Let them eat cake

I took Joshua into school yesterday as I was having my second ‘school day’ of the week. We arrived with our music blaring out and the windows down, as it was sunny morning, so Joshua was happy. He rushed upstairs without a backwards glance, keen to get on with his busy school day. I was fulfilling my role as school governor in the morning, monitoring how their new reading programme was being implemented across the school ,so I went in a range of Junior classes to observe and to speak to the staff. It was an interesting and fun morning, that flew by.

I then met my sister for lunch and then we both came back to school for my afternoon Mental Health session with parents. I had chosen a loose theme of grief/loss to  discuss, as it seemed relevant at this point in time. There were just seven of us in total, which was a perfect number for everyone to have a say and for people to show their more vulnerable sides with confidence too. I was pleased with how the discussion went and of course we had general chat over cake too, so it was not all doom and gloom. I love how ,when I set these  groups up years ago, I thought that I was offering support to other parents. But more recently, they have been supporting me with friendship, rather than just being the other way around. That means, for me,  that the group works well as it is not just a one way street, which it probably was at the beginning. I was amused at their confidence in my ability to provide home-baked goodies, so much so that some did not have any lunch, just to leave room for my baking.

These groups do not happen overnight, it takes time for people to feel comfortable and confident. I really hope that they will be my legacy at school once Joshua leaves next year and that they will continue to grow from strength to strength.  We will have a whole new crop of new parents from September and hopefully some of them will join us. I think that the baking was the initial incentive for parents to come along, but now I think it is the support that brings them along, hopefully the home-baking is just a bonus and that being the case,  it should continue on after my time. Alternatively, I have a year to hand over some of my favourite recipes and to encourage a culture of home-baking to anyone who was willing to learn. Perhaps next year we could meet in the cookery room, create and then eat what has been made as part of our transition?

The Morning After

This is the first early morning for a week when I have not come downstairs and put my oven and my apron on!The Macmillan Coffee Morning at school could not have gone better …..

I arrived at school at 8.30 with a car boot full of homemade goodies – coffee cake, parkin, lemon drizzle, key lime pie, flapjack, cheese straws, victoria sponge, apple cake etc. There was so much that it took me two trips from the car to the dining hall where we were holding the event. I began to blow up balloons, lay out table clothes and put bunting up around the walls. Staff arrived to either donate a creation or to eye up what they planned to buy later, as I set out the cake on the tables. Then very soon, parents, once they had dropped off their children, began to arrive. From 9am until 11.30 it was pretty full on, with serving cake, chatting to guests, making hot drinks and keeping track of things. Two 6th formers were volunteered to help – not my son thankfully as he was creating chaos in the short while he was there during the set up stage! One of them was taking photographs for the website and the other took over the tea and coffee-making.

Each class had made their own contribution – buns and cake – and they each came to the dining hall with their donation, throughout the morning, and they amused me by mainly buying back what they had been involved in making! There was real pride in an enormous ‘rainbow cake’ for instance and that class were the main takers of it too. The Parents were keen to know what their child had made and to buy a slice of it in support. The parents sat at tables like in a cafe, some coming back for seconds, and the cardboard collection box that Macmillan supply, grew heavier and heavier.

I do not know yet how much money we collected, but I expect it to be in the region of £300 as I was counting it up and I had got to £240-something when was interrupted and I lost count , so I handed it into the office to be counted. In addition to that, I took some cake to the reception of the adjoining school and to my own offices and they donated a further £35. No doubt we will know the grand total next week!

Already though I would consider it to be a roaring success; not just due to the cash raised for a brilliant charity, but also for the fact that it brought people together : it united pupils, parents and staff in a common cause and of course, a love of cake really helped! There was a real buzz about the dining hall yesterday morning and I am not sure that it could have gone any better.

Let them eat cake

For the last two years, I have been organising a monthly coffee morning at school for parents to get together and we had the last one of the academic year yesterday. I have to say that I enjoyed this one more than any other this year, as it was well attended but rather than breaking up into lots of small chats, we sat around the meeting room table and all talked as a group. There were never any awkward silences and nobody was ranting, but there was plenty of give and take in the conversation, with everyone contributing. It maybe takes two years for people to build up the confidence to speak up or come on their own, without the back up of friends or family, but I really felt as though we had developed something special yesterday.

I do not really have a sweet tooth, but I recognise how happy a slice of coffee cake or a piece of gingerbread makes people and I use it straegically too. I use cake to thank people that are important to me at school : I always treat the school nurses as Joshua is so relaint on them to keep him safe at school. I always save something for the two ladies on reception too and it never fails to plaease them. The lady who makes JOshua very happy with musical input said that my shortbread was the best she had ever tasted! I have started to make cheese straws too, as I love them and find them moreish and they also went down very well. The Head enjoyed two cheese straws then begged me to take the tin away!

For me, baking, then giving cake, is a process that I enjoy : I love to make people happy with such a simple thing, so I think I can certainly be described as a ‘feeder’. That is why, when Joshua was not eating at the end of last year, I found it so distressing – not just because I could see him getting skinnier before my eyes, but because providing food is clearly part of who I am, so when he rejected my cooking, it impacted on my perception of myself too. Often when someone is sad and I cannot solve their problem, I bake them a sweet treat, as an expression of how I care for them. While some spontaneous shortbread , chocolate brownies or flapjack do not solve their problems, they certainly help to make a bitter pill more palatable.