Friday, 30 March 2007

Watched 2 Audrey Tatou films this week, courtesy of LOVEFILM, with whom we are enjoying a 3 month trial, thanks to EH for the voucher..

First we watched Amelie, which went straight in as one of my top ten, although even I got a bit fed up with the ending. So fun and full of life and I love her wanting to touch things, loving smells and touches and I identified with that. It was also very funny, which is not a word which would come into any review of the other film we watched, A Very Long Film. Engagement. It was beautiful, sad and I cried, and am only sorry that I am about 5 years behind everyone else in seeing these films. It was a good thing it was on DVD so we could pause while I tried to get my head around who was who, and who was pretending to be who. It was worse than a James Bond film for that. At least in JB they put an arrow on the screen with a 'baddie' label, for the US of A market, but helpful to us slower Brits too. The French have none of that pandering to us slowcoaches and it was kind of them to do subtitles, I would have really struggled without them.

Beloved Bitterne today, for yoga in my toga (see entry 27 Feb ha ha ha!) while Rob at gym. We then had a jaunt to Sainsbury's for some supplies, before cycling home together. That hill is no problem now, and I remember having to walk up it so am pleased with my upward progress. All well in the precinct. Also went to Woolston today, for A to have a haircut, and bumped into Lorna, neighbour from across the road, so we had chips for lunch together. The last time I ate lunch with her was in a chip shop in London in the rain, so maybe we should write a book called 'Great Wet Fish and Chip Lunches'. Cycled to and from Woolston with A on the back, only took 20 mins to get home, in the rain. Am thinking of entering a triathlon. But I never like to do things by half, so maybe a hexathlon would be better for me? Or a decathlon, if I could work on my Daley Thompson persona... where is he now? Does he still have a moustache?

With mixed feelings I completed the term's contract I had teaching 2 days a week in year 3. The children are wonderful, the school is great, the team is one of the best I have been in, they were lovely to me and gave me flowers and then a present and I felt very appreciated by them all. But, all things considered, my time with A at home will never come back, and there are always Year 3 children in this world, so now to turn my hand back to a bit more 'Amy days', before those days are gone. We had a lovely day on Thursday, which involved cycling to Hedge End twice. I should enter the Tour de France, 'avec une enfant', a special class for me and other crazy mothers.

Rob had an exciting night on Thursday. While I was at housegroup, he heard people in our back garden, opened the door to tell them to 'move along please' and one of them asked to come through the house, which he did. Then a policeman entered through the front door, one through the back and they arrested this 'yoof' for public order offences, in our kitchen, near the sink. The offences were not commited there, just the arrest. H was awake and heard people shouting etc, and told me this morning that: 'the police did not ring the doorbell, and they should, because everyone else does and we have a sign (which she put up) which says 'bell', so people know what to do'. The police officers did not speak to, or acknowledge Rob, in the whole of this event.

It's like being in The Bill. I DO NOT MAKE THIS UP.

H told me this morning also of her revised career plans (she used to want to drive people home from hospital after they had got better), and the career ahead of her is ' running the parties and the swimming at Bitterne Leisure Centre'. Aim high, that's what I say.

All that interaction with H was pretty good going as we only got up at 8.18am, and got to school by 9am. She also told me that they were thinking about 'sources of light' in her class, and she suggested Jesus as one. Amen to that! Not sure if the context was Science or RE, but think her teacher who is a Christian, would have taken encouragement from this offering. A has been busy today sticking bits of 'faberick' on to bits of paper and calling them 'Tescos'. It is very therapeutic and worth a try, I made several and added pieces of ribbon as she suggested. At Little Roos we had our raffle, and I won a White musk shower gel set. Could have been worse. Honest, you didn't see the prizes!

On Wednesday (busy week eh?) I escorted my church work colleagues (not in the sense of being an escort from the yellow pages, just in terms of being with the three of them) to Fairthorne Manor, which is the venue for our annual church weekend away. It was a beautiful spring day, and I helpfully contributed to the meeting with the man who sorts out details for us, by a. suggesting he wear a vest and b. telling him that Lou was not spelt Loo. I think that my presence there made a dramatic difference to the outcome of the deal we were brokering, and we shall all have seconds of pudding as a result. Thankfully for the YMCA and the church universal, I shall be working in the office next week, and they only let me answer the phone if there is no one else in the building, so should not cause any more trouble.

We have not used our car since Monday, and negotiations reaching the tender stage for car sharing scheme. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed this trial and am looking forward to a more creative, less car reliant, way of living. I have slowed down, have to plan ahead and not try to get loads of errands done, and things still happen, things get done, no one has suffered and I am enjoying being outside more. I find it hard to see how my little effort to be 'greener' makes much difference, and I guess it doesn't make much difference, it makes a little fractional difference, and it is in the benefits to my and my family's life as well as in the carbon emissions that I can see the results. I have not had any comments lately, but am really keen to hear how others are being less car reliant and any good ideas for us to follow, so please post me one.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Two weekends in Dorset, and for once the words 'sublime' and 'ridiculous' fit. In between, we have had two almost wholly successful car free weeks. I used the car to take a wet and dry hoover back to a friend's home, which is only a mile or so away, but beyond even my cycling ability, esp with Amy and a box of attachments. Rob also used the car one day to get to work as he forgot to bring his cycling kit home, but he did think through many other options before resorting to the car. He also used someone else's car, which we borrowed for one of the weekends away, because that doesn't count. It has been great to walk places with A and all of us are getting faster at cycling.

I have had a successful Sainsburys online shopping experience, so will stick with them from now on. We have 1 more week of trial to run I think, to the end of March, and then will review our transport needs.

Weekends! Dorset - a county of two halves. First weekend in a cottage in Drimpton, near Broadwindsor, which will be known to many as home of the craft centre with amazing selection of comedy ties. This was a ladies weekend, with some walking on cliff tops, sitting on the beach, and much drinking wine and eating. Best to do it all in that order to avoid fatalities.

The second weekend was at Haven Rockley Park in Poole. It was my second Haven, and after great time at Littlesea it had a lot to live up to. The girls and the kids of the other 2 families we went with had lots of fun, usual winning combination of playpark, swimming pool, soft play area, sleeping in a caravan, Rory show and games including family bingo, mixed up with fizzy drinks, crisps and chocolate. I just found it a bit more lager fuelled than Littlesea, and if you were going to ask my opinion on which one to go to, I would probably say to head for Center Parcs. No! We might try Butlins next year though...

Probably I was annoyed that I did not win on the bingo. Especially as I went to proper Bingo a few weeks back and didn't win then either. Clearly my neptune and venus are not lining up in Sagitarius and Capricorn, and a lunar landing is imminent, but not a Bingo win. This Friday is our grand raffle at toddler group, so hope all my luck is holding out for that event.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

I have been studying the names of companies on vans. There is one I see called 'Tubular mechanics' of Eastleigh. It makes me think of sausage dog men doing things to your car. But really, I am not sure if I would know if I needed a tubular mechanic. What tubes do they deal with? How would I know that it was so bad I needed a specialist and not a standard mechanic? I have come to the conclusion that these signs and associated info given on the van are not designed for people like me, but for people who do know about tubes and their associated troubles. But how many of them are there, and do they honestly drive along in their cars (or signed vans) and suddenly notice the Tubular mechanic in front of them, and jot down their number on a handy post it? I was next to a 'Piling' van on Monday at the traffic lights. I have no idea if I need piling either, but I noticed that another Piling van drove past and they exchanged beeps. So, I know now that the point of all that writing on vans is purely so that the drivers know who each other are to toot at their colleagues.

If you were thinking of sending HRH a parcel, she uses DHL, according to my reading the sign on their van. Seems a bit churlish of her to not use the ROYAL Mail, as it bears her name, and bothers to put her face on all the stamps. Still, she probably can't bear all that queuing at Christmas to get parcels that the postman didn't deliver. I find the trip to Northam a lot easier than the ones to Millbrook or Eastleigh for other couriers, but up in London things might be a little different.

Tonight we watched Marie Antoinette, a watchable film with good mixture of music and a likeable central character, I thought. Still, you watch it and tell me what you think.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

H and A enjoy setting up a cafe breakfast for us at the weekends, which is an aspect of parenthood I intend to exploit fully for my own extra time asleep. A is usually the waitress, and bawls 'do you want shreddies or coco pops?' up the stairs till you answer, weakly, that you would love coco pops and a drink of squash, as no hot drinks are served.

This morning I got up after the cafe had shut, but found a sign on the table which read:

No brping or coffing in the cafay
Quite right too. We need to attract the right clientele. This is no greasy spoon, and I am pleased to see that expelling any air through the mouth in a violent manner is frowned upon.
I have travelled by train this week, as my faithful readers will know. Yesterday I went to Porstmouth, from Hedge End. It takes 30 minutes from there, but an hour and 20 minutes from Southampton. Hedge End station is an easy bike ride, just up the road from my school. I also cycled to yoga on Friday, but that is nothing to do with trains.
Portsmouth has a shopping centre near the station called Gunwharf Quays. And very nice it is. It is what Southampton were trying to do with Ocean Village, which failed miserably. I like Porstmouth. Mind you, the sun was shining and I was attending an event at the Grammar School, a ancient building in the old town. I walked through Gunwharf Quays on my way back, and was struck by how many cafes, bars and restaurants there were. I estimate that there is one 'eaterie' per person who lives in the City of Portsmouth. Which would suggest that all the people who work in them are from elsewhere, and that they are not a sociable lot.
We are doing one of those free DVD trial fortnights, and last night watched the Barak or Balat or whatever his name from Kazahkstan who goes to USA to find out how to improve life in Kazahkstan, or wherever it is he lives. It is an extremely uncomfortable, frightening and hilarious film. Three of my good friends all expressed surprise yesterday that I intended to watch it. But I am glad I did. There were some genuinely beautiful, good hearted people in it, and some scarily stereotypical Americans with guns and/or a superiority complex (esp. found the male students attitude to women scary).
Not often you get a film review from me, but the next fortnight they will come thick and fast as we milk Amazon DVD for all we can.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Marmalade - come on! I am looking forward to a pot of Crandon's Peculiar, having nearly consumed all of the Bramhall vintage. I notice with my eagle eager eyes that Queenie uses Electrolux vacuuming machine to do her carpets and upholstery.

I have just come home from a Prom. I do not often go to proms, but R is a Year 11 tutor, and the option only comes around once every 5 years. The girls looked stunning, and it was the usual lad thing of a few of them looking grown up and a bit wild and gangster like, and the rest looking like they were dressing up in their dad's clothes for a joke. Bless em! I was quite emotional when I got there, all the mums and dads were there taking photos of them arriving, and I couldn't help thinking how fleeting this time is and it will soon be H and A getting out of the limos (or space shuttles if we all move to Mars to get away from CO2). R was taking photos of all his tutees to (his words) 'pin on a dart board'. And then they gave him a present, which was a dart board with a photo of them on! How touching!

A and I hung out today and went to the park and she did some great moves on her scooter on the skateboard ramps. You have to pick your times to take a 3 year old on a Barbie scooter to the skate park. During school hours works. Weekends don't. We have these great new sculpture stone bench blob things in the park, which are all bright white and begging for some graffiti embellishment. There is a cool 'muriel' up in the park of 'yoof in thornhill' which I like. Last night we went to a open evening at H's school, and I was blown away by how clever the kids are and how advanced they are with what they are learning. The head (well, acting,) is fabulous, she meets and exceeds my criteria for a good headteacher for my child, which is this: does she know the names of all the children in her school? She knows their middle names, their sisters' names and what levels they are working at in RE! Miss Maybury, I salute you!

This week we are in week 1 of our 'car free weekdays' experiment. I have failed twice - I drove to the prom tonight, and I drove to the pub last night. On both nights I could have organised better to get lifts, but during daylight hours we have not used the car. R cycled to work 4 days and is getting a lift tomorrow, I cycled to work twice, and to Parkway station and at the other end through Woking to meet with my spiritual director (or life coach as Ange calls her). Then back to get A from nursery, then to the scrapstore which was shut. That is up hill and with Amy on the back... she needs to get better on her bike soon as I don't think I can do it much longer... anyone want a baby seat? Cycled to and from Hedge End for swimming tonight. Thinking of training H for triathlon, as already she does a cycle swim cycle sandwich on Thursday nights, so just need to introduce some running.

Why am I confessing all this to you? I read an article about a family who sold their car and did without, and it got me thinking - something we have come to see as a necessity is actually a luxury and we may be able to do without - or with some access to a car, and that would be a good thing for the environment and for us, long term. So, rather than jump in and do it NOW which is my preference, we are going for R's option of a trial. We had our groceries delivered by Tesco, which probably outweighs any benefits to the environment of not using a car. Any feedback from anyone who had tried living more simply greatfully (sic) ( sorry, could not resist) received.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

This is the window cleaner, called John, at the cafe outside the station in Manchester. I asked if it was OK to take his picture, and he answered:'You're not from the social are you?' which I thought was worth recording as an example of the clever wit of the northern male.

Sorry, I just don't seem to have the knack with this machine tonight. I was thinking about my shallow opinion of the man in the same cafe with the head injury, who I suggested 'did not look like he owned the world.' On balance, the man on the train from Zambia did not look like that either. I do not know what that would look like. I wonder if people look at me and think I look like I own the world? Or you?

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Roman day went well on my birthday, thanks K and D for the offers of costumes. I wore a tunic and toga ( 2 sheets really) that I found in the costume box at school. It was fun to wear something funny on your birthday. I used my birthday badges to tie the garb up, instead of a 'fibula' as I do not own one.

I notice that the Queen eats Ryvita. On Wednesday I went to London and spied on her from the London Eye. It was a good but long day out, we did lots of walking. I got the train up with Lorna, from across the road, as a joint birthday treat for us we had a child free day seeing the sights. We walked to Sloane Square, Harrods, then did Covent Garden, Chinatown, Regent Street and Oxford Street up to Marble Arch, then did some more walking down by the river. We met some interesting people. We had chips for lunch (£1.10 for a big portion) in Pimlico, and the people in there were witty and friendly. Then there was the man in the bar, who was into model aeroplanes and had been stocking up at Hamley's. He asked us to look after his bag while he wandered off ( I assume to the bathroom). I had already seen that his bag was full of model aeroplanes so was quietly confident there were no bombs around. On the train home ( late - got in at 11.30pm) there was a fascinating gentleman who sat and chatted about his life in Zambia, his family who seem to own most of Zambia, bits of Surrey and some of Scotland, his children who are learning to play polo... you know, we had a lot in common. Mostly that we were both wondering about making decisions about work and how that would affect our children. He was deliberating on whether to send them to boarding school, I was wondering about commiting longer term to working as a teacher. I made a decision and feel very peaceful about it, having mulled it all over for a while, I feel confident that I am making a wise decision for the right reasons. I told my train man that I would ask God to show him the right path to take, so that is my prayer.

Several of you have commented that you have not featured lately in my blog, so I am here to write (sic) that wrong. Lib, thanks for the home made bag. It was one of my best presents. No one bought me Extreme Boggle. Maybe next year. Rachel, Vicky, Nicky, Rachel, ( hey - a poem) Dunc, Em, Claire, Ange, Paul, Lou, Chris, Rob, Hat... who have I forgotten? Thank you to all those people who came to my birthday drink. Even better was Kelly who sent the biggest bunch of flowers I have ever received to say sorry for getting the day wrong and not coming!

We went out for a most excellent Chinese meal in Shirley with Kelly and Alan a couple of weeks ago. It was a eat as much as you want to thing, at the Little Budha. It was an inspired choice of restaurant and fabulous company. (There you go, Kelly, can I have my £10 now?)

I was in Shirley again this Friday to have a filling. My dentist is an NHS one and is taking on new patients if you are interested. It is called ADP and is in Anglesea Road. £42 for a check up and a filling sounded like a bargain to me, compared to the price Rob pays to see his private dentist, which costs £50 just to get in the door. I didn't expect to feel dizzy and weary after a filling, I spent most of yesterday and today asleep. I did get a chance to pop into Shirley library, which is a huge and exciting bookfest for all those of you who love the library. Maybe it was being in there which made me feel tired. All this gadding about in Shirley has left me bereft of my Bitterne time. So, the reason I started this blog, to keep the wider world informed of Bitterne life, has got lost along the way.

I had another first tonight, as I went to the Bingo, in Lordshill. It was very stressful and I did not win. I do have a membership card, though, which makes me feel special, and you can take your own food and drink without feeling like you were going to be thrown out for not buying their cuisine. I was suprised how big the club was, and there were lots of men, I thought it would be all women. Some of the men were young, and so were some of the women. You have to be 18. No one asked me for ID.

As well as Shirley and Lordshill I have been overseas. Last week we were in the Isle of Wight. And, in the words of Forrest Gump: ' that's all I have to say about that.'

Before that I was in Manchester, and that was exciting. We went on a real aeroplane, and then a train and a tram, so a good travel experience. We visited the Lowry Centre. The artwork of Mr Lowry is all over the place, and there was a film about him. He comes across as a genius, but very troubled by a bad relationship with his mother, who he was desperate to please. She did not approve of anything he did, the way he saw it. I wonder if there is a mix of genius and need for approval that causes some people to be excellent at what they do - maybe many more of us are geniuses, but don't have that drive to be approved of... hey! I am not a pschologist or therapist, but Lowry seemed to do that for himself in his art.

More lighthearted and accessible were the football themed pieces of art work, some were clever, some were funny, some were serious and sad. If you are in Manchester it is worth going to this cultural quarter. We had a great fried breakfast in a cafe outside Piccadilly station, where I took a photo of a window cleaner and had a conversation with an old guy who used to be a footballer but had a head injury. He did not look like he owned much, certainly not another country, so maybe he and the guy on the train could get together and redistribute wealth. Maybe I could make it my work to get improbable groups of people talking to each other? I don't know that either of them were happy... I am reminded of the verse: 'It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are for.'