A buzz phrases in teaching at the moment is to, ‘dissolve the screen’. With all lessons being delivered remotely, teachers are urged to forget the screen that divides us from our PJ’d students as they study at home. We are advised to engage warmly and imagine that the class is sitting there right in front of us. I guess this is the pedagogical opposite of, ‘dance like no-one is watching’.

I like the concept, but do worry that if the screen does suddenly dissolve – or the students actually turn on their cameras – I might see the many distractions luring them away from their study of ‘Macbeth’. A cheese toastie and a game of Fortnite seem to be giving old Shakey a run for his money in my lessons right now.

I was thinking of dissolving as we ‘broke’ for half term – let me milk this metaphor while I have time. It feels like the whole country is feeling quite jaded and fragile right now. We all need a week out from the strait-jacket of home-schooling, StayHome and cabin fever. As we cannot do the things we usually get up to in a half term break, we feel doubly grumpy. Grandparents – flexed and ready to take grandchildren away to parks and seasides – stand down, adults around the country start ‘effing and ‘jeffing about the weather and the amount of food marching from fridges now that there are no lessons to punctuate the consumption of the aforementioned sarnie, and the WFH brigade just want us teachers to take a break from whinging. ‘Give it a break!’ we hear them cry.

I retreat into the solace of my own fantasy world – rainbows and unicorns – which is my tendency when I experience the glums. For context, my half term usually features a girlie day out with Favourite Daughter (FD); retail therapy, lunch, nails . Do not judge us, for pre-Covid we single- handedly kept the fashion and beauty sector afloat.

For me, nothing hits the mark better than a day comprising: coffee, Zara, coffee, Zara again, lunch, cinema, back to Zara, Mango, back to Zara then back home for TV fodder and a mammoth faux catwalk session. By a twist of fate, FD has also chosen the teaching profession, so our holidays and intertextual references usually coincide, and our girlie chit chat doubles up as CPD (Continued Professional Development) and balances out any consumer guilt e.g, ‘Mum, you should try that bright red lipstick, which reminds me, one of my Year 10 said that they imagine my mother to be just like Lady Macbeth’.

As the adage goes, ‘if wishes were horses then beggars would be king’, so, like the rest of the world, FD and I find ourselves confined in different parts of the country and not able to put a mother and child reunion plan in place. Even if we could meet, Zara can not come out to play and there is only so much retail therapy to be done in a hardware shop. In truth – like you – at the start of half term we are both feeling flat enough to give Shrove Tuesday a run for its money..

I don’t know whether it is the amount of black coffee I am drinking right now, but for the first time in months, I feel a tiny bubble of creativity rising and I decide to run with the idea of ‘dissolving the screen’; I ask FD if she can clear her diary and if she will join me for a virtual spa day – ‘out damn spot,’ on Zoom, if you will.

She accepts my invite without even reading the programme – probably to humour me and to get back to the siren calls of Netflix and a cheese toastie. I am not offended, for I am now gifted with the distraction of event planning.

As there is little to distract you right now, I take the liberty of sharing some headlines below. I can only claim one client for the day, so admit that my market research is inconclusive – and totally subjective; only FD will be able to opine whether our virtual spa package has beautifully waxed legs to take to market. Let us just say that while we wait to decide whether the event should be repeated, I toy with the idea of a break-out nail ‘room’ and some ‘on the lash’ mascara tips and gin tasting opportunities. (@ShetlandReel DM me).

The day went as follows:

Meet and Greet
We had this one covered. Both FD and I are always able to talk the hind legs off each other’s mule and I am relieved to see that she is out of her PJ’s and into her lounge pants at 10 am and looking excited – even though I am totally without make up which is another first for me.

Face pack and Foot Sock
To the uninitiated (me), the foot sock requires more forward planning than I anticipated. FD finds it hilarious that I can not work out which way round the ‘bootee’ should be worn (I swear my ‘socks’ were fashioned by a mutant). My pack also came without the ties necessary to secure them around my ankles. Too late I realise that my coffee mug is sitting in the next room – only a pogo stick approach can retrieve it without spreading ‘sock goo’ (get me with my beauty tech lingo) across the bedroom carpet . Then I make the discovery that while the face pack takes 15 minutes, the foot sock demands a full hour. This totally throws out my timings for the day. Although we are still on Zoom at this stage, I have been too absorbed in applying my vitamin C-infused Hannibal Lecter mask to notice that FD has gone off script, and is daubing what appears to be black tar all over her face. It turns out that our considerable age difference leaves us with different facial requirements – on the plus side I have no blackheads to peel off for my skin is like parched leather, but instead I require an oil slick of a face pack to try and coax my collagen back into play.

At the end of this hour I am exhausted and wonder if it is too late to factor in a massage – then I realise that this will be inapprorpriate on a virtual spa day model. Instead, I will hold out for the lizard- like shedding of dead foot skin that promises to be a chameleon rainbow shower in a couple of days time (according to the blurb on the packet) – Dyson is at the ready and I wear bed socks in anticipation.

For full disclosure, I should mention that we did invite Favourite Son to join us for our spa day, but he is working flat out ( I hear him mutter something about teachers and holidays when he responds to the invite) and only has time to send a message reading, ‘SCARY!’ when I send a screen shot of his mother and sister in full face mask finery.

Styling Questionnaire.
Let us just gloss over this. It felt like a good idea when I wrote it, but sadly the questionnaire reveals that FD and I don’t like to ‘show case’ any of our body parts, and when it comes to the question, ‘which areas of your body do you most like to disguise?’ we run out of time. (Note to self: what sort of mother am I?) However, it is useful to discover that FD does not share my obsession with a kitten heel (preferring a party shoe), that our baps are the same size (even though mine have deflated) and that I should have been shopping for a high rise jean before now (on account of my muffin top being a battle of faith too far for a pair of comfy lycra leggings). When it comes to our on-line shopping session, we both go rogue and rip up the findings from the style questionnaire. So what if I do have a long torso and short legs ?(I do apparently). FD always seems to pick me out something lush; Zara and FD could be a powerful duet if she ever gets tired of teaching.

Make up and Hair
Oh dear. Poor FD is stretched to the limit at this point in the programme as she tries to navigate her mother via virtual reality to tong a ‘soft curl’ a la Holly Willoughby. She resists throwing her computer through the window (this would have at least dissolved the screen) and uses her First Aid training to talk me through burn management. It turns out that my right and left are in total disagreement and I smell singeing as I tong the same hair strand for the tenth time. We agree that straight hair will remain my friend – or a tight bun/high pony tail, which can double up as a cheap face lift – the face pack does not appear to have attacked my jowls.

We move swiftly on to my make up tutorial and, next time you see me, I feel you will be pleasantly surprised by the glowing nature of my Zoom face – this will be down to the vat of highlighter FD directed me to apply – using a colour by numbers approach that sadly could not be adapted to my hair styling car crash.

We both ace this session – for example FD uses the time to regroup, get some fresh air and to pick up a takeaway latte. She sends me a text telling me to, ‘don’t give up on the hair tutorial; it takes practice Mumzoid and I swear Lady Macbeth had straight hair – or rocked a snood’.

Not being able to access a cinema, we create a watch party for a Romcom of choice. Naturally we both choose ‘The Heat’ and then realise we can’t view it without paying; we stay loyal to ‘our Sandra’ and watch The ‘Proposal’ instead. I love this woman; move over Holly with your wavy hair.

I am just settling down into film mode when my phone starts pinging with links to various shopping websites. Clearly FD is very adept at shopping, watching Netflix and eating popcorn all at the same time. She has my outfit ‘in the basket’ in minutes and I am left feeling quite anxious – not least because she talks me into a new style of jean that will demand a change to my standard footwear. Tortoise to her hare, I get there in the end – waiting until the end of the film and then choosing a blouse for FD that I secretly want for myself; now that I know we are the same size, I look forward to a world when her wardrobe can be raided.

Saying farewell is never easy, but I feel the day must have closure – I do not want it to be one of those awkward Zoom meetings when no-one knows how or when to leave. Our evaluation forms class the day as a success (we give ourselves 7/10 for making it happen and suggest a few things – all gin related – to incorporate into our next roll out). (@ShetlandReel, we are still looking at you).

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that although I factor in a debrief and goodbye – complete with BYO tea and cake – I also programme in a yoga class finale because I knew that by the evening my needy self will be in a big soppy mess through missing FD even more than ever. I did my yoga teacher training with FD back in the day and team-taught my first ever yoga class with her. A little flex of a mother/daughter sun salutation still warms my heart, even if our yoga mats remain too far apart for my liking.

Obediently, FD dials in for the class, and although she is muted on Zoom, I can tell she is mouthing something loving and appreciative when I take her through some deep hip flexing sequences. She also appears to be gesticulating wildly when she waves good-bye at the end of the session Love this girl.

As screen days go, I think our virtual spa day was a success – but then I have nothing to compare it to. For my part, I nail the brief further by having a little tearful dissolve during the final yoga session – thankfully FD thinks I am just showing off a new Zoom filter to give a tear drop effect on the screen. Spending time with your loved ones – even on line – makes you realise how much you miss them. Thankfully FD never reads this blog, so she will never know about this – or have seen my carefully applied mascara run.

Anyway, I have no time to stop and dwell, I need to style out my new pair of high rise, straight leg, ‘get you’, Zara jeans before I go and make myself a cheese toastie and a gin chaser – I hope the waistband can accommodate these lockdown carbs – I’ll screw my midriff to the sticking place and try to channel my inner Lady Macbeth.

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