Mass Observation Day – my little piece of history

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In 1937 Mass Observation called for people from all parts of the UK to record everything they did from when they woke up in the morning to when they went to sleep at night on 12th May. This was the day of George VI’s Coronation. The resulting diaries provide a wonderful glimpse into the everyday lives of people across Britain, and have become an invaluable resource for those researching countless aspects of the era.

The Mass Observation Archive is repeating this call on 12th May 2013. The resulting diaries will be stored in the Archive alongside the 1937 documents. May 12th 2013 is likely to be quite an ordinary day, but for those researching, the ‘ordinary’ can often provide extraordinary results. And here is my own submission ( check out the mass observation website for lots more on this).

And for legal purposes: I donate my 12th May diary to the Mass Observation Archive. I consent to it being made publicly available as part of the Archive and assign my copyright in the diary to the Mass Observation Archive Trustees so that it can be reproduced in full or in part on websites, in publications and in broadcasts as approved by the Trustees.

12th May 2013

I am a 33 year old married woman from Worthing (On the Sussex coast of the UK). I am a mother of two, a teacher of Computer Science to young people aged 11 – 18 and I’m not only submitting this entry to Mass Observation, but to my own blog where it will reside alongside many other public musings.

I live in a middle class area of the South East and according to recent surveys I’m quite the liberal, although I voted green last time and loudly state that I would rather fire staples into my various body parts than put my vote anywhere near David Cameron and his conservative loonies (ooh that got a bit political! Moving on!). I live in a three bedroomed house with my husband of 8 years, our 2 children and both my parents. Why? It’s the house I grew up in and financially it worked better short term for us to knock half their house down, extend and remodel than to buy our own property. Again, short term, my dad could retire and look after the kids while I went to work. Long term, it means we can look after my parents when they are older without the awkward conversation of ‘come to live with us’. It’s fluid. And everyone, after one hell of an adjustment period is much more secure and stable.

Today wasn’t really a typical day for us. I am a stickler for routine and today would usually see a gentle morning where the kids watch cartoons and Tom & I gather our mental fragments together, glueing them with coffee. After that it’s out to visit his mum and dad with perhaps a dive into hobbycraft (for yet more wool to feed my crochet habit). Then home for roast dinner and baths all round.

Except today was different. For the first time in ages Tom was out for the day with his dad to visit the bluebell railway for a spot of male bonding (and a manly picnic). So with no husband and our usual routine wrecked I had to wing it. I was a bit dubious, but hell, I can wing it with a class of teenagers, how hard can a 7 and an 8 yr old be? (Yeah, read on). We were up by 7am and cooked some breakfast. The girls and I had our things packed and ready by 9am, so we borrowed dad’s car (Tom had ours) and drive up to the Wetlands trust in Arundel where we have been members since the girls were babies.

We love it here and the view is just brilliant.

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Within minutes, the girls had found ducks to feed who were instantly followed by gorgeous fluffy little ducklings. Some have hatched quite late this year so we’ve had several months of popping up here to do the obligatory “squeeeee!”. I sometimes wonder if I love it here more than the girls do.

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I am passing on a tradition of feeding ducks from my hand onto the girls who as soon as a duck approaches assume the ‘duck feeding position’ of quietly crouching with a flat outstretched hand. Excitement always gets the better of them once the ducks clatter away at their skin and they giggle so much all the seed drops down. For the first time ever today they were approached by a pheasant. They usually scatter when they see people, but this one was as bold as brass taking seed from their hands!

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We finally got too cold by 11.30 and decided to go in with promises of coming back soon (with unlimited entry, they should consider charging us rent!)

As we left, the girls noticed that the pond outside is teeming with tadpoles. It was tadpole city. To the point where it was just a little bit icky. In the absence of ‘daddy’, I made the obligatory joke “Tadpoles. Thousands of em” ……. Silence…..sideways glances…… Ok, fine.

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We drove home with lunch in mind, but I was instantly sent back out the door with a shopping list for Tescos. So mum watched the kids while I went out to get ‘a few important bits’ and ended up getting distracted by stationary (damn you Tesco and your product placement). I stopped to top up on petrol on the way home confusing the elderly couple behind me by using pay at the pump which to them appeared that I’d legged it without paying! (Although who’s robbing who at £1.48 per litre?!)

Lunch was sandwiches and salad then I settled the kids at the dining table with their homework while I logged onto the school VPN via my laptop and commenced some serious controlled assessment marking. I had to finish this as we are moderating each others marks tomorrow and I want everything to be perfect. I’ve already handed over the behemoth projects for the A Level guys and we have until Tuesday afternoon to have everything finished. (Cue me having difficulty breathing and needing a stiff drink). The girls were brilliant and busied themselves until I had finished, even taking themselves off for a bath, after I’d painted their faces while I took a quick break.

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…. Or so I thought. Actually in playing in the bath, they flooded the bathroom and I walked into find our eldest trying to mop up water with a towel and a flannel. They spent the next few minutes (read 60) in their room with only a book for company while I cleaned up the mess. Quite possibly my own fault for attempting to work in the same building as children. May sucks for teachers. Fact. In fact I reached new highs of crappy parenting, leaving them in their rooms for an extra 5 minutes while I put the detail on my nails that I had done yesterday. That extra 5 minutes of peace was worth weeks of therapy!

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Finally, mum and I cobbled together something that resembled a roast dinner but with pork chops and we all say down to eat. Tom got home just as we were about to have pudding and so ate whilst I took the girls up to bed.

I am appalling at doing bedtime and tonight was no exception. Instead of having a quiet conversation with the girls where we found out the word for things in Spanish (we’re learning for our summer holiday), we ended up with ‘test mummy to see if she can work THIS one out!’. It got giggly and silly and Tom ended the giggles by coming up to inform me he’d run me a hot bath. And in true 2013 fashion, that is where I am now. Typing a diary entry on an iPad in the bath.

The rest of my evening? Hopefully a cuddle on the sofa with my husband, some more crocheting of my granny square blanket, straightening my hair, and changing the water in our fish tank. Not quite the rock ‘n roll lifestyle I’d once dreamt of, but I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

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