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?
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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.