her was somehow spoiling myself. But only as others start noticing her growing out of me, especially Laurence, it’s become easier to externalize her, to imagine her as my daughter to whom I’d like to pass on the gifts of simplicity and responsibility but to whom I’d also like to give some things “just because”.

Image: KateMonkey


The cakeless birthday scare

It occurred to me on my way to an Alpha meeting last night that I should go all domestic goddess and make cakes for Laurence’s office today. It’s his birthday. So I bought all the ingredients and was ready to get it sorted at 10.45pm when we finally got home.

Nipped to the loo and nature had another plan – to completely freak me out. I’d been bleeding. Not a whole lot but enough to worry a woman late into her second trimester. So I calmly told Laurence I needed to call NHS direct. I ended up speaking to the midwife on call at my delivery suite out in the road because our house has rubbish reception. So she must have been wondering why I was speaking in hushed tones and shivering.

I was trying to be as reasonable as I could manage, not allowing myself to openly worry just yet. She asked if I’d felt the baby move. Uh. I’d been out and about and moving ever since so no. So she advised me to sit for an hour, eat and drink something and feel for movements. Pretty standard advice. So of course, I was then so concentrated on feeling the movements that I was stressed out that there didn’t seem to be as many as usual. How many where there usually? But because there were some and the bleeding had stopped and had been so little to begin with, she reckoned there was no problem.

Even this morning when I woke up I was paranoid about whether the baby was moving as much usual. But I’m sitting here and she’s happily kicking away, completely unaware of that the world around us went spinning last night and that her daddy will be off buying Krispy Kreme Donuts instead of presenting lovingly handcrafted chocolate cake to celebrate turning 30. Not that I think he minds.

Image: Will Clayton


C’mon, baby, let’s do the waddle

Trust family to bring you back to reality when you start gloating about even the most modest of things.

On Monday, I went to register at the health centre in our area. A midwife is resident at the practice so, having registered, I wanted to book an appointment with her. Without taking her eyes from the screen, the receptionist asked, “How many weeks pregnant are you?” “Twenty-four,” I said. She looked surprised and eyed me from top to toe.

In retrospect, she was probably just thinking it’s pretty lax to wait until you’re almost six months along to see someone. In fact, that is likely all she was thinking since she then asked if this was the first time I was seeing someone, which I thought a bit of a silly question but maybe there are people who wait until they’re popping out to seek medical advice. I don’t know these people. But I believe they must be made of stronger and scarier stuff than I.

Instead I went away thinking that she must have been surprised at how small I was for twenty-four weeks (a nice change from certain acquaintances who love to remind me that I look enormous before even saying hello). This happy thought was reaffirmed yesterday when my dentist was surprised that I was pregnant, inspected my tummy and said, “Oh but you’re so tiny!”

So I went on my merry way. I even announced at the dinner table last night that two people this week hadn’t thought I looked particularly pregnant.

Then my brother said, “But everyone can tell from how you walk.”
I do beg your pardon.
Seeing that he could be digging himself into a bad spot he said, “You know. You look like someone carrying something… delicate.”

Well, blow me down. Pregnant women must be terrifying. My brother who usually has no trouble frankly insulting me has decided to tread carefully in telling me that I have a pregnant waddle.

A waddle at 24 weeks. Thanks, SPD.

Image: David Wright