I swore before we moved that I wouldn't get involved with the PTA.
At least, not straight away.
"I've done my time on playgroup and school committees", I told myself. "I've baked cakes, I've made tea, I've driven myself half deaf and slightly crazy, listening to Crazy Frog, Nelly the Elephant and Jessie J, while mercilessly taking money from small children in return for glow sticks at any number of school discos. I've transformed (ahem) any number of the little angels into tigers, puppies, butterflies and pirates through the power of Snazaroo. I've done the admin, drunk the cheap coffee and shared in the frustrations of any group of volunteers struggling to do their best for the organisation they are supporting. Enough."
I went along to the first PTA meeting that was advertised after we moved.
A secret part of me would like to be cool, aloof, the kind of person everyone wants to have in their gang. The kind of person who doesn't leap in with both feet often to trip over in an ungainly fashion - metaphorically and, sadly, actually - in the varied social challenges life presents us with. But I'm just not. I'm a joiner. There's no point pretending to be anything other than what I am. Watch out for me in a few years, sensible shoes on, wielding secateurs or a wicker basket (possibly both) directing operations at a village fete near you. I've seen the future and, at its most cliched, it involves a ridiculous straw hat - depending on the weather of course. I've had a number of worrying urges in the direction of ridiculous straw hats recently.
The thing about joining in is that it helps you meet people and make friends. I guess I was thinking I could take the 'sit back and let the friendships happen' approach but honestly, that's ridiculously arrogant, especially when I am hardly ever at school, and I work from home. I hasten to add that it's not an approach I've ever taken before, but it crossed my mind that I might avoid some of the ungainly tripping over if I did.
thing is, that if you join in, you meet people. They may not be always
kindred spirits, but you can build a network, make connections with
others, get out of the house. I knew that one of the hardest things
about moving would be uprooting all of us from the community we lived in
before - where at any given time if I went out I'd be bound to see
someone I knew - in the shops, in the pub, out for a walk with the dog.
My children had been to playgroup, then to the village primary school
with the same group of kids, for 8 years. Same kids, same parents. That roots you in a place even more
than I had appreciated. And it's not so easy to regrow those roots if you
come into a community at a later stage. There's so much shared history
you have with others if your kids have grown up together. Not necessarily because you are best friends with
everyone, but because you've gone through that crazy baby and young child stage, seen the same changes in your community,
seen teachers come and go, new buildings go up, shops close down. The
children are comfortable with each other - they all know how the others
tick, the ties that bind.
away from that has been very hard. Through the power of Facebook I know
what's going on in the village we used to live in at a very superficial
level. The outdoor swimming pool that was at risk of closure has
reopened for the summer, there's a new greengrocer on the high street,
the Church fete took place at the weekend... but I'm not part of it any
more. The other thing is that people
also only have so much space for new friends. Yes, they can be
welcoming, friendly, but time is precious to everyone, and investing
time in new friendships is not necessarily near the top of people's
agendas. I know this. It is a fact and I understand it from being in the position when we were part of the established community and new people moved in. Now, thought, the boot is on the other foot and we are the newcomers, the people who want to make friends and establish roots in a new community.
could sink into a morass of self-pity and despair but frankly that's
not going to get anyone anywhere is it, now, so Friday after school, I
rolled up my sleeves and spent 2 hours face painting at the school fete.
It was intense, I tell you. But my fellow face painter was someone I
hadn't met before, and we're meeting up for coffee.
This makes me very happy.
I am also hoping that making some biscuits to take along with me to her house using dates and pomegranate molasses will not turn out to be another ungainly trip in my social life's little path. I have no idea what she likes and dislikes, but I decided that something like this avoids the obvious chocolate route, there's the option to joke about 'healthy' biscuits (there's dates in them - of COURSE they are healthy, go on, have another one...) and they have a sweet lemony-ness from the pomegranate molasses to them that is interesting (in a good way) yet not overpowering. I'm hoping they will taste delicious with coffee.
Pomegranate molasses & date biscuits
Makes 15-18 (depending on how big your walnuts are*).
50g soft light brown suger
50g pomegranate molasses
125g soft unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
175g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
2tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground all spice
175g dates, stoned and chopped
100g poppy seeds/sesame seeds (optional)
Beat together the sugar, molasses and butter till creamy, then add in the egg yolk and continue to beat till fluffy.
Sift in the flour, bicarb, baking powder and ground spices, and carefully fold everything together.
Beat in the dates till everything is combined
Cover the bowl with clingfilm and pop in the fridge for the mixture to firm up - leave for at least 30 minutes, but up to a week if necessary.
When ready to bake, line a couple of baking trays with greasproof paper and pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Sprinkle the seeds on a plate, then take walnut sized* balls of the mixture (I used a tablespoon measure to scoop out mixture, ice cream style and got about 16 biscuits) and flatten them into the seeds to about 1 cm thickness/4-5cm diameter. Cover both sides with seeds then place on the lined baking tray.
(I only used half the amount of seeds and didn't cover all of the biscuits, just in case poppy seeds weren't to my hostess's liking...)
Bake for 15-20 mins till the edges are firm and any biscuit you can see (as opposed to the seeds, especially if you use poppy seeds) are golden brown.