mumsnetBack along, my family and I swapped a house for a three-acre field in Devon and a leaky caravan where we lived off-grid for two years. Sadly, we failed to get the planning permission we needed to stay. We are now back within four walls, with a proper loo and everything in a cottage in Dartmoor. So this is now a blog about living ethically amid a fabulous landscape with our home educated kids while we adjust to being 'normal' - for a while... and what we plan to do with our land next

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Pressing charges

We have no electricity – save for a car battery that keeps the radio and a couple of lights going. So when it comes to recharging things, such as a Nintendo DS or iPod, I have to beg for the use of a plug socket wherever one is available.

The problem with this system – aside from availability – is that assorted electrical items end up being left behind at the places they were charging.

Top of the list of important-things-that-get-left-behind is our screwgun. This is a costly item and a highly necessary piece of equipment, all of which adds to the stress of not being quite sure where I left it last.

Recently I left it at the hall where our home education group takes place. For two hours I badgered people – the caretaker, members of the group, the poor drama teacher who had next booked the hall – trying to locate its whereabouts. Eventually, I was put out of my misery by someone many more times efficient than I who had picked it up as she left.

The next day, I drove 20 miles to her house to pick it up. There I had a lovely time drinking tea, chatting about life, and inspecting her garden and cockerels. When the time came to leave I collected my eldest son, the brussels sprouts plants and bunch of rhubarb I had been given and headed for the car, to be gently asked if I would also like to take the screwgun.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I headed for a party at a community in a nearby village. 'Can you take the screwgun,' said Gully. I stared at him and pointed out that I was going to a party and it wasn't generally good etiquette to turn up with large electrical tools. But I took it anyway.

We ate, drank, made merry and left to cheerful reminders about the screwgun. Halfway home we had a phone call from the mother of one of Zena's friends – she had left her camera in their caravan. We returned to the party, collected the camera and headed home. Back at the field I opened the boot of the car and realised immediately that it did not contain the green case that houses the screwgun and which has begun to pervade my dreams.

We returned to the party. Halfway along the drive I met the people who had shouted the reminders.

'Forgot the screwgun,' I said brazening it out – I had little choice but to do anything else. They stared at me incredulously. They are a lovely bunch of people, the same bunch in fact who had stayed late to help me look for my car keys – twice – and assisted in the location of the screwgun the previous time.

I thought I could see what they were thinking.

The screwgun was in the car park where the car had been; it had at least got that far. Personally, I blame the children. I believe there is something called the 'departure-factor'. This works much along the same lines as the wind-chill factor, where the temperature feels lower than it actually is because of the wind. In a similar vein, the departure-factor makes it feel like you have more children than you actually have.

So it is that when you wish to leave somewhere, you must first locate various scattered offspring. If you have three children, there may possibly be one close at hand, another will be in the field of vision but inaccessible, and a third will have disappeared altogether. A short while later, the missing third child will hove into view, which you scurry over to collect and admonish. But on turning around, it is apparent that now the other two have vanished. And so it goes on.

At the party, this process was made more difficult by the venue, which was a large manor house with two stairways, many corridors and extensive grounds. I knew one child was in the house, one was close by, and the other – well, it was anyone's guess where she was.

I have finally learnt, through long hard experience, not to send one child after another – for that way lies madness. So I kept a firm grip on the one that was to hand and finally, after three quarters of an hour managed to get the rest corralled. This, as any sheepdog will tell you, is the critical moment. One small lapse of vigilance and they're gone. So it is at this point that the urge to throw them in the car and step on the accelerator overtakes any rationale regarding items of electrical equipment that may be on charge.
Can Post-it notes really replace a brain?
My sister suggested I write a Post-it note reminding myself of what is on charge and attach it to the steering wheel. But that is assuming rather a lot – first, that I will be able to locate pen and Post-its and second, that I will remember to write a note to myself as I chivvy everyone out of the car to whatever event we are invariably late for.

Clearly, I don't hold out much hope that things will improve – or that my home ed group will come to regard me as anything other than a screwgun short of a toolbox.

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