Friday, 27 February 2009

Noodles to the CSA...

I have just called the CSA for the 774th time in the last 15 years.

This is not a random calculation. This is based on an average of one call for every week of The Teenager's life. This is a fair estimation-some weeks there are daily calls, but other weeks there are none. It's the times of inertia when I have clarity. I realise that based on spending an average of half an hour on the phone to the CSA each time I call, I have burned, in total 387 hours. In turn, they have managed to recover about £2000 in the last 15 years. Which means I am getting less than the national minimum wage for my efforts. I could bring home more money for The Teenager being a Sandwich Artist in Subways.

But today I am having on of those crazy optimistic moments when I imagine that a government agency might weild a fair bit of power in retrieving a legally enforced debt.

So I spend 10 minutes pressing buttons and entering my national insurance number, date of birth and bra size. I spend another 10 minutes explaining to a woman in Birkenhead how their enforcement department has failed another single parent by failing to enforce anything.

''Show me the money!'' I yell, but then realise Birkenhead woman has put me on hold. A decade later she comes back on the phone and recites a stream of information, which she claims to be the latest update. Unfortunately it is ad verbatim exactly what I just told her at the beginning of the call. So I just spent half an hour on the phone for a human parrot.

The upshot of this information can be summarised simply: Tesco Value noodles for The Teenager and I this week.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Puppy love bites...

The Teenager has a boyfriend.

Up until now she's been 'happy single'. Understandable. Who wants commitment at 14? But now she's nearly 15 and the time has come to settle down.

I am pleased to discover The Boy does not go to Chav Towers. This is a good start considering The Teenager's penchant for young men that look like they should be peeling spuds in a young offender's institute. This Boy lives on the right side of the tracks. I mean, there are probably no actual tracks near his suburban home, although there may be a clean, graffiti free railway station nearby. He lives in a nice part of town. In contrast to The Teenager, who is forced to live near a shop where where there is a queue for White lightening at 9 a.m.

I imagine The Boy's parents are sitting in their conservatory right now discussing their distress at their son dating someone from the wrong side of the tracks who goes to a terrible school for wannabe gangsters and trainee benefit scroungers. Maybe they won't use the term 'wrong side of the tracks' considering this is not West Side Story and they are likely quite nice and polite in a middle class way.

The Teenager wants to bring The Boy home.

''Why?'' I ask
''Dunno. Just do''
''To meet me?''
''Hell no!''
''For tea then?''
''For tea? Like when I was 7?''
''What for then?''
''Just to like, hang out and stuff''
''Just in the living room, to like, watch TV''
''We're sick of having to hang out in coffee shops''

Yes, painful. Sipping lattes in a warm Starbucks when in my day you were lucky to get a spot round the back of the Spar with a can of Vimto and a Wham bar.

''He's not going to your bedroom!'' I holler in my best prim Mary Whitehouse voice while I remember how my mother never allowed me to take boys to my room and how I vowed I would never be prudish enough to stop my daughter taking boys to her room.

''Yeah. I know'' she looks mortified
''Fine'' I am mortified plus one.

The unspoken implication hangs in the air and we both look at the floor.

I tell her that I need time to prepare for the visit of The Boy. I tell her we will need to tidy up and she looks around and agrees. I tell her we will probably have to clean as well and she shrugs in resigned agreement. What I don't mention is that I am less concerned about rearranging the scatter cushions and more concerned about preparing mentally. How quickly can I get an appointment with my shrink?

Dammit. I don't even have a shrink.