Monday, 29 December 2008

In our house we have 2 types of magazine, neither of which I understand but both of which I read, in an attempt to more fully understand my husband and his hobbies. I think I have mentioned before the struggles I have with vocabulary, and thought you might find it fun to imagine me wading through the following:

Beware: Shimano clones will often have 7/32 in balls on the freehub side and 1/4 in on the left rear. New Campag hubs use plastic bearing retainers with 5/32 in balls front and rear, with sealed cartridges in a freehub that usually lasts a while.

All sounds painful and if I see a Shimano clone walking along the street I will understand why he is limping.

In Force 3-4 you need to start depowering the main sail and dumping mainsheet to get through gusts upwind, while in Force 4 the BM is likely to become hard work on a beat, needing grunt combined with good technique to prevent the flat bow from slamming into inevitable wind blown chop.

What??? Did I say that R subscribes to 'bottom burpers gazette'? What the heck in an inevitable wind blown chop? A bad day in Autumn for the butcher? And why do you need to grunt? I am supposedly taking up sailing in May (waiting for good weather) and I am going to need to perfect a lot of wind techniques before then if I have any hope. I have learnt what a gaff is, proud to say.

Today I went swimming wearing my new goggles and new swwim hat ( not just that, btw!) and someone motioned to let me overtake them at the end. Ha! Appearances are so deceiving. I could barely breathe, as I have been taking the opportunity of goggles to try out front crawl, which I last did in about 1984. Its fun, but so tiring, I am alternating with back stroke and breast stroke but hope to increase to consecutive crawl. Maybe I should buy 'Swimmers monthly' and provide R with lots of vocabulary to trawl through for love. Damn it, he used to go to swimming club when a teenager so would know it all. He is so knowledgeable about sport, and taking up new ones does not erase his knowledge or skill at old ones. Since I have known him he has done tennis, squash, cricket, sailing, golf, cycling, swimming and running half marathons. I have once beaten him at pool. And 2 nights ago I won at scrabble, a resounding victory with at least 20 points lead! I got quay, right near the end, on a triple word score, with a points value of 50. Also proud of flask and shrieked. Now, a Scrabble magazine would really push up the vocabulary...

Friday, 26 December 2008

While most of you were googling your Christmas shopping, we were goggling. R bought me a pair of goggles after I borrowed his and exclaimed: 'I can see!' I had to take them back and swap them for some which fitted over my big nose and round my big hair. Took the opportunity to invest in a swimming hat while in the shop. Again, chose a big hair option.

Meanwhile, I had asked my mum and dad to buy the girls swimming goggles, Speedo ones as the Zoggs ones break very easily. Mum bought Zoggs first by mistake, then Speedos - are you keeping count? Thats 5 pairs of goggles. Its like the 12 days of Christmas isn't it. And finally, Santa looked in his crystal ball while feng shui ing his grotto and strectching out with a little Tai Chi and bought the girls skiing goggles from Austria. How spooky is that? 7 pairs of goggles! Well! 7 is a lucky number!

I am being drawn to the church of england again, while on a walk on Christmas morning (to avoid whingeing children and stressed pre Beef wellington husband) I walked past Hedge End church as the bells were ringing, so popped in, and stayed for first half of the service. Was a bit long, as they were doing communion with all those long prayers so I left rather than face burnt croute. It was disappointingly unfull, considering that Hedge End is a big village or small town, but it does have another Anglican church, plus the church of 1000 men just by the golf centre. Bet they never have any coffee! Who would make it? I havea joke for you:

What do you call a woman priest in the Church of England?
Non stipendary. Get it? OK, not much of a joke, more a sad and dismal reflection of the role of women in the church. But anyway, she ( Sian, Hedge End's free vicar) did the kind of sermon that touches on current affairs and offends no one, although she tried damn hard with all her racist and sexist jokes. ONLY JOKING ROWAN!

We spent the rest of the day drowning in a mixture of wrapping paper and chocolate, as I imagine most of you did, dear readers. Managed to wade to the door for a walk, but all our 3 children (thats plus the sweetie pie Angus) opted for the short walk to the park with Uncle Andy, and so we strode off to Telegraph woods at adults pace, and managed a rendevous with the housegroup party who were slower in gait as shorter in average leg length. Thats despite them having Paul on their team, who has very long legs and wears shorts a lot because they are actually trousers for normal people. Once he wore normal shorts - ask Duncan about the results!

Anyway. Today, I walked to the gym in the beautiful sunshine and then after joining a frenetic team of obsessives on the CV equipment ( I did 2000m row in 10.00.8) I did lots of weights and then met family B for a goggle trial swim. We had the pool to ourselves for most of the time. Which was great, as we were pinging googles all over the show and someone could have lost an eye.

H was given a 'make up your own business' kit, so she has invented 'the Baking sisters' - A got a recipe book of cup cakes and muffins. So, if you get a order form through the post, please order a dozen of something. She might have an on line facility, knowing her she could write a website in less time than it takes me to find one.

Did I tell you about my day at the De Vere for my spa day that I was given as a gift for leaving the church job? No? Well, it was lovely, thanks for asking, and I am planning to go back soon, am going to take R for a cup of tea ( £2.95!) - not bad price for a cuppa! I travelled by bus, as I haven't for a while and thought I should check it out, and typically, on the same bus was another member of the Bus user group. Nothing eventful happened anyway. And two of us there to witness nothing happening.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Well! Am not going to compare with last year's entry after the cultural highlight of my year, but Dick Whittington the perfect outing for Keith Harris, Orville and Cuddles and a fabulous supporting cast. The only bad thing to ruin a good afternoon of cheap entertainment  (oh, subsidised by YOU taxpayer, courtesy of TPY funding  - so thank you!) was finding out for sure that after 5 years (we have been to last 4) Keith is not coming back to Fareham next Christmas. Gutted. 

H and I were in Sainsburys shopping by 7.30am, when the crowds were minimal, but by the time we left at 9.15, it was packed and I couldn't breathe - but we still found a checkout with no queue. I had a voucher for £2 off my shopping which made a very small dent in a trolley load which included fillet steak. It wasn't a trolley full of fillet steak. That would have been a costly shop!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Some cheer sent in by news quiz listeners - one of my fave Radio 4 offerings.

A selection of funny newspaper cuttings sent in by listeners.Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting had a whole salami in her knickers. When asked why, she said it was because she was missing her Italian boyfriend. (Reuters via The Manchester Evenings News) Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van, because they cannot issue a description. It's a special branch vehicle, and they don't want the public to know what it looks like. (The Guardian)After being charged £20 for a £10 overdraft, 30 year old Michael Howard of Leeds changed his name by deed poll to Yorkshire Bank PLC Are Fascist Bastards. The bank has now asked him to close his account, and Mr. Bastards has asked them to repay the 69p balance, by cheque, made out in his new name. (The Guardian) Would the congregation please note that the bowl at the back of the church labelled 'for the sick' is for monetary donations only. (Churchtown Parish Magazine) 6.10pm: Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Bennett's estranged cousin, Mr.Collins, writes to announce his imminent visit to Longbourne - the house he will inherit on Mr.Bennett's death. Mrs. Bennett rallies the residents to stop him setting up a minicab service. (Hampstead and Highgate Express)There must, for instance, be something very strange in a man who , if left a lone in a room with a tea cosy, doesn't try it on. (Glasgow Evening News) A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coastguard spokesman commented, "this sort of thing is all too common". (The Times) At the height of the gale, the harbourmaster radioed a coastguard on the spot and asked him to estimate the wind speed. He replied that he was sorry, but he didn't have a gauge. However, if it was any help, the wind had just blown his Land Rover off the cliff. (Aberdeen Evening Express) Mrs Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue, Boscombe, delighted the audience with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she recalled. "He'd always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt out Heil Hitler". (Bournemouth Evening Echo) Commenting on a complaint from a Mr.Arthur Purdey about a large gas bill, a spokesman for North West gas said "We agree it was rather high for the time of year. It's possible Mr.Purdey has been charged for the gas used up during the explosion that blew his house to pieces." (Bangkok Post)
Every December we have a anti consumerism festival at house group where we 'Wrap the crap'. That's any tat you have lying around the house that you want to get shot of. Well, we gave away the necklace and ear rings I had won in various raffles, and the gardening books I had got last year and a guide to Purbeck. In return, we got a fabulous paperweight (never had one, so pleased with that, although maybe never needed one?) and a classy pen and pencil with Meridian written on them, and a playstation 1. Now, this is where my story begins! We need a PS1 like a hole in the head, so I put it on freecycle, not expecting anyone to want it, but so I could legitimately landfill it. But no! the people of Southampton want old crap!! So, here's a rundown on why I chose the recipient I did - and why I didn't choose the ones I didn't.

Person 1 - I want it for my 3 year old. No you can't have it. Stupid.
Person 2 - I want it for my 11 year old who lives in a secure unit and has Turretts. I am not joking. No, lady, he doesn't need a Playstation, really, it would not help him one teeny bit. He needs a hug.
Person 3 - spelling dismal and absent punctuation so no.
Person 4 - I gave you 2 something already.
Person 5 - Don't know where you live and you may be driving from Millbrook to pick it up, thus negating the environmental benefits of freecycle.
Person 6 - hurrah, you live locally, can spell and don't tell me what you are going to do with it. It might be for your toddler or your still in womb child but you don't tell me so I don't know.

Phew. Lets hope number 6 turns up and I don't have to draw straws between the others...

End of term. We have had two Saturday morning ski lessons for the girls and at 9am they don't play to my strengths. H is doing well, managing a turn today, but A sinks to her knees a lot and lies on her back. She did go down pretty well when she actally could be bothered to do it. This upcoming ski week is beginning to look like a headache rather than a joyful family time, with me dragging A by her hair up and down slopes. French children make it look so easy. Everyone else at the ski school goes to France every year, so us going as beginners to Switzerland is not looking so clever. Might need to hire a nanny for the week or whatever the ski set do.

I read in the paper about a banker who had been forced to sell his plane because of the credit crunch. Maybe he would be free to nanny for us? I don't understand these things but you need a barrow of pound coins to buy a euro at the moment, so going on holiday in Europe, or in fact anywhere, is a BAD IDEA. Zimbabwe is a particularly bad place for Brits to holiday, just take the travel tips from me, I know it all.

Yesterday, we went to a party at a lovely person's flat in Townhill Park. She used to live in Thornhill and I have kept in touch, and with good cause as she bought most of Iceland (the shop, not the banking disaster) for our tea. There were about 4 other mums with assorted young children, and after cracker pulling we walked down to Broadwater road which is infamous for its lights at Christmas, and a chap who erects a Santa's grotto and gives out sweets and balloons from 6.30 til 8.00 every night til Christmas. It is completely free, sweets donated by other residents and local businesses, and such a great atmosphere. You don't even have to give to charity. Its very kitsch and beautiful in a way that only the residents of Townhill Park could achieve. Get down there.

Hoovered the car out in honour of the longest day of the year tomorrow. I like to use the solstice as a time to travel in cleanliness, so twice a year we don't have crumbs or mud in the car. We put our tree up yesterday, it looks all tinselled out, ie you can't see the tree for the tinsel. But I like it like that. I don't get people who do it themselves and don't let their kids get involved or who have a colour scheme. Just slap on everything you've got! Its great to remember where you were when you bought this or that, and we are now building up a memory bank of things the girls have made. We inherited a load of wooly Santas last year, and some ancient angels, and still have one of the little crackers we bought in Debenhams in Sheffield with my discount on our first Christmas being married (1994). So, if you have made an effort to do yours all in pink and white or something, sorry, I hope you like it. I don't. But hey, I don't have to look at it all the time, so that's cool!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Just got home from girls' Christmas play. They did really well, H was great and loud, A was an angel in the chorus and looked tired. But what REALLY annoyed me was the people behind me who talked througout and slagged off the play, the children, the school - R had to restrain me from killing them with my bare hands and making the nativity play one with a twist (of the neck). We don't need morons like you sending your kids to our school - go somewhere else where you can slag off everything to your heart's content. They moaned that we were selling raffle tickets, that was me selling (voluntarily giving up my time for the sake of their children) and the money is TO BUY THE KIDS PRESENTS FOR THE LAST DAY OF TERM PARTIES. Needless to say they didn't buy and needless to say, I will personally make sure their little toads don't get a present from Santa! Ha! 'Sorry, your mummy was too mean to buy a raffle ticket so you don't get a present'. Ha! They wouldn't learn though would they?

Anyway, what their thick skulls probably couldn't take in was the letter we recevied from Ofsted on Monday saying that once again Kanes Hill is an OUTSTANDING school, with 1s for everything except attainment against national averages (you wouldn't expect a 1 for that when you are competing with schools in posh villages). But across the board for everything else the score was 1. That is the top of the scale, not the bottom, hence the tag OUTSTANDING. So, moron women, read the letters and understand that your children go to one of the best primary schools in Southampton. I assume, dear reader, that said women don't read my blog, but if they do - ha - send your children to another school if you want to have reason to slag your kids' school off! Bah!

Phew. Sorry. Bad day. Just heard that Woolworths is shutting. And I can only assume that includes our new and awesome store in Bitterne. What a waste! When a Woolworths lover like myself hears bad news on that scale something has to give. Ate 4 squares of chocolate and a piece of H's chocolate fridge cake too. I mean, offer me the heavens - a Woolies in Bitterne, then cruelly rip it away. It's like a scene from a film.

Just finished reading 'The Shack'. I can't wait for the film to come out. Its a good read, great to hear someone with a very positive take on God, with no vested interest in upholding any institution. I recommend it to all sceptics and agnostics and septics as well. And anyone with a pulse, really, who can get past the shocking Americanisms and twee style. It's worth getting past those things for the ideas are incredible.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Today. Just a typical day. Here's my schedule ( I did have the car, which helped):

Get up.
Make breakfast, feed cat, get dressed, drink tea, all those things you do too!
Take girls to school.
Offered to help with cooking at school so hung around till told cooking not happening! Yipee!
Home to hoover throughout, change 2 beds, do 3 loads of washing and empty some bins.
Make phone calls to sort out booking girls into a club and buying wax cartridges and maybe having a French teacher to stay.
To Post Office to post overseas christmas cards. To Ang's to drop in a note.
To Romsey to have my last aromatherapy treatment at Jane Scarth House. If you know anyone who has had even the sniff of cancer, tell them to get in touch. 6 free aromatherapy sessions is a bargain in my book!
bought a flask for girls in hardware store.
To Aldi in Romsey - weekly shop and Christmas bits for £25!!!! I am using up the freezer so didn't buy much.
To Southampton Airport station to buy a ticket.
To the Lone Barn to give in menu details for R's Xmas school dinner. Lady very surly and I am sure she would spit in the gravy if she didn't like the look of you.
Home. Shuffled washing. Baked some oat crunchie biscuits.
Entertained Hattie and Amanda Rippon ( long time no see!) to tea and aforementioned biscuits.
To school office to pick up tickets for Christmas play.
Home, phone call from Louisa to say she has a new flat near thornhill. In Sholing, that no mans land between us and Woolston.
to school to get girls.
Home, lit Diva lamp. Blew out Diva lamp.
To Weston to pick up Louisa and take her to do a few bits of shopping for her flat.
To Pete's pizza in Woolston for A's long awaited birthday treat. he really is called Pete.
Home, 2 girls god gang girls on doorstep, plus 2 robs.
Did girls god gang including smelling things with blindfolds on, the flour and sweet game and telling the nativity story. ( what's a shepherd?)
Sorted out hair styling kit for Amanda who is using our facilities to freshen up!
R H and A are out swimming. Later tonight I am going to La Margerita for a 'do' with some school mums, via the YMCA to drop Amanda home.

you can see why the car was handy today! Imagine me doing all of that on my bike. Especially taking Amanda home.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Not often you get current affairs here, but I am driven to write about the sad plight of Shannon Matthews, her whole sad family and the 'dimwit' (police term, not mine) accomplice in the crime. Now clearly they are all 'dimwits' for thinking they could outwit the police. I watched the Channel 4 documentary which followed her 'mum' and her 'boyfriend' through the 'hunt' and was shocked at her squallid and impoverished existence. I mean, I know things are bad up north, but her house was poky and horrid, she was clearly a troubled woman with a broken past and had herself been subject to abuse as a child. She had no relationship with her mother, and troubled relationships with other family members. She was bitter and had endless children with a series of no hoper blokes (my words, not police term that). AND she admitted to watching the Jeremy Kyle show. See! I knew that show had an audience, and now we know who it was.

And she looks a lot older than me, doesn't she? Which is a good advert for only having one husband and two children, and for all the Avon beauty products I buy from my now only one Avon lady. Phew. It was awful when I had two of them. I had pots of cream stacked up all over the bedroom. Now can say 'Nothing from this book thankyou' without feeling bad.

Writing the Christmas cards tonight. Not doing as many as usual, so sorry if you dropped off the list this year. I would blame the economy, but frankly I can't be bothered. I have 40 lovely cards that the girls had published through school, plus 10 I bought from a lady selling them for children in Burma. So, once I get to 50, including milkman and window cleaner, thats it. So if your name begins with a letter past P, you are probably not getting one this year. In fact, I normally make mince pies for people, but the only people getting any are the lovely Jones's who have invited us to spend a week in Lapland with them over Christmas. That's the real Lapland, not the pretend one in the New Forest that looked crap and was! I am gutted on behalf of my friends and others who had bought tickets, but it looked like a lot of money for a cheap fairground to me.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Hi. Below is a verbatim extract from freecycle. I enjoy seeing what crap other people are throwing away and indeed have thrown a lot of my own junk freecycle's way. Often the standard of written English falls short of my own, but this won (sic) is unbelievable.

here i have a standed babys cot that was given to me from a friendnot two sore if this cot is conplete this cot comes with a matterose ihave not idear haw to put this cot up at all simperly getting rid ofthis has it wont salleney one can have it if thay wont to see if thay can get it up or eneyuse to eney one

Hello! Have you heard of a FULL STOP? Where do I begin to mark that? If a child in my class of 7 YEAR OLDS wrote like that I would throw in the towel. Which school did this person attend, if any? And can I personally arrest the head? Maybe (dear God I am praying this is true) this person grew up speaking another language, so learnt English verbally, as a second language, but surely they could find a friend to run it past before posting to 11 000 people?

I have been using the powerplate at the gym, which makes you vibrate all over. I don't know if it makes any difference to your muscles but I walk out shaking! It is to be avoided if you have tumours, as it can increase the speed of them spreading. Blimey.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

although out on a limb, we are still loosely members of Southampton Vineyard Church, so I though I should get up to date with the latest ideas. Sorry, couldn't bear to listen to the songs, sure they are great but I don't like sitting in front of computer listening. Just my preference. Anyway, 2 things:

firstly, some of the leaders other than Matt need to get their 'thoughts' up on the web page, please! I always enjoyed reading my own most when I wrote there.

secondly, the jubilee ideas sound sound, if you know what I mean, and I am glad to see that once again my way of life is being ascribed to with a call to vegetarianism for a month!!!! Oh the irony!

Other things are that when you go to Tescos early on a Saturday morning, thinking that everyone else will still be in bed, you will be wrong, and they will all have had the same thought. Even the RETIRED people who can go to Tescos on any other day of the week - so why do they go on Saturdays? If I was retired ( which I am aiming for pretty soon - our mortgage is down under 10 years!!) I would go to Tesco on Tuesday mornings. Although I probably would not go at all and have time to go to Iceland on the bus.

Recently, in a reverse jubilee shift we have become a one car family again, as we were a half car family. (do you like my pun on reverse and shift, both terms to do with cars). We have given our car away (it was too embarrassing to try to sell it) and bought my dad's 10 year old Astra which he has had from new and has done under 50k miles. Now, after buying it, I remembered why we had bought a people carrier. It was to lug spare kids about. So now we have to calculate carefully and not take too many. Which is good for me, as I invite everyone to everything. Also remembered that when we had an Astra before I didn't like reversing it because it has a very thin back window. It still has, but I am improving - only once got the metal bars outside our house and haven't told R.

Today I took our girls and 2 more children to see Wall E at the cineworld, the £1 a ticket bargain show. It was good, in that it was warm, and dark, and as I had taken popcorn and drinks the whole thing came to £7. ( Parking was £2). Anyhow, the film was OK, not very funny, more pathetic really, and a bit of a parable for our times about the environment, but I did like the captain's realisation that he wanted something different - 'I don't want to survive - I want to live!' That encapsulates some of my feelings of recent 'post cancer' months - and the Robbie song with similar sentiments does it too. I have a new way of looking at the world and my life, and a tendency to do what I want rather than what I ought. Interestingly, after a few months of that feeling uncomfortably selfish, I now find that the things I want to do are the things that I used to ought to do! So, instead of feeling that I SHOULD invite people over, or cook a meal for someone less well off or whatever all those good Christian works are, I WANT to cook for people and invite people to do things and see people who I haven't for a while. Does that make sense? Maybe I am telling you too much, but I observe a shift in my thinking that is important, nay, seminal.

I am still on the bus user group, for Thornhill residents, but have not been on a bus for ages so feel a bit of a cheat going along. Should I go or not?

Friday, 28 November 2008

There's a job going, as a 'anti social behavour coordinator' in the New Forest. Clearly, the thugs of the New Forest need a little help getting things together. I could do that job. 'OK you guys, bash the grannies over at the bus stop while I take these guys off to smash the windows at the Chinese.' R said that looking after his tutor group would come under the category of Anti social behaviour coordinator and he was already perfectly qualified.

At school we have studied angels. The children had to write about angels, their own ideas without any input. Most involved haloes, wings, heaven, God, Jesus ('angels look after Jesus because he's the youngest' was a nice comment. But the best most bizarre one was: 'angels live in hotels and eat fruit'. Clearly, he's been watching Charlie's Angels??

On our flights from and to Salzburg, Granny Mary was distinctly unimpressed with the food offered to the girls as 'children's choice' - a cheese and chutney or chicken curry sandwich. She wrote a letter to BA, and the girls included their lists for the chef of what children do like in sandwiches. And, ta da! £100 of vouchers to spend in the duty free on the plane, or you can do it online. another pseudo win, rather like my ipod shuffle which I 'won' for recommending R to the same gym. Had a yummy mummy day today! Went to work for an hour this am, and then Pilates, an introduction to the power plate and a quick dip in the pool before a jacuzzi, steam and sauna. Fridays are turning into my spa days EVERY WEEK! So, after cycling home (up a very steep hill) I made some scones and entertained the lovely Hattie for a cuppa. She had a pot of double cream in the fridge, so along with my homemade strawberry jam, the scones went down well. Did I tell you about last week when I won a metre of chocolate fingers - next to each other sideways, not end to end) and a Horrid Henry annual? All in one day?

Sorry if you didn't win anything this week. I have to say that my winning ways do not extend to the lottery, or worse still scratchcards. I consider them evil and one of the curses of our society, an addiction that attracts the poorest people in our society. In my world, newsagents who sold them would be shut down, instantly.

I saw a sign today about parking in a private car park, it said 'Offenders will be clamped'. which implies to me that the person in the car would be clamped, as a car can surely not itself be considered an offender? Its an interesting question.

I am pleased to say that my tickets for the Keith Harris and Orville production of Dick Whittington at Ferneham Hall have been secure since June, but I have been drumming up sales amongst my thornhill friends. I am gutted to hear that it is the last time EVER that Keith is coming to Fareham. Gutted! He is a fantastic classic cult status hero of the broadcasting world, I would say on a par with Dusty Bin and Jim Bowen. It is such a good panto, don't bother going elsewhere, Fareham has it all.

It is alleged that M and S are having another 20% off day this Thursday. DON'T tell anyone, its a secret. But if you need to do some last minute Xmas shopping (mine all wrapped and have sent some off last week) now is your chance. Who can fail to be delighted with a Lily of the Valley bath set?

Oh! I was on the radio last Sunday! I don't imagine you listen to Georgina Winsor on Radio Solent (not even her mum does) but I was on after Billy Joel and before U2. They were singing, not guests in the studio like me. I was a bit worried that I might blaspheme or something but was only talking about gardening. Was tempted to burst into 'Do they know its Christmas time?' but resisted.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

A bittersweet trip to Bitterne today. We had a visit to the Dr, our old one, Dr McKay, the one who says our names really slowly when he calls you in. Anyhow, that bit was without incident. As a treat, I said the girls could choose their own tea in Sainsburys. They chose Heinz tomato soup, which we had at home anyway, so a bit of a long drawn out trip for some soup. However! We found out that Bitterne Bowl is CLOSING THIS SUNDAY. Get down there NOW for a last ever bowling experience in the heart of Bitterne. We are going tomorrow, its £6.50 for 3 games and a drink, if you get there by 6pm. There is a new bowling experience opening in March, in Eastleigh, of all places. So, this, guys, is your last ever call to use the facilities of Bitterne's AMF.

However! The new Woolies has opened, is HUGE ( well, bigger than Woolston and Portswood) and bright and has wide aisles and is generally a pleasant example of the genre. No longer will I have to go to Woolston for my fixes. I can stroke plastic kitchen ware, marvel at the chrome bathroom accessories and the pick and mix in the comfort of my own precint. Its not bigger than the WHOLE of Woolston, just bigger than the woolies in Woolston.

And, the Bitterne village traders are putting on a Lights switch on extravaganza. Its a 6pm on Friday 21st of November. I only mention it for Duncan's benefit, as DAZ AND CHAVE are doing the entertainment. I assume they are a Chas and Dave tribute band, which I think is good reason to be there, Duncan, if the myriad of other reasons to shop in Bitterne aren't already enough.

At school today we were writing surveys because tomorrow we are going to Hedge End to survey how busy the shops are and how much things cost and so on. The children came up with lists of vehicles to put on their tally chart whichwent something like this:
learner drivers
444444 cars ( thats a taxi to you or I)
mobility scooters
ice cream vans! Not many of those in Hedge End in November!

The list of people to survey included: men, women, children, people on skateboards, disabled people ( I pointed out that they, too, had gender, so should be counted as disabled men or women - and how would they know if someone was disabled? So, they changed the category to people in wheelchairs, which I think is an interesting observation on children's perceptions of disability). Then children, children in buggies, and babies. One group in the another class genuinely and without malice put 'midgets' on their list of people to survey. Their teacher had a similar, sensitive chat with them. But what an interesting piece of work to do with them and find out how they perceive difference.

I had to teach more rugby this afternoon. I hate rugby balls, and spend as little time as possible showing them what to do, and as much time as possible with them running around throwing balls at each other. I am not very good at throwing or catching anything, especially not balls which are unpredictable and don't bounce.

The girls were chuffed to be out after dark - I love it! 'Look the first star!' and tonight, 'Look, a fully grown moon!'

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Today we benefitted from a free lunch at Tesco,as their till was not working. Surely, they could have shut the cafe, or had cash only, but hey - I'm not complaining! We had spent a fortune in there, as all our electrical equipment broke this week ( well not all, but the TV, digi box, DVD player, printer and a lightbulb). Not all at once, some had been pretty much dead for a while. A new DVD player is on its way from R's dad, who has a surplus of electical equipment, so we just bough a 42inch plasma screen with surround sound system. ONLY JOKING! Its actually 48inches. The printer is blacker, noiser and bigger, but apart from that the same as the old small, quiet grey one. The lightbulb seems fine. While I am on the subject of electricals, I have 'won' an IPOD shuffle, which I will not know what to do with. They look great, I have seen people with them on their arms at the gym, but how do you get the CDs to fit in to that little circle? I chose a blue one, as I fear it might soon end up as R's Xmas present and he doesn't do pink as much as I do. I 'won' it for refering R to the gym, so now we are all officially posh, and yesterday tea time had a fabulous outdoor family swim by moonlight. I was there in the morning, for a sunlit swim too, and a quick prance around in the gym. In fact, yesterday I was the lady who lunches, as after gym and swim at 'The Club' I had an aromatherapy massage and lunch in Romsey. I then popped into Waitrose for essentials, dahling, before carefully reapplying my lipstick and tying up my headscarf and making my way home in the Discovery.

Today we were blessed with the presence of my bro and his treasure little boy, who came for the day and took A out to Play Shack for her birthday treat. You may have noticed my brother is the next big thing in the blogging world. Or maybe not, as i am his only reader. Anyhow, he is, if you are interested in the hots and colds of life as a plumber in the home counties. He is very funny, must have been having Mr Clucas for an English teacher that has led to his intelligent style of writing.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

K, H and I near a lake in a wood in Austria.
A on her birthday pony ride! This was the best thing she had EVER done!
H was very proud to be on the ORIGINAL Sound of Music tour, and standing next to the fabulous coach looks as pleased as Maria on a moutain.
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sorry its sideways. this is the real gazebo where Liesl and Rolf danced and sang I am sixteen going on seventeen in the film. This is FamilyBowen standing outside it, it is locked after an accident with an octagenarian trying to leap between the benches and falling through the window.

This is me looking excited and H looking nervous before the Parcours rope course.

This is A about to make ripples in a lake.

This is H and the man who had to rescue her at the end as I was only good for self preservation.
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Saturday, 1 November 2008

Safely back from our jet set week in Austria, stating in Grundlsee, about one and a half hour's drive from Salzburg, since you ask.

Beautiful, photos will follow, but the battery is flat on the camera and I am not technologically able to download flat pictures. Girls got carried away with the video feature on the camera, which uses up a lot of energy, so we have lots of clips of H walking through woods talking to camera in Kate Adie style.

My German efforts were almost useless, in a land where the number one industry is tourism they are well geared up for the Brits and the Americans so English is widely spoken, I did get a few chances to ask for a fork and to order a drink, but that was about it. No Wie kommen ich am besten zum Bahnof, but then I didn't take a train anywhere, as we had a super hire car to take us everywhere we didn't walk. We did walk quite a lot of places, down to our local lake, and around three other lakes, and on a walk in between two lakes - you get the theme. If you like mountains and lakes, I can absolutely endorse Austria as a holiday destination. We want to go back in the winter, as there is a ski slope a 10 minute walk from the flat we stayed in. Probably takes longer in the winter with skis. You can also ice skate on the local lake, in the winter, so worth a trip out there just for that. Probably more economical than paying for the Southampton one! We want to go back in the summer, as you can swim in the lakes, and there was a great looking swimming pool complex in Salzburg, and a palace called Hellbrun with trick fountains, probably best done in the summer and not on a cold day in October. The food was great, with the girls getting Shnitzel and fishfingers and pizza (not all on same day) and R getting his meat fix for the year, in a country where everything is served with cream, butter or both. Yum. Back to the diet tomorrow then!

I am going to try really hard to get a good variety of photos up here for you all and will talk about them to try to give you a flavour of Austria. But, in short, our holiday included horseriding (all of us had a lesson - the girls had 2!) boat ride on lake at sunset, and the scariest thing of all, the Parcours high rope adventure course. I talked our fearless eldest daughter into it without giving her or me a chance to look at it, and it was bad. If you are going to attach yourself to a rope by two dangly ropes 30ft high in the trees and walk over rope bridges, give yourself, and your precious offspring, a sporting chance of survival by doing it in England, where you can comprehend the finer details of the safety talk. All I got was 'orange' and I had to do it all by guessing. Not the best start for clambering up scramble nets and so on. H was utterly fearless and encouraging to Miss Scaredy Pants herself - yep, thats me - until we were near the end of the first loop of the big course, when she started crying and the man in charge had to help her. Other children were being helped by their parents, but H had the misfortune of a parent who was using all her effort in self preservation and had no spare hands or ideas for anyone else. It was a big adrenaline output morning, and we had lunch and called it a day, neither of us fancying another loop on the even harder bit. Yes, I would do it again! I need to get a bit braver if I am going to achieve my ambition of kite surfing! Or even sailing in a boat with R without hitting him for going too fast.

Incidentally, and I know its a bit horrid to mention it, but the person who wrote the travel guide '100 things to see before you die' had died, aged 47, only having done half the list. Bit galling, that, but a salutory lesson for the rest of us, methinks. Not quite as ironic as the Atkinson guy who did that stupid diet of eating meat and no carbs dying of a heart attack. Anyhow, as my ambitions get rapidly struck off the list I add on extras, so after riding a horse (round and round indoors, but I did trot and stand up and stick my arms out) I am now aiming to tame a wild wolf and learn to sew clothes properly on my sewing machine. Not all in the same afternoon. The panto will have to wait.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Rushed home from Bitterne to tell you the latest news!

Bitterne has an amazing market on Wednesdays! Its so exciting! The place was heaving, and the usual desolation of the precinct was swarming with life. OK, so maybe not getting you going there .... wait for it .... the new WOOLWORTHS is nearly finished! I had to have a sit down. Imagine! My own handy Woolies! What a fantastic shop - see, all my efforts for the Bitterne Marketing Board have come to fruition, with this joyful day when I see a Woolies and a market. I never thought I would live to see this day, I feel like Simeon and Anna, the old prophets in the temple, whose eyes saw the baby Jesus and knew salvation had come to the Jews!!!! WOOLWORTHS HAS COME TO BITTERNE! That's good news if ever I heard some.

I am setting all my faithful followers (thats you!) a challenge -BUY A BITTERNE CHRISTMAS. You have to buy all your family and friends Christmas presents in Bitterne.

Its easy! I have nearly done it! Imagine, not having to go humping heavy bags around town and on and off the bus - a convenient bike ride or walk to your very own precinct of joy.

Granma - stripey socks from the market
Children - toys from market stall ( or Sainsburys have a good range)
Dad - cable ties from the market
Mum - dodgy market stall perfume
Husband or other male - slippers from market stall ( NB STEVE's MUM)
Friend who is a bit hippy - scented candles from market stall
Postman - I dunno. Stamps from post office?
Dog - meat from the market geezer in a trailer with a microphone - yes, we even have one of those.

You can even buy fresh olives - yes, olives - who the hell do they think is going to buy those? Jamie Oliver? Excuse the unintended pun! This isn't Portobello Road, but anyway, they have them, next to the out of date sweet stall.

Make a day trip! The bowling alley is closing at Christmas so worth popping along while you can, and there are some great places to eat on the market - Chinese, Panini, and a burger van you can smell from outside my front door. Oh the joy of this experience. I was jumping up and down in Superdrug!

Not so good news, is that the wonder kettle replacement thing that I got free with my Nectar points has been intermittent at working. I rang Nectar, and after the obligatory shouted, one syllable conversation with someone in a call centre with an elementary grasp of spoken English ( try telling someone your 'Tefal Quick Cup is not working' in one syllable words) I got through to a nice lady called Mandy, who said they had a number of similar calls, and are arranging a pick up and my points will be refunded onto my account. So, out comes the old kettle, and I have enough points to get to Bali or somewhere. But an old kettle, not a new clever one.

Yesterday I had parents' evening, and a migraine afterwards. 17 sets of parents with no break. Luckily they were as charming as their offspring, so all went well. I really do have the nicest class in Britain. Today we were reading lots of poems, and discussing how poems work. Poems really get children going - no need for punctutation or paragraphs or any of that dull stuff, and you can write them in shapes if you want to. I am being serious, they are adoroble children, and there is nothing better than spending your days with 30 fun, enthusiastic and creative individuals. I am serious! I LOVE IT! Why would I have ever done anything else?

Monday, 6 October 2008

Had a go at the German tonight. That's the language, not a native I keep handy for ranting at. I have been struggling with my commitment to 15 mins a day since the start of term. In fact, regular listeners will observe I have been struggling with blogging since then too.

On Saturday we had a little tea party for S, a friend who I met in the library, and who lives with her 3 year old son and comes originally from Ivory Coast, English is her fourth language, so my pathetic attempts to learn German look even worse compared to her superhuman grasp of 4 languages. Anyway, she invited her friend (met in Bitterne Leisure Centre - a friend of mine already) and she ( friend A) was married to a man ( good start) who translates bibles. In Sholing! I thought it was just a zig zag of roads to get lost in, not a hotbed of bible translation. This gentleman comes originally from Niger, and I mentioned that I knew of a missionary in Niger ( from the 1980s in my church in Surrey). Anyhow, against all odds they know each other well! I seriously only know of one missionary in Africa, and it was one of those conversations that Americans are supposed to have with us, assuming we know the Queen. Actually, bizarrely on that subject, we had a wonderful lodger from Oz once, called Hamish, and he went to Great Dixter to visit the old guy who lives there, who was friends with his mum. The chap is dead now, but was famous for his garden at Great Dixter, and Hamish didn't get why it was funny that he should be personally visiting the owner of one of the great gardens of the south east, when the rest of us pay and eat cream teas on his terrace.

Which brings me nicely to my cream tea, not on the terrace due to the inclement weather, but at the Rhinefield house hotel, near Lyndhurst, which was a gift on leaving my church job, and which R and I enjoyed on Saturday. We ate loads, scones and sandwiches and cakes and meringues and moose or is that mousse? The chocolate kind, not the wild kind. Anyway, more fatty foods consumed in one hour than in the rest of our year. We read the papers and did our books and watched the fountain and it was very chilled. Busy day on Saturday, as in the morning we went to the Nuffield theatre for their children's show, which was awesomely brilliant. The one this Saturday is even better, Andrea tells me! We went for free, as I was reviewing it for a magazine (Solent Families) so got freebie tickets, and it was a great show and I can wholeheartedly recommend you go along to the Nuffield on a Saturday at 11. Before that, the girls and I did Aldi and M and S, two ends of the shopping spectrum, but it saves doing anything in between. We were waiting outside Aldi for it to open, having been banished at an early hour for the men's breakfast. Somehow we stupidly asked for some swaps and have some women's breakfasts coming up, instead of our usual Friday night wine fest. Will have to have vodka on the branflakes.

Back at work today, with the angelic Year 3 s charming as usual - I am not being sarcastic, they are adorable! We were doing measuring, and I had set up some weighing and capacity and some games and worksheets, for them to do on a cycle, working with a partner to get through all the jobs. At our meeting in the morning, I volunteered my children in my maths group to cut up 9 pieces of string each, 50cm long, for an activity we are doing later in the week. Oh, joy! They got in such tangles! Assessment was easy, just line up the pieces of string and see if any dangle down longer than the rest. It was a brilliant maths lesson, if I do say so myself. Everyone was learning actively and I had time to teach specifics of reading scales to pairs of children. And the cutting up string is for a real purpose, and they are learning how to measure. I love maths.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Some of you will know that I like entering competitions - to be absolutely correct I like winning competitions. Pickings have been slim lately, with only a trip to the theatre for R's mum and brother in recent months. Today, I won a professional garden design! A lady is coming to my house to get my ideas for a - wait for it - fruit and vegetable garden! Then she takes photos and draws up a design. The process costs £1500 according to the entry form, but you could rebuild our whole garden for that! I warned her that the space available for fruit and veg was small, to put it mildly, but maybe she will be happy to work on the south terrace, the kitchen garden, the cottagers plots and the rose garden while she is here. We shall see. I remember entering and thinking it would be a stupid prize for us to win as we have one of the smallest gardens in Britain, but here I am, winning again!

School has got into that hectic phase, with trying to teach reading, papier mache, spelling, handwriting, maths, paper scrunching and folding techniques, all bundled in along with assembly and a writing audit (still not done that). That was all in one day, a bit paper heavy. The papier mache is coming along now, done three layers, almost ready to paint. Tomorrow is a sane morning of reading, English, Maths and I will do the audit, and I leave at lunchtime - well, I stay and get my planning done and leave at 2pm. Which is better than doing it at 11pm on a Sunday, as I did this week.

The girls have had their first couple of days at breakfast club, which seemed to go down ok, especially as pancakes and scrambled egg been on the menu so far. After school club today was not a disaster, A's old preschool teachers are now leading the after school club so she had friendly faces, and the other regular children seem nice, and one of them is a little girl A knew from toddler group. At last, she brought home a book with words, for much celebration from all as she read it to us, several times each. As well as the pasta jar (on target for Paultons this weekend) we have started a 'Posh meal out at an Indian restaurant' incentive. Each empty dinner plate is worth £1, and when we have £30 we will all go out for a curry. A a bit disappointed we not going to fly to India for the dinner, but Ryanair don't go there. Now don't come round bringing empty dinner plates and expect me to give you a £1, OK!

Just going to enter a competition to win M and S vouchers.

Wish me luck!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Today was wonderfully sunny, so we used the new 'Sunsail' shade system in our garden. It is a sail that you have to rig up on a clever system R invented. I have been helping rig the boat lately, so have learnt some important words, such as 'cleat'. Anyhow, after school we cycled to Hedge End to the park, which is a brilliant park unlike any of Southampton's offerings. A has only just last weekend got anywhere further than the floor on her stabiliser free bike, so she was back on mine. She and the bike fell over, and that was before we left the drive. There was a peculiar noise and it seemed as though the mudguard was rubbing on the tyre, but we carried on, it was hard work even though downhill and we sounded like a lawnmower buzzing along. On arriving in Hedge End, I called R to ask him to meet us there and bring a screw driver for some running repairs to get us home. It was noisy where both of us were, and I found myself shouting ' I need a screwdriver!' into my phone, to the amusement of a chap crossing the road nearby.

All ended well, as R not only arrived with the tool necessary to do the job, but with his mountain bike so A could sit on the crossbar seat on that rather than on the seat attached to my broken carrier.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Learning German, reading a self improvement book and watching devotional Psalm DVDs have slipped a bit now we are back to the real world of term time, with work on a whole 2.5 days of the week. Damned cat ignored the expensive Norwegian salmon biscuits and left a paw-made union jack in her food tray. I guess she is smarter than we thought, and keen to buy British.

Now, despite the lack of self improvement and language learning, my quest to find cheap entertaining and educational days out continues, and this weekend it is the Heritage Open days, when buildings that are rarely open to the public are open and FREE. Now, that is the draw, but there is usually a good reason why these places are usually shut. However, the museums of Southampton were joining in and offered free admission - and I had a half price bus voucher, so off we went. First stop - The Tudor House. This, and all the other museums, are in the old town of Southampton, which is behind the remarkably intact walls and a delightful area, despite huge and ugly blocks of flats, it retains a lot of character and is a part we never visit, but should! Now, the Tudor House is owned by Southampton City Council, who have finally got their act together and are renovating the house into a interactive and brilliant sounding museum, at a cost of about £5 million. The shocking thing is that the Council had neglected it for so long that English Heritage classed it as 'at risk'. It has a lovely Knot Garden, and a tunnel leading to a Norman merchant's house called King John's Palace, I think. Now, an added bonus of our visits today was the odd 'contemporary' art we literally stumbled upon, in the Vaults of old Southampton. So in this ruined Norman hall were concrete pillows, which I didn't realise, were ART. They really were a stumbling block, and the girls enjoyed using them as stepping stones.

We popped into the ancient St Michael's church and had a complicated discussion about bible thieves. Then off to the Maritime museum, which has an excellent and thoroughly engaging display about the crew of the Titanic, most of whom came from Southampton, and most of whom died. I recommend the museum, along with the Museum of Archeology, which was very interactive and worth more of our time, but we were hungry and had vouchers for Burger King. More art in the Vaults - this time torches making little shadow pictures on the walls. We then tried to do the Merchant House and Merchant Hall, but one was shut and one was being used for a wedding, so came home, via another Vault with a crashed spitfire, smoke and sound effects. ART. Southampton so undersells its history - it is a scandal and I fear yet another sympton of the council which seems to lack direction and vision for the city's culture. So! Take my word for it and go along to check these places out. I intend going on a tour of the city walls to learn more about the history of our city. I may even start taking people on such tours!

Tonight we had a phone call from an anonymous member of Southampton Vineyard Church, who was planning the songs for the meeting tomorrow. Always good to do it with plenty of spare time, and the challenge of leading on a ukele with a bongo for accompaniment would not daunt this housegroup. The request was for chords for songs, and what would have been a challenge would have been singing the tune of one to the chords of the one they asked for and which I dutifuuly passed on. They rang back half an hour later to ask for the right chords for the song they meant to sing. But wouldn't it be fun if they had tried to play the notes we gave them whilst singing another song, and all to a ukelele. Tee hee! When R was at uni, his Christian Union was a bit thin on the ground for musicians, and he once found himself playing the guitar and leading the singing, accompanied by a guy on a washboard and a girl on the trombone. I can't help thinking tomorrow might be a little like that...

Friday, 12 September 2008

Bitterne for food shopping tonight. Sainsburys, which has a weird layout with two entrances, and not enough staff. I bought cat food with 'real Norwegian Salmon'. Like our cat is going to know the difference between a fish caught in Scandinavian waters and one from Blighty. She is a cat with Special Needs, or as R rather unpolitically correct describes her a 'REM'. Short for remedial. Anyway, whatever you call her, she is it. Slow to learn, that pooing on the playroom floor just because it is raining and her litter tray is inches outside her cat flap is not acceptable beahviour. We shut the playroom door because she does it when we are out, but the other day, on Granny Mary's watch, the little feline cutie pie pooed in the playroom while H was sitting in it. So, she has lost another friend she needed to cultivate. She scratches the girls and poos in our house and frankly has nothing going for her apart from her grey fur, and she doesn't moult much or seem to cause too much bother to people with allergies.

I had to go out because I was on a very short fuse and had already blown, reminding the girls VERY LOUDLY that 35 000 children die of hunger every day while they faff about with their dinner and refuse to eat it. H started crying and being distraught, while A looked at me and nodded. But don't you remember your mum telling you 'Children in Africa would be grateful'? Well, here I am, putting the guilt of human poverty and starvation on my children's plates, along with sweet potato ( wrong kind of potato) and the 'wrong kind of sausages'.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

In my 'favourite names for shops' feature I need to tell you about the renamed Beauty shop in our local shopping centre. That is thornhill, so stretching it to call it a centre. Anyway, the beauty shop is now called 'Realistic Beauty'. Imagine the interaction between client and receptionist:

Hi, what can you do for me?

I am sorry, madam, you are a really ugly old trout and there is no product, no treatment, nothing on this earth that would make you anything approaching beautiful.

Oh. Goodbye then.

I think beauticians need to be anything other than realistic, don't you?

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Today was our first day of summer, a beautiful day, and this evening I took a stroll across the park and picked some blackberries on a patch of wild land near our house, and it was idyllic. Could have been anywhere in the countryside. Birds tweeting, then someone belched on the other side of the hedge. Anyway, it was lovely to be out and admiring the sky, and to be warm enough to sit outside without a sleeping bag on. The alarming fact I found out from the park noticeboard is that each Thornhill resident throws away half a tonne of litter a year. Now, I did a little calculation to help you visualise that, and measured a banana skin I was about to chuck out of the window. It weighed 54g, but lets call it 50g for ease of calculation. A tonne is 1million grams, so that means that each person in Thornhill, each man, woman and child throws the equivalent of 10 000 banana skins PER YEAR on the streets of Thornhill. Now the maths is getting even rougher, but thats coming up to 30 bananas eaten and their peels thrown on the streets EVERY DAY. Now, there must be a big family of chimpanzees who never come out durign the daylight for that to be mounting up. Obviously it is not all banana skins, some people throw away cigaratte and crisp packets, judging by my front grass most days. But you get the scale of the problem. And if I can solemnly swear that none of my family throws any litter (apart from apple cores into bushes, and nowadays with the food bills soaring I eat everything except the stalk) so there must be some other family out there throwing away our quota of 120 banana skins a day ( or equivalent). Maybe they include fly tipping in this litter figure? A fridge here or there would help get you up to that half a tonne target. A burnt out car would be a majot coup and save on eating bananas for years. If we threw 120 banana skins a day on the street outside our house we soon wouldn't be able to see out. That's if we could move off the toilet. I do see a fair bit of litter around, but not of this magnitude.

A is all better after her recent tummybug which prevented her and R coming on a coach trip to Monkey World with the Thornhill Community Association. It was cheap - £7.50 including entry for H and I. It was a long day, but a pleasant day, H was keen to find out about monkeys and interested in their behaviour, and spent ages playing with a girl she met on the roundabout who came from Cornwall. Weird isn't it, to meet someone who lives in Cornwall on holiday in Dorset? i don't know where I thought they went - I guess I thought they stayed in Cornwall all the time and served ice creams and cream teas from their back gardens to make a little pin money.

Today we reached the second pasta jar treat and went to Manor Farm, which H, R and I hadn't visited for a couple of years. We used to go all the time, as we had a season ticket for a couple of years, and it was lovely to go back and see some improvements and enjoy the old favourites, milked the cow, held the chick and duck and fed the calves from a bottle. Also sat in the Victorian school lesson and did all the things we always did when we went, like those silly animal jigsaws in the barn, looking for the eggs and washing your hands a million times.

I got up and was at the farm shop by 7.30am, then home from Sainsburys before 9am, a very satisfying time to go shopping. R and H then visited a chandlery (in Chandler's Ford, interestingly) and mended the rudder and went for a sail, while A and I baked healthy muffins ( A spat hers out - too healthy for a cake!) and visited our local library, which is great for large print Westerns and small print Mills and Boon. We chose a range of reading matter for H, who has a huge appetite for books of all kinds, and I picked up 'A thousand Splendid Suns' which R is now reading, he just described it as 'gripping'. Then after a picnic lunch we did the farm, then had a beach barbecue at the sailing club, with a couple of bargain drinks from the bar, much cheaper to drink there than at a pub, and the girls found crabs on the beach while we relaxed! Phew! Tonight we have to play Scrabble as R always wins and he won by a huge margin last night. His opening word was 'RENAL' to which I prefixed 'AD'. Later in the game he suffixed 'INE'. Good team work eh?

Sadly my tomatoes seem to have suffered something and I have had to harvest most of them as those left on turn brown and rot. Is it too much rain? Probably. Still, have had some tasty ones and got lots going red on the windowsill. Judi (who has an allotment) said they had the same problem, so not just me.

Haven't we had a busy day? I still need to have a time to do my 15 minute a day German, read my bible and journal and watch the DVD about Psalm 23 that I have found very helpful. I am also reading a book about life coaching and am supposed to spend half an hour a day on that. The last two nights I have struggled to get to sleep, but hope tonight things will change.

I read a book about the Kindertransport, and the experience of Jews in Germany never fails to shock or offend me. Would I have taken in some refugee Jewish children? Yes, I think I have to say that I would. But how hard it would be for them to live with us! Still, with me learning German at such a rate, should it ever be needed again, I will be able to offer them das Fruhstuck and Eine Tasse Tee mit Milch. This is a great German word combination: Die Tasser is a cup. Die Untertasse is a saucer. An 'undercup'. That is one of the things I like about German, how sensible it is to combine words to make new ones that make perfect sense. Worrying now I have given cups and breakfast the wrong gender, but sure they can cope with being a woman when they should be a man.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Yesterday my banana was ruined by being next to a sharp edged yogurt pot, I did eat it but about a third of it was mush and its skin was cut through. I really need a knitted banana protector. Alpaca wool would be nice, or dog fur, if you could contact Libby Crandon senior for supplies. Or Libby Crandon junior, as I hear they are getting a Staffordshire bull terrier to fit in with the neighbours.
Had reason to look through our web search history for yesteday, which threw up some interesting angles. I had asked R what he was doing on the computer, and his answer was
'looking at epoxy resin'. And he really was!!! That and little bits of metal for mending bikes and boats, about 10 of the sites visited were called things like 'Boatyard bits' or 'Bikenuts'. Man, that is a guy with a serious internet addiction problem. I was cunningly trying to hire a car and do a pick up in Southampton and drop off at Gatwick for a upcoming and complicated trip abroad. However, the car hire companies have clearly caught on to this trick and charge you a tank of petrol ( ish) on top, presumably for them to drive it back again? It was a good idea while it lasted, but sadly we are back to the train/cycle option ( put girls on train, us cycle).

I read in one of the cycling magazines in our bathroom that a guy has managed 126mph on a bike. He was on the M40, and I don't know if that was holding on to the back of a car or from a standing star, or on a shopper, or what, but it gives me something to aim for as I cycle down the hill from Bitterne to town. Today I cycled to and from St Denys, uphill on the way home, St Denys being at sea level (what kind of idiot would buy a house on a floodplain, eh?), Thornhill being at altitude where sickness sets in, and above the tree line. Well, maybe not but clearly one of the highest points for miles around as we have our very own cancer emitting mobile phone mast behind H's school playing field. None of this NIMBY business round here! If you want a mobile, you take the risks, damn it! ( What kind of an idiot would buy a house under a mobile phone mast?)

Tonight was my favourite programme, the Secret Millionaire, not so much evidence of Christian charity as is the norm, but a fab moment when the guy got the cheque when he muttered 'God works in mysterious ways'. I had to go to Tescos tonight, despite us having a frugal end of month as less than no money left, we also had less than no food. I did very well in purchasing exactly the right amount of goods to last til after the weekend, and getting to use my £5 off voucher. Tescos were recently voted the most ethical supermarket in an online survey. Well, maybe that is stretching the truth a little, but every little helps, say Asda. Shame there was not a secret millionaire offering to pay for food bills at checkout number 7.

I have started learning German, in advance of visits planned to the German speaking countries of Europe as part of my strategy to take over the world. I did it at school, but can only tell you to go round the corner, I have a brother. So am now learning how to order a coffee. Not much use either as I don't drink it. At the school I first worked at there was a caretaker who had a very distinct moustache which reminded one of Hitler. He told us that his mother worked as a chambermaid in Berlin in 1936. I think he made it up (well, I hope he did) but you have to hand it to him for making a joke out of his facial hair. Few men are brave enough to do that.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Sarah T came round yesterday and brought me some flowers, now she tells me she is knitting a bag. I shall commission her to knit me a vase for the flowers to go in. Today I went to the hospital to be told that my radioactivity was still a risk to mankind and so I have decorated the lounge. If I carry on this way I will be starting on next door. I listened to the Olympics all day and was surprised to hear the standard reached in ping pong. I never got off the radiator in the pingpong room at school long enough to play. And the Dutch won the women's hockey. Good on them. I was surprised also to see that my hockey teacher, Miss Bedford, was not featured in the British team (male or female, she was one of those teachers you were not sure about). No, I liked her, although she was strict and had a reputation, she somehow let me into the school hockey team. It is more an indication of the lack of enthusiasm and skill in the 120 or so girls in my year group than a endorsement of my skill. I played HB - no that's a pencil lead. LH, That was it. I gave up when Ursula Collignon hit me in the teeth with a stick during a sponsored hockey day. Anything I did for the school hockey team was purely accidental, whatever the outcome, the ball always looked shocked when I managed to get near it. I was spectacularly bad at netball, not helped by the teacher calling my name out wrong in the register on the first day, christening me 'Gay Kibbs', for which I have not yet forgiven her. Anyhow, I played the rubbish position near the back where it doesn't matter if you never touch the ball, and that ball used to laugh out loud if I caught it. So imagine my distaste and horror when some weird members of our church, asked me, a few years back to play netball, in my own time, for fun. I hope they went off and joined a netball playing cult. I don't think Jesus ever commanded us to play ball games.

Now, like most people who are not nobility, I struggle to 'get' the modern pentathlon. None of those sports are modern, and only the aristocracy can afford guns, horses and fencing lessons for their children. Absolutely the most elitist sport in the games, surely, if you need a pony, a fencing kit and a gun - not even the Crandons have all that lot in their garden, although if they stretched their family out a bit they could enter Jeremy on a llama. No, I think it is the most stupid event, worse than pingpong and should be dropped before more members of the royal family think the Olympics was designed for them. And what was the even like before it was dubbed 'modern'? Fencing is hardly a modern sport, is it, what did it replace, jousting? No, the modern pentathlon should involve skateboarding, kite surfing, that stupid sport where people run up walls and jump between buildings, and two others I have yet to make up, they are so modern. Spitting, maybe, or pancake tossing? And lawnmowing, that should be the national sport.

Competitions looking up! I entered a competition to win theatre tickets and a shopping spree for R's mum, Granny Mary, and was a runner up, so she and a friend are going to the Rose Theatre in Kingston upon Thames.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

I am not sure I gave you the full run down on Norfolk. We had the dubious honour of staying 3 nights on a campsite in Snettishham. Sounds like a sneeze. Looks like one too. The campsite had a clubhouse which meant two night of bad rock anthem covers til midnight. It was very tightly packed in camping, where the person in the caravan next door rolled over, you did too. In fact, the man in the caravan next to our campervan died the first night we were there, and we wondered if a hitman had got the wrong address. The guy actually died in hospital, not in the caravan adjacent, which proves the theory that hospitals are bad places to go to because you are more likely to die there than in a caravan park in Snettishhhmann. Atchoo. Apart from getting off to that great start, the weather was the usual inclement mix we have got used to on camping trips, and the Saturday am was spent in Tescos cafe, followed by me sleeping in the campervan in a carpark while the rest of Family Bowen mooched round the shops and bought an umbrella. R then took the girls swimming to a concrete shocker of a building on the sea front that looked like an iceberg but in grey and blocked the view for all the residents of Hunstanton. The sun then came out and we played on the beach, but my bag went bobbing off when I put it down to take a photo for a family. Tide comes in quick as it is so flat. The tide also goes out as far as Holland, so don't ever take a ferry, just head for the Wash and get walking at low tide. Perhaps Worksop's tourist information person could work wonders on Norfolk. Until then, take my advice, don't go. Unless you are keen on funny shop names, in which case, go now, my friend. One of my favourites was 'fudgetastic' which sold fudge. Not so good was 'FUNKtional clothing'.Yep, put me off too. Clothing can not be both funky and functional, so give up trying, oh dear people of Hunstanton.

Today I and Judi cooked cheese scones, soup and lovely date and apricot flapjack like slices. yum. It was fun cooking with Judi, then Sarah T (one of my blog fans!) and the rest of the Galbraiths came to eat the goodies. Sadly, guys, you missed out on the best bit which was the apricot and date things which were amazing, but not cool enough before you left. Ha! All the more for me. Yummy.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Today I was in my home prison - I can actually go anywhere, but not near any children, and as there are a whole bunch playing with go karts outside our house all day, it is pretty much house arrest. We crept out after dark, like something out of the Thriller video - glowing and bodypoppin down to the House house, for a glass of orange juice and lemonade. I was glowing, R was bodypopping. Did you not know he could do it? He is hoping it will be one of the new sports at the 2012 Olympics, along with Darts, so he can win many medals without needing to alter his physique. It was a great day to be at home with a tv. Saw the amazing fuss made over the 100m men's world record of 9.69secs. I can run down to the Coop, which I estimate at 100m, in less than 10 seconds and no one has given me a medal. Maybe its because I don't wear gold shoes. I thinks some of these Olympians are also rans. I pointed out to R that at at push, I could do 2 lengths of the pool in under a minute. And again, no medals for me. He explained that the pool they are using is twice as long as BLC. More fool them, I say. I would try and get away with doing the short course and see how long it takes the officials to catch on.

Anyway, on a serious note, seriously, about the Olympics, I have some observations to make with regard to sports and class. Now, one of the first medals was won by a Toff on a horse, going sideways, and the chap was called Hugo Biffer Spencer, or Horatio Digby-Plaid. William Fox Pitt. That was actually his name. Now, there was some boxer from Manchester, by the name of Joey, I think. And there's a fab cyclist with the great name of Bradley Wiggins. I can't see a Mancunian called Joey getting on a horse, or William Fox Pitt getting in a boxing ring, can you? And I just love to imagine their converstion should they have been sat next to each other for the flight over. Bless them both, they would have needed a translator. Yet there they were, both representing their country in sports that could not be further apart if they tried.

Enjoyed watching the pursuit racing from the velodrome. And also the funny race where a chap on a moped goes round first, and they have to chase him, like a greyhound, then he sneaks off and they go for it to see who wins. I think its called the Kyran race. I will know more next week as R buys cycling magazines A LOT ( hint for Christmas present) and I like to read them. In fact, I also write to them, and have had two letters published, one the star letter, for which I won a bike light. Not a gold medal. One fun thing about reading his magazines (sailing ones too) is that I don't have a clue what most of the words mean, so I read without any idea of the meaning. You should try it, its fun! I did it with a knitting pattern a couple of weeks ago. I am saving it for Sarah T, who is good at knitting. One of the patterns is for a knitted banana protector, which I like and which would make a good stocking filler for Christmas ( hint!).

As well as watching the Olympics, I have been decorating all day, we have done all the preparation and two layers of undercoat on the walls. so its all looking good. Jo Hayles usually does the honours for us with cutting the ribbon and declaring newly decorated rooms open, so will try to book her for when she has finished in Beijing. Now, which event would Jo be doing? Beach volleyball? Archery? Heptathlon?

Thursday, 14 August 2008

For someone who has spent 3 days and nights within 4 lead lined walls, I have found quite a fair sprinkling of news for you. Firstly, a confession. While at the Milchards I noticed a book that I wanted to read while in my hospital prison, and asked Abbi if I could borrow it. It turned out it was already borrowed from Loz, and Abbi intended reading it on her holiday. But she finished it super quick so I could read it while in hospital. Bless her! So far so good. I read it all on the first day. It was as brilliant as I hoped. I stayed up til 1am to finish it. Now, this morning the Physicist came and tested all my belongings for radioactivity, and the book (secret double borrowed) was in the radioactive bin! So, now I have just been on Amazon to buy a copy to give back to Loz which is not going to damage her unborn baby and, if you and Abby keep quiet, SHE WILL NEVER KNOW about this dupliticous (sp) deception. So shut up! If she asks, just look innocent.

Now, the title of the book is actually 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' and it is by the same author as The Kite Runner. Khaled Roussin or similar. Sorry. I can't spell Dhal right either. That's the author, not the lentil dish. Phew. It is a fabulously brilliant story, set in Afghanistan, a terrible tale of war and poverty and oppression of women, but brilliant,brilliant, brilliant. However, until just now, I thought it was called 'A Thousand Splendid Sums'. Which I though was an odd title, as it was not at all to do with maths. So, now I am put right and thought I would mention it in case you had made the same mistake. Doubtful.

Hey! On a brighter note, I went to see Mamma Mia and liked it so much I am going again (when I am allowed to enter places of entertainment - Monday 25 August), will ask for the DVD for Christmas - actually, Mary, you can write that down NOW and save asking me! and it goes into my top 3 films with Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge. It is not unnoticed that these are all the film as musical genre, by those of you with an eye for such detail. Mmm. Lots of films are not eligible for my ratings because they are 18s, or even 15s, or because they feature Americans speaking too fast and I have to have the subtitles on to catch the gist of the dialogue. I went to see MM at Esher cinema with the lovely Granny Mary, who is not a frequent cinema goer (last time she was at Esher cinema there was an orchestra and Pathe News). She was among friends, as MM is one of those films that older ladies who don't go to the cinema make an exception for. You know the average age of the audience is retired when people clap at the end. I knew how they felt. It was brilliant, but there is no point clapping because they are not there on stage, its just a film! When I went to see Romeo and Juliet at the cinema, I really, nearly cried out 'No don't do it!' at the point near the end where if I told you it would ruin it for you but you know, the whole thing with the poison). Then I remembered that it was just a film, and however loud I shouted, it would not change things. But I think that is the mark of a good film, if you are so immersed in it you actually want to change the course of events. Does anyone else feel that way?

Between Monday morning and this morning I watched lots of Olympics, did some Sudokus and logic puzzles, prayed, read my bible and read WAY too many celebrity s**t magazines, kindly donated by a couple of friends who had saved them up for a few weeks. So if I am called upon to be a contestant on the Weakest Link ( I guess it works like jury service- surely no one would apply freely?) I will not stumble on the name of Nicole Kidman's new baby - Sunday Velvet or was it Andrex Puppy? Brad and Ang's twins - KNOX AND VIVIENNE??? who do they think they are? Famous? Characters in a Dr Zeuss book? I can tell you when Blake Fielder Civil is due out of gaol (too bloody soon, why not lock up his Missus too, eh?) and what Katie Price thinks of most things in the world, where Colleen went on holiday, and how Mrs Beckham has learnt that the Americans don't understand her and want her to smile more. I know where Catherine Z J went on holiday, the state of Madge's marriage (don't ask) and that Peaches Geldof collapsed in the toilet of her flat in Kings Cross.

The view from my room was a little bleak. I saw a pigeon, once, and some people in an office across the way. The nurses and care people had to shove my food in quick and close the door to avoid being contaminated by the powerful rays of radioactivity shooting from my body. When I was allowed visitors, they came for 20 minutes each and had to sit behind a screen to avoid their ovaries being shrivelled up by the powerful beams emitting from my person. I felt a bit like a baddie from a Star Trek episode. It was quite odd, being the baddie, but I felt very calm and saw it as a blessing in disguise and tried to make the most of the time to be quiet and rest. Having the scan this morning was odd, in that you have to lie so still, but Radio 1 was on and it was making me want to giggle so badly. So I had to really try hard not to listen and to think of anything else. I did a very good job of being scanned, as I have to go back for another go tomorrow, so they must have liked me. When the scanner comes down right on top of your face, it feels a bit like you are Indiana Jones, doing the rolling out just as the door comes clanging down trick.

For just over a fortnight I have been on a really restricted diet, with no dairy or eggs and no salt, so pretty much a vegan with no tastebuds. It was really hard at times, if very virtuous, to watch the girls and R eat fish and chips and ice creams on the beach while munching on a packet of sunflower seeds. Now, I am not really a big cream eater, but the treats I had today were scones with jam and cream and nachos with sour cream. Isn't that weird? Clearly, our bodies NEED cream and mine was crying out for a backlog. Yum yum yum. Eating the restricted diet in hospital was really dull, with boiled potatoes and veg being the main offerings I could have. So I got visitors to sneak up Burger King chips. Well, if you are going to be ill you need a few perks!

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Our summer holidays are begun. Bliss. Things slowing down, everyone getting enough sleep. H, A, Granny M and I made the revolution on the London Eye the other day, as the girls chose it as a birthday present. It was my third time, and no different, no freaky swaying winds, no terrorist alerts, just half an hour creeping round a circle looking at the view. Well, for £15 you want a lot of view. Although bizarre behaviour exhibited by one of our fellow captives/passengers - she was applying make up, spending most of her time looking in a mirror. I can understand people doing that on a train or maybe a bus if they have a steady hand - but if you are paying for the ride, at a cost of £1 per two minutes, I take the view that every second counts, and peering down at people who are 'titchy like ants' is what you are there for. I used to 'air dry' my hair on my way to work in Worksop by having all the windows open, so I know what it is like to perform your toilet in public. For a few weeks, R had to drop me off in Worksop as he was working in Clowne, so then he used to drive and I put on mascara. Don't do it very often, I probably have the same tube, and these happy Worksop days we speak of were in 95-96.

What can I say about Worksop? Nothing positive, so will say nothing. Actually, there was a good pub, a Wilkinsons and Mr Straws house, a NT treasure, but not worth going there for. Poor old Worksop. They must have a hardworking team in Tourist Information. Run off their feet, no doubt.

Yesterday we went to Polesden Lacey, a NT house near brother and sister in laws house. We got there early, and did a 'short walk', and then Angie, with pushchair and friend with double buggy, said we could carry on up to the grounds but the pushchairs wouldn't make it (stiles etc) and they would meet up with us in the grounds. Ha! Never ever go on one of Angie Gibbs' 'short' walks, especially not if she has declined, and even more especially not with 2 year olds. She could work for Worksop tourist board and have people pouring in!

Forgot to tell you that on Saturday we had a wonderful afternoon at the home of one of R's mum's cousins, who coincidentally lives in Claygate and whose daughters went to Brownies with me. They live in one of the very smartest roads in Claygate, with a fantastically huge back garden ( think Aunty Penny and then some!). The occasion was a garden party to get all the descendants of R's great grandad William Chalmers together in one place. They managed somewhere between 50-70 souls, including partners, and 4 generations represented. We had family trees to pass around and name tags to identify us. Fabulous food and very lovely people, met some faces for the names Mary speaks about, and some she doesn't, and all were pleasant. Including the one I remember from Brownies, she was Sixer of the Leprachauns when I joined up, as a novice Kelpie. There were more boys than girls, a few little girls but a whole stack of boys between 4 and 7, all of whom had stripped down to nothing before we got there. As I peered through the gate on our way in I was alarmed to see that from that angle, the dress code was 'bare all'! Not something I expected from the Chalmers. Anyhow, H gamely got her tankini out of the car and joined in the water games with the boys, while A kept her knickers on and played with the other little girls on the bike and in the shrubbery! Ouch!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

35 miles in the saddle - we did it! Thought I should get the news out here before the pap photos hit OK! If you want photo evidence, I can only recommend taking a photo of the saddle impression in Ang's and my own derrieres. We didn't take any pics, too busy breathing up hills, using skills learnt at ante natal classes to minimise the pain, or freewheeling down hills, in daredevil whizzing round corners without brakes on.

Should you wish to replicate the experience, it was route Y of the Test Valley Leisure maps, thoughtfully downloadable from the web. We started at Mottisfont and Dunbridge station, then up hill and down a fab descent to Broughton, via a pig farm, and then through the Wallops to Grately ( massive hill climb) then past and through some more picturesque villages like Monxton and Abbots Ann, then Long somewhere and somewhere else that I was past caring about, then to Stockbridge, which has several fine pubs (too fine for our purses) and a popular stream side cafe/bakery, which was doing a good trade, with other cycling enthusiasts. Some old chaps with West Surrey on their tops and decidely cycling style kit on put us to shame. The rule of the road is that all cyclists say hello to each other, and some with flash kit overtake you. We managed to overtake a party of 5, going up a hill, although they had stopped at the top when we actually overtook. I managed to find a sneaky loo in a cricket club, with a vase of gerberas and real towels. Will vote for it in the Good Loo guide. My favourite village was Abbots Ann, what a great name. Village shop looked appealing, and a bloke getting out of a sports car WINKED at me! Whatever next. Seems everyone in that part of the world drives a sports car or a landrover, or probably both. Sadly we bypassed the appealingly named Red Rice. After leaving Stockbridge we had a pleasant pootle back to Houghton, then back to the station and pub at Dunbridge. Ang has been looking forward to a beer, and I had £3.70 left in my purse, so I purchased a half pint for her, and the obligatory diet coke for me. No sooner had I put her drink down than she had flipped her arm round over the table and knocked the lot to the floor. With only £1.35 left, we couldn't stretch to another, so she licked the table. Not really.

Spent a good 20 mins stretching on the pub patio, then moved over to the station platform to do some pilates style exercises on the warm tarmac. Was a fabulous day, if legs and bum a little sore, and Ang is keen to do it again - our next route is going to be one we can fit in during a school day. Any takers to come with us? Only qualification is to have use of a bike, fitness levels variable. Go on!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Managed to slip into Romsey Abbey yesterday, avoiding the £2 tax levied by the quilting club who were exhibiting there, and therefore not looking at any of the brightly coloured and beautiful quilts flung all over the stone walls, floor and any other receptacle. Was hunting for more White-Whites, but clearly their line didn't reach Romsey. Popped into a quilting fanatics shop (was with Anna, who while not a quilter, is keen on fabric) and it was heaving with quilters, all of whom have reached a certain age and girth. It was a small shop, and not really thought through in terms of the size of customers squeezing between each other and the swathes of fabric with pictures of lemurs.

I have successfully negotiated a writing contract for a top salary with a national magazine, ok, I have joined the reader panel of a small local magazine. But I am looking forward to writing for a known audience, and the discipline that will bring to my thoughts. Writing a blog is challenging, I feel, because for all I know, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and Martin Luther King are amongst my readership. Maybe not MLK then if you're fussy about the afterlife. I am careful not to say too much that would destroy, for example, our 'special' relationship' with our cousins across the pond. From my days writing letters for Amnesty, I learnt how quick the US are to go to court, and am very careful not to get myself put in gaol. In Kate Adie's book, she uses the English spelling, gaol, which I like and will emulate here. I see myself and Kate as similar in our careers as journalists. Neither of us set out to be journalists, you see, but had it forced upon us.

My other reading matter is called 'B******s to Alton Towers' and is a tour of stupidly quaint English tourist attractions. Number 1 on the list was Blackgang Chine, which regular readers will know is one of my personal top list of places to avoid before you die. Or die while there, falling off a cliff.

I spent from 10pm til 8am mopping up sick or wiping or bathing A or attending to her being sick. For a 4 year old, she is damned good at running for the loo, and staying put til its all done, but bless her, we were up a lot in the night and by morning there was nothing left inside to come out, either end. She tried. So, a stack of laundry today, but a three hour sleep this afternoon for her, worn out little darling, after she held down some water and some milk. I slept in her room with her: so not much sleep, but I am very proud of how brave she was, and very amazed at all those mums around the world, who, today, will watch that scene played out in their own babies' but without ceasing, until they just fade away and die. There is nothing like that helplessness of being a parent but not being able to do much except hold them, to engender solidarity with those mums like me who don't live inside the NHS safety net, with clean water and good food. And to spur us on not only to prayer but to action.

Monday, 14 July 2008

OK. Last weekend we went to Christchurch. Lots to tell you about it, but first, the name of a lady who died there and left enough cash to have a small tablet of stone pinned up on the church wall. Her name was Fanny. Don't laugh yet. This is the funny bit. Her surname, was White-White. Fanny White-White. Now what was going on there? Did she marry a different branch entirely, and want to make a point about not having married her cousin? Or was it her cousin and she was trying to make it seem more exotic? Really. I know the Crandons missed a trick when they opted not to become the Crandon Swanns, and obviously and most guttingly Emily did not become Emily Moon - Light. Which was really worth doing, but if you are called White, just live with it, squaring it isn't going to help.

Apart from the obvious details on the Priory walls which any casual visitor to Christchurch would zoom in on, there were many other features of the town making it worth visiting. A river with swans, an old castle and keep or something to play princesses in, a fantastic church that was a monastery. Selection of shops, including a fish shop - if you like fish you can go and learn how to cook it there. Although clearly if you really liked fish you wouldn't want to cook them. A bandstand, with belly dancers and morris dancers. Although not at once. An old mill which was free and had a man inside playing the piano and singing. A paddling pool and a good play area, right on the quayside. And best of all, a prime parking position at Christchurch sailing club, where we were visitors. Now, there is the sailing club we know, which is a wooden tumbling down hut opposite the Fawley power station. Good points: ridiculously cheap food and drink, rope swing, camping field. And there is Christchurch sailing club. For which you need to know the password to get in, has proper carpet and expensive food and drink, and which is mostly populated by elderly members who no longer sail in anything shorter than 36 foot. The welcome was wonderful, very accomodating people, whose open meeting was only ruined by the awful weather. It rather spoilt our camping adventure too, as I did not sleep on the Saturday night as I listened to the wind and rain, but was delighted to find all of us dry and still in the same spot we had pitched when dawn eventually broke. Best £50 purchase on ebay, that tent! We have taken to wanton use of the gas canister as a general tent heating device, making the time spent camping a little more pleasant. I was groaning that I was too old for camping but sadly the girls love it and I do too, when the sun shines. A said, in the car in the rain, that it was better than Fuertaventura.

I have planned a killer cycle ride with that well known Tour de France veteran Angela Whitmore. We are going on it next weekend ( I know, I usually don't tell you anything in advance for fear of stalking ( Steve) ) BUT today's voyages will make more sense if you appreciate that I am in training.

1. to nursery with A on back. Back of bike, NOT on my back.
2 to Hedge End to get something laminated and take library books back. Also bought a danish pastry and a smoothie and a sweater in a charity shop. Did not buy the pastry and the smoothie in the charity shop, got them in the coop.
3. to Bitterne. Met Angela and granma for a quick pit stop in Bakers Oven.
4. Swam about 20 lengths at Bitterne Public Drains.
5. Biked home, without getting off up that hill.
6. To nursery with H cycling too.
7. to Haskins, all the way down Cutbush lane. Nice off road route, but not really for bikes, as loads of those metal things to stop you going too fast. Ate a scone and drank tea.
8. Home from Haskins along the A27 on the too narrow pavements next to too fast cars. Walked all the way up the hill from West End to the church.
9. Collapsed in the bath with a glass of wine and Kate Adie.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

A's choice for a day out today, was Ollie's ocean world. On such a sunny summer day. Managed to negotiate to Play Shack, in Hedge End, so we could at least go on elsewhere for a picnic. Which we did, to Itchen Valley. We were there 2 Tuesdays in a row, for picnic lunches, this one just me and my little girl, she had the playpark to herself, mostly. Last week we took Granny Mary and met up with 4 of the NCT gang, a miracle as we only ever make 5 at most ( 1 moved away, 1 got super job doing clever things and travel). So, two days, both perfect sunshine and picnictastic.

The one good thing about the Play Shack is the sofas. I bought a copy of The Times, for a change, and read all of it while A made a friend and played with him. My neck has been hurting a lot more today, but it's my own stupid fault for spending 4 hours cleaning the kitchen (Washed the walls! Wiped out drawers! And threw away every lid without a plastic pot). If you come round you had better mention the clean kitchen. Although it doesn't last for long does it? Better come today. Neck pain might also be slightly linked to me getting all excited about the jet washer we have borrowed and insisting on having a go.

Have got through more fiction than lately, or kind of close to fiction. I am reading 'the diving bell and the butterfly' which isn't really fiction, but I don't know what you would call it. Other book on the go is 'Stories to make men out of boys' by Neil someone. Now, amazingly, a few weeks ago it was recommended to me, and I asked at the library, as it did not show up on the catalogue. They said they would put forward my suggestion to the buying panel. The next time I went in it was right there next to the counter! Now, that, along with weekly wheelie bin collection, is what us council tax payers expect! And leisure centres that don't smell of drains would be nice.

The book is full of stories about heroes, and mainly about seiges and wars and battles etc. I have read about Shackleton, Scott, Armstrong, Nelson, Zulu warriors, American Indians, the thin red line and the charge of the light brigade ( never understood that before - ouch! that guy really messed up bigtime). So, it is not fiction either is it, but maybe verging on legend. Have not got any nuggets to tell you, except be glad you are not a soldier in the Light Brigade. And if you are ever caught in a battle from the past, be one of the guys on the horses.