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two one five six
27 June 2020 21:56

One of the joys of having children at, or planning to go to, university is that you have to deal with the Student Loans Company. I use ‘deal with’ in the loosest sense of the word as generally it involves a bit of a two-way negational, with compromise on both sides.

Dealing with the Student Loan Company is different. They write to you to tell you to supply details of your income, so they can assess the amount of loan your child is entitled to. You supply this information and, er, never hear from them again. The student is told the amount of their loan, but it is assumed that the parents will make up the difference – the Student Loan Company doesn’t have the decency to tell you themselves.

But what if, like us from next year, you have more than one child at university? Here’s the really clever bit. Each child is assessed separately, with scant regard to the maintenance already being paid for the other(s). By scant regard, I mean that they reduce the household income used in the means test by £1,100 for each dependent child (which generally makes no difference to the means-test bandings) – somehow ignoring that they have already assessed the contribution to that child’s higher education as being somewhat more than that.

To be fair, we can, with a bit of belt tightening, afford both payments. Nor do we seriously resent paying it to them – as we are at pains to tell them. However, I do feel sorry for households with a slightly lower income, or more than two children at university.

And don’t get me started on the non-egalitarianism of student loans, or the untenable business model of the Student Loans Company. You’re leaning against an open door there.

In the long-running battle of the sexes over whether toilet seats should, be left up or down, Youngest Child came up with what is possibly the best and least counter-able argument:

“they wouldn’t put lids on them if they weren’t supposed to be closed”

Despite my continued dislike of smart phones, I have splashed out on a fitness watch – having ensured that it is possible to upload data directly to a real computer.

I really bought it because I wanted a more accurate tracker of distance than measuring on google maps. Mrs Bareroot’s Strava-enabled smartphone is notoriously bad at accuracy. It often cuts off corners, marks us as having ran through lakes (I know I sometimes switch off when running, but I think I’d notice getting wet to that extent), and can’t cope with going under motorways at all.

Hang on, my watch has told me to move. Because I am generally compliant, I will do what it says. I will move to the fridge and come back with food. Or gin and tonic.

But it also counts my steps (and gives me a daily target), measures my heart rate and even knows (or claims to know) when I am asleep (asleep at night, that it; luckily it doesn’t record when I drop off during tedious online work meetings). Yesterday I hit double my step target before lunch – helped by a 3 km walk and a 12.5 km run. It was far too warm for running that far without fluid; my shirt was drenched with sweat when I got home. Or maybe I had run through a lake without noticing. I should add that it is unusual for me to get anywhere near my daily step target, so I am naturally chuffed at this achievement.

I’ve even joined the world of Strava, complete with its somewhat dismissive analysis is my activities: “this is consistent with your recent efforts” – isn’t that the end of year report given to the kid who came bottom of the class?

But Stava Flybys – is there a more entertaining procrastination device?

Having lost our planned holiday to Luxembourg at Easter, we are now cautiously hopeful of getting to Barcelona next month. Just depends on the hotel’s still being open and the flights’ still operating (OK, it’s EasyJet, that’s a pretty big dependency at the best of times).

The coach to Luton and the pre-departure hotel have already been scuppered, but I’ve solved those problems. I’ve found another (and cheaper) hotel, and rearranged the journey to coach and train for pretty much the same price.

I’ve offered Youngest Child that, in the event we have to stay in the UK, we will go anywhere she wants. I may live to regret that offer, but have pre-emptively vetoed Margate and Tenby.

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two one five six - 27 June 2020
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