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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

What a day.

It's been tiring, but productive.

Yesterday - right before we got the news about Bobby's dad - I got a call from our first-choice school for Stephen and Emily. In an unlikely stroke of good fortune, two of their pupils, one in Year 8 and one in Year 11, have emigrated to Australia. So they were offering those places to Steve and Em. Go me, with my smarmy letter and photocopied certificates! If I'd left it up to the LEA we would never have got those places, because (as I discovered today) the LEA hasn't even got around to submitting our applications to any of the schools we listed on the forms.

So at 8.30 this morning we met with the head teachers from Year 8 and Year 11. I was really impressed; they seemed efficient, enthusiastic and caring. I am so happy that we have got the kids into this particular school - we were really lucky, considering that there are currently over 100 kids on the waiting list for Year 7.

So, straight afterwards we walked to the school uniform shop in Reigate, and got Steve and Em kitted out. School uniforms here are not insanely regimented, as they tend to be in South Africa (thinking of my time at Rustenburg here, with the summer hat and the winter hat, and the special shoes that could only be bought at one particular shop); they seem quite practical. Any black pants or black knee-length skirt for the girls, black pants for the boys, white shirts, blue jerseys. Or, as they call them here, jumpers. And PE kit. It's funny, the teachers at the big kids' school kept talking about how strict their uniform regulations were, and Bobby and I were both mentally contrasting them with the kind of nutty uniform rules we'd endured as kids, and thinking how relaxed they were here.

Anyhow, debit card got a good work-out in the school uniform shop.

Then on to M&S for plain school shirts. Debit card barely noticed that excursion.

And then we walked to my first-choice school for Sophie, the one I've been pestering for days now, the one that's two minutes walk from us, the one in the gorgeous listed building, the one whose teaching methods seem very enlightened - and I finally managed to meet with the head teacher, and he told me that they had no places in Year Four. Well, they might have a place in a month or so (one of their pupils might be moving), but no guarantees. So, to all intents and purposes, no places.

So then we walked home (Steve and Em incredibly excited about their school, Soph all slumped and gloomy and morose and bitter because She Didn't Have One Yet), and I called our second choice school for the bug, and found, to my amazement, that there was actually a place for her there, if we wanted it. Another unexpected departure from the area, it seems.

More walking - it takes half-an-hour, walking at a good clip, to get to this second school. My impressions of this school ... well, the head teacher seems lovely, very friendly, very approachable. The premises are not that wonderful - all shiny corridors and rather cramped, hot, little classrooms. Library a bit sparse. Teaching methods seem very traditional - in most classes everyone was at their desk, working quietly. Good extra-murals, strong emphasis on music and art. Fair access to computers etc for the kids. Work up on the walls seemed of good standard. School lunch seemed yummy - Jamie Oliver has inspired them, apparently.

I walked out of there feeling ... eh. Tepid. Certainly not wild about it. Told the head I'd let her know in the afternoon whether or not we'd take the place.

Sophie, on the other hand, walked out deliriously happy, absolutely determined to attend school there, forthwith.

So, when we got home, after discussing the pros (Sophie) and the cons (me) all the long hot way back, I called and told them she'd take the place.

More walking - back to the school uniform shop. Debit card starts to feel distinctly warm to the touch.

Back home again, and into the car with Bobby, who'd just got home from work. He had to get a National Insurance number - much like a Social Security number I think - and so had to attend an interview with ... not sure with whom. Official type people who asked searching questions designed to find out if he really is married to me or if he's trying to pull a green-card type scam.

While he was doing that, the kids and I bought school shoes. And socks. And tights. And scrunchies. And two adorable little navy blue school skirts for Sophie. Debit card now almost too hot to touch.

I hope it cools down overnight; it's going to get another vigorous work-out at 8.30 tomorrow morning, when I need to buy Sophie's school tie (My baby in a tie! The cuteness!), regulation school bag, stationery, PE kit, and jersey directly from the school.

This school uniform thing is really expensive. But it does make life so much easier - no worries for the kids about having the "wrong" clothes. Steve and Em are both relieved to be wearing them; Soph is enthralled by the novelty. Hope it lasts for her.

Shopping done, we had to swing by the doctor's to pick up Em's medical records. I have to drop them off at the hospital tomorrow, apparently. It all sounds a bit iffy to me - the receptionist said "well, there may be no-one at the paediatrics unit tomorrow, so just hammer on the porter's door and he'll make sure the records get to the right place." Bit odd that there might be no-one there, surely, considering that they are insisting on getting the records tomorrow so that they can organise a scrip for Em's meds? And not sure about entrusting the records to some arb porter ... Maybe I should make copies of them tonight.

So all three kids start school tomorrow. Luckily I am going to be running around getting things ready for my parents and for our trip ... that should distract me from the weirdness of having a house without children in it for the first time in several years.

I am glad that I was so busy today; it stopped me from thinking at all.

Hope the same is true for tomorrow.

Bobby is not in a good way; he is so very, very, sad ...

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