Monday, 28 May 2012

Meet: Marilyn

(Mentor, Mother figure, Superwoman)

Marilyn is the Lead disciplinarian Learning Mentor at the Primary School I work at. She's been a great help over the past 18months+. Especially in the earlier months when a child I was working with liked to spend more time under the table than sat at it. Marilyn is hugely appreciated at the school by the staff, children  and parents alike and rightly so because without Marilyn there's no doubt the school would quickly descend into a giant Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

The best way for me to describe Marilyn at work would be to say:
imagine that Miss Trunchbull and Miss Honey had a black baby together - stay with me - because believe me you don't want to be a child on the wrong side of Marilyn. I've heard her shout and it ain't pretty. But on the flip side, her nice side is full of huge smiles, infectious laughter, tight hugs and warm praise. It's no wonder that the children idolise her.

Mini Olympics

Marilyn's daughter is twenty now, so it must have been ten years ago. This particular summer, Marilyn, her husband and daughter, along with Marilyn's sister Angie, her husband and their nine year old son went on holiday to Spain.

A few days into the holiday, the Spanish measures had been flowing the night before and in neighbouring rooms Marilyn and her sister woke with killer hangovers only intensified by the sticky Spanish morning. Neither in any state to get up before noon, the husbands took the kids down to the pool.

Ten minutes later a knock came at Marilyn's door. Doing her best to ignore it she rolled over and stuffed her head under a pillow. The knocking was timid but was very persistent - assuming it to be her husband coming back for something - Marilyn delicately made her way to the door. Slowly opening the painfully creaky door she found Angie beckoning her into their room next door. "Can you hear that?"

Moving - still very gingerly - across the hotel room towards the veranda Marilyn could now hear it too - a newly familiar voice blowing in through the open window, from the poolside down below. (Londoner trying to do a Spanish accent) "Marilyn and Angie we want you for the Mini Olympics." A short pause... "If you don't come down we'll have to come up for you.”

Begrudgingly Marilyn and her sister decided that going down was marginally better than being fetched and so slowly made their way to the poolside. The 'mini olympics' were about to start and Marilyn and Angie were about to find out the full extent of what they were in for.

Seemingly every adult in the hotel – including their husbands who were on the opposing side – were divided into two giant relay teams. As the race kicked off the splitting headache and desperate dehydration really starting to kick in and Marilyn was struggling to just stand up in the mid-afternoon sun.

With the whole of the hotel looking on, first you had to run down the length of the pool, stopping every couple of yards to put on different item of clothing before jumping in the pool and using a semi-inflated lilo to swim to the other side. Marilyn faded to the back of the line but there was no hiding place.

Marilyn's moment of glory had finally arrived. The two teams were neck and neck with one team member left each. And they were off. Racing down the poolside throwing the clothes on and... well at least the opposing team were. Lets just say Marilyn took it at a slightly more gentle pace.

The sun sweating away the last few drops of moisture in her body, Marilyn made her way to the first item of clothing – by which time the person on the opposing team was already leaping into the pool – spurned on by a cheering crowd Marilyn summoned as much energy as she could and although her head and muscles were cheering in unison for her to stop; she made it to the side of the pool. But now was not time for heroics. The other team had long finished, all Marilyn could do now was complete the course.

Slowly lowering herself into the pool, Marilyn grabbed a hold of the deflated lilo and pushed out into the centre of the pool. But by this time there was nothing left to give, her legs were kicking but nothing was happening. Lots of splashing and flailing but no forward momentum.

The sun, heavy cardio workout and most importantly the killer hangover had done her in. Children staring on from the poolside and husbands from the finish line, Marilyn continued to splash around in the middle of the pool, until, fearing for her safety, a tall dark Spanish holiday rep dove into the water fully clothed – shoes and all – to save the "drowning" Marilyn. 

Written by Anthony Hett

Monday, 21 May 2012

Meet: Rodis

(Public Policy Expert, Foodie, Scrabble Champion)

I met Rodis through my wonderful girlfriend Daphne. They have been close friends for years and the two of us met very soon after I started 'seeing' Daphne, a little over 2 and a half years ago. Since then I have enjoyed many delicious meals at the Savvakis household in Athens and Crete, and at Rodis' flat in London. I have also been fortunate enough to stay at his parents beautiful home on the Isle of Crete on more than one occasion. 

I truly love all of Daphne's family and friends, they have all been extremely friendly and hospitable to me and Rodis is no exception. It has been great getting to know him a little better while he has been studying in London for the past 9 months (and without kissing his arse too much), he's intelligent, easy to talk to and opinionated - I just need him to become fanatical about either United or Spoken Word and we'll definitely be good friends for life haha.

Who is this kid on my bunk bed?

Growing up in small town Greece, where every kid had a brother or a sister, I felt left out and to be honest, rather annoyed with my parents for not providing me with the company of a sibling. But it seemed I was always destined to be an only child.

When I was 7, we moved from the city centre to a new house in the countryside. As a result, my whining about being alone reached its peak. All I wanted was a brother, it was the answer to everything.

One night, a few after weeks moving in, my Dad returned home from work to find my Mum sitting on the sofa, moved to tears, by a documentary about children who had been mistreated in foster care, before finding a new life in an institution called “SOS Children Villages”. 

That night, my parents asked me if I still wanted a brother. Assuring me that they would continue to love me as much as they always had, they explained that since they had the love and money to support another child, they wanted my opinion on adoption. They actually said that I would be "finally happy to have a brother to play with".

The sibling I had always wanted! I should have been consumed with elation but instead the thought of having to share my toys with another person shocked my 7 year old self. As for sharing my parents, I was used to constantly having their full attention and it was supposed to stay that way!

I politely declined their offer of a permanent play companion, by stating that I did not find it necessary at all, as I was now a second grader and therefore a big boy. My parents asked me if I was sure, and judging from my facial expression of anger and constipation (as they later described it to me) and my declaration of being perfectly fine on my own, they dropped any plans of trying to adopt the intruder.

A few weeks further down the line, I woke at around 5 in the morning, to go the bathroom. Instantly, something in the room wasn’t right. I though I had heard someone breathing but I wasn’t sure. I crept out of my bed and as silent as a ninja, checked the “upstairs compartment” of my bunk beds. To my sheer terror, there was another boy, slightly older than me, sleeping in my room. My fears had come true! My parents had taken in a child! I was shocked and confused. I had clearly said that I didn’t want it! Why hadn't I been told? It was more than someone to share my toys, and my mum, with. He was officially a pariah!

In a state of shock, I didn't go to the toilet, probably too afraid that the sleeping new brother would invade my bed as well as my room and kick me out altogether. After a few minutes (that seemed like years) of utter horror and frantic planning of how to get rid of the intruder, I must have fallen asleep again.

The next thing I remember was my dad walking in to wake 'us' up for school. 'Alex' was already awake, staring out of the window, quite puzzled himself. The realisation of who he was washed over me and the huge weight I had on my chest was lifted.

Unknown to me. The night before, when I was already asleep and the house was still in a “just moved in”, unopened boxes and much less furniture than needed, state of undress, my mum’s Dutch friend Ellen and her son Alex had come for dinner, in exchange for much needed help with the unpacking.

Alex, went to my school but was a year older than me. Fast asleep on the sofa my mum and Ellen had decided to let him stay the night and put him to bed above me in the top bunk.

Weight lifted, I leapt out of bed and hugged my Dad with more than the usual affection. When he asked me why, I told him that it was a reward for hearing me out. My Dad nodded, clearly without understanding. But I decided not to explain. I thought it better if I didn’t remind him of the whole adoption thing. Ever again!

(Edited by Anthony Hett)

Monday, 14 May 2012

Meet: Tom

(Thomas Bellis, Tom B, Bellis, Bel2th, Arch... King of the Schmoozers)

Me and Tom met many years ago now, at Wepre Lane CP Nursery. From there we went on to the same primary school and the same high school and although we went to Uni's at opposite ends of England, we remained great friends. Yes we had our fair share of fallouts, even the odd school boy scrap. But today, separated by geography and adult responsibilities - all his - that determine we don't see a great deal of one another, I still and hopefully always will, consider him to be one of my closest friends.

Anecdote to follow

Monday, 7 May 2012

Meet: Rocky

(Ex-Tv Star, Recovering Alcoholic, Family Robin)

Sometimes you just click with someone.
I met Rocky in Battersea Park a couple of weeks ago. Normally when you take your camera and point it in the direction of some kind of wildlife they tend to run, fly, hop away. But Rocky was different. He just stood there on top of the little fence, puffing his breast out - posing. I didn't question why just knelt down in front of him and snapped away.

It was a couple of days later that I found out, that this was because Rocky is not your average garden Robin. Rocky was famous in the 90's. But the path to fame is a Rocky road difficult one. Relocated from Newcastle Rocky found himself all alone in London miles away from his real friends and estranged first wife. Rocky's career failed to take off and he found himself heavily reliant on the booze of fermented fruit. He tells me that his drink of choice was fermented Mountain Ash Berries - you can get anything you want in London. But like his search for fame this is all behind him now. Eleven years without a drop of the devil juice, Rocky lives a clean living lifestyle in the beautiful Battersea Park with his second wife Rubella.

The Wedding

Rocky had found it hard to let go of his 15 minutes and like many he had fought to stay in the lime light, but ultimately it was futile. There was no longer any interest in Gordie tongued Robins. People move on fast from Robins to Armadillos, to Crazy Frogs to irritating Meerkats.

Rocky was at his lowest ebb in the late nineties. Alcoholism had tightened it's grip and he was all alone. His manager had long since dropped him, the hangers on had departed and all of his family and real friends were hundreds of miles away. But there was a small light on the horizon. Rocky received a message from his best friend from back home – Rumble. Rumble's son Ronnie was getting married and they would all love it if Rocky could not only make it to the wedding but if he could also perform his hit single at the evening do. Well of course Rocky jumped at the opportunity to not only see all his old mates again but at his one last chance to shine up on stage.

Rocky set out on the long journey back to his native Newcastle. He could have got there by train in under 2hrs, but he decided to make it into a road trip and it really proved to be some booze filled adventure. Hitching lifts in cars, lorries and even in a school bus at some point. Two weeks of wonderful detours later he finally arrived back in Newcastle, on the eve of the wedding, every feather reeking of booze and instantly got straight back on. By the time of the beautiful – he can't actually remember if it was beautiful – wedding service the next day, Rocky had already crammed in: many several drinks with his old pals, a couple of hours sleep on a random floor and had started back on the pop as soon as he had woken. By the time the evening do was about to start and it was time for Rocky's big performance, Rocky was well oiled to say the least.

“Rocky my boy, will you do us the honour” requested Rumble. Rocky couldn't get up onto the stage fast enough – well maybe if he wasn't so sozzled he might not have stumbled so much. And it's then that it happened. His very lowest point. As the band started to play the backing track, stood at the mic in front of 150 of his closest family and friends Rocky... pissed himself. It started pouring out of him at a great rate of knots and showed no signs of abating. He couldn't stop. The seal had broken and it just flooded out of him endlessly - over everything. The stage, the band, himself and anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves within a couple of crows feet of the edge of the stage. He wanted the ground to swallow him up, he wanted to fly away and never return but in his state of inebriation it was impossible to take off. So he just stood there, everyone open mouthed with shock, until he had finished and trudged off the stage thoroughly ashamed.

It took Rocky a long time to get over that day, but sometimes it takes the worst thing imaginable to happen to you for you to change your life around. Of course it hasn't been easy and there have been several set backs. But 14 years after that fateful day, Rocky is 11 years dry and joyfully married to his second wife Rubella. And so, the next time you're in the area, make sure to go over and say hi. He'll usually be found in a flower bed close to the Rosary Gate and you'll always find him in the mood to talk.

(Re-told by Anthony Hett)