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.