Sunday, 4 September 2011


I don't know what it is but I keep seeing ghosts from the past. Superstitious me wonders what does it all mean?

When surfing around I come across a name that I recognise commenting on someone else's site. Sure enough, when I click through she turns out to be the mum of a girl (woman now) that I went to Camden Girls with. I'd remembered her mum's name nearly 25 years later because she was the first person I'd met who was a bona fide, actual journalist. The glamour!

I was a bit in awe of the girls at Camden when I first got there. It was a state school but had been a grammar. And they were all so... so... so - what was it? Oh yes. Middle class. They lived in townhouses in zone 2, not semis in the outer suburbs. Their parents were architects and shrinks and journalists. Somebody's dad was a bishop. (My mum, on the other hand, worked as a dinner lady for a while at my old school, she used to come and say hi to my friends and me outside the kitchen door wearing a fetching nylon pinny & hat.)

I think what I got from hanging out with the Camden Girls, most of all, was ideas above my station. There was no question that I'd go to university, just because that's what everyone else there was going to do. Of course you did, it was the natural order of things.

But no one else in my family had ever gone on to higher education. And I think that's why I didn't really get what it was for, and neither did my family. The grammar school conveyor belt lifting the working classes up into the middle classes had broken down by the time I graduated in the 90s.

On this journalist's site I scrolled down & sure enough there was a picture of her daughter, my old schoolfriend. She looked great. And she has a site too, I so nearly send her a message to say hi, but I didn't. She is married, 2 kids, her own successful business. I can't, it's too hard. It takes a while to understand why. I think it's because though I don't want kids, I don't want to be married, it's just the expectations of where you should be at our age.

The other ghost was walking along Church Street, a woman about 8 months pregnant, walking along holding the hand of a toddler, moving slowly. I recognised her as someone I'd done the PGCE with 8 years ago. I wanted to stop and say 'Hi! You've been busy!' but didn't, for exactly the same reasons.

I imagine an alternative life in which I'd met someone and stayed home to have babies, instead of going into battle with other people's kids every day for the last 8 years.

And it sounds appealing. Except for the baby part. Not under any illusions about it. My friends with kids seem happy enough, but they also talk about how boring and tedious and repetitive it is too. And then you are stuck with parenthood forever.

There seems to be no reflection in culture of women like me, who are ambivalent about the kids thing. We're either meant to be longing desperately for kids or hating them like poison. I like them well enough but... the body clock is refusing steadfastly to tick.

Still I wish I had some society-sanctioned reason not to go to work.


  1. My mum was a dinner lady and I didn't get what higher education was for, either. I wasn't born to go to university, there were no expectations, no guidance, just an optimistic longing that I was to be happy and produce grandchildren. Because of the lack of guidance and a life spent not knowing what I wanted to be I haven't produced any children out of spite.

  2. I've never been interested in having kids, but I suspect people expect me to justify this by being very career-driven. I don't feel any pressure to do the marriage/kids thing, perhaps because I so obviously don't fit that mould anyway. My sister, however, firmly believes that I cannot be a fully functioning adult until I've suffered the self-sacrifice that is motherhood. In her eyes, I'm still a feckless, irresponsible teenager.

  3. It just depends on how you measure success. At least five of my contemporaries from university are big hitters in Conservative Party circles, three of them as MPs. They probably think they’re terribly successful. I reckon they’d have contributed more to human happiness by becoming dinner ladies, but the nylon probably wouldn’t have suited them.

  4. It's absolutely true that babies are pretty boring. I didn't like the baby stage at all.

    Having said that, and although I hate the whole earth mother/ yummy mummy shctick, babies really do change your world view.
    It's like the difference between having both parents alive and losing them. You get the whole cycle oflife thing.
    Trust me, having never got on with my mother, I had a new understanding after spending a couple of sleepless months with a baby.

  5. Geoff, no guidance - that is on my mind at work, how do you guide the kids? Parents don't know, teachers don't know, there's a gap there definitely.

    TB, yes, I know what you mean. We're not proper grownups because we don't have kids.

    But Tim, how far can an MP get without being married first - ever seen a single Prime Minister (except in Love, Actually)? See, even for them, it's expectations...

    'a couple of sleepless months' You're not selling it to me, Macy... ;-)

  6. Ever seen a single Prime Minister?

    Um, Ted Heath. Julia Gillard (well, she's unmarried which is 'single' in the context of how far can an MP get without being married first?).

  7. I don't think having kids = a transformative experience for everyone...

  8. William Pitt the Younger.

    Am I showing my age?

  9. Ian, good for Julia Gillard and the liberal Aussies - though I think hell would freeze over here before middle England would vote in an UNMARRIED MOTHER LIVING IN SIN. I never knew that about Edward Heath, that's quite impressive.

    And William Pitt the Younger Tim, though that was in 1783. I think my point still stands, as they were both some time ago and these days seem more conservative - you have to have wife & kids in tow, to feature on the Christmas card & show how much you can relate to like, real, normal families...

  10. B, true enough. I sort of admire that woman "she... told police that prior to the first sexual episode, she popped Xanax, smoked weed and knocked back a few cans of Four Loko."

  11. You "sort of admire" a rapist? Wowsers.

  12. Well, we don't know that from that article - she had sex with someone underage,yes, but it might have been consensual. Icky, yes.

  13. So if I shagged a 13 year old girl who was up for it, it would just be 'icky' but not rape?

    Does anybody know where I can buy some Xanax?

  14. In a word, yes. (And only the two of them really know what happened between them and how they felt about it.) But it would still be illegal in the eyes of the law.

    I understand that laws exist to protect adults from abusing children, but the age of consent is a moveable feast and differs around the world. In Mexico 13 is the age of consent. In Spain it's 14. In Scotland apparently "consensual sex with a girl aged between 13 and 16 is not rape, but a lesser offence; on 1 December 2010 this has been given the specific name of "having intercourse with an older child"." Sexuality is a difficult thing to police.

    I thought she took the Xanax, she wasn't trying to drug him? I don't know, it was just an off the cuff remark, get off my back, man.

  15. This is fun, we should do it more often.


  16. Okay. Just don't quote me.