Monday, 28 December 2009

Lovely to have Nick Treby on board, despite his penchant for Martyn Joseph. I expect you will be following my running career with interest, Nick, and I yours.

So far, M and S have sent another gift card for £2 to cover the postage, but no flowers or manager on the doorstep.

On a much more positive note, I had fabulous customer service today, a bank holiday, from Lakeland. I emailed to say my 18 month old kettle had broken (the lid hinge broke and it is unopenable) and could they repair or send a spare part in preference to a replacement. They could do neither, but are sending a new one and then sending a courier to collect the old one. So, buy your knickers from Lakeland, not M and S. Except they don't do knickers so you would have to wear sandwich bags or tupperware equivalent, which would leave you with an interesting profile.

Now, the real meaning of Christmas, of course, is more free time for DIY and exercise. After my rallying (geddit) from my virus and playing tennis on Tue night, mid housegroup 'Share the spare' evening, I went to the gym on Wednesday, for a freezing cold swim on Thursday, for a 8 mile run on Friday, for a 10 mile cycle ride on Saturday, for a re program at the gym and an hour of tennis yesterday and another hour in the gym and hour of tennis today. Yahoo! Feel great! R and I have invented a great new version of the rules of tennis to mean that I get to practise what I need to and he does too. Here goes. Its complicated, but means we end up playing really well matched games, today I beat him 4-2, games take ages and we are always doing the deuce advantage dance over and over again. The rules are - I can win points any way I can, if I win it, I get the points. I can also lose a point by double faulting on the serve. Got it so far? R, who is way better than me, can only win a point if he hits it at the net and wins it. So, he works hard on coming to the net, which is what he needs to work on, and i work hard on trying to keep him back, which is what I need to do. Oh, and he doesn't do proper serves. Else I would have no hope and may as well sit in the bar. It's so much more fun and I feel like R is getting something out of us playing together rather than just feeding me backhand practice. I am much better now too and feel really positive about 2012. I do not understand the coming to the net thing at all. If I ever did it, I would just stand there and watch the ball sail overhead.

The run on Christmas day was fab - great weather, went with R and showed him my long run over to Manor Farm and back, via mud and thorns and freezing cold puddles. R likes running on flat roads, so it wasn't his favourite ever run. It was possibly my favourite ever run, went there and back via Netley Common as well so lots of time off road.

As well as the exercise, we have been busy renovating our kitchen. Due to a clerical error at the tax office, they sent me a cheque, so I have spent it on new floor tiles, due to come tomorrow at 8am. So we had to rip the lino up, and used it as a good opportunity to have a big clean out and also to repaint the dining area walls and gloss, and you know how these things go, we ended up working out some new storage solutions and R did a few trips to B and Q ( buy buy buy!) and we hope to have a much smarter and cleaner space for Wendy the cleaner to clean every Wednesday, by next Wednesday. The whole thing is purely for her suprise when she walks in the door. We arranged for the fitting to be done tomorrow and Wednesday, hence sending the girls up to mum so they are out of the way, but today Craig, the tile man, rang and said he wouldn't be able to start until Thursday. I was assertive and said that we were living in a campsite, all the appliances were unapplied and the children had been sent off for a very specific interval of time to allow unhindered access to the kitchen, and that we needed it started tomorrow. He rang back later and said someone would be with us at 8am. Watch this space. Interestingly, when he said his set piece about not being able to make it, in my head, I said 'oh, ok then' but kept my mouth shut and just stood in silence for ages deciding how to best put across how much this inconvenienced me without sounding angry. Good huh? For someone who has a MBE for services to the 'open gob before thinking' industry I am proud of my assertive silence.

The girls went home with Granny M to Granny B's, yesterday, hence us having time to do DIY and play tennis and eat ready meals cos the cooker is disconnected. Poor H was the last of the Bowens to come down with the dreaded virus, suffering with vomiting on Christmas eve at about 1am, AFTER Santa had visited, with A therefore waking up with all the cuffuffle and rustling papers continuing until I think I said that Santa would come back and take it all away again. They are cute, we have always told them that it is a fun pretend thing that we all go along with, and they love it, not minding at all when, for example, I told them that Santa had asked me to go and do some shopping for him as he was busy. I had a very technological Christmas, with a new computer that I didn't even open, too scared and amazed, a pedometer which can tell me how far I have gone, and a Digital Radio for the kitchen. The radio seems to be adverse to BBC channels, so we have listened to Wave for two days and know the adverts off by heart. Where would you go to get a new Renault? R threatened the radio with a knife and plugged it in to a different plug and it seems to be ok now with Radio 4.

Christmas was also a bit of a towel fest, as I had asked my mum and she had sensibly bought as requested - so R and I both got big towels, and the girls got those ones you put on your head and look like a monkey or a cat. I also have ordered some travel towels for gym use which should come soon. None too soon, as you can never have enough towels! Just think how handy it would have been for Joseph to have had a lightweight travel towel or two in his knapsack to pop in the manger at the crucial moment.

In the few days before Christmas I tried to renew my library books by phone as they are due back tomorrow. On the first day, the recorded message said they had trouble with their phone system and to try again later, I did, same again. Day 2: They had all evacuated the building, said the message. OK. Day 3 - due to the bad weather all the staff are busy taking calls about snow and ice and not renewing library books. I didn't bother calling on Christmas day, I had a feeling they would have a recorded message for every event.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Aha, Sarah points out that if you click on the letter from Lord Coe it gets bigger and you can read it.
Everyone else in family watching HSM 3 in front of the fire. Which is what Christmas is all about isn't it? I know the film off by heart ( I was Gabriella in a former life) so have snuck off to tell you, as is my annual tradition now, about the great panto at Ferneham Hall, Fareham. We go on a coach from Thornhill organised by Sandra, one of the great and good of Thornhill. The Rainbows were looking for a panto so I suggested they come along, so 12 Rainbows came too which was fabulous. We all get a free ice cream, coach trip there and a ticket for £6, as Sandra always gets a grant from somewhere to allow impoverished oiks like me to go to the theatre. Abi from next door but one was 4 today, and came with us, minus mum (HATTIE - sorry, not intentionally shouting at you) who was sorting out her son's suspected broken hand. He's fine. Anyhow, I mentioned to the steward that Abi was 4 today, and they arranged for her to go up on stage and sing a verse of Old Mc Donald, which she did beautifully, she chatted into the microphone with no qualms at all and I was so proud of her! What a special birthday to remember! The show was the usual couple of hours of coarse jokes and slapstick humour which appeals to all ages, even without Orville it was a great show and I recommend it to all - even miserable old muppets who don't like panto. You know who you are!

Came home and had a balanced diet tea of pizza, chips and nachos. The plates were well balanced, and the chillis were green and count as one of your five a day. R did a stunning job of getting up at 6 something this morning and going to Tesco before it got busy. Hence the supply of tasty morsels for tea. When I and the girls woke at 8.30 he was back and unloading the car. What a husband!

I went to see my nun this morning, its been a long time, August in fact, and I needed it, when I was working through the retreat in everyday life I saw her every fortnight and she is a great spiritual director, I just rant on at her and she nods and then we pray and go home. Well, she stays put because I go to where she lives, which is a retreat house in Netley Abbey - how convenient a nun can you be? She does the shopping at Tesco, which seems wrong, shouldn't nuns be growing everything in their own field?

I think I omitted to tell you that last week I attended a bus user group meeting in Thornhill, I have been going for a couple of years, but for the last year, I have hardly been on a bus, as I tend to cycle or run or drive places, and rarely go into town which is the only place I would go on a bus. The group is small, about 4 residents and then a few people who come from various bus companies/the council and talk about why they don't put on more buses. The relationships have strengthened over the years and now from a place of trust, people can understand the bus companies' view points and appreciate that they are not deliberately making bus users' lives difficult. The transformation of Thornhill over the life of the New Deal money has been miraculous, crime is a fraction of what it was, people want to live here, everything looks cleaner and smarter, and people have been empowered to make changed for the better in their community and be proud of living here.

My relationship healing with M and S goes on. I got a gift card for the price of the trousers in the post but emailed again asking for the postage and Sam is sending me another gift card. I also asked Tom (my first email friend at M and S) to send the store manager round with a bunch of flowers, singing 'I want you back for good' but it is a busy time of year and he is probably round the back plucking turkeys. Or pheasants, seeing as its M and S. Also pointed out an error of grammar, and the person who emailed me back ( Sam - Tom is on holiday) said he would draw it to Toms attention. So, I had to tell Sam that he had missed an apostrophe. Honestly, Sam and Tom, were you paying attention in literacy?

Yesterday we did a family panto, there is a website called Put on a and you can download easy scripts for lots of fun. We did Cinderella, R had to be the ugly sisters and the prince but he coped well with the quick costume changes. If you like panto, you'll like the site. If you don't- you won't. Dave, Matt, Pam and Steve, you guys would LOVE it. You two young uns could be the ugly sisters, Anna would be perfect as Cinderella and Sarah would be good as Buttons. That would leave Steve as Prince Charming, a role he would fill effortlessly, and Mrs E senior could do the Cecil B de Milne bit from the sofa. How about it guys, stick it on u tube, in fact next year Ant and Dec could be on your doorstep. I am going to inflict it on the Gibbs family and Granny Mary won't leave without one run through!

Tis the season to be merry.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Somehow, in some freak of IT trouble, after I bagged a great pre Christmas slot for the Sainsburys man to come, and R added some things on to the order last night, Sainsburys tell me the order was cancelled. I have rescheduled it for New Years Eve and it serves me right for being so organised. Now, like everyone else, we will be in Sainsburys this week rather than lounging around smoking cigars and waiting for the van to arrive. I am still struggling under a cloud of illness. Yesterday, in no particular order, read the Guardian back to front - thats Naidraug to you. Watched Take That and remembered just how hot the weather can be in England. Took a short walk in the sunshine by the sea at Hill Head. Drank tea and looked at gifts at Garsons Garden Centre in Titchfield. Cut out blobs of colour and french words for the new display. Slept. Rob spent hours cooking huge quanitities of vegetables for the church messy lunch, house stank of leeks yesterday. In the morning, H attacked me with an air freshener spray. I am not a great fan of them at best of times, less so now, after she unintentionally sprayed it at my face and I hollered - thus starting her off on crying.

I hope you get the idea of the letter, signed Seb Coe, from 15 Tennis Court, London, asking me to be the face of women's tennis for 2012. Maybe you have a magnifying glass and can read it?
Posted by Picasa
Well, that didn't go very well did it? I told you I was not good with IT. Anyhow, those of you with bionic eyes will be able to read it. The first effort even worse as in following the wizard, it didn't say anything about putting the piece of paper on the scanner.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

I cried listening to Wogan yesterday morning. I only started listening in September, on the one day a week I drive to work, with a journey time under 15 minutes, and if I was crying in the car, what of the people who have listened for 27 years? I do like having the car on Thursdays so I can also listen to Chris Evans on the way home, which tends to be a longer journey. It's uphill.

In a Christmas card this year, Tash ( a mention! - that'll be fifty quid please) said she was a newcomer to my blog and found it 'tremendous value'. I should think so, seeing as, like the NHS, it remains free at the point of use. Maybe Matthew could work out some system that is means tested and takes out a certain amount of cash from someon'e account when they read. Or, even better, when they don't, to encourage them to do so! Aha!

Its the day after the last day of term, and predictably in a household of two teachers and two school children, we are all ill/exhausted. Amy has vomiting last night, diarrhoea this morning, so she has eaten nothing and lounged around doing mindless tasks - blowing up balloons, making a pass the parcel, getting me to sew patches on to a piece of fabric to be a Cinderella skirt. I have a sore throat - unsuprisingly at the end of a term of 6-7 year olds and have found Immodium to be a great invention. H and R have just come home from tennis, swimming and cutting holly and ivy down from in the woods for a craft activity at church tomorrow. R was going to BUY holly from the farm shop! Such a city boy, he thought it was immoral and or illegal to cut holly down from trees in the public domain. The ethnically Romany people who run the farm shop would only have cut it down themselves and charged a fiver for the service. Packed him off with a pair of secateurs and a carrier bag. H is now putting her clarinet together to practise Silent Night which she is playing tomorrow with R accompanying on guitar as part of our Messy Nativity. We are having a roast dinner, and seeing as some members of our housegroup struggle to manage french bread or cheese when we have a ploughmans, I dread to think of the logistics of serving a Roast to upwards of 25 people in a youth centre with one domestic oven. I will get some mulled wine in a flask and lie down under the pool table until someone says dinner is ready. I have a tennis date at 2pm, so lets hope we're not waiting for the turkey to defrost all afternoon.

I drove home through horizontal snow on Thursday night from the works do, which was held in a De Vere hotel in the middle of the countryside not far from Curbridge, home of the murder mystery production of a few weeks back. The hotel was lovely, we were in the old manor house bit, and the service was excellent, food fine but the portion control was so tight they counted out the peas. You know how it is, the more you pay for food, the less you get on a plate. I left at 11pm and heard the next day that some of our party remained til 1am - no wonder they looked a bit worse for wear on Friday.

Friday was a nice half day at work - nice to get lots of chocolates and a couple of bottles of wine and let the children go home at 12.30. We did fraction baubles and they really liked it, and it gave them a chance to show off the skills they have learned in 'Clever Hands' sessions we have had for the last month - cutting, colouring, using a hole punch, still need to work on tying knots. We finished our third of the Allan Ahlberg Gaskett family books, they are great fun books for around 7 year olds, still nothing as good as Billy bonkers by Giles Andreae or Mr Gum by Andy Stanton - if you not yet bought my Christmas present, Amazon vouchers will be great thanks.

Nick Sharratt is our new author focus for next term, the display is up, along with clean backed boards ready for next term, a new Maths display area and a French board in the pipeline. Being in H's classroom for a few minutes yesterday inspired me, along with the extra money we have been allocated to spend on stationery, my lovely LSA went and ordered £50 worth of laminating pouches, so finally I will be able to create some more learning displays to make the classroom a better learning environment. I was so inspired that I went on to Sparklebox and cut out little hands to help with handwriting while watching Jonathan Ross getting nowhere fast with Hugh Grant who came across as being very dull and having no life.

I got a great Secret Santa present, I got the comedy present from the resident joker, I will try to work the scanner and scan it in for you to peruse at your leisure. May be some time, as involves leaving the warm fire in the lounge with the Christmas tree and laptop. I intend staying put for next 14 days and nights. Have done the online shop for food so should technically not need to go to the Co-op even. Amanda has gone out sledging with Ang. She was excited and then told me she did not know what sledging meant. Surely no one is that deprived and uneducated? She must be extracting the michael, right? Everyone has heard of a sledge! Well, clearly not. Despite my motherly advice to wear a coat ( it being 0 degrees) she just in a tracksuit. Ah well. Rome not built in a day.

Got a new phone, finally parting with my beloved Nokia for another Nokia which is shinier and more complex. R has set ' We built this city' as the ring tone. Good eh?

Friday, 18 December 2009

That's Amanda's sister in the piece below then. And her nephew. yikes. No wonder she didn't get up this morning as she had promised she would to take girls to school.

Two parents were today found guilty after their baby was found with a catalogue of injuries in Southampton.
Jurors at Southampton Crown Court were out for about four hours before convicting father Luke Lock, 23, of Albert Road South, Southampton, of causing grievous bodily harm and causing actual bodily harm to his five-month-old infant son.
He gasped when the foreman announced the verdict and looked toward his mother and step-father sitting in the public gallery.
The baby's mum Charmain Rippon, 21, of Wavell Road, Southampton, who was found guilty of neglect, showed no emotion.
Judge Peter Ralls QC said they were serious offences and in themselves justified a prison sentence but he was adjourning the case until a date to be fixed for probation reports. He also ordered a psychiatric report on Lock.
Both had bail extended with the condition they each reported to the central police station once a week.
As he was addressing barristers, Lock launched a verbal outburst.
He stormed: "This trial has been unfair, that's all I'm going to say. I would never hurt my son."
The pair were charged after the baby, who has made a full recovery and is now in foster care, was detained in the General Hospital with severe bruising, multiple fractures and in an emaciated condition.
He was also suffering from bleeding behind the eyes and on the brain. Two parents were today found guilty after their baby was found with a catalogue of injuries in Southampton.
Jurors at Southampton Crown Court were out for about four hours before convicting father Luke Lock, 23, of Albert Road South, Southampton, of causing grievous bodily harm and causing actual bodily harm to his five-month-old infant son.
He gasped when the foreman announced the verdict and looked toward his mother and step-father sitting in the public gallery.
The baby's mum Charmain Rippon, 21, of Wavell Road, Southampton, who was found guilty of neglect, showed no emotion.
Judge Peter Ralls QC said they were serious offences and in themselves justified a prison sentence but he was adjourning the case until a date to be fixed for probation reports. He also ordered a psychiatric report on Lock.
Both had bail extended with the condition they each reported to the central police station once a week.
As he was addressing barristers, Lock launched a verbal outburst.
He stormed: "This trial has been unfair, that's all I'm going to say. I would never hurt my son."
The pair were charged after the baby, who has made a full recovery and is now in foster care, was detained in the General Hospital with severe bruising, multiple fractures and in an emaciated condition.
He was also suffering from bleeding behind the eyes and on the brain.

The Echo also has an article that says that vigilante attacks have taken place at Charmaine's flat. Lumps of concrete thrown through windows, graffiti sprayed on door that kind of thing. And this whole bloody episode took place in my beloved Bitterne.

I think I may move to Curbridge and spend more time at the Reading Rooms watching plays.

Friday, 11 December 2009

H and A have friends in their classes from the same family who do not have any belief in God, to such an extent that they are not allowed to go to assembly if God is mentioned, or to take part in the Christmas play. But, this really gets me, and I don't understand at all - please help. One of them was in the clarinet concert, but she wasn't allowed to play Jingle Bells. Jingle Bells has got so little to do with Jesus that it seems only to be a bizzare indictment of the state of the role of Christmas in society that to protect a child from exposure to the idea of God they can't play a tune that has words to do with sleigh rides. We had an interesting conversation at tea time today about belief, and how the idea of not believing is as ludicrous to us as probably the idea of having faith is to others when they look at us.

Meanwhile, the nativity play at Hamble went well in the end, with a star and a king who belted out their lines and everyone rose to the expectations of the director and did their best with their bit of the show. No disasters, no You've Been Framed moments with Mary and Joseph fighting over the baby or similar. Shame, a £500 bonus shared between all the staff is a great idea.

I went to Tescos tonight, sorry everyone, I rarely do it, and was in a bit of a stupor and found it so overwhelming it will be a while before I do it again. Did one of those shops I am so good at, where you spend £100 and come back and don't have anything to eat. The good thing to report was that there was no queue for the till. It was busy, but no queues. How do they do that?

I am avoiding thinking about Christmas, people who are more organised are sending cards and letters and photos of their family and I am just leaving them in a heap and hoping they go away. Have bought almost no presents, so if you don't get one, its not personal, no one did. Same with cards. In fact, assume you won't and here's a Happy Christmas. Its not like me, I am usually all bought and wrapped by end of November (as a child, I did my Christmas shopping at the scouts summer fete) so I have to blame the pressures of my job, or some other ill. Am hoping to find a great ski deal on Last which I can justify as being cheaper than staying at home. Might go on my own if necessary. Oh, I did buy and freeze the Chinese snacks and bought some chopsticks didn't I, so I am not so far behind after all. Wrapped up the Secret Santa presents for both R and I's work things. R always brings home some novelty shaped chocolate items, however much care he puts into choosing something thoughtful and nice for his person. So this year he assigned the job to me, and I had to choose for a 'middle aged female PE teacher'. Had a look at footballs, whistles and universal ball pump attachments, but went for a Christmas pudding which I hope will be both useful and hysterically funny in a post modern way. Worst case scenario she can let them use it for netball practise or whatever they do at big schools.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

A most odd domestic scene today unfolded before me. Got the bus from Bitterne to town today. As bus paused in traffic nearly in town, I saw a couple walk up a side way and the woman opened a wheelie bin. The man carefully placed a hamster cage therein. Then they carried on.

Quite surreal. Popped in to Lush and came out with a headache and less cash, nipped in to look at my favourite pictures in the art gallery - if the bloody council try to sell them along with the Rodin sculptures I will strap myself to the front of the art gallery like a suffragette. A great God moment looking at my favourite picture - the Jesus and Mary altar piece.

To the Art House Cafe, a funky vegan veggie style place with eclectic furniture and art for sale and board games, run by volunteers etc etc - just my kind of place. Shame the builder's tea tasted of jasmine and its just across the road from the art gallery, my fave cafe to eat in town. Not that I go into town often. I will try out their food next time though - today it was just tea and cake with Suzanne, the great guru.

Got a number 3 bus home and walked from the main road in the rain, saw our postman who calls me Kay, which I think is a nice touch. Got a Christmas card from our milkman, Jeff, who I still have never seen, but I trust that he exists cos there's milk on the step on Mondays and Fridays. Umm. Bit like God really. Ate a samosa from Laly's ( the shop where the gunman used customers as weapons on Friday) and a chocolate bar for lunch. Met up with Hat for our weekly chat through the chapter of Margaret Silf we are reading together, wrapped up 20 books for her toddler group at the same time as chatting about 'Deep Desires;' Chapter 7.

Was Mary Poppins after school, picking up 3 extra children, all accounted for. Emma, the new hairdresser, came round and cut the girls' and R's hair at tea time, which went well too. Very quick and painless experience for all.

I am not sure if I told you I went to the cinema on Saturday? To see The Box, which is a science fiction kind of clever film - the basic question in it is - if you press the button, you get £1 million, but someone somewhere in the world dies. Would you press the button. A massive message film, had me literally on the edge of my seat, really scary in bits despite being a 12, not gory or anything, just the question and the outworking of the consequences. A real challenge of a film, I loved the whole experience and afterwards wanted to talk about it - would you or wouldn't you ? But the people I went with just thought it was rubbish and didn't want to talk about it. I think most people go to the cinema to be entertained, not challenged. I like both. The film was busy and I hope it made people think about the consequences of our actions, and I would recommend it, but won't cos that is always the kiss of death for films with me. Just go and see it and then pretend you went before I said anything about it.

Had to go to M and S as Sainsburys did not have the bright tights necessary for H's school play. Grudingly handed over £3 into their coffers. Have not heard back from Tom in Chester yet, nor from the man at Sainsburys who sent a very unsatisfactory response to my letter complaining about enormous poster of soldiers killing each other in a X box game emblazoned over a railing in Bitterne. Its an 18 game, and I don't want my child seeing such images at their height as we walk through a shopping street.

Made mash for tea with Sainsburys Value potatoes, which were great, I won't ever buy any other kind again! Popped into Asda in town, Inever go to Asda, but Suzanne wanted some electrical energy saver thing, so went with her. Remembered instantly why I never go to Asda. Urgh.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Just pinched some planning for next half term from A's teacher, as we are doing the same topic. It is the most fantastic, thorough planning I have ever seen and I am in awe. Can't wait to do the topic!

Yesterday we went to St Christopher's for their 'Faith Alive' all age meeting, which was ok, they try really hard to include the kids but the congregation tends to be a sea of grey. Which is good in lots of ways. The girls read lots of books from their childrens' book corner and were interested in the Advent candles and the communion business with the wafers.

We walked up to the zipwire park after, but it was a bit muddy and wet, BUT, we saw 8 serious young athletes out training. I was in shock as never see other people running in Thornhill, they were from Team Southampton, ( I asked). They were running over and over again up the short steep path to the crossing at the top and then walking back down. I only mention it to show how exciting it was to find young people in Thonhill exercising.

Today I went to H's clarinet concert, and played just over 2 hours of tennis. I went to a tennis class, which was fun, nice bunch of people and I was not the worst player by any stretch, I would say I was middle of the road. Which is incredibly nice for the ego when you are used to being dire, its nice to play someone more dire than you. Also had A's Rainbow nativity play and parents' evening, with a raffle and mince pies and singing songs. It was lovely, her Rainbow leader, Pink, is really good at the job. A was Joseph and was dragged around the hall by Mary and a donkey, wearing a handy shepherd outfit made by Kim a few years back, and a teatowel, neatly attached with a piece of R's boating elastic rope.

Such is the life of a socialite like me. Non stop culture. Concerts and high brow nativity plays.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Forgot this from the Echo:

Armed police hunt for knife man - at the Bittern pub on Thornhill Park Road. After a knifeman held up the local Laly's store at the corner, near Blockbuster and the fish and chip shop - know where I am?

but this is the bit I liked:

'He threatened ownder Balvinder Laly with the weapon as well as two customers who were inside the store at the time.'

Now, could that be interpreted as the knifeman using the two customers to threaten Mrs Laly, or is it just me? I like that they describe the store as being in Bitterne, when it is in Thornhill Park, but it makes Bitterne sound like a den of thieves doesn't it?

Where we lived in Sheffield, knife and gun hold ups at the corners shops were fairly frequent events, we knew of 3 in the two years we were there. But don't tell my dad! Well, you can now.

I didn't tell you about my other Granma, Ivy. She lived in Oxshott, which is the village next to Claygate if you go across the woods and the A3. She was the youngest or second youngest of about 12, born and christened Ivy Christabel in 1911 I think, I could be wrong on that, my dad will correct me. I don't know much about her life, apart from that she lived in the house my dad still lives in from 1945 until about 1978, when she moved to a council sheltered housing flat in Claygate, in the same complex that Granny Alice lived in, which made visiting grannies very handy. One famous anecdote is that when my dad was a baby, her mum, his granny, took him for a walk in the woods and left him on the path next to Oxshott railway station, and Granma Ivy had to go and find him, luckily still there. So when I was born, until I was 5, my granma lived with us, and it was hard work for all. We had the front room and she had the back, we had to share the kitchen and bathroom She used a mangle in the back garden and I think it was very trying for my mum to have 2 small children and a mother in law constantly around. She was very opinionated and had lots to say on all subjects, rode a bike and did like a laugh. We never felt as at home with her babysitting as with Granny Alice, but she was not a bad granma, very generous with pocket money and delicious home made cakes, and shop bought ones too. Both my grandmothers died in the same nursing home, so be warned! Its not got a good track record! It's called the Home of Compassion, a name I like and might use to rename my own home if we find that 'Hinkler House' is a bit OTT. Home of Compassion, sounds classy, does it not? No?
Hello! In buoyant mood, having fired off a letter to the Echo after reading a guy who reckons KS2 SATs attainment is entirely linked to economic level of the area around the school. We all know that schools in rich areas generally do better in these tests than schools in poor areas, just like people live longer in Brockenhurst than in Bootle. That was in the paper today too. But, its not just about the economic area of a school, as shown so fabulously by Kanes Hill, which came 7th from top in the Southampton league table, just above the two Catholic schools which generally do well as people self select to go there. Oh, and above Bitterne Park. Did you just hear me laugh? Nope. Not me. So despite being in a economic area very similar to the other schools in Thornhill, it gets results that are way above them, despite sharing the same kids (lots of swapping goes on), the same problems and the same attitudes to education in their parents. So, hooray for our fab school that does amazing things with its children - not just academically, but with the social and emotional learning that goes on, and the amazing commitment to the arts.

Only problem is that the local secondary is currently the sink school for the whole of Southampton, with all the oiks chucked out of other schools getting sent there. So, fab kids who have 7 years of great education at Kanes Hill then get delivered to Woodlands, where they don't do as well as they should. Talking to some of the Year 6 girls I know, none of them have put Woodlands as their first choice, prefering even to go to the Oasis Academy in Woolston, which was in the national press for the anarchy at the beginning of last year.

Just you wait til I'm director of education for Southampton.

In the meantime, I continue to provide meaningful opportunities for independent learning for the adorable children of Hamble, and they have risen to the recent challenges of a nativity play to reherse, moving Christmas cards - levers, rotating pictures, that kind of thing and me not having a voice for 2 days and croaking at them like Marg Simpson.Turned the lights on and off to get them to look at me, then did sign language to get them tidying up.

Continuing in my quest to provide enriching experiences for my children, we went along to Forest Forge play of Ashputtel- a Cinderella story, but not a panto! They were showing at Thornhill Primary, arranged by TPY, with the usual sparse attendance despite the bargain ticket prices of £2.50. There were 5 talented actors, who also played musical instruments as part of the show, and it was one of the most well told and beautiful plays I have seen for a while. Took my 2 girls god gangers, plus an extra one, and they all enjoyed the play.

I have just finished the book 'A short history of tractors in Ukranian' which is funny and sad in just the right protions and is recommended for an easy read on a train or something. Am now reading '9 ways to go around a boulder' which isn't as dull as it sounds. Mind you, the first title sounds dull but isn't. Don't judge a book by its cover!

When I get around to publishing 'I still have more washing than line' it will not sound exciting, will it? It will appeal to people who like doing laundry, I expect. Let's hope they have a more reliable source of pegbags than I do. Old Ma Crandon has not yet pulled a peg out of the bag for me, as it were. Really don't want to press my limited edition pristine Claygate peg bag into use but might have to, as had to pick pegs up off floor today. Come on, Libby! Get sewing! You could be the next Cath Kidston, or Kath Cidston, or whatever her name is who makes flowery bags.

Last night we had some fudge and a family time watching an amercan DVD of the nativity story, which featured a very muscley Joseph and a Mary with milk white skin. Despite this, it was very accurate to the bible narrative, and started from the viewpoint of Simeon and Anna, who had been waiting so patiently for the Messiah. I was intrigued by how they knew - that gut feeling you get, God's voice, a nudge? Its not just for prophets, is it? We can all hear God's voice, if we turn off the radio and listen. Or indeed if we listen to the radio with open ears to hear what he says about what is going on in the world.

Sorry, will never get on Thought for the Day if I suggest turning off the radio. Am tuning in to Sir Terry as often as I can, never having been a big Wogan fan I am making the most of his last few weeks on air on the breakfast show. He is in a class of his own. The music in entirely incidental to the chatting about almost nothing that goes on for many minutes at a time. What fun!

I am glad I decided not to go for that xtraining challenge, as sitting at home with a book, a paper, a cup of tea and a throat that doesn't work is much more what I need today than pounding around a gym with a load of bodybuilders. Saw some of them as I took the girls to tennis, it all looks like a serious business and I feeling very limp today, physically.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Friday night was a game of two halves. One half ridiculous, the other sublime.

Amanda announced that she had met one of her brothers and lent him her bus pass. She agreed that she was an idiot to do this, as he is not known for his word being his bond, and a 'lend' and a 'steal' are closely linked concepts in Family Fagan. Anyway, she hassled her mum who hassled brother 1 who sent brother 2 ( aged 13) round on his bike with a fiver and some tobacco. Not a bus pass. And a flat tyre. R mends tyre in hall while Amanda hassles her mum a bit more to hassle her bro no 1. Bro no 2 sets off home on working bike. R and I set off for a am dram play in Curdridge Village Hall called A Tomb With a View. It starts at 7.45pm.

We get there at 7.45pm (being held up by bike repairs and various stresses of a Rippon variety) and find we are late - ie the lady is on stage introducing it, and has sto stop and say ' Oh, lets let these late comers in' before we creep from the door at the front by the stage to the back row. Then we sing the national anthem before the proceedings begin. For am dram it was excellent, it was a murder mystery and I guessed correctly! It was a different world from the one we had left 10 minutes away. Literally, that is all it takes to get from the bizarre world we inhabit here to a genteel, country life existence where the good and the great of Curdridge get together in the Reading Rooms to watch a play. It was a sea of grey. We were the youngest people apart from one youthful cast member who stripped down to his pants in a rather untoward twist in the play. No twists in his pants, as far as I could tell, and I was at the back. At half time we could buy a packet of crisps and a glass of wine or a cup of tea. The only thing was that it was 2 and a half hours long including an interval, which is a long play, you get your money's worth in Curdridge!

It struck me very much how most of the people in that room had probably never been to Bitterne, and probably didn't know where Thornhill was. Despite it being less than 5 miles ( crow measuring) it really is in another universe, and I seem to be inhabiting both of these worlds. Which is odd.

AJ moved house this weekend, and it is a beautiful new 3 bed end of terrace, really spacious and just a fabulous move away from the stress and being cooped up of a 2 bedroom flat for 5 people. I am so pleased for her, and for myself that she is hanging around Thornhill for a long time now. If I lived in that house I wouldn't be going anywhere fast.

Today I jogged to the Post Office and then through the woods to the gym, where I swapped my wet trainers for my tennis shoes and had another lesson, during which I learned how to serve and how to do better footwork to be balanced for my swing. I feel greatly encouraged and am going to try out a women's class where there are about 8 people learning at a variety of levels, mostly just beyond beginner like me I hope. He said nice things about my natural serve and good progress, but then he would wouldn't he?

I spent the morning catching up on various home admin things, like doing the online shopping for tomorrow and for the week before Christmas, to avoid that awful having to go shopping on Christmas eve thing, hopefully. We are planning chicken nuggets and chips and Chinese for our Christmas dinner this year.

Yesterday we went to Vineyard church, for our stint at leading the first half, which we are getting very professional at, and miracle of miracles, everyone arrived at or within a few minutes of 9am! And we are so good now that we are all ready by 9.30 and then get to stand around and wait for the catering team to make the tea. There are lots of young people there these days, think its the student influx, good on them, make me feel old having them around and that's great. When I drove past Wessex Lane Halls of Residence a few weeks ago and the new students were going around with their mums, I identified more with the mums than the students. And I could, as Amanda loves telling me, just about be her mum. Yipee!

On Saturday we popped to the Berrywood School Fair and I had lots of mums and teachers and LSAs and dinner ladies waving and smiling and generally being lovely, and it made me miss it more, in that I had been there for a long time and was well known, even had Year 6 children smiling and saying Hi, who had been in my class in Year 3. I felt a bit sad at all the good friendships you get working somewhere which can't be sustained when you leave. Other things on Saturday were a run with Sarah, same route pretty much as last week, a Pilates class and 40 minutes of tennis practise with R. Hope Pilates, tennis, running and swimming are OK sports to partake in with you all? Phew. I thought as much. You are thinking that if I do two people's exercise, that saves you doing any! R also took the girls swimming, oh and I went to Hedge End library, finally coinciding my visit to Hedge End with its opening hours. Read the Saturday Guardian which is becoming a bit of a habit, my favourite section is the Family bit, then the money problem page. Bought the paper, didn't read it in the library as they didn't have it.

H wanted to do some pottery painting with me yesterday, so we went to Crockery in Eastleigh which is very spacious, but the cost of the £4.50 studio fee makes even the smallest coaster weigh in at about £9. We made 6 tree decorations, at £3 each they are probably the most expensive we have ever bought. We have advent calendars and nativity set and Christmas books out, and A is practising her carols for the Rainbow Nativity next Monday. She is Joseph, and is wearing the Shepherd outfit that she is wearing next Wed and Thur for her school nativity play. Tomorrow she is singing songs from the show to the mayor, and on Friday to the unsuspecting public in West Quay. So if you are in town on Friday, head to M and S and Gap at about midday to be serenaded by a lot of 6 year olds. She goes to choir and really loves singing, H will be joining choir as soon as her street dance class finishes, as they clash. H is also in the school orchestra - I just love that our school has an orchestra! When I worked at Crofton Hammond it had an amazing orchestra of about 12 or so different instruments, I don't think Kanes Hill is quite up to that level but still awesome to have an orchestra.

Just watched Robots. What a great film! 'You can shine, no matter what you are made of' - hey - isn't that straight out of Romans? A great message film, I loved it, very funny too and straight into my top ten films of all time. You recall that I only own two DVD that are all mine, so not much competition. I looked at our DVD collection, it is Moulin Rouge, The Miracle Maker, Mary Poppins, HSM 3 , The Sound of Music, Enchanted and Mama Mia. Finally had a lesson from R and written down instructions for how to play a DVD so might watch one or two of them now!

Am reading 'The History of Ukranian Tractors' and 'How to build confidence into girls'. Will let you know how I get on.

Made a fire the other day, and as I was screwing up newspaper remembered my granny, who would be 108 this year if she hadn't died in 1993. Alice, who H is named after (her second name, not her first clearly). Anyway, Granny Alice was born in 1901, lived in the countryside in Sussex and at 14 had to go into service and get up and make the fires at 5am and all that kind of thing, in Brighton I think and then in London, where she did the shopping in Harrods. She got married when she was 30 something and had her two children, my mum the youngest, a war baby, born in 1943. Family legend has it that Fred (my grandad who died in 1967 so I never met him) sold his motorbike to buy a pram. Fred was a cow man, and by this time they were living on a farm in Woking, Surrey, and then to another Woking farm, where my mum set light to the haystack and they didn't have electricity, and then to Claygate, where Fred got a job at Loseberry Farm. My mum drove a tractor when she was a girl. Anyhow, my points are:

1. There was no Income support in 1915 and if you left school you got a job or starved I guess.
2. My granny worked incredibly hard doing housework and then bringing up children and doing farm stuff and then she used to clean other people's houses til she was 80
3. So you wonder where I get my work ethic from? Look no further than Granny Alice. I'll tell you about the other one another day. Now, she never stopped talking....

Oh, and a PS about my granny. She played with children at their level, she would play with us for hours and nothing was too much for her to provide us with the best she could. We were utterly loved by her. She was a natural, gifted with children and would have been a great teacher, had she been born in a world where social mobility was a possibility.

Monday, 23 November 2009

M and S is the object of my wrath today, after one day's wear of some combat trousers, for going to the theatre and to the art gallery, H had two rips in her trousers. They refused a refund, saying that it was something she had rubbed her bum against not a manufacturing fault. I said that I would expect children's combat trousers to be robust enough to cope with the everyday life of a child, and that she had not been climbing trees in them! After being sent away I rang up and spoke to the same woman ( damn) who still said 'tough - send them to head office' after I suggested that the trousers are not fit for purpose. So, for sake of £12, M and S have lost thousands of pounds worth of my future custom ( I was a big fan) and all the bad publicity of the millions of blog readers hearing about this sorry episode. I will send them off, and hope for a good outcome, or the M and S card gets cut up and sent back and they will no longer be getting my custom. Harumph.

Before that, which was before a shopping trip to Sainsburys, I went to Hilliers Garden in the rain, which was pleasant, with the extremely stimulating company of Suzanne Baker, who is a great listener and very much in a similar place to me in terms of world view - yet she is very challenging, too. She really should start charging. I would recommend her to you all. If you want to be challenged, that is.

We are singing and leading the first half of the meeting at the big church (Mother ship) this Sunday, and as a result of my passion for getting a bit of equality in the authorship of songs sung in church, R has been listening to lots of Vicky Beeching songs - a talented song writer and guitarist, and I enjoyed having her on in the background while I was doing my prayer time last night. Did you know that none of the songs on the playlist are currently by women? None! Last time I looked none of the books were by women either, and the thing that gets me, is that most of us don't even notice, we are so conditioned to church structures being male that we don't even see it as an injustice. Its not about our church, but about the whole damn lot of em! Jesus didn't intend for all the songs we sing and all the books we read to be by men. And some may say ' It doesn't matter!' but that is precisely why it does matter, because people are so used to it that it appears normal to their world view. Can you imagine how much it would notice if suddenly all the books were by women? It would seem odd, a bit of a shock - but the reverse does not shock us at all, and it should! We are all creative and yet half of the human race is not represented in the songs we sing and the books we read. I think that means we are all missing out on some of the gifts God intends for us all. And in the meantime, while you think about that and wonder why I care, I will read my Margeret Silf book and listen to the lovely Vicky Beeching. And wonder what I can do to nurture creativity and confidence in my girls, who love writing books and writing songs. In fact, they are making a CD of their efforts to raise money for poor people.

As I mentioned earlier, the girls and I went to the theatre and art gallery on Saturday, a very cultural day, with comedy story telling workshop at the Nuffield a bonus as I got free tickets for the girls. I learned lots of techniques that I will be able to use at school and the girls loved it. We had a quick nose around the portrait exhibition, with Dunc, Charlie and Daisy with us on a chance meeting. Some of the portraits were so 3D and detailed they were better than photos. They really were awesome and sadly the exhibition has shut now and moved on, or I would recommend it. I took the girls to look at my favourite 12th century altarpiece painting of Jesus, Mary and the saints, and also the one opposite of St Catherine, saint of education, who was tortured for essentially being a woman who read the bible and prayed. I was trying to explain the picture and why she was tortured and A said 'but Jesus wouldn't do that to people'. Indeed.

It was back to the Nuffield on Saturday night for a improvised comedy show based on cuttings from the Daily Echo. I took Libby and Hattie along and it was a very clever show put on by people who have a talent for word play and comedy singing and timing. Brilliant, and only £7.

On Sunday I took the girls up to Surrey, quick stop at ma and pa s and then to lunch with the extended Bowen clan, Granny M, Grandad P and Nanny J, R's bro and wife and their two sons and a girlfriend. Mary did a great dinner and there were awesome puddings on offer, R was not there as he was skiing in Calshot all weekend so he missed the pavlova. Both the journeys there and back were mercifully free of A car sickness, I have bought some Coculus which is a homeopathic remedy and so far so good! We met up with R at the swimming pool and I struggled to do my 20 lengths (mainly because of the other people in the lane doing a range of strokes and speeds including 'entire length under water breast stroke' and walking. Yep, walking in the fast lane. Had jacuzzi and sauna and read the paper while R battled with the hair washing etc etc as payback for being away all weekend! And he can now do parallel turns.

H was away all last week on a school residential at a farm in the New Forest, where she milked goats and cleaned out the pigs and all sorts of other choice activities that children like doing on farms. They also had a trip to Beaulieu motor museum (wahoo! - lucky them), a trip to Bucklers Hard museum, lots of walking and being outdoors in the rain. She seemed to be very happy to be home and seemed a lot taller. Or maybe I am shrinking. We missed her and it was very quiet, plus A was a bit of a lost soul at times.

The other great event of the week was accompanying Amanda to court where she was a witness to an alleged! dreadful case of child abuse involving her nephew. It was on the front page of the Echo and was on South Today and the BBC website, so I don't mind sharing the details with the entire universe here. Amanda was extremely brave in the first place going to the police despite knowing she would be disowned by her sister and other family members, and she was very brave in court (she was in video room as she is fearful of the defendant - and if he could do that to hs own two month old baby, so would I be) telling the barrister like it was and I was really proud of her. I found my first experience of being in a court room intriguing, and was mentally calculating the cost of putting on a court case of 4 weeks - all those barristers to pay! and how maybe £10000 a year to pay a part time support worker to help parents at risk of abusing in the early days of parenting is a small price to pay compared to the vast costs of a Crown Court case and the fostering bill, the medical care and all the social workers etc etc involved. But hey - I don't make up the budget. One little boy who Amanda clearly adores suffered along with many others who I don't know about. Amanda has seen him twice since he was fostered, and I had to pester and fight to get to speak to a social worker who had to pester a police officer and get back to us to say that Amanda could see her nephew -whose life she had may have helped to save. I only got to get an answer cos I used my posh phone voice - Amanda had been fobbed off many times before I said I would do my best Hyacinth Bouquet and get some action.

Played Guess Who? with H tonight. Seeing as I'm on my hobby horse, did you know that 16 of the characters are male, and 8 female? Why? Why on earth would a children's games manufacturer do that? Its presumably unconscious, which makes is all the more worrying.

Gosh I have stuck my head above the parapet tonight haven't I?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Just another day in my fight against apathy, poverty, racial hatred and for positive educational experiences.

6.30 Cup of tea in bed ( lovely R gets up earlier than me)
7.45 drop girls at breakfast club, cycle to school
8.10 arrive at school, run around switching on computers and moving bits of paper from one surface to another, usually the photocopier/trimmer. Ask another teacher for lollysticks and sequins.
8.45 children arrive. PE, thankfully with a specialist so I get to observe the children and help the ones struggling with rules of the simple games. Marie (LSA) is drawing a big pumpkin and some big rats and asks me if it looks ok. It looks awesome, and I could never have done it!
10.00 get changed for assembly ( children, not me, I wear the same)
10.10 my turn to lead assembly, which normally I like but today frustrated by trying to get the right tracks on a CD that has dialogue on it when we want the songs to learn. Lots of wriggly bums and I fed up too.
10.40 remember what we are doing in Maths and panic!
10.45 Maths starts. I have to get through 2 groups making gingerbread people. LSA got two groups tipping water all over the place while learning about capacity. Scales broken, so measuring feature of lesson tricky. Find more scales that work, but measure up to 5kg so tricky to show them the scale for 150g. ' It's the 6th little tincy black line along'.
11.45 Lunch time. Lovely Marie ( LSA) goes to Coop and buys me lunch - I told her I was veggie but she thought I ate fish, so bought me a tuna sandwich. I ended up having a bagle and half of her lovely Tescos cous cous and a packet of crisps and a cup of tea. By time I eat I have a red bum and face, as got out the powder paints and equipment at lunch time and somehow sat on some red powder paint. Also got ready for reading group.
12.55 Children in. Lost one, found him in loo. Another one got huge thick lip as had a fall at lunch time. Almost all of my Thursday reading group do other things at 1.00, so next week am changing reading time so they don't drift off to other intervention activities during the precious reading time!
1.20 finish reading early to get on with ridiculous afternoon activities, which include history independent writing ( still on Guy Fawkes and King James) colour mixing orange and painting a rectangle of orangeness, and finishing off the gingerbread men. Can you imagine a job with more multi tasking than overseeing 30 people who are cooking, painting and writing, plus wanting to go to the toilet/feeling sick/changing their books and a myriad of other possibilities. No? Well, next came playtime.
2.10 playtime. Phew. Went to toilet. Nice to have a sit down.
2.25 Took all 4 classes with another teacher to practise singing our Christmas production songs in the dining room. After 20 minutes she took the Year Rs who had had enough, so I had the Year 1s and 2s and played a game which was loud and I was already hoarse from singing my loudest 'hallelujah Mary had a baby' and doing the actions. So I very quiet and waited for an age for peace to reign. Still waiting.
3.20 Merciful sound of the bell for hometime. Shovelled them all out the door and had a cup of tea and grovelled to caretaker and cleaner about the mess from cooking.
3.30 did varous tasks of adminstrative style, like uploading planning, writing evaluations, moving piles of paper around, etc etc
4.40 chat to friend on the phone who had just reported an incident of racial abuse against her to the police. After speaking to the person who denied making the remarks, the police are going to do nothing. One person's word against another, one speaking in her native tongue, one in her 4th language and in a foreign land. Hmm.
5.15 R comes in car to get me on his way home, it is pouring with rain and I don't fancy the ride.
5.30 Get home to house full and stressed, sweaty Amanda cooking roast chicken for 9 people. AJ and kids have been invited for tea, by Amanda, and she did a good job - roast potatoes great. She made a chicken of dubious origin go around 8 people and it was all right.
6.00 Children run amok while Amanda confesses that once again she messed up with her money and gave £35 away: 'lent' to her mum and her old 'mate' for drugs. What can I say that hasn't already been said? Meanwhile, she walks around in flip flops as the money was planned to buy shoes for the winter. Don't get angry as its her life, her feet and her lessons to learn.
6.20 H goes to Brownies
7.00 drop AJ etc off at their flat, after a detour to look at their new house which is brand new and lovely and in Thornhill. She is moving in 2 weeks! I am full of joy for her, she has been in the two bedroom flat with 3 kids for too long and she is an asset to the community and its fantastic for her and for us that she is going to be here long term. Absolutely thrilled and delighted to watch her video clip tour.
7.10 Wee. Great, another sit down!
7.20 washing up, laundry chores, tidying and cleaning. Make leftover dough into more gingerbread people and bears.
7.30 read A her bedtime story
then as above, til
8.00 pick up H from Brownies, more faffing about in kitchen etc doing housework things.
And so here I am. Its now 9pm and I am about to embark on some English and Maths planning.

I love teaching, luckily.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

From January 2010 the following tutors are required:
Indian Cookery, Tai Chi, Line Dancing, Tap Dancing, Reflexology and fitness class instructors.
For an application form please email

I had a look at that advert and thought that some of you would be perfect for ALL of those evening classes. And imagine doing it all at once! I have always wanted to try tap dancing again, not put off too much by the trauma of wearing a blue leotard every Saturday morning and trotting around the village hall, saying shuffle hop change every now and again.

I learned some new things at the gym tonight, as I am thinking about entering a 'fitness challenge' when you have to do so many reps of things in a time. I have not done 3 of the things before, and as they involve upper body strength I need to do some work if I am to enter.

R came home very tired from not sleeping at Calshot where he was learning to ski and learning to look after teenagers who are skiing. I have just finished writing 9 IEPs individual education plans) - so thats one third of my class (pretty much) on one. I have 18 boys and 12 girls, and 8 of the 9 IEPs are for boys, and they are all about reading and writing - so maybe we just need to admit that some boys don't 'get' reading and writing as quickly as most girls do and lag behind by a year or so to start with but its all ok in the end, and I wouldn't have to spend from 9pm til 10.30pm on a Sunday writing them?

Last night I had a curry out at a curry place in Portswood, chauffered by Josh in the mini. It was nice to catch up with some of Steve's friends - he has a lot, there were about 30 people there, although 6 of them seemed to have got in under the fence by being Simone's friends. A bit tenuous I thought but they were pleasant enough. This is the legendary Steve Jones, you have probably heard him on the radio but may not recognise his music. He is not famous yet, but if the current rash of Xfactor wannabies are any indicator of the talent of Britain, he should be up there in the final next year. In fact, I would wager that were he to enter he would win. They don't have many people playing the harmonica on these talent shows, and as Steve doesn't either he should do ok.

I practised and really enjoyed telling the story of the 10 Best Ways to live to the children this afternoon for our little church thing at our house, and we added another 'Do not drop litter'. We wondered if God had meant to put 11 but forgot that one. Or maybe Moses (litterbug) dropped that tablet as he was coming down the mountain, thus in one action causing the litter problem everafter and keeping the eleventh commandment out of the canon of scripture. We did some excellent wondering - what would it be like if we didn't love other people? They seemed to think we need to have God love us before we can love others or God. What if you live in the desert and just love God- do you have to love other people too?

Apart from that, the girls and I spent the day at home doing tidying and throwing stuff away and crafts and it was generally harmonious with them being mostly very obliging and helpful with my commands to fill boxes with rubbish. Must remind everyone to buy the girls experiences, books or clothes and not toys or games as we have too many that get ignored in the playroom already. There you are, consider yourself reminded. Better still, buy them nothing and send a goat to Ehiopia or somewhere on their behalf. We made our shoebox and I dashed down to the church today to hand it in in time, and the girls have been interested to know who will get it, and what country the girl will live in, and through the work they do in school on their link children in Cambodia and Ecuador and somewhere else they are very aware of the differences around the world. But no, I am NOT taking them on Matt's next trip to India. Wild horses and the shout of God would be needed to get me in India. Did you do one of those shoeboxes this year? Luckily, after 8 years of going to a depot in Eastleigh after dark, R has decided to hand over the shoebox appeal at his school to someone else, but no one wants to do it. I seemed to get the job on a few occasions, and the place where you speak in to get the gate open is set at a height suitable for truck drivers to speak into from their cabs, so quite a challenge to get heard. I felt like Mr Small trying to ring that bell.

Incidentally, the children all agreed that God's voice to Moses was a shout. I don't think God shouts much; like all the best teachers, he knows that the best interventions are silent.

That was silence.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The girls and I went to the park today, but on the way after I shouted to A to mind the dog poo she swerved and fell straight in it. SO, YOU DOG LOVERS... EXPLAIN THAT! We were just round the corner so we ran home and put clothes straight in wash and started again. Should have taken the omen and stayed in, as A then hurt her nose and knees later on. We met a man with his children at the park who is Portuguese but left 25 years ago, and is not going back for 5 more years as he ran away from National Service and if he went back would have to do it. Once you are 45 you are excused. Well, there's a story! We walked down to the Range, which we had not checked out yet, but the fabulous foot/cycle access from Thornhill is locked, so you have to walk a bit further to get there. It seems to be a very successful business model - an enormous, out of town Woolies. Why didn't Woolies think of that? Bought a few craft things and let the girls have an early tea in KFC, not something they do very often, so very excited about eating chicken covered in spicy dust. Tennis this morning for the girls and I had a very deep conversation with a couple of tennis course mates who R and I have played a few times. We were talking about parents and step families and the difficulties of relating to people. All very thoughtful.

When we got home, mum and dad had already got here in a taxi from the cruise they have been on. It sounds amazing, I think I would love all the activities available to do on board and the sense of community that must somehow develop between 2000 guests and 1000 staff or whatever it is on such a huge ship. They had been to Rome, Monte Carlo, Corsica, Barcelona, Gibraltar and Palma and had great weather throughout. I meanwhile had benefited from driving dad's car to work which I really appreciated as the weather has been so cold and wild this week. His car is an Agila, the same as G Mary and, now, would you believe it, R's sister in law! I mean, fair enough to buy a car that makes you look like postman Pat if you are over 65, but not before then, Maria, really! Dad has the 1 litre version, which has you begging for another gear when you get to 50mph on the motorway and milk floats are overtaking you. It would be enough to get Jeremy Clarkson on a bike, driving one of those. Still MUSTN'T GRUMBLE as am on the insurance now for both the grandparently Agilas and it was very generous and I am very grateful to have had the freedom to get to work dry this week.

Have noticed more of those Gravel Pits posters with exclamation marks.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

I changed the font size for my mum, but she has this amazing software anyway which makes everything enormous and talking. On a computer screen, she has not invented some super power that brings tables and things to life.

I forgot to tell you about my salsa dancing evening, in honour of a very good friend who was 40, we went to El Sabilo in Winchester for a beginners lesson and a very tasty feast of tapas, with loads for vegetarians, and loads to eat. The instructor was great fun and we all swapped around partners so we got to dance with all the men, it was lots of fun and I could see how I had improved. Sadly my regime does not allow for dancing nights, and it was back to the tennis on Monday and Tuesday. I had quite a bad back after the dancing.

Amanda asked if she could give me some advice tonight. 'Bring it on!' I replied, thinking that I had given her more than enough and the tide needed to turn. 'You should dye your hair. I can see some grey ones.' Well thanks, can't think who I could attribute them to! Said it was a sign of wisdom. Am feeling old.

She cooked tea for us all tonight and looked after the girls from 4 onwards and did very well. Now she is out helping at Brownies, though think its more for her enjoyment of her refound childhood really. Had a family game of Monopoly ( Disney version - £4 in charity shop) and she said it was the first time she has sat down with a family to play a game.

Today I took photos of my class doing PE, cos there was a PE specialist in doing the lesson so I got to watch and learn. Then some of my children took photos of all the cars in the staff car park for a Maths lesson. My camera also had the photos of fungi the children took on our walk in Telegraph woods on Sunday. Luckily for you, I won't be blogging these various pictures, mainly cos I struggle to do so, but also because such a mix on a collage is beyond even my tolerance level for bizarre.

We learned about the gunpowder plot today, they love it all, all the plotting and torture and all that stuff. I spent a long time explaining that G Fawkes did not wear a big hat and a lace collar to stand out from the crowd, but to blend in. It is an unfeasibly difficult subject to explain at a level for 6 year olds. This was my snopsis. King James was a bully. He didn't like people who were different from him. He told them to go away or go to prison. Some of them didn't like him being a bully and stood up to him and decided to get revenge by killing him. It didn't work. The bully wins and we all celebrate. Great! How do I deal with the Protestant /Catholic split when you don't do the Tudors till Year 4? And by the way, I am the history coordinator at my school now so these things matter!

Two interesting stories on the news with a God slant. First, about compulsory sex ed for 15 year olds - for heaven's sake, what planet do these people live on? And the soundbites were from the Muslim Council ( against) and the C of E and RC churches (for). Why do they think that churches are the people to ask about sex ed? Interesting huh?

Then, another God story, the poor murderer who confessed in a prayer and was bugged and that got him sentenced as guilty of murder of his mother in law. I mean, apart from my mother in law, obviously, who hasn't thought about murdering theirs at some point? And Jesus says thinking it is the same as doing it in terms of our heart's standing. Or similar. Poor guy. The murdere, not Jesus. Having a quiet prayer at a desperate time. I expect God heard his prayer and I hope he finds a way to a genuine relationship with God in prison, as many seem to do.

Have borrowed my dad's car this week and been really glad as it has been suddenlt bitterly cold and I have had a lot of work to bring home. Worked from 7.45-6.30 at school without a break and then from 9.45-11.30 at home. I did eat my lunch, but it was a working lunch talking to my new job share partner at the same time. She seems great! Laid back and smiley. Opposite of me then. Neurotic and frowning.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Hi, didn't get to finishing as H woke up and she was lovely and dressed and not grumpy. I shot off to play tennis for an hour while A and A watched CBeebies, my tennis truly shocking today, after being 40-0 up I lost a game after going to Advantage Deuce 3 times. Honestly it was like a Wimbledon final, the crowd were on the edge of their seats.

Today has been very exciting for our holiday plans. After a throwaway remark that we hadn't been to Switzerland for a while ( although we did last February, but a different part of Switzerland) we convinced Granny Mary to act and she booked us all flights to go next summer to stay in Wilderswil, near Interlaken in the Bernese Oberland. Suddenly panicked into making plans I booked flights for next year's travel to Portugal to see Paul and Jackie. So, on Saturday we had no holiday plans ( apart from skiing in Feb and R skiing in April) and now we do have two plans!

H is at orchestra and comes home now on her own - what a grown up girl. I know its only across the road but still, its growing up. I remember being at junior school and walking home with my PE kit and a 20lb pumpkin after having swum two miles in the school pool. Them were the days.

I got out in the garden today and attacked some of the weeds and various dead plants, also harvested two decent carrots and two decent beetroot, and noticed some rocket doing really well still. Nasturtiums still great, so rocket and nasturium salad with beetroot and carrot tonight.
A week later, and I was tempted to go out this morning for a run as the sun is shining, but as A was poorly last night I want to be here when she wakes up. Both the girls have been ill, H sounds like Marj Simpson with her croaky throat, and on Thursday she just sneezed solidly for a couple of minutes before the sore throat happened. A was shivering yesterday tea time and had no appetite, we forgot and she seemed ok when we left at 7pm, but when we got back at 11pm she was hot as a bag of chips (is that a good simile?) and Amanda's nursing skills had reached their limit. With a bit of Calpol she had a full night's sleep - well, she didn't wake me up - and so I am planning on letting them both wake themselves up and school is an option for H if she up for it, and not for A. Need to lie low I think. We had Angus staying last week and he went home with a mystery cough which came on about 4 hours before he was due home, and when we got there his tincy incy brother had a cough. So I think the Little Bookham germs are to blame.

Despite being stricken by plague, we have been making the most of half term as you are accustomed to. On Tuesday we took girls and Angus to Paulton's park, and Angus was great for me as he not big enough/keen enough for scary rides, so I got to look after him and go on the tractors twice and train twice. He did go on the log flume, and then I and A had another go, she loves it all. It was a really bright and sunny day and warm, perfect Paulton's weather and really not that busy, the biggest queue was for the Stinger which was only waiting for 2 goes before you. Sadly I had to decline that as Angus too small. Oh rats! As usual I bumped into 4 children from Berrywood, though not the usual Ben and Charlie combo who I normally meet when I am out doing fun things with the girls.

We have a new office chair in the playroom, it is big and black and swivels so I feel a little like Sir Alan Sugar. I have more facial hair.

Wednesday was A's birthday, with 24 children and a bouncy castle, we had it at the youth centre which has been redecorated and looks really decent now. All the children were well behaved and pleasant, and all went well with R doing the mass catering of hot dogs and chips. A seemed very happy with how it went, and it was nice to have Angus there for the occasion. He is into balloons and parties in a big way, so perfect for him. At the end of the two hours I had significantly more grey hairs than at the start, but good to give my hairdresser something to do.

We then travelled up to Surrey to drop Angus off and have a few nights break at my mum and dad's. Phew! We had tea at Granny Mary's, with the Skitts who were staying. Bizarrely, they were in on A's birthday celebrations last year, when we were in Austria and they came over for her birthday tea. We shall have to start making arrangements with them to ensure we are in the same country as them every year. Next year, Mexico!

On Thursday we took the train up to London (after a lovely run for me across Arbrook common) and went to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. We arranged to meet Sarah and Katie ( Evans, not Gale) for a picnic lunch outside the museum, which is at the end of their road. The museum is interesting and free and you spend the whole time gong 'I remember them!' at every display case. Duncan would like it, and Rob G. Which probably doesn't sell it to the rest of you. Matthew, you would too but you have probably already been. Goodness me now I have told the universe that it appeals to the triumverate of geeks, only need to get Tim J on board and no one else would ever go. But, I like it too, OK, and I have a type A obsessive competitive disordered personality, so what I am saying is that all sorts of people like the Museum of Childhood and you would too.

One thing NO ONE would like is Hamleys at half term, our next stop as A has a book which tells her that Hamley's is the biggest toy shop in the world. I think ToysRUs would win on square footage, but still, Hamleys wins for fitting the most humans into the smallest space. They were giving out oxygen masks in the queue to get in. A had birthday money to spend but we managed to steer her away from spending most of it and she has eked it out and still has £10 left. We left, jsut about breathing, and walked down to Piccadily and into St James Park where we watched tourists feeding the squirrels ( yuk - vermin) and saw a pelican and went to the little play park in sight of Buck House. Then back over Westminster bridge in time to hear Big Ben do 5 and get on the train home at Waterloo. A lovely day, we were all tired out at the end of that. I used to like London when I worked there for 2 summers, but now I find the tube so stifling and the streets so busy, I am not used to so many people. I still do like going, just prefer walking to the tube, but that was always the case.

I went to the gym ( Esporta Kingston) in the evening and they were doing a swim clinic, so I joined in and found it useful to have a swimming teacher analyse my stroke. There was me and a guy who does tri who were doing crawl, and then 3 women doing very slow breast stroke, so we had long breaks in bwtween each length, but it was good to think about my stroke. Yesterday morning I was late for a swim date but met up with Lynn at the pool and we helped each other by watching each other and she really helped me as well, so I think my front crawl is a lot more consistent now. Time will tell, as the 2012 Olympics approaches and I will have to make my decision on which events to enter. I am thinking of showjumping at present but have a few obstacles to overcome.

On Friday we had a quiet day, in the afternoon we went to Kingston and I went in the gym and did my first 'brick' training session, think I overdid it as when R came in to find me he said 'goodness you have gone purple'. I really enjoyed the format, where you try and spend more calories each time you do a 10 minute block of CV, and lots of bike to run practice which will help me in the tri season next year, if the 3 day eventing doesn't take off. Then we had a family swim and both R and I went and did a set of front crawl - he did 2 actually but I was still at 150 bpm after the gym. We had a depressing car journey home, with 30 minutes to get out of the car park, Kingston just gridlocked and we were on the wrong side of it to get back to Claygate.

On Saturday, Mary came and took the girls and R to Wisley, where they carved pumpkins and we lit them when we got home and gave out sweets to the children of the neighbourhood, and then R roasted them and made pumpkin soup. Which was pretty good as it goes, pumpkin is a bit bland really isn't it? So he added lots of butter to make it tasty. While the wisleyevents wer happening I popped to Surbiton to check out the charity shops, only got some wellies for H, she is now a size 3 and a half, which is nearly a grown up size, and needs wellies for her upcoming school trip to Beaulieu, where she will spend 4 nights. She has to muck out cows and things like that, so wellies seems fairly essential on the kit list.

We had a happy halloween, thank you, I know some people not as laissez faire (think that the right term) as me about witches and goblins and yoga and herbal medicine, but then they all read Hary Potter, so think some standards a bit awry. Anyway, I think that literature is a great way to introduce children to the scary and the mysterious and I don't have a big problem with halloween as it is practised in Thornhill today. It is a real community event, with mums and dads walking about with their children, no children are out on their own, and its very chatty and social, the only problem is the fireworks which go on and on! So, that's my take on that, we had a nice time and I think we are as infected by the devil as we were before, thank you. However if you want to do a DIY exorcism on me for being blinkered to the evils of the night, you go right ahead in the comfort of your own home and I appreciate your efforts on my behalf. Sincerely, any prayer gratefully received for anything, although particularly for my pumpkins to grow bigger next year.

We had an All Saints day Messy Church, and it all went really well, I think having a programme and finally everyone knowing what they are doing and everyone playing to their strengths made it a really chilled out event. The children seemed happy and the adults joined in without too much arm twisting, as R said, this is all we have! This is our church. Amy puts it nicely, she says we are not all related but we are all in the same family, God's family.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Today I awoke early and drove to work for 7am and then did a run which took me 1 hour 10 minutes and was glorious, perfect sunshine and I ran along the front at Hamble and then through the woods and along a bit more sea front back to Royal Vic and then through the park. Saw a few dog walkers but no other runners. Caught a refuse collector doing a very apologetic wee up against a tree. He was apologetic to me about being caught with his flies undone, rather than the wee being pathetic, it was quite gushing actually since you ask.

We have the lovely cousin Angus staying and also had ma and pa down for lunch. Angus says that everything is boring which is a sad state of affairs when you are 3. I think he just says it to be funny as everyone laughs. We were talking about TVs in bedrooms for some reason, and he said that he didn't have one but Toby Saunders does. Well, Toby Saunders parents, TAKE IT OUT NOW! Having a TV in your child's room is one of the most damaging things you can do for your child's socialisation, verbal skills and sleep habits. In my humble opinion, clearly.

Last night I did have a pathetic attempt at swimming, it was very hot and I was trying to use my float to make me use my legs for crawl. A man gave me some advice on my stroke, which is much needed, and it turned out that he is the guy who has been faithfully texting me with the tri club plans even though I have never been on one of his cycle rides. Anyway, he inspired me to go along to one of the swim training nights at the club on a Tuesday. Reading my tri magazine and Runners magazine have spurred me on to keep training and maybe one day do an Ironman. I mean, to run a marathon is one thing but to do it after a 100 mile bike ride and a 2 mile swim is something else. Proper triathletes train for 15-20 hours a week. I don't know how that would work for me right now. Had chips from the chip shop for tea. Followed by yummy chocolate cake made entirely by H with a little help from her little cousin.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Today we walked to the tennis club through the woods in the rain. We had to leave at 8.40am, so it was a bit of a school day atmosphere, but girls thrilled by the journey and I was not entirely sure I was on the right path for a few moments to add to the excitement. It was still raining when we left after tennis, fun club and swimming ( no need to use our central heating or shower at home!) and despite travelling as light as we could, tennis bats, umbrellas and wet towels mixed in with winds and horizontal rain did not make the girls mad keen on walking back the same way. So we walked to Sainsburys instead, which was full of people with nothing to do on a rainy Saturday. Like us then. We had a tasty lunch served by our next door neighbour (she works in the cafe, she didn't just nip out with a tray) and a mooch round the cake and card aisles as it is A's birthday IN 4 DAYS... Then a play on the hippos and elephants out the back before getting a very punctual and fast double decker home. We sat on the top at the front, and we don't go on buses since we are at school now, and I miss our trips to the Quays, our Amy days, and longer ago than that - the challenge of a baby and a toddler on a bus was always one I was up for!

The fireworks were on special at Sainsburys, which was a good thing as it needed 3 rockets in a dark place to get Amanda fired up enough to get out of bed when we got back at 4pm. Oh dear God how could you have sent someone so unlike me it could not be possible that we inhabit the same planet or universe, let alone house??? What a lot God teaches us! I had done a walk, an hour in the gym and swum 30 lengths before she had thought about breakfast! Really enjoyed the gym and may sign up for a challenge in December to give me a training goal as the end of March is a long way off.

R is away sailing this weekend, great windy weather so no complaints from him there! He came mid field out of 38 boats ( all the same type) today and has two more races tomorrow. He is camping. I am not.

It is half term, in case you are not in the world of people who care about such things, and we are glad. I had parents evening this week and it finished me off! I was feeling weak and exhausted anyway after the last 7 weeks but the children have done some great work lately and I was able to say encouraging things with integrity. One of R's staff ( in fact his only 100% ICT teacher) has got a new job as Head of ICT at a neighbouring school, which is clearly great for him and reflects well on R, but is a headache as they now have a vacancy and the deadline to hand in notice was yesterday, so only the out of work will be looking for a job for January. Let's hope some of them are out of work for good reasons and they find someone who is a positive gem.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Yesterday was too calm for sailing as planned, although the wind did get up and it would have been just right for me, but by then we had our alternative plan in place. R packed the boat up ready for his next attack on the Olympic dream, and I and the girls had started the march to Hamble along the beach. We took the long way round ( not the completely the long way, via Scotland way) but though lots of woods and muddy bits till we got to the village and the pink ferry awaiting us! We have never been on the pink ferry, and in fact R didn't think he had ever been to Hamble village, despite it being a local beauty spot, world renowned sailing centre etc etc and only a few miles from our home. So, £5 and 5 minutes later we were in Warsash, another famous centre for sailing that I had never been to. We had an ice cream and sat on the front and then got the pink ferry back. The weather was fabulous and we felt like we were on holiday! We just got back before Bonne Bouche shut at 4, so had a piece of cake and a cup of tea ( R did not have cake or ice cream he is very focused on getting that gold!) and then walked the quick way back to my school, where the girls spent ages in the park with the zip wire whilst R walked back and fiddled around with the boat and came and got us in the car. Then we had fishfinger sandwiches and watched Mr Bean on holiday, which R hates, and A found too puzzling to bear, so she went to bed early. H and I have the same sense of humour and love watching people slip on banana skins so enjoyed it, and I did the ironing too. What a lovely lovely day of sunshine and being with my family for whom I am mostly very very grateful.

In the morning we did a family show at the big Vineyard, where the kids had taken over the main hall for an all kids together special. R and Hattie did the singing and I and the girls led the signs. Was horrified to see Abi M was in the room, as she in a proper signer, not a fischy one like me. We did 3 Fischy songs and seemed to go down ok!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Have not run since Sunday, but did do an hour of tennis on Monday and Tuesday, and a swim on Monday, plus a cycle to work and back on Wed and Fri in case you are keeping a fitness diary for me. Cycling home from Hamble is literally entirely up hill apart from going down Warburton Hill when nearly home. Today at school it was my class assembly, which went well and had good feedback despite the CD player not working very well and the children going all shy and not singing like they have been! Then it was open afternoon, when parents come in from 2 and look at books and then can take their child and slope off early if they want to. Was left at hometime with 3 who were going to football club! It is a great idea, very informal and sociable. They have worked really hard this week on all the planning for an information page for a book, today was putting it all together and me tearing my hair out! Nearly all done, and a bit of time next week to make front covers etc. They really have worked hard and are getting so much better at reading and writing.

Last night we had our marriage spiral group, and it was thought provoking, about our hopes and fears for the future. I tend to avoid either. I accidentally mentioned to a mum of my class today that I had cancer last year, which sounds odd and ridiculous to me. I don't normally tell new people if not necessary, I guess its not how I define myself - but I was telling her about Wessex Cancer Trust as she is supporting a relative with cancer and so it seemed obvious. It just sounds so odd - like I am saying 'Oh yeah, I had a cold last week'. I still find the whole thing bizarre and like a semi colon in a sentence, that is how it feels in my life - odd, unnecessary mostly but providing a pause. So I think I have always thought that you shouldn't make too many plans, as you may not breathe your next .....

breath. Cor, bet you liked what I did there.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Managed to stagger around Lord Montague's estate this morning. I was not at the front of the runners so estimate it took me at least half a minute to cross the start line, and finished in 1 hour and 15 seconds, so I am taking that as under 1 hour. There was no official timing, as it was a fun run for charity rather than a race. So, a bit disappointed the clock didn't actually say 59 point something, but confident that I did do it 'sub 60' as the first bit of the race is standing on the spot waiting for people ahead to get going. It was 'undulating' and a bit of a dull course with lots of doubling back on yourself - a bit disappointed as the countryside down there is so splendid. Still! Monty probably didn't want us trampling over his azaleas, and after the bad write up I gave his motor museum on this very blog (Dec 07) he probably is still feeling a bit churlish towards me. There were some steep slopes and mud and grass and gravel, hardly any tarmac, so suits me, but a heavy going course. One girl finished in 28 minutes, and as her name was not Paula I think she took a wrong turn. The 10k sorts the runners from the walkers, as it were, and whereas on the 5k I did there were plenty of people who has the physique for darts, it seems that only the fairly fit attempt the 10. Next March I am planning on doing 'Bolt round the Holt' again but doing the 21k instead of the 5k. So, that's doubling what I managed today, and I was struggling the last 500 metres! Had a good middle from about 4k to about 8 I was enjoying it and feeling like I ran well.

Was very irritated as I went to the gym to have a jacuzzi, steam, sauna, shower session ( hereafter known as a Jtriple S) And there was a family with their young boys dangling their feet in the jacuzzi, despite it being for over 14s. Then I was about to head to the steam room when 5 young men went in, and I thought it would be a bit full, as 5 is the most you can really get in there without sitting on each others laps. And I had forgotten my conditioner so my shower was unsatisfactory too. And my hair looks like a birds nest. Still, mustn't grumble!

I drove up to Godalming to meet the girls who had been at Ma and Pa's for the night, we met at Winkworth Arboretum which was just coming into its perfect shades of Autumn, great day to go. Its a pretty spot in a steep valley, very steep, so more hill climbing. After a comforting piece of NT cake we swapped suitcases over and I and the girls had the complete joy of listening to Andy Stanton read 'You're a bad man Mr Gum' on CD. We love Mr Gum books, they are the funniest books written for children since Roald Dahl died. I can recommend them for adults too, along with Billy Bonkers by Giles Andreae, another very funny book to listen to in the car. Andy Stanton is my new hero, along with Justin from CBeebies, who is quite simply the funniest and cleverest man on the telly. I listened to Desert Island Discs today, with Steve Coogan, who comes a close second. Also listened to Gardeners Question Time (lot of time in the car today) and am fascinated by the story of honey fungus. Also caught a few minutes of Elaine Page's show time on Radio 2 - fabulous radio, I love musicals and hearing the 'Music of the Night' from Phantom - well you have to sing along don't you?

The girls were in Claygate cos we went up yesterday for the Claygate Scouts 100 year church service, during which dad was one of the interviewees. The vicar did a great job of putting together a simple and interesting talk which managed to combine Scouting and God seamlessly, but sadly the rest of the service was rather 'fossilized christianity' with very little input from the young people, it seemed to have been conjoured up for the benefit of the old and good of scouting, which is great, but sad not to have the boys ( and girls ) more involved. For example, the readings were done by two leaders, and it would have been a simple thing to have a Scout and a Cub do the readings. The songs were old and long hymns and again it would have been easy to have had a song that the children knew and enjoyed. And to top it all, the boys had to sit at the back! They are the future and they should have been at the front, at the centre and a whole lot more involved, but they didn't ask me to organise it, and maybe they will for the 200th anniversary.

So quid pro quo (I think), in return for us going to a service which did not leave me smiling a la harvest last week, (but dad was great in his bit of it, and the tea after was lovely I had 2 scones with jam and cream), the girls stayed the night so R and I could go to Lou's 30th birthday party. The band which Adam and Chris play in played, and were excellent, but the venue was a bit on the big side for dancing, and I was drinking diet coke as I try to avoid alcohol ( you know, athlete in training and all that) so had a few shuffles when I was dragged up by various lovely friends. I made a big effort on dressing up as Lou requested, having spent the night before in Tescos clothing department being styled by Ang, who has a good eye for putting outfits together and can spot on a hanger something that looks great on, but bad on the hanger. Bought and wore some very high heels and lucky not to have sustained an ankle injury which would have put me out of the race.

On Tuesday I went out in the rain all day on a mega bike ride with my friend Fair Oak Rachel. We met at Denhams Corner which is just past Hedge End (Iknow, some of you are lying down already at the thought of cycling past Hedge End) and we cycled through Upham, round Bishops Waltham to Corhampton, and then Warnford and back down a bit of the Meon Valley cycle path to Droxford and then back to the pub at Dundridge which I last visited with Jo Hayles in January when we did a walk out that way. We were soaked and muddy and it literally rained all day, the hardest bit was the last 3 miles up hill on my own after saying goodbye to Rachel, having come back through Bishops Waltham and Durley. Made it back at 2.50, lightning fast shower and got girls at 3. I think we did about 20-25 miles. Very saddle sore after that, despite my amazing ladies gel saddle.

School is going well, thank you, I seem to have upset enough people now and have reached a critical mass where there are no more to be upset. I am finding the children lots of fun and very keen to learn, and am enjoying doing the various bits of planning and so on, sad I know, but I found a great website for phonics planning yesterday! My team are great, good feeling of positive working together and I am loving having a door and a classroom twice as big as my old one.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Have just sorted through a basket of books and papers which the cat had wee-d on. Took the cat to vet the other day as she has fleas. She had her injections and £63 later we came out again. Did I want her teeth scaled and polished? Not at £123, no! She is not worth that to me dead. In fact, I would give you £123 to take her off my hands. Any offers?

Also, while on my knees in the lounge, sorted through the godly play equipment we have 'borrowed' from the big Vineyard. Seeing as most of it was made by Rob, or by the chap in Sholing with onion breath which I endured to get the stuff made, they aint seeing it again!! My heart breaks that all that work we put into getting the stuff together and making the stories was not being used, so far better that we should have it here in Thornhill and use it rather than it gathering dust for want of passion and understanding. Got plenty of that here, so delighted to sort through a variety of coloured cloths and wooden figures. Not got any decent storage for it, got close earlier this week when Amanda was going to be leaving tomorrow, she said sorry and is redeemed, but we are hoping a flat will come along soon as she needs to move on and take responsibility for messing up her own kitchen from now on. Then we will have a spare room to put godly play stuff in the cupboard of!

School today, I rather overdid it with literacy and in a bid to capitalise on the great work of the morning, and while it fresh in the mind, used the afternoom to carry on with the next bit of the task. Oh lordy lord! What a mistake. Everyone was rocking back and forth, and twitching, and that's just the grown ups! The harvest assembly yesterday was delightful, and they raffled off the produce to raise money, so one of my gourds was a raffle prize for some lucky Hamble family. Tee hee. Hope they know what to do with it. My class are really lovely children, very well behaved on the whole and make a good advert for children in general and teaching in particular.