Friday, 21 December 2007

Orville, Cuddles and Keith Harris once again impressed us with their panto at Fareham, with Cinderalla. On the way home, R told me that Sacha Wareham, the Cinderella, was one of his former pupils! How's that for a claim to fame? H and I had a great afternoon, we went on the coach from Eastpoint and the whole experience was just £6 each, as we had funding from the toddler group I used to help with. That included an ice cream, vanilla, in a tub with a little spoon hidden in the lid. Nice touch.

Really, it is a fabulous panto, has everything you could long for in a panto, how many other ways can I put it? Just go see it! I am a big fan of Keith Harris, he is a recycling legend. All the old jokes being reused.

We had our housegroup recycling of presents this year, where I managed to get rid of a book on old villages and that amazing 'luxury' nightwear set which I won in the Daily Echo, and that could have fitted 2 of me in. We came away with a music stand, which is a genuine scoop for R, and two Percy Thrower gardening books which suggest a relentless work regime in the garden all year round. Last year we got a slow cooker, so we defintely do better from these things than we give to them.

I just checked out the top 100 babies names lists, and found that my 2 are still in the top 25, at number 16 and 23. In the years of their birth they were both in the top 10. Ruby is now number 1 for girls, with it a definite number 1 in Wales, presumably after Ch Ch called her baby Ruby. There are more Ashtons than Andrews these days, and thank the Lord not too many Ryans - never ever call your child Ryan, unless you intend for them to spend most of their days in trouble. Sorry to all the lovely Ryans out there. I have never met you.

Hey, with my mobile phone I got a perfume sample set and a voucher for a proper bottle, and I got it today - it costs £33 to buy, but to me - nothing! I have an unlimited texts contract and R has the new phone, and our monthly mobile bill is a third less than last year. All that and I will smell like an air freshener every day.

Yesterday was the bowen family hair cut festivities. R kicked off in the morning with a trip to 'Hair At Number 72' or whatever its called. I like that they don't bother with the pun, that usually hairdressers and chip shop owners think they have to do. 'Hair Today', British Hairways, The Codfather, A Salt and Battery - you know the genre. Then I was on at 3 and the girls on at 4 at The Hair Emporium, which is in Woolston and comes recommended highly. Sadly the Bingo hall just down the street has shut, thus leaving the east of Southampton without handy access to the glorious game. Still, we have a bowling centre in Bitterne, and if you want to go just tell me and I will explain the free game offer on the internet. Did I mention it before?

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

A pheasant, wrapped in plastic, was being carried through St Marys at about 12 noon today by an older gentleman. Now that is not a sight seen every day. Was it a pleasant pheasant? No tongue twisters about plucking, please! My brother is cooking a goose this Christmas. For myself and his wife, the two vegetarians at the meal, he is cooking Veggie toad in the hole. The toads he is cooking were entirely vegetarian, snacking on pond weed.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Yesterday at The Quays we had the leisure pool to ourselves, well, apart from one incredible couple and their daughter (I assume). The man had lots of tip top tastic tattooes, normally hidden but in just his trunks one could see them all (he may have had more under his trunks but I didn't pry). The lady had the most immaculate and thorough make up, like the ladies on the perfume and make up counters in John Lewis or Debenhams. You know, how they layer their mascara and manage to keep everything perfect with no smudges. This is probably tricky in the perfume bar in John Lewis, but imagine how hard that is to do when you are swimming with a 3 year old? Amazing woman. If I had been wearing a swimming hat, I would have taken it off to her.

Speaking of trunks, previous to that swim, A had been in the creche and I in the lane swimming pool, sharing a lane with an older man, who had chosen those unfortunate flesh coloured trunks which make you do a double take every time you get to the end of a lane ie. is he wearing any trunks? I remember our lovely friend Helen's husband Andy (he is lovely too btw), saying he was looking forward to being a dad because dads could get away with wearing Speedo brief swimming pants rather than baggy surfing shorts. They have 2 children, but I have not been in contact to ask about the swimwear choices.

Authorial intent. Thats what I was thinking about when doing my lengths. As in, the old and infirm were doing their Aquafit or whatever it is called, when they paddle around in the shallow end waving their arms around, slowly. Anyhow, on this occasion the instructor had chosen the track 'Get into the Groove' by Madonna for the routine. Was that Madonna's intent when she recorded the track all those years ago? Did she have in mind elderly gents with bigger boobs than her gesticulating in the shallows of municipal pools across the land? I doubt it.

Twice this week A and I have had reason to be at Playshack, which used to be Krazy Kingdome, in Hedge End. Today we had a longstanding date with the lovely Andrea and Sophie, good friends and soul mates who always bless us. On Tuesday it was a last minute receipt of an invitation to a birthday party from one of A's nursery mates, and that was a good time too. Weird how we never go to such places and then manage 3 in a week - on Sunday we were at Marwell Barn for our NCT Christmas get together. That was fun too - in the winter these indoor play places come into their own. There is one in town that I have not been to yet, if you would like to invite us, that would be great thanks.

Made some mince pies tonight, well, constructed them, I made some of the pastry and froze it last week, and I strongly recommend the practice for ease of rolling. The rest of the pastry (puff) I purchased. I have decided to give teachers, play school etc all mince pies instead of buying them little gifts, although we had alreay bought Mr Curtis (H teacher) his present. I don't want to ruin it for him, but it is from Vistaprint, so that may give you some clues.

Also went to Tesco today, which was quiet beyond belief. Think Marie Celeste. Not what I was expecting, I was anticipating elbowing the crowds to get to the milk, and as it was I had to hunt people down to bump into to make the place look busy. I have been doing online shopping, but I wanted to get stocking presents for the girls, and I think did a great job and accompished my mission. Am hoping that my Tesco points will mount up so much that I will be able to go on holiday next year on them. Tescos have a better return than Sainburys. After 10 years with Sainsburys, we have just about enough points to get 2 of us to Paris on Eurostar, but when I mentioned Paris to H she said she would like to come to see where the Aristocats lived and to go to Eurodisney. I have told her before she can go there when she is 18, as often as she likes, but I don't think I have heard the last of it. I'm too miserable for Disney. All that pretend smiling and posing next to stupid cartoon characters. Yuk.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

One of our recent wins was a family ticket to Beaulieu, and as we had a bigger family than usual today (looking after 2 extra kids, age 9 and 6) we bit the bullet and went. Despite the lashing rain and wailing winds, the children had a good time. We went on the monorail, twice, before they shut it due to the high winds. We went on the 'Wheels' 'Hi tec' ride, twice, it was inside and warm. We sat by the fire in the palace dining room. It was inside and warm. The palace bit of it was nice, it is lived in by some aristocrats and seemed like a home, and the 'butler' didn't mind the children all lying on the floor in front of the log fire, drying out bits of their wet and soggy clothing and skin. He asked the children if they would like jobs as maids, and told them it was 12p a week wages and they could only go home once a year. He was so convincing that H wanted to apply for the job, and when he told her to write in the visitors book she thought that was how you applied. I kept telling her she would not be able to go to school, see us, go to Fuertaventura again, etc etc, but she adamant she going for it. We sat on a old double decker bus and it was dry, if not warm. We mooched around looking at old cars and motorbikes. Oh I am so glad it was free, there is no way I would have paid to go in and look at some old machines. There was even a bit about the spark plug. The whole place is awful. R kept telling me I would have seen it differently if the sun had been shining, which I agree, would have helped, but no, it was still a ghastly place full of cars which I find unappealing. Women don't watch Top Gear for the cars. They watch it to see Hammond being the cheeky chappy who is cute and still alive despite the odds winning over the two old frumpy long haired guys. Anyhow, the staff were friendly, and the gardens would have been good on a sunny day, but really, how did Lord Montagu get away with building that concrete gargoyle in the middle of the New Forest? The architecture of the place is breathtakingly awful. It is like a university refectory, but worse. Think Coventry Catherdral meets Tescos. Prince Charles opened the 'cutting edge' Wheels ride 20 years ago, and they must have blindfolded him to get him past the concrete without imploding.

The pictures of the various Montagues all show the same inbred weird look that only the aristocracy can pull off in their offspring. Give them a helpful name like Ralph - thanks dad - can you imagine that in the school register. Ralph Montagu. What were they thinking? They don't swim at Bitterne. Anyhow, all the Montagu males seem to marry models, thus giving their offspring half a chance of eyes that point in the same direction and a forehead with less of the slope. I am guessing they are related to Prince Charles, hence his unswerving gaze on opening the futuristic ride, avoiding having to comment on the overzealous use of concrete in the building works going on around it.

OK,OK while I am here this I do not get. Lord Montagu in the New Forest, owns most of it, can put up concrete carbuncles all over his back garden and make a pile out of it. My friends Keith ahd Gillian move up to another serfdom, Northumbria, where their house is built on estate land, owned by the Duke, and they have to ask for his permission - and pay him a fee - to tack a conservatory on the back of their home. Right now, I am going to look into becoming a republic. Forget the Queen and her patronage (of Whitworths tapioca btw) and lets get this country going somewhere. We will never make any progress in the world while we have Dukes and Lords and so on ruling us. Keith and Gillian, rise up and build a conservatory without telling him. Everyone, boycott the dreadful Beaulieu motor museum in every way you can.... people, we can overcome!

Have you heard enough? Don't go there. If you have little boys in tow, or probably big ones, let them go on their own. Go into the village and have a cream tea instead. Probably served by a village wench whose son is the actual heir of the estate. Why oh why, when the royal family let the female offspring inherit the title, do the Montagues have to keep going til they get a boy? What is that all about? Just don't go there.

Last night we went into the city centre where we pootled about the German market, which is staffed by genuine Germans. We then watched the carnival, which included some of H's friends, so we waved wildly at the right moments. It was quite fun, a good atmosphere, and we went down to the park where the new boat the Queen Victoria is waiting to have a bottle of Pomagne smashed across her bow by someone who looks like a horse. When we got home we had macaroni cheese in front of the fire, and I rang my mum, who announced that she has already booked a cruise on the new Queen Victoria boat. Look! More of these royals! I can't get rid of them! Even potatoes are named after them - Jersey Royals, King Edwards - Maris Piper was probably a duke or something - sandwiches - named after an Earl. Damn you all. From now on I will eat pasties only. But, argh! they come from Cornwall which is a Duchy itself. There is no escape.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Thatchers Children. Thats me and R. Two people in one day made indentical comments when they heard R was fitting a new bath and basin -slaving away with his plumber's mate Josh, all day Saturday, and then this afternoon tiling walls and floor - ready for the comment? 'I thought the council did that for you.' Ha bloody ha. Where did we go wrong? We believed the lies of the great PM, the right to buy, the property ladder being the thing to be on. We got a mortgage, we ( well, OK R) do all the DIY god can send to keep wattle and daub together. But we bow to the superior knowledge of all those who know that you should just call the council and a man will come and do it for you. Seriously, I am really wondering where we went wrong and why on earth we didn't stay in rented accomodation when we had the chance. We had a lovely 2 bed terrace in Sheffield, the rent was £180 a month which was cheaper than the rent on the one bedroom flat we had had the first year we were married (that was £240). The landlord was not a real person, but a solicitors round a back alley in a bit of Sheffield we never went to. But, to his or her credit, they did send a man whenever we asked, for double glazing I recall. We had a back yard, which was what you had in Sheffield, and we shard it with the junk shop next door, which meant that when we had our youth group round for housegroup, or had a party, there were plenty of chairs to sit on. I grew my first courgette in that yard. It had an outside toilet, used by the ladies from the Petit Hair Salon, which was the front room of our house. On Saturday mornings our ounge ( upstairs from the salon) smelt of perming fluid. Our house was so near the main road that people on double deckers could wave at us as they passed. We could look out of the window and see what the chip shop opposite had ready in the warming cupboard. There were two stabbings or shootings in the newsagents across the road while we lived there. And it snowed every winter, thats 3 grim freezing up north winters that I survived. Sometimes I almost miss it.

Anyhow, B and Q have got a bit more cash in the till thanks to us, and as we are the reason they continue to trade, I like to keep them going. Supporting local business, that's me.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Bleakest Bitterne tonight. The rain was wild and the wind tunnel effect in the subway from the leisure centre to the shops was wild. H and I ran through to Sainsburys, where we chose seriously payday options for tea, as we have been living on cupboard rations and lunch for A today consisted of a yogurt, some raisins and two Viennese whirls ( they were 10p a pack at the Coop last night). Glad no social workers read this. I did give her half a ryvita with cream cheese, and later some breadsticks and rice cakes. Phew, off the 'at risk' list. Anyhow, to gorge on pizza, garlic bread, chocolate milkshake, flake cakes and I had green herb salad and goats cheese with mushrooms, and some soup that was celeriac, pear and walnut flavour. Even I had chocolate milkshake. What a great invention.

H won a competition last night. It is getting so dull, I know, and she can hardly be bothered to open envelopes these days. It is a family pass to go to Beaulieu, sadly just to the motor museum and not for supper with Lord and Lady Montagu. I entered the competition in 'The Hog' ( you know if you know) and am hoping for a £10 waterstones voucher. I did get a phone call from a lady at the Bold 2 in 1 competition promotion department, who said it was ok to take R on my girly night to the Berkeley hotel, and booked us a date, and actually swapped it to a different package where we get champagne and breakfast instead of chocolate and a manicure. R loves champagne, and breakfast, so that is a good swap. Last time we stayed in a posh hotel was our honeymoon, and the menu was so scarily expensive (the first item was caviar) that we ate at Burger King for our first breakfast of married life. Have not been back since.

I seem a little food obsessed, yes? You would be if you had been producing miracle meals for 8 out of rice, burnt fishfingers and cauliflower ( a white meal, that one). I taught yesterday afternoon, and it went well, had lots of fun doing electricity with Y6, did remind them not to try such experiments at home on the mains circuit. Maybe some of them would be a bit more perky in school for learning if they had a quick poke in a plug socket each morning though... AJ looked after A for me, and then as oldest 2 have sports club, she and her 3 stayed for tea, hence the meal for 8!

I have just been marking R's exams for him, but was losing the will to breathe so gave up. I had thought about doing SATs marking, but as well as it not sitting comfortably with my deep seated opposition to the system they represent, I would be bored to tears and could not bring myself to do it with any degree of sincereity. When I was a student I worked 2 summers in London for the exam board, opening parcels of scripts, counting them, checking the centre numbers, candidate numbers etc. It was dull, but reasonably well paid, I made loads of friends from different backgrounds, got to commute and enjoy a beautiful bit of London in 2 fantastically hot summers with train strikes. I walked from Waterloo, it was a half hour walk over the bridge, up Holburn and Southampton Street or something to Russell Square. We sat in the square for our lunch hours, and sometimes went to the British museum. I went to the theatre on standby to see St Joan. I ate out at Wagamummas for the first time. This was back in the days before they built the IMAX cinema which has probably gone now, and there was a hole in the road with a cardboard city of homeless people that you had to walk through to get to the bridge for the station. I can still remember the smell walking down that subway. When work on the parcel opening section was short (and sometime we came in and did overtime all weekend, and did 8-6 days too) we had to do B checking. Adding up the marks. Great for your mental arithmetic. Some people had to do it all the time, including my friend Amy, who I got the job for. Poor girl. I left early in the season to get married, and they bought us a picnic hamper, and wrapped it up and put it in the parcel post thing and made me go and open it. They were such a great bunch of people. The boss commented that getting married was a drastic way out of B checking, but I disagree. In my first year there, when there was hardly any work but we had to stay at our desks, so we did crosswords and wrote poems, there was a lady who sold the buns off a trolley. She always had earphones in, and all she ever said was a number, for the price you had to pay. It was weird, and we experimented, to find out that the price of, say, a doughnut and a coffee, varied by a couple of pence or so each day. I suggested that her earphones were to the stock exchsnge, and by keeping up to date on the price of bun commodities she coud make up to the minut changes to her prices to reflect the costs of commodities and maintain her margins. Buy doughnuts! Buy! Sell currant buns!! Sell! Sell!

See, even my memories are food centred today.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

In my church work I have done overtime this week, and I am going to write something on the thoughts section of the official Southampton Vineyard website, so I will direct you there for in depth analysis of the underlying trends in children's ministry today.

This place would be ruined by such trifles. I learnt a new word today, only I can't remember it. It means 'saying the same thing over and over again' and is related to people with Autism or similar in the context I learnt it. Or didn't. It ended in -lalia which is an unusual word ending and one I like. I like learning about words. Entomology or something like that is the scientific term, I think. I have a few books on words which I browse sometimes, like the dictionary. Sometimes I repeat words, which sound good, like Thacker.

We sang a song today which is an old un but a good un.
I'm callin out,
'Light the fire again'

R lights a fire most nights at this time of year, so if it goes out ( not much kindling in stock you see) I will sing it to him.

The reason I was singing old songs was because I was at a training day on children with additional needs at Highfield church hall. We did some good things with a parachute, but, as I say, you will have to wait and check out the official, censored website at for more reportage. One nugget I will give you is the conversation I had with a lovely couple at lunch time, who live in Millbrook but attend a church in Weston. I asked them how they had found their son's education at his secondary school. The dad answered in the form of a riddle:

You know the kind of music M and M sings ( well, barely, but OK, rap)
Well, put a C in front of that and you get what the special needs support was like at the school.

Those of you who have known me for a while will know that rap is not my specialist subject, and in fact any American male singers are a mystery to me - ie Duff Paddy. In fact, American films are generally wasted on me unless I have to have the sound up and subtitles on as I can't understand what they are saying. Which makes me sound really old. An older lady at the training day misunderstood me as I was introduced to her, and thought I was telling her I was a granny. To which she said' Oh that's nice', barely an eyebrow batted.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Last Friday for Pudsey bear the children at H's school were invited to go to school dressed as they would doing the job they wanted to do when they grew up. I saw through this thinly veiled attempt to assess the children's aspirations and plan accordingly ( staff room conversation: damn. Johnny wants to be a rocket scientist. Get those magnetic letters out and run through the vowels with him....)

H went as a hair dresser, which is also A's optimal career. H has changed her mind and decided to become a gymnastics teacher. I noticed in her class a few soldiers (cannon fodder) and an awful lot of pop stars, footballers and princesses. People will always need their hair cutting. the other excitement at school is the practising for Mary. I have ironed the blue tunic and have only to rummage around for a bit of white sheet for a head dress.

Today I spent almost all day at BLC. Ange and I met at the gym, then A's swim lesson and my swim, then home only to come back again for H's lesson. They were putting the Christmas tree up in the reception area, a task which took the best part of an hour for 3 recreation assistants and a manager. Its worse than one of those lightbulb jokes, because its true.

As we have an extra family member at the moment, ( Amanda, who is 18) we showed her our baby albums and wedding album. I don't know home many times I can take hearing ' You look so young then....' which might as well be saying ' You look so old now...' She takes delight in telling me I could be her mother. Thanks.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Briefly stopped in Bitterne today to go to the Post Office, which has the longest queue ever. I was posting a golf club, and I did the same on Monday. Monday's one was rejected by ther purchaser, so it should be coming back for me to post to someone else. R buys them at the dump, and sells them on ebay.

There is a newsagents in Bitterne with this curious sign in the window:

Sharps, grinders and blades sold here.

I think that is right. It puzzles me EVERY time.

Yesterday I went to BLC for a quick gym session, I had not been for ages and had forgotten how delightful are the surroundings of the blue and orange centre.

On the weekend R and I went on a Marriage Encounter. It was fantastic, a very intense weekend but so good for helping us to learn better ways to talk to each other. I am recommending it to every couple I know, it really is worth going to. We even went to Kent to go on ours! I don't do that very often, as it seems from the little I have seen that we would all be better off if a polar ice cap came and melted in the River Medway, thus drowning all of the Medway towns. I hear other bits of Kent are nicer, but then, they couldn't be worse.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

I went to Slimming World this week, as I have done for last 10 weeks, and am pleased to say I have re lost some weight to be back at my target. I lost 10lbs, and that works out at a lb a week. Am pleased to put it mildly. Anyway, I took a friend along and I knew that new people don't queue but go in first for an explanation talk. So, there was a really big queue and we walked past it. One lady said ' you can queue' in a sarcastic tone, which is fair enough as she obviously thought we were jumping in. I turned around and used my best posh voice to tell her ' We're much too important to queue' which made her puzzled and made the other people in the queue giggle. I ended up taking the money as someone was missing and I 'know the ropes' as it were, and bless her, she apologised to me. I had a queue of fantastic proportions on Monday, at the post office place where you go when you get one of those cards... Sorry you were out.... which make your heart sink. Anyway, I got people chatting in there. You know me and queues - I like a good queue, reason to talk to strangers with them having no hope of moving away if they are to retain their position in the queue. Its great. Probably why I liked Paultons Park so much.

Today I did very little, I got up, was grumpy and served the girls breakfast in as civil a manner as I could muster, then went back to bed, arising at 1pm. A fine time to get up on a Saturday. R H and A went to see Surfs Up at the cinema and were very excited about it. Its great that my children are still at the age where they don't mind that the film is not a new release, as that way it only costs £5 for an adult and 2 children to go. I did the hoovering, the ironing and walked to the Coop. Not my best day for physical activity then. Am doing some sewing tonight. I can't bear sewing. It is the most awful chore and there is a years worth of rips and buttons to attend to. My bible reading at moment is Luke 2, and you know how Mary is always depicted as sewing when the Angel Gabriel came with the big news? Well, he would have to have picked a small window in my diary to catch me sewing. Probably why it was her and not me. Maybe she sewed all the time and so it wasn't odd. Does it mention her sewing anywhere - or is that just artistic interpretation. Maybe she was sweeping up Cheerios or hoovering. Now, those chores the Angel G could catch me doing every day of the week.

Will meet you in B and Q tomorrow to watch some paint dry.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

I just tried to upload some pictures of the wedding. Maybe they are there somewhere. It all went well. I was a bridesmaid, and particularly enjoyed getting ready with a photographer taking 'natural' shots of us drinking tea and putting on make up. Also being in the big car was fun as other people smile and wave. Getting the train there was fun, as we met an old lady just back from a cruise, with her nephew, who is 60. It was his first cruise, she and her husband had treated him for his birthday. He read the FT and worked in a day centre for people with head injuries, for the shameful sum of £5 an hour. Still, clearly knew what he was doing with it if he got the FT. The train is small and very busy. A was very good considering she had to sit still for 3 hours, clearly the practice on the plane helped. Our car journey back was not so good, she was sick before we got to the Severn bridge. We stayed in a Travelodge, an interesting experience. Well, OK, not at all interesting actually. Today I got an email from them asking what I thought- you know - 'we'd love to hear your views'. I had none. I pressed delete.

H won another competition yesterday. We are off to Exbury Gardens just before Christmas for a ride on the Santa special train. The lady called and I could pick my dates, so went for the 23 December, don't want Santa getting a rest on his day before his busy day. I went through my present collection tonight. H and I made a great t shirt on Vistaprint for her teacher. It has a cartoon of a school and the inscription 'Bumble Bee Base - we are the best' I hope he wears it for PE for the rest of the year.

H has just got into Roald Dahl books, which is encouraging from an academic point of view but also personally as they were favourites of mine. We have started George's marvellous medicine- who can forget Rik Mayall's version on Jackanory? And don't the words 'Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker' make you quiver with anticipation and fear?

All this gadding about to Wales being a bridesmaid has left me far short of my quota of Bitterne visits this week. I did like the village of Whitchurch, where the wedding was held. It had a Peacocks, many varieties of charity shop and a butcher, a baker and a fishmonger all in a row, 2 greegrocers, 2 opticians, several pubs and cafes... I purchased a badge maker for one pound in a charity shop, as it is on H's list for Santa. Feeling very proud of myself, I secreted it in the boot.

On Sunday, R and H went to his headteacher's house to buy a cabin bed for H, and the teenage girl who was selling it gave H the most hi tec badge maker ever. So, my little charity shop bargain is sitting in the present cupboard. I expect A will appreciate having one of her own- or any offers? What are the chances, Matthew, of coming across 2 badge making kits in one weekend?

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Forgot to tell you what I purchased in the metroplis. I got H a beautiful dress in Sainsburys, a cardigan to go with it (charity shop -pleased with that) and tights and hair bands for the girls. They have reason soon to wear beautiful dresses. They both love dresses you can twirl in. Ha! They haven't even read Captivating, the two of them. Also some coleslaw and milk and yogurt in the other Sainsburys. The yogurt fell out of the fridge after I had opened it which was annoying but I am coping. Went to the library too and got a free DVD for a week (Charlie and Lola) and a couple of books for me, including a Steve Biddulph title.
A black cat crossed R's path tonight as he put the rubbish out. This is no mean feat, as we don't have many cats around our way and he only had to step outside the door, so the cat must have been waiting in the perfect position for crossing. And it being Halloween, I would take that as a BAD OMEN. If I were him, I would be checking my tea for arsenic and pondering why my wife had got the life insurance papers out and in an envelope.

Bitterne today, for a lunch date at May's. The bright colours of the Autumn trees in the precinct did not lift the general greyness of the day, for me personally, or, it seemed for Bitterne globally. I am feeling achey and coldy and weak and generally suffering being in a grey world, with the clocks doing that thing they did to make the world seem darker, and the knowledge that it is 4 months until the birds start singing.

I did see a blackbird and a robin in my garden today. Hopefully eating the lettuce. I am sick of it and the damn stuff is still growing. The homegrown, organic pumpkin looked good, on top of the wheelie bin. I did a smiley face and was pleased with my handiwork. I gave out Wheetos mainly as we don't really keep sweets in and I never remember. They were well received. The kids go to loads of effort with their costumes, and all the mums go out too. Our last caller of the night was a boy with a baby in his arms, with white face paint on and a ghost outfit. That was the baby. Fair play to him. He won on the cuteness factor, although R muttered 'should be in bed' as I shut the door.

In Bitterne I bumped into one of my neighbours, who told me that one of her teenage sons had a hairline fracture on his jaw and lost 4 teeth. He had been hit with a baseball bat. And where did this happen? You will find it hard to swallow (as W probably does right now) - ready - Bursledon. Yep. The only people I really know who live there are the Milchards. So if they challenge you to a game of rounders, duck. Clearly the yoof of bursledon are made of mightier stuff than those of Thornhill when push comes to shove. Or maybe they just ate up their geens and drank their milk and their teeth stay in place, whereas our likely lad from up the road was sucking Haribo during those crucial years. Maybe this whole story could be used as a public health promotion tool. Or, maybe, just don't go to Bursledon.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Wispas are back. I saw a billboard in Woolston. How good is that? Why on earth did they get rid of them anyway? Shame they are unethical and unhealthy. I shall enjoy one, at Christmas.

The reason for seeing the billboard was because I was doing my usual tacking movements to get home from Woolston, which this time involved taking a long crescent detour and coming out a teeny bit further up the road I was on to start with. So, I decided to stick to straight lines through Sholing and go with the contours rather than using all the gears on my mountain bike.

I was in Woolston for having my hair cut, at The Hair Emporium, which I recommend. I had previously cycled to Harefield, then down to Netley. I may write a guide to cycling around East Southampton. It might be a minority interest book. Would you buy one? My final cycle of the day was back to Harefield to pick A up from nursery. Phew. This car sharing is good for my health. Did I say we had our review and are doing another 6 months?

The Wheelie bin cleaners left their letter asking for money today. It says 'Happiness is a clean wheeliebin'. Maybe I had been aiming to high in the pursuit of happiness and should be content with a clean wheelie bin as they suggest. I wonder if they have done some research, comparing the lives of those who use their services with those who don't? Are we Supergleam customers really happier than the general population?

Monday, 29 October 2007

I have just returned from my first ever package holiday to a sunny place. We went to Fuerteventura, which for those even less informed than I, ( that includes most travel agents I imagine) is one of the Canary Islands and is off the coast (100 miles off) of North Africa. That meant that we had to get there by aeroplane and it was hot.

I shall give you some of my observations in no particular order of importance. First, the entertainment. We deliberately went for a hotel with a kids club, but I had no idea how much extra there was involved. It was like Haven in the sun. Or Butlins if you have not been to Haven. Or if you have been to neither, you should. During the day around the pool there was a quiz (I won) and a darts competition (R won). There was also water polo, volleyball, football, pool competitions. The girls went to a 2 hour session in the kids club every day and didn't complain about it at all. There was also a playground and a soft play zone room. The entertainment highlight was the Dynamite Disco at 8pm, which the girls adored. H was up there doing the actions to Agadoo with the best of them. Now, I know already some of my dear readers are developing nervous tics - but we loved it! Everything was familiar and safe. Everyone spoke English. The food was identifiable - fishfingers, spag bol, meat balls - A had chips and something every night. The girls want to go back next year.

Recently I read a book about a man who went to live in Rotherham for a year as a social experiement as it is the most average town in Britain. The book revealed more about his attitudes than about the people of Britain, but I identified with his 'holiday maker' - the Brit abroad who does not seek new sights and experiences, but wants the same as at home but a bit warmer. I am 100% in that holiday camp. Having never had any experience of 'resorts' I was a bit culture shocked by how British it all is. Even a Netto supermarket. That is not something anyone tells you do they? Come to Fuerteventura and shop in Netto. Fantastic selling point for me. There was an Irish bar, loads of 'Italian' restaurants, options like full english breakfasts for 5 euros and even a Chinese. The shops sell UK papers, things like ketchup and marmite. It really is like being at home but warmer. What a great idea! Why didn't I do this before?

Most of our days were spent at the pool, with H averaging 4 hours a day actually in the water. We did go to the beach twice, and it was fine - sandy, with shallow, safe water which seemed clean. We played crazy golf. A and I went for a ride on the road train, which goes all round the resort which encouragingly showed me that we had made a good hotel choice in terms of closeness to everything. However, there really is not much else to do than swim in the sun. I guess that is where the UK seaside has had to diversify - there is no sun - so when you go there you mooch around aquariums, arcades and fair grounds, museums of something dull and unheard of, because it is raining and your children are whinging. In Fva, there is nothing to do if the sun is not shining. But we had 5 days of fab sun and only our last day was a bit windy and 'spitting' ('quick children! inside!'). Even then we went to the beach.

Now, during our time away we did work on honing our skills at spotting Germans. Everyone was British or German. Now, women were difficult, and as my archetypal German woman is Karin Kingston, I sometimes failed. She is tall and thin and stern and married to a short, portly jolly English man and they go to my parents' chuch. Well, I think they are still alive, anyway, there were there throughtout my formative years. Men - we worked out a formula:

the larger the size of belly, number of tattoos on display and visible areas of sun burn = British

the skinnier the belly, the wearing of tight trousers and pale skin = German.

Generally, we were overawed with how similar looking we all are as Northern Europeans, and how difficult it is to tell us apart. Which must be encouraging for world peace. I wowed one of the ladies at the salad bar in the buffet one evening by showing her my 'fitnessteller' meal and she understood me! I encouraged H to make friends with a girl her age at the pool who was German, and they copied each others dives and jumps for a good hour, until H's English friend returned. H shouted out 'Emily! My friend is a GERMAN!' and from then on the language barrier returned and H and E drifted off ( literally) together, leaving Marit on her own.

One night we let the girls stay up after the disco (it was when we had won and we needed to collect our prizes) and I did the bingo. I didn't win.

Which brings me nicely to my final news on the holiday. While we were away I had a tingling feeling of good fortune - seriously - I just knew I would win something. It wasn't the bingo, but when I got home I found I had won a designer nightwear set which is on its way to me, and a night in a hotel in London, all courtesy of Bold. I entered a competition in the Daily Echo.

Today was A's 4th birthday party, the actual birthday was yesterday, where we had a lunch party at granny's. My family are nuts, and my sister in law is as barmy as the rest of us and we spent ages playing silly games to amuse the children - then noticed they had all wandered off and we were still playing. R's mum drove us home and has gone off to her brother's today for a rest I should imagine. So, I did the party for 12 3-5 year olds. It all went very smoothly, everyone behaved impeccably and A went to bed happy with a year's supply of stickers and felt tips. People know her well. She is obsessed with 'cuttin and stickin' and the presents reflected this obsession. Having a 4 year old and a 6 year old sounds so grown up though. as I often say: "what am I going to do when you go to school all day?" to which A always replies "relax."

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Flowers and cards day today, as once again I 'left' my job at Berrywood, where I have been teaching Year 3 2 days a week for this half term. Thing is, I keep coming back, doing supply and covering, so classes say goodbye and I pop up again a week later teaching them. Still, it is lovely to be appreciated every time you leave, I don't think I leave my other church job often enough! Why do we only give people gifts when they leave?

Cycling has felt wet and hazardous these last 2 days, with misty morning and rainy morning. No other nutters to be seen on bikes. Even my dear husband was driving, as his rib injury is still there. He is really set up for wet weather cycling, with all the obsessive shopping he does on websites for cycling kit. I meanwhile, have a pacamac I got in a charity shop in Eastleigh, which is a rust brown colour. On my way home today I wore my work trousers, as my trackies were still wet from the morning. To protect my trousers from the chain, I tucked them into my (pink and purple) stripey socks. I think I looked quite funky in that colour mix.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Hey, Autumn leaves are here so thought you would like this colour. On Thursday A and I had a great day out with AE to Uppark, a National Trust place near Petersfield. We found lots of mushrooms or toadstools, and A picked up lots of beech nuts, chestnuts and a new one, hazel nuts. She has quite a nut vocab now and I am hoping she will be able to write 'Spotters Guides to nature' should she ever fall on hard times. Our NT days are numbered, got til the end of October, am hoping to fit in an Arboretum next weekend.

We have a new addition. It is big and blue and in the garden. Yep - you guessed it - every suburban home has one - the trampoline, compulsory childhood toy. It is a big purchase for us for a birthday present, but both grannies dug deep and contributed a third, so A is enjoying her present, and H is enjoying it even more. No casualties yet.

We had a mega swim week this week, A and I did the Quays on Wednesday, then swim lessons as usual on Friday (managed to stave off the whining at the bus stop on the way home with doughnuts) and then met some neighbours at the Quays on Saturday. Saturday was a girls day, as R had somehow fallen into one of those 'paintballing - its fun!' traps for a stag do and has spent today making odd noises, using up all the paracetamol in the house and looking ashen. I sometimes struggle with Saturdays but this one went ok, we did Haskins in the morning, where I collected my 'free plant for every reader' from the Daily Echo, which I had purchased on Thursday. Thursday was a warm day, and we went to the park to enjoy the summer. I read the Echo and the girls did crazy brave things from monkey bars. A has a great bruise on her cheek to prove it.

Some notable news about the local Coop. I walked down on Sat eve, leaving R limping around the house and the girls pretty much in bed (actually, they both slept in boxes that night, their choice). It was one of those dusk walks to the Coop which I adore, with the autumn smell going on and people out getting ready to do whatever they do in the evenings. Anyhow, the Coop has had a hard time lately, but with a security guard and a groups dispersal zone in place things are on the up. All the fridges are working, and - wait for it - they sell ORGANIC milk. Now, I assumed this was because L and J Crandon are now ' in the hood', and they had requested it - but no! Purely by chance, the Coop felt the very presence of the Crandons and put in an organic line. I am delighted, because milk is one of the things I think is worth going organic on, in fact I think most things probably are, but milk is something I am prepared to pay extra for as the girls drink a lot of it. So, how good is that??? So, please, buy some today from our Coop to encourage them to keep stocking it.

So - to summarise - do... buy the echo and organic milk, don't... go paintballing or fall off the monkey bars. My messages are simple, but will change the world. I count the Pope and Elvis among my readers, and they know how to influence popular opinion.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Platinum membership been used well this week. I am told when I call the leisure centre that it is part of 'Southampton's award winning leisure facilities'. Clearly the awards were handed out by Southampton City Council. Anyway, today and Wednesday found me swimming at the Quays, today in the ' leisure' pool with most of the rest of the citizens of Southampton. Nice.

Yesterday, and this is what I am here to tell you, I was, as usual, at Bitterne LC for the swimming pilgrimage. When changing afterwards - I have learnt to do the hair wash there and enlarge the council's carbon footprint rather than my own - I overheard a dad getting irate with his children who were not doing as they were told. When I heard their names, I felt that, frankly, he got what he deserved, ie if you are crazy enough to give your children those names you deserve every bit of disobedience they throw your way. They are probably unconsciously rebelling against the lot they have been given in life. Ready? Want to know what caused this tirade from me? OK... I can hardly bear to write them. Galaxy and Felix. There! Done! Did the guy get stuck on the 'x' grapheme and insist that his childrens names included an x? Maybe they have a Foxy and a Trixie as well. This is Bitterne! I felt like shouting over the wall to him - 'This is Bitterne, man! Home of nice, practical names like Ryan and Shannon, Dylan and Tyler and Calum and Jake. Jack, Kerry, I mean, almost anything, but not Galaxy and Felix.'

I didn't, of course. I am learning, from my homeopath and my nun (hey man, I am up for any alternative healing therapies going - hope I still have a job on Monday) that tolerance is a wonderful thing that I have little of. I get so angry at the world, at people who don't see the world the way I see it, at innocent strangers who were purely trying to inject a little cat food and chocolate into their lives when their children were born... hey, they are entitled to call their children Tarquin, Xanthe and live in Bitterne.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Purge deleted. That is what one of my webmails asked me if I wanted to do today. Doesn't it sound great? Like washing away all your mistakes in one big bowl of Ariel. Reminds me of a bible verse about washing our clothes whiter than anyone in the world could launder them, the way God deals with our 'deletions'.

Friday was Bitternetastic. We went for A's swim lesson, and for 6 luxurious lengths I was alone in the big pool. I felt like a princess. By the time we had been to the library and eaten a packed lunch 'pac', as A calls it, we got the bus home and had 15 minutes before we got H from school and got on another bus, back to the library and then to H's swim lesson. It dawned on me that I am doing this every Friday till Christmas.

Saturday was a big adventure. I got a train at 6.47am, which I sat on till it stopped in Cardiff. There I met Claire, another friend of hers and Claire's mum for our spa day, pre wedding. I had never done anything so indulgent before. It is a peculiar and intimate relationship that you have with your beautician or whatever the person is called doing the treatments. You wear almost nothing and have stuff rubbed in all over, then a shower and a back massage and then a facial. It was great. I really enjoyed going in the steam room and swimming too. C and I had a meal and then got trains home, I got on the wrong train, not realising that there were 2 trains on the same platform, and gaily jumping on the one I saw at the top of the steps. I got to spend an hour in Newport which I would not have done otherwise. On the train home, I sat opposite a mother and her teenage daughter, and I was struck by how they hugged and seemed so comfortable together. As I was about to get off, I told them how I hoped to emulate them one day when my daughters were teenagers. Fiona, the mother, and I chatted a bit and I asked to share their taxi home as they were going to Botley, and I am on the way. She agreed and I was blessed with meeting interesting people and a free ride home. Another lady on the train had a trolley, which I think was full of Fosters, or maybe it had been before the lady drank it all. I helped her off the train but she fell on the platform and a train company operative rescued her. She said she had buried her mother that day. I don't know if that was literal, figurative or alcohol. If I wanted to get so drunk I fell off trains, I would not use Fosters as my method. I would have to spend my whole time in the train toilet. Surely spirits are a better option, even if purely in not needing a trolley to carry them around?

Last night I met up with some friends who I rarely see in a group, we have known each other for over 6 years now and the only thing we had in common was the birth dates of our firstborns coinciding enough for us all to be in the same antenatal class. I was struck by how different we are, how different our lives are and yet how we stick together, somehow. We have lost 2 of our number along the way - one moved away and one works very long and hard and is rarely spotted at our little socials. From our conversations last night, it seems that everyone is suffering their marriage breaking up or is having an affair, if not several. Not my immediate friends, you understand, but their wider circles of friends and families - don't want to name names, obviously... Roger and Penelope. Maybe it is a life stage thing- but I don't have time to spend time with my own husband as much as I want to, let alone with someone else's! How do these people find the time? I am very struck by the goodness of my husband and my family and the love that they have for me right now.

In a similar vein, I had the -ck grapheme as my phonics lesson focus today. I managed to avoid the 'Who can give me some words that rhyme with duck' line which trips up so many infant teachers with their classes who happily repeat the language they use at home. Steered clear of 'uck' and went for 'eck' and 'ick' and 'ack' words instead.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Yesterday we met the mayor of Southampton. H took part in a summer reading challenge, so we dutifully waited at Thornhill library (he was 30 minutes late, the children of Bitterne had all turned up for their medals). H got her medal, along with a ragtag bunch of kids of similar ages and stages, and 2 fantastically named broods. One set of siblings were called Edward, Francis and Cecilia. Another set were called - wait for it - Hermione, Xavier and Sebastian. Where do they think they live? Notting Hill? Hogwarts?

Bitternetastic day on Friday, when the first swim of the day was cancelled as the water was too cold, but we cycled there for H's lesson and A and I bravely went in the baby pool while H did her widths of the deep end. Cycling home again was an effort but H made a brave attempt at the hills, and stopped for some chips. Chips is one of those post swimming comfort foods in my world. We used to go with the Cubs to Walton Swimming Pool, a giant concrete structure of the 60s. We did everything with the Cubs. Anyway, mum and dad used to go to Sainsburys and do the shopping leaving me and my brother with the Cubs to look after us. So I learnt to swim with Clive Finnear. God bless you, swimming teacher. He was one of the Cub dad helpers. Anyway, we used to stop sometimes as a rare and exciting treat to get a cone of chips to share in the back on the way home. Even more thrilling was when mum bought us a pot noodle, to share, when we got home. We used to painstakingly ' fill to here' and time the minutes between stirs. We licked the soy sauce from the sachet while waiting. One of us had to get a bowl and eat half of it from there, but we took turns and oh - the bliss - I am salivating now - when you got the pot and there was a bit of unrehydrated MSG at the bottom. Or a pea, proving that pot noodles are good for you.

I am teaching 2 days a week at the moment, for a few more weeks, covering for someone who has broken her arm. Right now, I should be planning. But instead I am getting excited about a pot noodle. No wonder children can't read and write anymore eh?

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Today I notice that the Queen eats ryvita. That would explain her trim shape then. I was in town today and peeped into a couple of clothes shops, as I had a spare half hour and am working as a teacher a bit more this term and don't have much of a work wardrobe for this time of year. The shops are a riot of color, pattern and I like that. However, what is going on with this smock/tunic shape thing that will not go away? The only people who benefit are the pregnant, who get to buy clothes designed for all, rather than the few offerings in the corner. I left totally bemused and feeling very old. So old, in fact, that I looked inside BHS, but found the same thing going on in there. As the Queen and I both eat ryvita, we do not want to hide our svelte figures inside tunics that cover all sins, lumps and bumps. I notice that HRH and I are in a minority.

I also remembered today why I do not go into town on a Saturday. I can not cope with the seething river of humanity that exists there. I entered town through the East Streeet shopping centre, which is never a place that can be accused of being busy. In fact, there were only 2 shops open, the mirror shop and the half price jeweller. A few years ago (4, precisely) we were in the same centre and it did have some life - I remember H went on a ride on car thing and there were other children running around. It is a sad shell of a shopping centre now, and reminded me of being in Bosnia. Someone has bravely posted a sign on the door which goes something like this:

No Eating
No Swearing
No Skateboarding
N0 Cycling
No Shouting
No Walking
No Breathing

and it seems to have been observed. Being in town reminded me a lot of being in Bosnia, I was down the poor end of town, where charity shops and those shops that sell everything you could imagine for the home fight for air with Cash converters and Pound land. Lots of people around me were speaking languages other than English. I was struck by how Southampton is a multi cultural city - when you live in Thornhill the most multi cultural you get is that someone's aunty lives in Lordswood.

Had a Bitternesque week this week - aerobics as usual on Tue, then a massive Bitterne rush on Friday. The girls have changed swimming lessons, so they are both on the same day, at BLC. One at 12 30, when I also go for a swim, and one at 4 00. That is a painful half hour to endure. All the mums (ok, occasionally a dad turns up on swimming duty but I don't blame them for staying away) and siblings of the swimmers (2 groups - about 20 of them) sit in a squashed and airless 'cafe' next to the pool trying to stay alive for 30 minutes. And on a Friday! What was I thinking? Am delighted to report that H is happy to get herself dressed after, so I don't have to go and stand in a hot and crowded changing room trying to get a damp and hungry child into their clothes. H is now in the deep end, and is one of the smallest in her group - there appear to be two boys who must be getting on for 17 in her group. Next week I might take A into the baby pool for the half hour, despite her having had her own lesson just a few hours previous, jut to escape the torturous Black Hole of Bitterne. Or maybe I should stick in there and keep going with the conversations, especially as one of them is a neighbour, who coincidentally - or perhaps not - I am on a team with for my latest voluntary enterprise. We are volunteers for the Credit Union, which is meeting at H's school. So once every 3 weeks I will sit and take money and write things down for exactly one hour. It hasn't started yet, we had our training this week, and I feel ready to take on allcomers. Please do turn up and invest. It is a very worthy cause, as it is all about helping people to save and to offer low interest loans, to stop the doorstep lenders with awful interest rates that so many people around here rely on.

The Queen should invest in a credit union shouldn't she?

My lettuces have been fabulous by the way. And one pumpkin coming along nicely, should be ready for Halloween. Which is what pumpkins are all about.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Today, my lucky daughter no 1 won another competition. Tickets for all of us to go to Paultons Park. Devotees will remember the bargain price gained for our last visit in July, so imagine my delight to be going again for the price of a second class stamp.

H is really good at winning things. While they were camping in Swanage, she spent £4.50 in a jewellery shop, entered a raffle and won a £30 voucher to spend there. Which she did, with vigour, as only a 6 year old with style and attitude can do in a costume jewellery store. Previously, she has won a cassette player, lunch box and colouring book that I can recall. There will be more than that, I just can't remember them all.

I have recently (in last year) won a book about villages of England, a cloth bag and a £30 voucher to spend at Saints shop. I am really looking for someone to buy it off me for £25, as I don't have any need or desire for any Saints merchandise. My most exciting win is of a bike light, which has not arrived yet. I got it for writing the star letter in Rob's cycling magazine. I sent them an email tonight reminding them to send it to me. I feel like that guy who writes Timewaster letters to people.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Just when you thought I had got too cosmopolitan I return to old turf - Bitterne. Thanks to Martin Lewis, the money saving expert, my friend A and her son, and all of the Bowen clan, enjoyed a free game of bowling at AMF Bitterne Bowl this afternoon. You too, can join the AMF club and print your voucher for a free game for up to 6 people, just roll along to the AMF website. Anyhow, I may have neglected in the past to tell you that Bitterne has its own bowling centre. I do not use it enough, I found out today that if I bowl right handed and with the kiddie bumpers up I do better than if I try any other combination. Having scored above 40, I might go along on a Monday for 'Monday night madness - unlimited bowling for a fiver!'

I bumped into the NRG aerobics instructor in the bowling alley bar. I recognised her legs. I spend a lot of time looking at them - well, an hour a week, as I try to fathom out what I am supposed to be doing with mine. Last night was the usual fun and games, with some crazy jive or line dancing or who knows what and some belly dancing moves. We are 4 now, as Donna has made it a regular part of her life. In the past I have exercised alone, like a hunting lioness, but iits quite fun going with a gaggle and all giggling together on the way home, as the endorphins hit in.

We camped for 5 nights over the weekend, which is something I could feel in my bones when we got back. We were at Greenbelt, the annual arts festival with a Christian home. It is a very 'broad' church, with all sorts of people from all kinds of denominations and none. There were about 30 000 on site, at Cheltenham race course, which is a beautiful setting. I was volunteering on the kids team, with the Infants, which meant I got to 'supervise' children, including one of my onw, and watch a clown, puppets, tropical animals, a piano trio and Fischy Music. And got in for free and got fed! We went to see Fischy music's show in the Arena, one of the bigger outdoor stages, and I was very emotional there. I already have Fischy's CDs, but I want to tell you about their music. It is for kids, and is all about self esteem, postitive message music, anti bullying, that kind of stuff. They are doing some amazing work, shame they are in Scotland. I listen to the CD while I am cleaning the kitchen.

One thing that is funny about Greenbelt is the clothes people wear. I spend my time wondering if people have 'festival wardrobes', or if they live in a parallel universe and wear their colourful costumes and rags the whole time. And how the clever people have those clever recliner chair things to sit on without being too high up and annoying others behind them. R's uncle lives nearby, so on the Friday R took the girls there and snuck them in the bath. Then on the Sunday morning we skived the communion service, as last year it was very dull, long and un child friendly. We went to Cheltenham Lido instead, so I got my fix of outdoor swimming. The difference between Mostar and Cheltenham for outdoor swimming is this: at one, you get in the pool to cool down. In the other you stay in the pool to keep warm. You can work out which is which. A got out when her lips turned blue. H insisted we stay in and she did 2 lengths, with a few breathers on the way. So, that counted as a wash. But by the time we stopped in to see a friend I used to work with on the way home on Tuesday, we were all quite smelly. She wisely kept us out in the garden for most of the time. Since getting home, I have washed everything, including all 4 sleeping bags. Hurrah. No more camping till next year.

In case you want my life in numbers, here goes:

nights under canvas this year - 9.

I will add to this statistic from time to time.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

These are a few of the young people at a barbecue and at a cafe where we went to shelter from the rain as there was a thunderstorm. It was the same cafe that we had used for shelter the week before, but that time we had got more transport and more kids home before the rain. We played the animal game, you know, when you pretend to be an animal and make your noise and them someone else's noise. Another game that was a big hit was 'In the bag' with lots of names of Bosnian footballers mixing with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. We played that with the older age group, which was all guys aged 16-23.
The water in the river was freezing, so I declined my training schedule on that day and looked after the bags. We did do another trip to the pool though, where I got in another 2km swim. Now I am home and back to Bitterne fitness.
The barbecue on Friday night was particularly heavenly. There were about 25 young people there, and it felt so good with them all sitting down and mixing with each other, although some come from different sides of town. There are different school systems, fire and police services, hospitals, rubbish collections - everything is split in two. You might as well stick a wall up. Oh, someone did that before in Berlin and it didn't work! The fact that kids come from both sides to KNM is an amazing testimony to the work of the long term team and local workers to not show favour to any one group. In fact, they do a great job of serving the least and the poorest and they get counted in too. Reminded me of heaven.

On our last night we ate out at the poshest restaurant in town for our debriefing. Four of us had starters and main courses, all of which could have fed a family from one plate, for £21-22. It was on the west side, and as we didn't walk over there much I hadn't seen the grander bits of it. We walked past a graveyard, which had previously been a park. The thing that got me was that ALL the tombstones were acknowledging people who had died in 1992. Whether your life started in 1940, 1970 or 1991.

And they were all Muslim gravestones. On the Croat, west side of town. They were people who died defending the city against the Serbs in the initial battle for Mostar, when the Croats and Muslims joined together to defend their city. These Muslims were buried on the West side, and as the Croats then started fighting against the Muslims, from 1993-1995, the graves were left unmarked, as no Muslim widow would make her way across the front line to tend a grave - or had the cash to pay a mason, I guess. Apparently in 1998 a bus load of Muslims went across to tend the graves and got some kind of violent response. Things are better now, and it would be ok to go there. But how gutting and crushing to have your husband die defending his city with allies, who then turn on you when you are at your weakest and satrt firing at your house.

You can see, from my expert analysis of the war in Bosnia, that it is hard work to build a new bridge between the people groups. And that is what Novi Most (new bridge) are seeking, that is their calling, a hard and long work in a city which is dry and dusty spiritually as well as literally.
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Not sure if these will be a bit too small to actually see, but they are views of Mostar and of my team mates.
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These are some of the little children we worked with one afternoon at the Klub, that I mentioned in an earlier blogging. I have made them wear masks to protect their identities on the web.
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Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Another afternoon at the pool. Hot and dry here, so walking along the street is like walking into a hairdryer. I did a 2km swim today, and then some comedy aqua aerobics made up by Jenny, one of my team mates. We are now so competent with the language that a lady in the market managed to communicate that she had taken her baby to Sheffield for an operation once. And a man in the market, who insists we eat his figs, told us all about his special honey which wins prizes in Sarajevo and can cure a cold in 50 minutes.

This morning the club was open as usual, we do crafts and play games and clean up. Tonight is the turn of the younger ones, 11-13s, and it went ok last week, we did the story of Cain and Abel, and talked about families and how to make choices. Tonight is Jacob and Esau, again talking about families and arguments and how to make good choices. We are using the CURBS programme of materials which I use for GGG and which we have used in the past at Sunday am church for a time.

Our best session so far was on Sunday afternoon, when 10 little children came for a treat. They all live in the community on the edge of town and are mostly refugees or gypsies and looked down on by other people here. It was a great treat for these little kids, aged 3-10, as their older brothers and sisters etc come to Klub, so they were dressed in their best and were delightful. Definitely confirmed my gifting for children rather than teens! I did a godly play style story of the 4 friends and the paralysed man, using a banana box as the house and play dough people. They were so into it. They concentrated so well and I did the 4 classic wondering questions and they responded brilliantly to them too. So, as far as I know the first GP to take place in BiH was a big hit, and once again proves my theory that it works for everyone! Even the marginalized and despised smallest kids in a poor and struggling nation.... who are Muslim by tradition and have no knowledge of Jesus other than what they see lived out among them in the lives of the Christians here.

On Monday we got a trip to the beach, in Croatia, where the sea is Adriatic and the beach packed. Such fun to be in the sea, and we came back by a mountainous route which showed the incredible beauty of such a mountain filled country as Hercegovina. That is the bit of Bosnia we are in, btw. Its a bit like how people talk about England when they mean the UK, people say Bosnia when they mean Bosnia and Hercegovina.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Hi from Bosnia, I am in Mostar, in case you havent been keeping up with me lately. Today I had a fantastic afternon, on my own, at the Bazin, which is swimming pool. The air fare makes it a bit pricey for a day trip, but the pool well, put it this way, I will struggle to go back to the verruca pond of BLC. It is outdoors, and today was hot and sunny and cloudy, so not too much of a sun hazard. The main pool is 50m long, and 25 wide I guess, I did not get out my tape measure. Bliss. All around are the mountains and I worked out a new fitness routine. Interval training. Do 10 lengths, then have an interval lying in the sun, drying. The water is freezing - ok - not actual ice, but nearly, it takes 4 lengths to feel your fingers and toes again. I sat and watched the river and chatted to some girls in the pool. They are good at English. I do have some great vocabulary, such as seagull, cat, pirate, mermaid and jellyfish. In fact, my first thing I did in the Klub was pretend to be a jellyfish for a game. I guess its a good icebreaker, and I am good at breaking the ice...

I also know the words for ice cream and have been really brave at trying lots of Bosnian speciality foods, and saying the words to the very patient waiters. Tourism is a big thing here now, when I first came here (9 years ago) the only tourists were us and a bunch of KFOR soldiers from Holland. Now there are backpacks everywhere you look. Have got loads more to tell you but that will do for tonight. If I ever invite you to come here with us, come! Its like a second home for me, feel comfortable and like I belong. Having dark hair helps, someone thought I was a local yesterday...then they heard me talk.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Victoria was the subject of this week's offering from LA, and boy, does she have eating 'issues'! Better leave it at that as don't fancy a journey through the courts for saying wht I think and paying the price. How scary is that? Have you noticed how I have cunningly not mentioned anyone by surname, so that the Vikki in question can never be sure I meant her? She does read my blog, btw. All the royals do.

I noticed today that the Queen uses Andrex toilet paper (shame on her green credentials). I noticed, not because she had a bit trailing from her shoe, or because I saw her changing a roll in the palace privvy, but because she puts her stamp of approval over everything she has ever touched.

I am writing live from Claygate, and you can't come here without coming near to Scouting. My pa is a Scout Extraordinaire, having been a memeber of 1st Claygate since Baden Powell was a lad. R and H and A got the tour of the new 'Scout Centre' ( NOT hut) this morning, I was excused as did it on a previous trip. It s all terribly complicated and more twisted than an Eastenders storyline, but the developer who built 20 terraced housed ( dahling - in Claygate - how dreadful!) on the old Hut site bought the land ( green belt - don't ask how) and built the new Scout Centre as part of the deal. So, we wandered through the new development on the way to the cinema last night. Nice. We could afford a garage - I looked in the property paper last time we were up. The rental prices per month in Claygate would be mistaken for house prices in Thornhill. Anyway, where was I - ah at the cinema.

Now, one of the best features of Claygate ( along with the countryside, high house prices and friendly American and South Africans who live there) is that you can walk to the cinema. It is in Esher, which makes Claygate look like a shanty town on its edge. Apart from the cinema and Waitrose, there is almost no other useful shop in Esher. OK, theres a Boots and a stationery shop. There are over 12 restuarants, plus pubs, a stockbrokers and a Costa Coffee. And a Christian Science reading room. But mainly you would go there to buy a house, if you are extremely rich. Or you would go there to go to the cinema. You need to be rich to do this too, as the 2 tickets came to £16. We had dinner out before hand as well, ( this was all part of our late anninversary celebrations), thus wiping out with one Italian meal the deposit for the garage.

In the olden days, when you could go to the cinema in Esher for £1.10 - my first film just with friends was ET - there were 2 screens. A massive one with velvet padding on the walls, and an upstairs one, which was squashed but ok. The big screen had a balcony too. Now, the Odeon have tried to turn it into a multiscreen, with the result that we sat in someones lounge to watch the film. The choices were Transformers, Simpsons or Evan Almighty. Now, Transformers obv no no for me, did toy with the Simpsons as had read good reviews but decided I coudn't bear a hour and a half of cartoons. so that left Evan Almighty. Now, there were lots of things I liked about Bruce Almighty, and although this was a sentimental, moralistic God bless America film, the main thing to like was still there. Morgan Freeman as God. Perfect. The intimacy of relationship with God that Evan ends up with seems to me to be worthwhile aiming for, if not building an ark as you go. The way he raises his eyebrows and smiles in a 'I love you and you make me laugh but in a nice way' - yep. And especially the full white outfit, reminding me of the new dad in the maternity ward when H was born, who had not yet learnt to wear beige, or mustard, at all times with a new born.

Have bagged another NT while up here - Polesden Lacey. Worthy of further explorations, on the North Downs, an incredibly steep valley side for Surrey, feels more like Switzerland. Very nice, well done NT. Also did Claremont again, but in the rain, and I spent the whole time the others were walking around the lake on my phone to my stockbroker. Doesn't count as we have done it before. Need to get some more NTs bagged before our membership runs out in November. Poor R.

Monday, 30 July 2007

We had a celebratory game of Scrabble today as it was our 13th wedding anniversary. I got 'vex' and 'ken', and got 13 points on my last tile, which was a blank, by making zone into zoned. That made it a draw on 252 points each. How good is that?

I heard on the radio (Classic fm - I could only switch it on to CD or radio and so it was that or a lady singing about apple pie) that you could try out a music download thing with 50 free tracks via their website. Now, this was opportune, as R had bought me some memory for my phone and some ear plugs so I can listen to music etc on my phone. The only thing was, I thought it would be a pre selected 50 tracks of classic easy listening. BUT NO! I, a non music person, was faced with the entire back collection of someone with a garage full of LPs, not unlike my father in law. Where to begin? The Frog Chorus? Frankie Goes to Hollywood? Made a few pathetic choices and then found a '20 best ever composers' album and grabbed the lot. Then found some 'Gregorian Chant Chill' and bunged that on. If anyone finds my phone on my dead body they will have an amusing time listening to the bizzarre selection, and will struggle to work me out from the tunes. It is all a mystery to me, this IT music scene. I only go into a record shop once a year to buy a voucher for my nephew, and now he is too old for birthday presents I will not need to go anymore. This online music world is like a branch of HMV but horribly big and without any staff. OK, the staff there may be less than helpful but at least they are there, appearing human in the face of such a lot of plastic. I still don't understand how you get music out of an instrument and onto a CD, let alone onto a bit inside my phone. Lou said she was in town today and came across a boy of appox 10 years old playing the bagpipes. Keep music live!

On Friday it was our pilgrimage to Bournemouth to see the fireworks. It is our 3rd year, and the last 2 have involved sitting watching the sun set, playing on the beach, eating ice creams and the adventure of being up late. The beach has always been packed with families, and people having barbecues and a 'family' atmosphere. This year it was raining. The lady behind me was on her phone and described it as 'fine drizzle'. Only the English can have so many words for rain. In a cunning plan to avoid a long rainy walk to the car, R parked in the centre of town, so we had to walk through a throng of drunken youths to get to the beach. H watched a police officer arresting a boy, probably her first experience of up close policing, judging by all the questions after. I told her he was probably a robber, as they are the worst kind of criminals in her world so far. The fireworks were great as usual, and the whole thing of being wrapped up in rugs is what its all about, so the umbrellas and waterproofs added to the experience. I asked the girls if it had been worth it. They said yes. I told R it was worth it, that they will remember forever their adventures. He said he knew. Aah.

H and I had lengthy conversations about the names of the many hotels we passed. The Royal Bath Hotel, was, according to H, where the Queen went for her bath, and also the postmen and women (who work for the Royal Mail). My favourite was when she pointed out the 'Groovy Hotel' which I thought sounded cool compared to the Grosvenor and the Highview and other dull sounding places to stay. I thought maybe someone had done a bit of a Trinny and Susannah on the hotels of Bournemouth, with a bit of lime green paint and a Feng Shuied garden. Sadly not. It was the Grove Hotel.

Earlier on that very same day we had already travelled west as far as Ringwood, for the first of 3 toddler group coach trips, funded in part by the Cooperative Community Dividend, so thanks if you agreed to donate the pence left over when you get your vouchers. We went to Moors Valley, and the girls had a brilliant day in the company of some good school mum friends and families who we hung out with. The sun shone, or at least the drizzle didn't driz. The first time A went to Moors Valley she was 7 days old, and R carried her around in his arms. We have been back since, but that cold Autumn day, when there was pretty much only us there, and this little pink bundle in a snow suit (like Maggie in the Simpsons), is a good memory to have of the place.

Yesterday we went blackberry picking in our local woods. The blackberries are ripe and ready to go, although I told the Whitmores and they went today, so by now the bushes will be stripped bare. We had a really fun time up there, and took a friend and her daughter who are a bit more used to pavements than I am, and they loved it too. I am such a fan of free food, there were fungi growing (I found 3 different varieties in about a square metre). If I was a Whitmore, I would have swiped them and taken them home to make into a souffle. But I am not, so we just filled our take away plastics with blackberries and went home feeling proud of ourselves.

The best things in life are free. Especially when they taste good too.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

A and I went to Eastleigh today. It rained incredibly well, or badly, depending on whether you like the rain or not. Then, as we were about to leave, the sun shone. So we recolonized the damp and puddly play park as first comers, like bacterial life forms on a volcano that has erupted, paving the way for higher order plants. They came, so by the time we left there were 4 youths on the swings and some Eastleigh mums and prams, eating chips and wearing shorts. Frankly, shorts don't look good on Eastleigh chip eating mums in the sun. Good thing it wasn't 20 minutes earlier, or it would have been all that in the rain.

Eastleigh has a market, selling garden ornaments and other assorted tat, 2 days a week, Thursdays and Saturdays, since you ask. Our passage to Eastleigh was made possible by the lovely Rodgers, who have lent us their car. I don't feel bad about using it in my car ban time because calling it a car is an exaggeration, more of a scooter with a roof. It is a Fiat. Seicento, or Cinquetento? Whatever, it is a good thing the Rodgers are all slim built, because if you have thighs above a size 8 they spill off the sides of the seats and would interfere with using the gear stick. Two in the front seats of ample size and you wouldn't even get the handbrake off. Anyhow, it is great fun to drive, especially if you are used to the controls of a bus, as I am. And because it is so small the feeling of speed is ridiculous - I was hitting 20 and felt like I was out of control! H clearly did too, as she asked 'Do you know how to stop this mum? Or steer?' That was on our earlier excursion to Bitterne - I know, I know - the girls wanted to cycle as well but I am not in the mood today. H did a couple of lengths and spent ages going down the flume. I have attained that eutopian parent and child swimming experience. In the time it takes for her to queue up for the slide, I have done 2 lengths, so am always in just the right place when she shooots out the end, waiting for her, like it is all I have been doing. As we are Platinum members and the girls are under 7, we can go swimming for free as much as we like. And we will.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

David Beckham has not found himself the subject of my blog till now. I got home from the Jolly Sailor tonight (incidentally, at the bar, I heard people talking about meeting at the pontoon and the skipper, and they were chirpy, hence the name of the pub I assume), and needed to wind down after an exciting evening with some very old and dear friends. I turned on the multi channel options and found a programme about DB, and his recent move to LA. I was interested in his use of the word 'blessed' to describe how he and his wife felt to have children, and how he said that coming home to his kids, and picking them up from school were the best parts of his day. Interested that he uses such a religious language term as blessed, to describe his state as a parent. And interested that for many people who have nothing, coming home with the kids from school is the bit they dread, and dropping them off in the morning is the best bit of their day. But maybe if you really pushed underneath that, they would admit that their children were a blessing to them too.

Today I took H along to a open access play scheme at our local church hall, run by a community play charity. I remember my own painful experience of going to one of those play schemes as a child in Claygate, and feeling insecure and shy and small and lonely and getting the lady across the road to ring my mum to come and pick me up. And that was in Claygate. So, maybe H could smell my fear, but she was not keen. Maybe the incident with the boy with a knife at the door on the way in should have given me some indicators, but I have to say I would not have left my dog there unattended, even if it were a Bloodhound, let alone my child. The staff were nice and there were enough of them, but the top age kids of 11 seemed to be stretched upwards and there were too many 'big boys' being bling boys for me to feel comfortable, let alone H. We did a quiz on road safety and played table football, then left. Went to the library on the way home and started a holiday reading activity, where you get stickers for every book you read. Came home and stormed through 2, one on horses and one on a Topsy Turvey Family. I learnt a lot of new vocabulary about horse parts, and thought the Topsy Turveys were a good bunch.

Yesterday was a serious fitness and triathlon training day for the Bowens. I cycled to work and back, and in between went to the Quays for a family swim. Then in the evening went to NRG. Different instructor as Sarah is in Spain. I found out tonight that Sarah has been teaching aerobics at Bitterne for at least 20 years. That is dedication to Bitterne that deserves a medal, or freedom of the precinct or something. I stopped at Home Plus on the way home to buy some paper plates, as another aspect of yesterdays action packed day was our Girls God Gang party, complete with paddling pool, Cherry Bakewells and scotch eggs, as requested by the girls. R and the girls cycled to town to meet me for our swim and picnic at lunch time, and then cycled home again. H struggled with the uphill from sea level to 2000ft out of town towards home, and they walked almost all the way from Bitterne Station to the top of the hill near our road. But, will serve her well for the Ironman Triathlon I have her entered for next week!

On Monday I cycled to work, then to Weston, then home, most of that in the rain. And some of that was through Sholing. Didn't try anything cocky. Jut straight up Butts Road, no messing. On the way across the Itchen bridge there are lots of Samaritans plaques, as it is quite a suicide hotspot. I imagine most of those are cyclists on a whim deciding it is easier and less painful to jump than to keep your legs going until you get to the freewheeling bit on the other side. Weirdly, I freewheelingly overtook a guy on the downhill bit who was still madly pedalling. Watched the Tour de France tonight. They should try the Itchen bridge, not crummy little Alps, if they want really tough inclines.

This weekend was the Claygate Flower show. The weather was not as pleasing as is usual, with some big black clouds and even bigger sploshy rain showers, but some good bits in between. My courgettes would not have looked out of place, but not trophy winners. My dad won 8 cups for his fruit, flowers and veg. The girls entered some craft and pictures and won some sweets for taking part. I took R and I, girls from across the road, and I had a go at the sack race, but not a winner. We watched Punch and Judy - Punch needs some serious support work, as he kills his wife, baby and a police officer and a crocodile. We also watched a silly man doing silly things with a snake, had our faces painted - OK, not mine, and went on some of the fair rides. Obviously the fair people know that Claygate is at the higher end of the property price spectrum, and charge house prices for a go on the Waltzer. I looked in the property paper and found a lock up garage in New Malden that we could afford. And people ask why we don't move back!

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Another trip to Bitterne for a swim tonight. It was 'adult' lane swimming, and I found a pace maker in the fast lane and worked hard to keep up with her. The fast lane at Bitterne roughly works out as equal to the medium lanes at the Quays. Although every now and again you get some joker with goggles and a nose clip doing tumble turns like we are at the Olympics. Darlings, this is Bitterne, not Barcelona. We do sedate breast stroke, heads up, not weaving around under the water with flippers on and a float. I like the fact that when all you can see is someone's head, it is very levelling.

I noticed 2 girls in the medium lane who both had short fringes ('bangs' for my American readers). I wondered if this is fashionable, or whether they are sisters with a snip happy mother. Or maybe it was one of those things like with a chair leg, where you keep sawing until you have none left but at least its level.

We had a barbecue at our house tonight, as a kind of housegroup with all the kids. Lots of friends who live nearby came too, and we brought and shared food, which worked out amazingly well. Plenty of wine and meat, enough of everything else for everyone to have a meal that did not consist entirely of wine and meat. I tried to add up how many people there were - I think it was over 30. Our poor little barbecue! The rain started just when the last people had gone home. Perfect.

Changed in a cubical on the way out.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Sorry, forgot to tell you about H's party celebrations for being 6. Where to begin! Still getting parcels now, so not over yet. Mon eve there was a stream of adult visitors bearing gifts - Dunc, Claire and Rob G - rather like 3 Magi, but no camels. Just a bit before that, we went to Rainbows (I have been helping for a month, but, Sarah T, you will be pleased to hear I said no to continuing with it, even if that means it has to close, as part of my 'no new projects' rule). The Rainbows had a clown magician guy in, and he featured H as the star helper, dressing her up as Harry Potter, which, bless her, meant nothing to her, but she giggled lots about the glasses and cloak and waved her wand around when requested. So, that was a billy bargain bonus birthday treat!

The party was on Saturday, and we had the only day with no rain for ages before or since. So, paddling pool went up and was a big hit. Boyfriend C came, him and his harem of 11 girls. I made them make fruit kebabs and sweetie bracelets when they arrived, then paddling pool, then party games (sad that a couple of kids were sitting out - beneath them? too cool? shy? not sure!) and tea. All sat round the table and had chips and fishfingers and chicken nuggets. Then the cake - bought from Tescos, as a representation of my not having to be perfect and make home made cakes as well as do a home made party- which was 'the most beautiful cake I have ever seen mummy'. So will be purchasing every year rather than face the scathing criticism a home made cake lays you open to!
On Monday I popped up to Bitterne for a quick swim about 6pm. Oh Bitterne LC! How I missed you! Your spelling of cubicles (cubicals), the plasters in the showers, the petting couples sprinkled liberally across the pool to make the lengths that bit more diagonal. What joy is mine! The pool was full with a cross section of Bitterne's humanity. How good it is to share water with these people! People who go on buses, for example.

Yesterday my exercise involved cycling to and from work. The wind did a 180 shift during the day so I was cycling into the wind throughout. Stopped at M and S to have a drink and a bit of time out on return. Chatted to a lady from Reading for whom it was her first visit to Hedge End. She'll be back. M and S have moved their cafe downstairs, so there is an outside bit, at the back, near the bus stops that most people with cars have no idea is there. There is a non functioning but interesting looking play area there too.

Friday, 13 July 2007

The latest part of H's birthday celebrations - don't birthdays last for ever when you are 6 - was ear piercing. We went by bus to Bitterne, and walked down the noisy dual carriageway to a friend's house, who did the deed. H did not even flinch. And now has pierced ears, and is very proud of them. We walked back up the road to get the bus home. Both ways it was the same bus driver - I find that happens quite often - he had been to Millbrook and back - and both trips he only charged me and not H. Find it fascinating that he has been on a journey - but to nowhere, while I have been doing my errands in Bitterne. I was very tempted to use the car - although not 'our day' Hat was not using it - but resisted and remembered the greater reason to use public transport and thus save Planet Earth, or something. All the way back up the hill to Bitterne I explained to H how speed cameras work and what was the point of them and gave detailed explanations of how they send the images to a computer in an office, and how someone checks the numberplates and sends out letters telling the drivers off and telling them to pay some money. You know, I sometimes get in too deep with those kind of conversations, but this one did not go beyond my technical know how. I even gave an example of how the cameras measure speed with her running, and then walking, between 2 lamp posts and me counting the seconds to do the journey. Do your remember doing that ticker tape thing in Physics lessons at secondary school - think it was the same kind of thing. Sure Matthew will fill us in!

It was the school family barbecue tonight. Always makes me think of Bill Bryson's ' family butcher' comment that he wants to make when he sees that written over a butchers shop - 'How much to do mine?'. R was on bbq duties, and sweated over hundreds of burgers, his earlier experiences working in Burger King clearly worthwhile, as he flipped specials and squirted mustard - ok, maybe I am getting carried away. He got fed up when the head teacher turned up and said it was all a bit slow - to which he retorted: ' Well we could serve them raw', in a tone which I imagine only R can do. Soon after he was offered a break from duties. A was in a bit of a grump, still not totally recovered from her wipe out virus from the last couple of weeks, so it was not the evening it could have been...

But thats the beauty of blog life! take the rough with the smooth, the charred with the raw, you get the full experience here. No make up for the telly in this world. WYSIWYG is the acronym I am looking for. Life. Nits. Rain. An odd vegetable based smell in the kitchen that I can't track down.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Through winning friends and influencing people - someone should write a book on that - I was very blessed to take H to Paultons Park today, for a severely bargain price. I took along one of her friends, K. It was a blessing in many ways. First, we had promised H a trip to PP for her birthday, which is next week. It was going to cost us over £70 to get all of us and one of her friends in, so for the bargain price of £15 I got me and 2 kids in, and H was happy as she got her trip with a friend. So, financially a happy day. It was a sunny day, apart from the rain, and the rain was only for the last hour of the day. We went on loads of rides and I only said no to one that they wanted to do and which I do not have the stomach for - I was really brave and went on the teapots. Now, the weird thing was how emotional I was being there. I cried with happiness when we got in - literally - I was so glad to be there (and to be there for so little cash), and to be doing something special for H for her birthday which she had chosen. On the way there we prayed, and one of H's wishes (her word for prayer - hey its close!) was for there to be lots of pretty flowers. And there were! How good is that? There were also lots of people eating chips, and we joined in and stopped at a big multinational fast food outlet for 'Happy Meals' on the way home. Sorry everyone. But you are only 6 once, and what better way to encourage your children to fight against capitalism and for the environment than by feeding them McCrap once a year?

Last night we went to Bingo. Emma initiated this trip and there were 7 of us, with me and Em the most proficient and competent players, having been once before. It was very funny to hear myself explaining something that frankly is a mystery even now. We had 2 wins between 7 of us, with Libby's walking under ladders and stroking black cats working, as she got the biggest of those, and nearly another win but she was a bit tentative with shouting 'Housey Housey'. The Bingo was in Woolston, where I also had my hair cut and wandered around Woolworths earlier in the day. I also visited a beautician earlier in the day, in Thornhill. She shared my passion for Bitterne! In her words: 'It's got everything you need.' And she came from Northam, so no allegiance.

My recommendations for a good life: always opt for Gala bingo. And go to Paulton's Park for a fun day out. It comes highly recommended, better than Adventure Wonderland ( but more expensive, and you can use Tesco points to get in to AW). Damn me! I jut confessed to having some Tesco points, which means that I must have accidentally shopped in Tescos at some point this year. That and McDonalds, will have to not eat for a few weeks to make up for those consumer choices.

I did make a environmentally conscious choice and ordered a box of vegetables from Sunnyfield Farm. She asked me on the phone if I wanted to know what was in it, and I said no, let it be a surprise. They obviously have a policy for idiots like me, hence the enormous cabbage, enormous marrow and enormous bag of spinach. Feel like James and the Giant Peach, but in a dreadful vegetable nightmare version. Have found a recipe to make the marrow edible, and to use the cabbage leaves creatively, but think bubble and squeak will be featuring this week on the menu Chez Bowen.

So, Bingo, bargain day out and vegetables. If you googled those 3 do you think my blog would be the first choice? I am blessed with all 3 of those experiences.