Thursday, 30 December 2010

I have another place to vent my cycling fury on the public - the Rapha Festive 500 which you can find on google, but its a bit late now as it has finished. as usual, can't say too much in case my C plus blog is compromised by world leaders etc looking here first, instead of going to the C plus one and getting convinced on the way they want to subscribe. But the bare bones of it is this.

22 Dec I find out about the Rapha 500
23 Dec I start the Rapha 500
today I finish the Rapha 500.

What is it, I hear you cry? It is a challenge, for love, not charity or any other reason, apart from that 500 of the people who do it win a badge. I have cycled 500km since 23 Dec. That is this year, not last year. I did 485km without a puncture. I cycled to and from Granny Mary's house, from our house. I cycled all over the place in Surrey and Hampshire. I did a minimum of an hour and a half of cycling every day. I cycled when it was below freezing and there was ice on the roads and I cycled through fog. I am like a modern day Forrest Gump but on a bike. I also have very tight hamstrings and quads and thighs that would make a rugby prop's eyes water they are so muscle bound. I am thinking that the England rugby team might give me a call if they need any real clout in their forward line, or whatever you call it. Probably, I haven't tested this yet, my thighs are so muscley that my jeans won't fit. I have been wearing up to 5 layers to keep warm on all this cycling business, and have had to do a lot of washing to keep myself in clean ish cycling specific clothing. I finished today and am having a day off tomorrow. I did it all on my own, I was due to have a ride buddy today for the last push but she got tonsilitis and had to pull out. It has been quite a solitary experience, lots of thinking time. R and the girls have been fabulous as a support team, encouraging me on and meeting me half way on the long trips and telling me ' you can do it mummy!'

Now, an amazing thing about the puncture. I was not far from home, about 10k as the crow flies, and was checking out a lane that I had always wondered about, it turns out that it really is a dead end with a caravan park at the end of it and nothing else. Returning along it, I went too hard and fast over a speed bump and knew I would get a puncture. Although I do know in theory how to do it, and have even done it once at home, I thought that frankly I can't be bothered, so nearly there, I will call a man who can. No sooner had I finished the call to the lovely RJB cycle repair chap who was on his way faster than the RAC, I spotted runners coming along the lane. Now, what are the chances of them being someone I know AND someone who can do punctures? Well, after the event we can safely say 100%, as it was Lucy and Kev, swimmers and cyclists extraordinaire from Esporta gang. I felt that somehow God was watching over me and sent along someone to help - as it was, I turned down their kind offer and hung around for R to turn up a while later, rather than ruin their run regime - but I felt like they were angels sent to me.

Today I have eaten chilli for tea at the home of some friends from sailing, who had an open house - yum. Yesterday I ate curry and nachos at the home of Vicky with some of the old NCT gang in Netley. I am hoping that someone will invite me around for chinese tomorrow night as I am doing so well at eating out right now. We were really spoilt over Christmas, staying with Granny M who had done lots of organised cooking and had some really good food waiting for us in the freezer, she managed to knock up amazing tasty and healthy food without any effort at all. I was also delighted to be invited over to Little Bookham for Christmas day, so my bro and Angie cooked and hosted us, ma and pa and Angie's ma and pa too. All I have done in the cooking scene for weeks is wash up and make the odd hot chocolate. Our fridge is a little depleted at the moment, having been away for Christmas and not stocked up since returning ( no need as eating out every night with delightful and generous friends) and R asked if we had any yogurts. Yes, I answered, there is one that was best eaten before Christmas eve. Perfect, he said, and ate it. He is still with us as I write.

The other night I stayed up way too late reading a book called 'Left for Dead' by Nick Ward, as sailor in the 1979 Fastnet race, which, for those of you too young to remember, was a disaster as a huge freak storm swept the fleet away and lots of people died. Well, this book is unputdownable, I think the title tells you a fair bit of the plot and I won't be spoiling it by saying he was knocked unconscious in a capsize and then was abandoned by his fellow crew when they took to the life raft, but he wasn't dead, and has written a book about how it was to be not dead on a boat in a storm. R is reading it now, so he will be up till too late too, as you can't not find out what happens - he is rescued, btw, he is not still bobbing about on a broken boat off Ireland, 30 years later.

Our Christmas family secret santa went well, the oldest 3 in the family all got swimming related presents (flippers, goggles, costumes, that kind of thing) and the youngest person got a paint your own tea set, her choice. The girls got lots of books and some money, and Granny M gave me a lawnmower! Hurrah! I will be able to mow the grass without killing myself/the lawnmower/someone else who gets in the way of the electric beast. Our current model was a dump rescue mision and is now really really broken, not just a bit broken but we will manage. So, Bosch super flyweight portable mega mower, mark 3, here I come. Granny M gave R some tri bars for his bike. I already have those but don't get much flat road time around here to use them.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Can you tell it's the holidays - I have time to breathe, bathe and blog. I am really into watching Miranda at the moment. I have just worked out how to use i player, I thought you had to pay for it a la i tunes, but it is completely different and is just like watching tv! Anyway, i am a complete Miranda groupie and even say 'bear with' when I answer my mobile. That is a rare thing to happen, it is usually lost, charging or on silent in my bag, and when it is on and rings I am never sure quite how you answer it.

Today we went to Romsey, which was as cold and bleak as everywhere else, but we were meeting Sandra, a very lovely relation ( my dad's cousin's wife) for lunch. She bravely came to watch R and I do the Salisbury triathlon last year, which I am bravely doing again this year. R is doing the Hart one, which we did the year before. We are doing one each in early May so that the girls can come and watch, having never been before. And then we are both doing a big one in late May. I have also signed up for the New Forest Rattler, a 89mile bike ride in August, although they do do a 49 mile option if its raining or something. Sandra was a great photographer, she kept jumping out of her car at different places on the route and taking photos. She is the only person yet to come and watch us compete, triathlon is not much of a spectator sport as you only get to watch people doing the stupid bits, like running across a shingle car park barefoot, putting wet feet into dry trainers, taking off sweaty clothes and limping out and then limping back over the finish line. However, if you would be interested in getting up early on a Sunday or bank holiday Monday to either look after our children or bring them with you to watch we would like to hear from you, CRB check or no. We had a cold and slow lunch in Romsey, at That Little Tea Room, which is cold and slow. Then we did a trawl of the charity shops ( there are 7, all selling Jaeger and Hilfiger, dahling) and then a sprint round Aldi. Today I also impressed myself by going to two classes at the club, dahling, I did spin this morning with Karl (white too tight trousers, difficult to know where to look, just keep my eyes on the RPM) and then went back this evening for a swim with girls followed by Pilates with a brilliant stand in teacher called Katie. I have not done Pilates for ages and really enjoyed it. Since then, R has gone swimming ( his turn for swimming club, hence my flurry of exercise earlier) and I have watched 3 episodes of miranda, eaten two of yesterday's mince pies and finished off a bottle of wine. Yesterday we had a mince pie making fest, with 7 children in the kitchen applying jam to pastry (a genius idea of Vicky's, who figured early on that children don't like mince meat) in a manner which is more Chuckle Brothers than Nigella. Anyhow, they loved their pastry products and all went home happy customers, whilst I have been trying to get encrusted jam off the floor for all of a minute since.

R told me that a good friend of his has handmade his wife a pair of shoes out of some old bike tyres for a Christmas present. I snorted 'God I am so glad I am not married to him, can you imagine being given an old inner tube fashioned into a flip flop for Christmas?' which R did not appreciate. He said he thought it was romantic. Romantic! who wants an old tyre shoe, even the eco crazies of Bitterne Park themselves!! It takes a rare woman to sound delighted at the prospect of wearing a punctured tyre as a fashion statement, and luckily the person in question has the poise and grace to probably genuinely be delighted. Which is why she is married to her R and I am married to mine. Who gave me a Mister Blobby car sponge. Once. Only once. R had a very generous moment in the gym shop and bought me a lovely top that I have been admiring all summer, it was £40 and has finally been reduced to £10, so R bought it for me, secretly! along with a rucsac (might he be fed up of me borrowing his?) and a more sensible sports T shirt for school wear.

I have wrapped up some more presents, but am bored of wrapping now and am thinking of doing the girls' secret ones in newspaper, to be more eco friendly and because I am annoyed at the fact that we had to buy wrapping paper this year, as usually I salvage enough off other people's presents. At least my recycled cracker gift tags were handy and well used. I left A to wrap up a box. It looks like some piece of modern art, all flourishes and swags of sellotape festooned about. She bought a sweet shop for £1 and now we are all buying sweets off her, and she also bought a book called 1000 things to do which she has not got all the way through. She reckoned about 3 hours would crack it but she only got about 15 minutes focus on it today. 1000 things to do sounds like a quiet day to me.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Having been overlooked once again for the sports personality of the year award from the BBC, I have relented to watching it from my sofa. Two women contenders, which is 20%, but that's still some way off my dream of 50%. Just watched the tribute to dead sports people, ALL of whom were men. So, either women who play sport at a high level are healthier than men, and don't die (although statistically, you would expect the rule of 50% to at least work in death, wouldn't you?) OR there are not the same number of women in sport, girls are not encouraged to take their bodies and their possiblity of sport played at a high level seriously, the financial backing for women in sport is not there and the world of sport needs me as an ambassador for females in sport. Well, a jockey and a darts player beat the heptathlete this year. I don't mind a jockey, but for heavens sake, a darts player? Even if he is the best in the world for a million years - darts is not a sport, it's a past time, and if most people who play it are tipsy there is room for improvement, just by sobering up.

My kettle. As some of you know, the Lakeland one ( version 2) developed the same fault as the first one, and the fantastic customer service people there send me a cheque for the purchase price which arrived the next day. It tooke me a while to get a new kettle, but while on the ethical superstore dot co dot uk, i found an ECO kettle which seemed to meet my criteria for eco friendly water boiling. It is not rocket science, I know, but boiling water in my kitchen comes close, after the last two disasters from Lakeland being preceeded by the disaster of the unrefined One Cup boiler. Well, this kettle is huge, you fill up the reservoir at the top, and then press a button to release the exact amount you need into the boiling chamber. So you never boil extra water, and it is really quick. In tests is shows people using it use 30% less energy, suggesting that the rest of the nation boil 30% extra, which I can understand. We will wait and see if we see any dramatic downward shift in our electricity bills, although I recently managed to reduce our bill from £82 to £58 a month ( that is gas and electric). I am sure they will just change the direct debit up again at some point. Still, maybe the kettle will keep us down there on a low monthy bill.

The competition we were part of through H at school has finished. We got a mention in the final report as we reduced our electricty consumption by 40% from the baseline week, but the team that won was from another school ( Thornhill) - the Whitmores got a special mention too for their reduction. One night we rang them and they were sitting in the dark, with candle light only. So H made us turn the lights off too.

School has also finished here. We are exhausted and relieved. My work do was at Botleigh Grange Hotel, and as social secretary, I was relieved to be taking people's compliments, not complaints, about the evening. I recommend it as a venue for anything, if I was getting married I would do it there, and we have been to a few of R's proms there. There was lots of tasty food, a nice classic disco that keeps all types happy - Bon Jovi to Cheryl Cole, you know the thing. And, dodgems! What fun! My pre evening out preparation had included an osteopath appointment and 10 minutes in Fareham buying a dress and accessories ( tried one on, bought it, kind shop assistant ran around finding necklace and ear rings). The osteopath had actually poked needles in my neck, ankle, knee and thigh ( I really am falling apart, due a lifetime achievement award not just sports personality of the year). The osteopath suggested that high heels and dodgems might not be the best post treatment option. Maybe she was right. Still struggling with sore ankle, thigh, knee and neck, in various combinations, all on left side, and the training slumped - what with icy roads, freezing temperatures and too much work, my training is not what it was. But I feel fine about that, I am not beating myself up, just admitting that December is a month for hibernating.

We had our messy Christmas church today. We made reindeer poo for pudding, and had an amazing story from the most brilliant godly player on our team, Libby. R and Ang cooked a full roast for 35 mouths to eat. There was nothing bad about it, I am enjoying our messy church a lot now, the girls adore it and the children are involved in the planning process - a different child over about 8 goes along to the monthly planning meetings, with a standing committee of 3 adults, and sometimes a swap in of another adult, so lots of people involved in the planning and have ownership of the whole thing. So, there is an idea for your church - get the children on the planning committee. A played the first two lines of Silent Night on her harmonica, which she got really worked up about, but she was fine, it looks really tricky to me, I am sure I would get it all wrong, sucking and blowing the wrong way round, she did really well and I was impressed, even if she got upset that she couldn't do line three.

I have finished reading A Christmas Carol. What wonderful prose, and such a moral tale. Really enjoyed it. Have also finished the most recent Mr Gum - Mr Gum and the Cherry Tree. Luckily for me, Lib is a big fan and actually spends money on buying books, so I get to borrow them from her. Which is better than the library, in that she has all the Mr Gum books. Talking of libraries, I have nominated one of the library ladies in Thornhill for a customer service award, again. There are two ladies in Thornhill library, chalk and cheese are closer relations than they are in terms of their ideas on customer service.

Next time I write it will be to report back on the panto at Ferneham hall, Fareham. It's Aladdin this year. I know I always tell you after it, and you miss out, so I am telling you now, so you still have a chance of getting tickets. I was delighted to find that my wonderful colleague Marie, my LSA who seriously is worth her weight in gold, also goes every year to the panto at Fareham. Thus proving my theory that all the best people to to Fareham for panto.

I found out a few weeks back that some people don't like musicals. Can you believe it - two of these weird types I count as friends. What's not to like about the genre of muscials? I bet they don't like panto either. I love both. I honestly can't see what you wouldn't like about musical theatre. All that energy and colour and sound and excitement. You don't get that at The Mousetrap do you? You do at Aladdin! It had better not let me down this year - at least I know all the jokes.

Monday, 6 December 2010

A letter came home from Rainbows tonight inviting us to come along next week to the Christmas sing a long, with home made mice pies being served. Sometimes, it pays to be a vegetarian. We often get letters from the school liaison person who runs a coffee morning once a month. They go like this:

Want to socialise and meet new people? ( why yes, I am an E)
Got piles of paperwork you need to get on top of? ( oh yes, despite being a J I have years worth of payslips etc that need filing properly, if you are offering)
Need help with benefits? ( ah, I see where you are going now. No, I just got a pay rise! Can you believe it!)

Another written offer which I find sweet but actually not very helpful is when you take cash out of a ATM and it says on the screen ' Would you like an advice slip?' I always think ' Why yes, what advice can you offer? How to hang clothes up so they don't need ironing? How to light a fire without any dry kindling? But when I do ask for an advice slip, it doesn't actually give me any advice on anything. It just tells me my bank balance ( no idea) and how much I just took out ( know that cos I have it in my hand).

Still, I live in hope. Yesterday I did a run for an hour, it was a slow run, but I kept going and managed 5.5 miles, which is fairly lousy pace but apparently the idea at the moment during the winter is to do everything slowly and keep my heart rate down. Then, apparently, I will reap the benefits come the spring when I am faster and fitter. We shall see.

Saturday, R and I were in the wonderful setting of the crypt of St Paul's for the Godly Play annual lecture. It was a lecture in the morning, but interesting, because it was about children's spirituality and given by Rebecca Nye. Then, the afternoon workshops, I went to a godly play of a new story and it was wonderful to be done to, rather than the do er, as it were, of godly play. Then for the closing worship we had the holy Family story godly play, and then we had time to sneak a peek at the main floor of the cathedral for free. Wow. What a building - you have to see it, incredible, beautiful, not be be missed.

As our lovely friend Elise is now living near St Pauls, we went back to her hall of residence for a cup of tea and a reminder of just how old we are and how glad we are not to be living in halls. Goodness, I could not do that again, I so admire Elise being so dedicated to becoming a doctor that she is cool living in a hall again. Brought back lots of memories, mainly of manky kitchen worktops and no milk in the fridge. And Nell, my next door neighbour in hall who had a mohican hair do and a lot of piercings, and a smell coming from her room which convinced the rest of us that she never had a bath. Now, I know my room mates have baths because I am their mother and wife and can legitimately check up on their personal hygiene.

We had the piste to ourselves on Friday, with day 2 of the snow and time off school meaning a later start for the sledgers, so it was just us 4 on the slopes at 9.30am. 4 snowboarders turned up, they can really get up a decent run down by being able to steer, whereas on the sledges ( we now have 2) steering is a bit limited. A described the experience as 'romantic'. Which was apt. She has a great word for dessicated coconut - she calls it disintegrated coconut, which works too. Amazingly, I went to the dodgy local shop ( Esgros) and they had two things I wanted to buy, dessicated coconut and baking powder. They must have been clapping their hands - hooray, someone has bought the two products that have been on the shelves since we opened. How many people in Thornhill buy baking powder? One, clearly. Actually, at my bus user group meeting on Wednesday I was speaking with Trixie about how much nicer Thornhill is since we moved in - not because we moved in, clearly, but just that the regeneration is working and it is just safer and better as a community. Or maybe it is because we moved in - the gentrification of the area, baking powder users are all creeping in at the edges. Before we know it we'll have sewing machine users and all sorts of low lifes.

The bus user group - I know, I hardly ever go on the bus, but I am on the group for historical reasons, and it is very little commitment being the secretary of a group that meets 4 times a year. The impact of our work is, I hope, great for the people in our area who most need public transport, and who are most powerless. And for very little effort on my part. I got the giggles, last time, cos one person reported that a lady who lives on a cul de sac needs the buses to go nearer her house. Maybe she could move on to a main road? It is funny how people expect bus companies to trail up and down all the streets on the estate on the off chance that someone wants to go somewhere.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Forgot to tell you about the moon. A looked up at a perfect crescent moon and said 'Look, a Dreamworks moon.' A beautiful moment. H has just gone off in a flurry to her first event, a charity Duathlon at the gym. She looked great, in her Tristars bright yellow cycling top, she is really chuffed to be a Tristar, and seems to enjoy the training sessions. Possibly because they involve a lot of chatting with other girls, and lengthy showers after the swimming. She read in their club book that after a Triathlon you should eat chocolate, not that she needs any convincing, so R was depatched with a Time Out bar to help her recover from it. It is 5 lengths of the pool and a 500m run, after all...

Friday, 19 November 2010

More wet and wild bike riding, but all a bit subdued now as the dreaded Autumn cold has descended on the Bowens. It is a occupational hazard of spending your days with 6 year olds who snot everywhere and breathe on you. H was ill last week and had a day off work and spent with Nurse Granny, and then this week she was away on her school trip all week. On Tuesday A was way too hot ( I even used a thermometer on her to check - get me!) and she was despatched for two days with Nurse Nightingale in Claygate. So we had two nights with no children in the house. A weird thing. All back now, all sneezing together, lots of congestion but happy to have everyone home again. H didn't seem to be as full of the trip as she was last year, but maybe that was because she went last year so knew the deal.

I am really pleased with how things are going at work at the moment, lots of initiatives taking off, including an enormous mission on my part to encourage outdoor learning, after showing an interest I seem to be the environment and outdoor learning designated person, judging by the paperwork that appears in my pigeon hole. Had a great conversation with another teacher about the siting of a compost bin, the suggestion was for about 200m away from the school building, because of the smell. That is serious compost - they must be thinking manure! Our home compost bin is about 10m max, from our back door, and it doesn't stop me going out in the garden. Seems to me that putting the compost heap miles away and not letting children take the refuse to it is setting it up to fail - unless there is a very keen teacher who wants to take a daily jog across the field with a pail. And what do you do with the remote compost when its ready? Lug it back again? I may set myself up in business as a school composting consultant. If there was any hope of a job in that line, hardly any jobs for teachers, there are rumours that Early years is being scrapped - I assume that means that children won't start school until year 1, so all year R teachers are out of a job, to save money. I DIDN'T VOTE FOR THE NUTTERS IN CHARGE !!!! Sorry, did that come out loud? Whichever way you look at it, every woman and child in this country is in for a raw deal under this government, and a lot of the men too. We had a pension man in to school to tell us what to do, essentially, die at 64 seems the best option to save any trouble. And don't even think of going to uni, kids! Grrrr. I am feeling militant enough to go on a march. I see the TUC are organising one, for March! Nothing like striking while the iron is hot. Still, gives me time to make my banner. March in March will be my motto.

H is still doing this environment saving competition with school, which involves taking daily meter readings of our gas and electric consumption. It is quite interesting, once you get started, to try to beat yesterday's score and spend less. We are all wearing more jumpers and R is charging his mobile at school to use their electricity, which I think is not really in the spirit of the competition, but is saving us a few pence. As our effort for Nutty November ( see Southampton Vineyard church for more info) we are writing down every penny we spend this month, to see where all the money goes, and then next month we can try to alter our habits. Well, we already are, just by writing it down, it makes you stop before doing things. Like buying a newspaper. No point. All doom and gloom and ends up being covered in paint at school and thrown away.

Goodness, the Sudafed is making me sound miserable. I am actually really happy with my work and generally with my family and life, honest. Just fed up with the state of our society where the poor and most needy are most marginalised. Maybe spending more time praying is the answer.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

I heard yesterday that there was a bomb found a week or so ago on a plane, and no one had told me. Also, planes in the news for having bits of engine fall off them. Better to go by P and O ferries, that's what I always say.

Today I nearly got swept into the sea on my way to work, despite being half a mile north of it at all times, it was so windy i thought I might take off and was glad I had chosen my heavier bike to keep me grounded. It was an onshore wind, actually, to be nautically precise, and no chance of getting swept off the shore, but nearly could have made it to Basingstoke if I had been swept off my bike going inland. I was soaked, like something that lives in a sewer that I hate so much I can not say the name, only that it rhymes with cat. It would have been great weather to test out R's theory lesson on launching with an onshore breeze, which he recently had to teach to his fellow students on the sailing course he is doing at the moment. This weekend is the last one, so maybe some wind will liven things up a bit, as so far the conditions under the Itchen bridge have been calm to boring. R is going to be a fully battened dinghy instructor soon, and will take his first aid qualification and cat endorsement certificates in the spring so he can do the cat training for the youth at the sailing club, plus work as a sailing instructor in his spare time/retirement, were he to live that long. Talking of dying, two recent conversations with friends who feel that their jobs are at risk in these Thatcher's child in charge times, both decided that undertaking was the way to go to be sure of work. I suggested that chaplain at a crematorium, and registrar are less physically demanding jobs but also benefit from the winter boom in business. The rest of my family were talking about getting a hamster. I said they could get one when I was dead. I then thought it was funny to think that I might live to be 80 and R might outlive me, if he is not missing at sea, presumed dead before then, and the day after my death he could go out and buy a hamster. An 81 year old man, denied a hamster all his days. He did have several in his childhood and we had one when we got married, but I count them as fluffy *ats and can't bear them. Urgh.

My coach, Joe Beer ( look him up on line - he really knows what he is doing!) says its ok to put on a few pounds for the winter, an insulating layer. I ate two doughnuts and two toasted tea cakes today to follow his instructions to the letter. He suggestst that this is the time of year to book into events next year, so far i have found a 10k at Exbury Gardens if anyone wants to do it with me?

Every week I pass two amusing signs on the way to Sialou's. There is a pub which has a sign up advertising its 'Large Rear'. then, nearby, a takeaway called Chunky Chips. But they have done this thing with the C being big and on two lines, so you don't see the C and read it as Hunky Hips. Which I don't think is a good advert for a takeaway - ie eat here and leave with hunky hips! Chunky hips even worse I suppose.

Swimming was good this week, I had not been for a fortnight. Breaking news - we have given in our notice to quit our gym at the end of January. Yes, our lovely secret hideaway. We realised that with me doing my cycling thing, R doing more running and sailing, and neither of us having time for tennis, we were essentially paying a lot of money for a swimming pool at the moment. I never get time to get to any classes as any exercise time is taken up outside. So whereas a year ago, I would play tennis two or three times a week plus a class and a couple of swims, now it is swim club and maybe once a week with the girls. So, we are going to depart. With H doing her tri club she gets swimming training twice a week through that, so we are going to investigate some lessons for A to get a bit more style in her swimming, as she can get from one end to the other, but not by any stroke an Olympic committee would recognise.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Goodness. disneyland Paris. Goodness me. I am at a loss as to where to start, plus I am reading a book by a pastor called Will Bowen about not complaining, so this might be short. If I just write single word sentences, they are not complaints, are they? Hmm, he says if you have to ask, 'is it a complaint?' it probably is. In the book, apparently, my prosperity will increase as I stop complaining, as people will offer me things for free that other complainy people have to pay for. So I am looking forward to Walt Disney himself welcoming me back for free and reimbursing me the 400 Euros I spent to spend two day queueing up to go on fairground rides. The pricing policy makes Claygate flower show fair look cheap. You could spend over an hour queuing for some ride, almost none of them any better than the ones at Paultons. For £100 less, I could have bought our family season tickets for a year of Paultons. and had change for a couple of cups of tea to save R lugging around a flask (one of his least favourite things to do). There are less rides at Disneyland Paris than at Paultons Park. And with Peppa Pig world set to open at Easter 2011, no one with any sense would cross the channel ever again. Now, having written all that, I need to encode it so that I am not faced with a lawsuit from Disney. So, lets call it Frisbeeland Paris instead and re read it swapping all the D words for F words. Not the F word, clearly. It's not that bad.

Good things about France -of which there are lots. The roads - less full than in England. Arras. We stopped for lunch and had a look around, having stayed in the Balladins there en route to Switzerland in February, and only having seen the ring road in the dark. It is a pretty town and the area is worthy of more investigation. Autumn colours on the trees as pretty as in England. Mobile home had unlimited electricity so we managed to keep warm inside although R had a cold nose all week. Supermarkets - Auchan! sounds like a sneeze, is a shop. I like shopping in other countries. Paris - we looked at the Eiffel tower but did not go up (queues too long - had already paid for the experience of standing in a queue for almost all of the day before), walked along the river, and spend a couple of hours in our favourite area of the whole of Paris, La Defense. We went there on our honeymoon, and visited again 3 years later when we accidentally didn't move house when we were going to and booked a holiday to fill in the gap when we wouldn't be moving after all. It is a beauitful area of modern buildings and modern art, and a free museum charting its history with lots of architect's models to look at. Well done France.

We went in the cheap seats, with the Sun 'Holiday for £10!!!' offer, back in January I collected the tokens, and booked the accomodation, at La Chene Gris, a campsite 20km from frisbee land. it's not quite as good as it sounds, the £10 bit, as the 'foreign' destinations are £15 a head, plus I paid the £10 extra each option to guarantee a channel crossing after 7am and before 9pm. Our outward crossing was at 7.30 am, so we spent a night in a Travelodge in Margate ( £19 Supersaver rate, booked in February!). After A threw up on the ferry and both H and I spent out time with our heads in our laps, with eyes shut, we vowed that we would always always go by tunnel in future. The sea was really calm. On the way back it was more wavy, but we found the kids lounge and watched the jungle Book, the perfect Disney film to round off our Disney fix. The girls have been saving up their pasta reward system for 3 jars to get the trip to Disney. We have stopped doing the pasta jar, now it has been patented, appeared on Dragon's Den and Suppernanny and everyone on Netmums is doing it. Our focus for it for over 2 years has been to foster more loving and cooperative interactions between the girls, and they have changed into more loving and cooperative creatures. A had birthday money to spend burning a hole in her purse today at Itchen Valley (new play park great for girls and older age groups) and she bought H an item for £3.50, the same amount she spent on herself. Out of freewill, not with her arm in a chinese burn from older sis. At Frisbee land, they had spending money and cooperated to buy two items between them that they both wanted but which was a compromise on what they really wanted individually. Hurrah. I am not saying we have conquered sibling rivalry, found the great elixir and neither of them ever spouts' but you love her more than me' but things are better than they were.

It was interesting to try to guess the nationality of the families at Disneyland. French people smoke a lot more than English people do. If an overweight man with tubby children wearing a comdey T shirt was pushing a buggy towards you, chances are he was English or Welsh. Dutch men are all incredibly tall, and there are not many of them, but more that there are Germans, clearly the Germans are boycotting France/Disney - or maybe its not that sinister and they don't have half terms. Saw one Irish car. Clearly the Irish are not stupid enough to spend their hard earned euros on platic tat and queueing up. The car stock on a P and O ferry is of a different style to that on the Channel tunnel. Travelling by tunnel, everyone has a 'Posh and Betts' style Landrover or Mercedes or BMW. Travelling by P and O, everyone has a lorry or a Leger holidays coach.

Spending time with a mixture of Europeans, I was struck by how similar we are, not by how different we are. Sometimes the comedy T shirt man spoke in a language that I didn't understand, which means that the French are watching repeats of Little Britain and dressing up as characters from it for comedy effect. The odd Brit could be spotted with a bumbag, or in smarter attire than baggy tracksuit bottoms and a T shirt. Barbour is fashionable on the continent. Everyone's children love having their photo taken with a character from a film.

I found the photo taking really weird. People take photos or video of everything their children do. They don't have time to talk to their children because they are videoing them all the time. I was tempted to fish my phone out this afternoon as the girls walked across a narrow branch over a ditch, but only for the £250 from 'you've been framed' that might be coming my way, and actually, I don't think my phone does video. The girls got into the swing of the photo thing, and have had their photo taken with Minnie, with a gold carriage, with a playing card (what was that all about?). I spotted one child in a queue having her photo taken next to a sign about Dumbo. People took photos of everything. What do they do with all this evidence? If they started watching them now and never stopped they would die before the slide show came back round again.

After getting home late on Friday, we had a bright start on Saturday as I and the girls were off to Winchester to meet Nick Butterworth and Jacqueline Wilson, real people, authors who we admire who wrote books we enjoy in our family. I was excited about going by train, we drove to Hedge End and then its just 15 minutes to Winchester. We queued for 45 minutes for H's friend to get her book signed and photo taken with J W, and I took a photo of the girls standing next to Percy the Park Keeper, as the Disney habits die hard, queueing and photo opportunities with characters being the hardest to break.

A's constant question all week was 'is it real?' a philosophical question indeed, and hard to answer in a weird world where everything, even the trees, are plastic. Another philosophical gem from A was 'When does a rectangle become a straight line and not a rectangle?' That led to a lengthy discussion, the short answer from R was 'it depends how thick your pen is'. It was A's 7th birthday while we were away, we did a 12 hour day, most of it at the Disney Studios Park, which I rate much much higher than the standard park. Some really good events to watch, including a car stunt show which is fascinating, and that park left me impressed with the ingenuity and artistic capability of the people who make films and invent characters and do animation. If you are going (and after reading my review here, you probably won't) and have one day, spend it at the Studios park. A is always on holiday on her birthday (you may look back through the archives for proof) which means she gets multiple birthdays. So far she has had 4 singings and candle blowings, 2 in France, 1 with one granny and 1 with the other granny and pop. Bless her, last weekend things were a bit manic, with R on a power boat course all weekend and me trying to pack, clean (have to leave it clean for the burgers) and do a trillion other things, A took it upon herself to bake her own birthday cake. A lemon cake. Yum. Then there was the brownie cake bought in Auchan! and consumed at 10.30pm on her actual birthday. Then the M and S cake at Granny M's, which we didn't eat, just did the candle thing, then same cake, different day, different granny, consumed at last. And still, a party next Sunday with a few friends. How good to be 7. She has a plan for baking a chocolate cake for that one. Granny M rustled up a great spree at short notice, when we observed that our return journey around the M25 from Dover would mean passing junction 10 at tea time. We had Eton Mess, and a heard it, obviously as 'Eaten Mess'. she thought that sounded gross, a euphemism for sick.

Granny and Pop met us in Winchester, and are spending two nights with us which is great. Then we have posh London friends staying next weekend, the spare room is catching on and you will need to book via our online system soon. They are not really posh, I just put that to make Chris laugh. I hope he did.

So, after a whole week off from training, I am thrilled to be getting back out on the bike tomorrow, excited about going for a run and pleased that its swimming club on Tuesday.

And if you gave me the choice of Blackgang Chine or Disneyland Paris, and you were paying, and knowing how much I hate Blackgang Chine - you know what? It would be the Isle of Wight that won. Happy days, and Florida never was on my list of places to go before I am 80. I knew I was not Disney's market. I couldn't bear Legoland, and knew it would be like that but worse. I did have a great day on Thursday, honest, and we had a lovely lovely time just being somewhere different and being all together as a family, but it was like being a non believer at a religious shrine. Do go ahead and worship all that is fake and plastic and pretend, but I will not be leading the way.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Today was perfect sailing conditions for me. When I got to the sailing club after an hour on the bike, I expected that R would be getting the boat out (in fact, I assumed it would be rigged and on the beach for me, but it wasn't - clearly I am not paying enough). R had in fact fixed up for someone else to borrow our rudders, and take me out on their bigger and boat. It was great, and I 'crewed' ie fiddled with the gib from time to time. We had a great sail, there was a fair bit of wind a bit further out, and lots of yachts, and we got up on one hull leaning off the side, and at one point nearly vertical. We were really zooming and I loved it. Coming back was a bit slower but still fun. I really loved it and was smiling from ear to ear. I had already done a triathlon in training, not all at once, but swam and then ran this morning, found a new piece of countryside to run in ( the path across the golf club has been eradicated by the new building site for the rose bowl improvements. Any way, this new piece of countryside is behind Burger King at Hedge End and is nice running terrain. I did an hour on my bike after lunch, out along Allington Lane and then back through Horton Heath ( did you know that was the surname of Horton hears a who? character). Then down to Boorley Green and back through Hedge End and over the motorway to Bursledon. In case you are my stalker. I tried a new technique for traing, of using the Garmin beeper to alert me when my heart rate went over zone 1, which seems to be 131 bpm. It was really good to stay with a low heart beat, and my average time wasnt any lower than it would have been if I had pushed harder more often. Which was interesting, and I will tell my new triathlon coach, Joe Beer, about that finding. He says we are to get more things wrong than right. I certainly achieve that, in last two events, I forgot my goggles and did 2 extra lengths, and then last Sunday on the sportive I took a wrong turn and did an extra 7 miles to refind the route. I think I am the perfect person to take that kind of advice.

I like Fair Oak and Horton Heath for cycling cos there are some great road names, like Pilchard Avenue and Dumpers Drove. Nowhere is better than Butlocks Heath, though, I was tempted myself to change the l to a t and add a l before the other t, to change it to Buttocks Health. Someone else has beaten me to it on the first part of that plan, if one of you would go and put the l in one night I would be grateful.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

After a really really wet and windy bike ride on Sunday, when I missed a signpost and did an extra 7 miles - made it 72 insted of 65 which was the intention, I have spent a couple of days resting. That is two events in a row where I have accidentally done 10% extra exercise. What is going on with me.

I am reading Ellen Macarthur's book - she went several thousand miles further than she needed to didn't she? I am finding it an amazing and exciting read, she puts my sailing skills to shame, I can just about tack with one sail, she had about six to reef and put up and down, on a boat 4 times as long and on her own among icebergs. I am also reading A Generous Orthodoxy, which I have read before, it is an interesting and fairly easy read for a dense Christian book ( not that I am suggesting the author is a dense Christian).

My life seems to be lurching, in some kind of rhythm, between doing family/exercise/cleaning/fun stuff and WORK. Which is all consuming on the days I do it. I have so much paperwork and stuff to catch up on that I found myself chivvying the children out of the door thinking ' right, now I can get the work done' which is stupid, they are the work, all the other stuff is just stuff - but sadly there is a lot of it. Bits of paper to fill in and give to a variety of people. What happened to 'Let Teachers Teach?' all I seem to do is fill in forms. I hope it is the time of year and it will all get done so I can concentrate on teaching and learning and not bits of paper.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Today we took the Lashes sailing, it was mild weather and wind, so I taught Steve all I know ( took about 5 minutes) then we took Abigail out while R and Jonah tried to catch us on the Topper, then R took Victoria out. They all loved it. I am reading Ellen Macarthur's autobiography at the moment. Wow. I fell off my bike today, only my hybrid and on grass and mud, but still enough to feel a bit sore. H is loving her tri club training on Saturday afternoons, she did a mini duathlon today. Not saying much today as off to bed before a big bike ride tomorrow, got to get the sleep in for some healing and rest.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Why didn't anyone tell me about Les Miserables? We went to see it last night, I bought the tickets for R's birthday, which was also yesterday, nice touch eh? We were in the rear circle, which is significantly further away than the front of the circle, still could make out the people on the stage. I deliberately hid my mobile in the car, as it is new, I have not found a quick way of putting it on silent so thought I would play safe and leave it about 500m away. I do now have a few friends, but after losing my phone which I had not backed up, Matthew, I really don't have many contacts and rely on people texting or calling me to get their numbers. Still, it's nice to start with a clean sheet and not have some of those people in your list who you don't remember who they are or why you have their number. Anyhow, we had a pleasant and reasonably priced meal in the Slug and Lettuce, and then went to join the aged of Hampshire to watch Les Mis.

Goodness. The singing is amazing, the whole thing is in song, it is a dreadful tragedy with not enough resolution for me. When it finished, I thought they needed to do another act to resolve the huge dangling French revolution that had not been resolved. Still, a tangled love story and a fascinating message about grace, forgiveness and mercy. I was emotionally wrung out after it, exhausting, not a light hearted evening out. It was a bit gloomy on the stage at all times, and didn't really have the song and dance routines that most musicals have. A very different beast to Chicago, for example, watched on my birthday earlier this year. Still, I liked it! Very thought provoking, especially the priest at the start who offers such tangible mercy and gives a man down on his luck a chance to redeem his life. The whole thing is about how our actions affect ourselves and others and how unforgiveness can mess you up.

Other points to note from R's birthday. We went to the Blue Reef aquarium in Southsea. On the way there in the car we saw a sign threatening delays into Portsmouth, so we decided to drive to Gosport, park and get the ferry, which we have never done before and which was a pleasant way to travel. I have been to Gosport a few times, once for a Chinese meal which was excellent. However, I had forgotten how much of a navy impact there is there - the whole place is a naval base, with a few shops inbetween. If I was an international nuclear superpower with a point to make against the UK or NATO or someone I would have a few guns trained on Gosport. People put Gosport down, as an inbred peninsula with no escape. Which might explain why the people look like they don't get out much. the tatooed anchors on the legs told a tale, and that was just the women. That's true. Anyway, the strapline for the Gosport ferry is 'Its shorter by water.' I would have thought 'Portsmouth is over there and marginally nicer' would work just as well.

We walked to the aquarium via Southsea, it was miles and we got the bus back. We really enjoyed the aquarium, it is a really well put together collection and very educational as well as entertaining. If you haven't been, it comes with 4 stars and would be a perfect diversion on a rainy day in Portsmouth.

got to go to work now.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

I tried to give you a link here to my cycling plus blog in case you wanted to look at pictures of me changing a inner tube, but I have failed to, so just type me into google and it's the first thing that comes up. Changing a tyre is a big effort and it was my first one, and it was really hard cos I am not strong enough to get the pump to get up to required 120psi pressure, so R had to bounce up and down on it to comedy effect.

I have done three weeks in a row at Swim club. Despite being in the lowest of 4 lanes, and being the slowest person in it, I am getting stronger and can feel the difference it is making, esp with kicking. Last night I swallowed half the pool, there are a couple of charming but splashy men in my lane, and we were doing back stroke, so got nearly knocked out as well as drowning.

Paultons Park found the car key and R went and got it today. He also got the repaired trampoline for the boat, washed the car, went to Bitterne market for fruit and for the girls to buy him comedy birthday present in the 99p shop, bought and posted a parcel for an 11 year old second cousin, washed the cushion covers on the sofa and cooked tea. And took the library books back.

My plan is for him to look forward to getting back to work for a rest. I spent the day of sunshine indoors, working on school related things all day, plans and so on, and I am going in on Friday to sort the classroom out, with my partner, and both of us bringing two children. It is a complete pigsty because the builders have been replacing the whole heating system, everything is a mess so really looking forward to that. It is clearly back to nrmal life now its September, I had three friends pop round (all for bike related errands, clearly more for R than me). If he went into business now as a bike mechanic he could be run off his feet by next week, he has a constant stream of people wanting things done to their bikes.

Tonight was the bus user group, which I am secretary of, despite being a fraud and never using buses. We had a host of the great and good from the bus world of Southampton, and just me and Trixie representing the bus using community of Thornhill. Come on, step up on the platform and be counted, bus users of Southampton. Next meeting, 1 Dec, 6pm at the Natterbox. Tell your friends. We have been analysed by a phd student from Middlesex, and he came along tonight to interview Trixie and I after the meeting - plus we had a sub meeting to discuss our logo and future of our group. How thrilling, there are only two of us!

It was Dippy's birthday today, I missed the celebrations due to aforementioned BUG, but A had made lemonade using a Victorian recipe found on the BBC website. Dippy is the dinosaur who went on holiday and came back and has a bag and a house and everything he could need for a happy life. He is 3 in dino years, 2 in human years.

Yesterday we came back from Greenbelt, having lived through our fourth festival camping experience, with weather of all varieties to test even the most seasoned campers, rain, wind and frost being the most severe aspects - a double rainbow and sunshine being a bit more cheery. We took a whole heap of people with us this year, and did communal cooking and camped together, an experiment in community living to remind us why we don't all live in one big house in the country. Most of our housegroup were there, plus the delightful Lennard family, who were a big hit with the younger children, as they didn't mind chasing and tickling and listening to awful jokes. The consensus seems to be that Greenbelt was a hit, and the Crandons are booking their place for next year, having missed out this year. R and his band have been asked back, and I have been easily persuaded to rejoin the volunteer team to help make the kidswork better, so I guess we are booked up next August bank holiday. I went along to a few workshop/worship things, a Taize hour which was moving but a bit chilly on the bum, and a great worship session with the Salesians ( Roman Catholic young people on a mission). I found out that I still am an ENFJ personality type, watched a awesome performance from a band who play bass and harmonica at the same time, laughed at the stand up comedy night and tried to persuade the liberal progressive radical chap that he should move to inner city Gloucester. He wasn't persuadable, and I was left wondering what that was all about? R went to watch some bands that I have no interest in, played guitar and sang for lots of children and spent a lot of time lying down with Paul, talking. I and A learned to illustrate a book and decorated sticks.

I snuck off on my bike and did 30 miles on Saturday up and down some hilly hills, to Stroud and back to Cheltenham. More of that on my biking blog, but Stroud is an interesting place - I only got as far as the jazz cafe where I ate organic plum slice and read leaflets about all kinds of alternative healing and so on - it clearly is a hippie hang out which would have some Christians casting demons out of it and shooing them down the main street before you can say Downward Dog. They have a worship service for people of no religion who want to identify with spiritual practice and come together to worship without calling it that. An intriguing place. Nearby is a village called Slad, which I want to live in for the great name.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

A's quote of the day was:
I thought this was going to be the best day of my life. But it has become the worst.
Hmm. Well, I'll start at the very beginning, with sarnies made and wet weather gear on, nothing was going to stop us enjoying the day at Paulton's Park we had booked 6 months ago, paying just a tenner each for coach travel and entry - thus making a saving of about £30 on the day cost if we had gone in a car as a family. We never pay full price at PP, but this was the most expensive trip yet. Just had a chocolate to munch, excuse me. They are building a Peppa Pig land at Paultons, just in time for Duncan's children to be at perfect age for enjoying Paultons. So, it'll be PP at PP for Dunc and Em next summer, no trips to Tank Land or Nuke World, shame.

Anyway, after arriving and getting Sandra's number in case of emergencies and her instruction to be back to leave at 4.30 ( Sandra runs the trips and most of Thornhill community generally, we've been going to these trips for ever), we and the Clarks trotted off to enjoy the rides and amenities of the fabulously clean and neat and friendly Paultons Park, which is half the price and twice as good as Legoland, if you ask me. That's not what Legoland say, but do you trust their marketing men?

All went swimmingly well, literally, as the rain came down and I began to regret not coming in wetsuits, they would have been perfect for the conditions. Lunch, more rides, dinosaurs and other such trifles, and by about 3 everyone was flagging and needed a hot chocolate and a sit down in the warm to keep us going for the last hour. We got out to the coach park at 4.22, to the sight of both our coaches departing! Despite my recent running training, I couldn't catch up, and desperately rang and rang Sandra's phone with no answer. By now the rain was heavier and we were all feeling a little wobbly and desperate, R rang for a taxi and finally at 4.36 I got through to Sandra - who on seeing my name on her phone had realised her horrible mistake. They were coming back for us. Hurrah! Meanwhile going through my mind was 'What have I ever done to offend Sandra this much?' She was grovellingly apologetic, and the other coach had forgotten two people too, so they were glad to get on our bus home. We got back to Thornhill at about 6pm, when R realised our car key had gone missing, and as our car was at one end of the estate and our house at the other, friends took pity on us and ferried us home in their cars, and R back to pick up our car, all in monsoon conditions. Could things get any worse? The girls had a bath and watched Mary Poppins and ate their favourite chicken bacon and sweetcorn pie for tea. I popped to Sainsburys and filled the car up with diesel.

But it's ok, our car is a diesel! So, whatever the third thing is that should happen now to show that things happen in threes, I am about to lie down and turn out the lights. I am glad I didn't read my horror scope about today. If I had I would not have got up.

There are advantages to going to PP in the rain. You don't have to queue for anything, and can sit on rides and go round again and again. There are almost no people. Just make sure you have your own independent means of getting home.

Friday, 20 August 2010

This is a genuine conversation between 2 males in a steam room yesterday, clearly trying to win the alpha male crown in that particular steam room. I have not made this up, honest.

A: We are really enjoying the ice maker feature on our freezer. How much can you get out of it at one go? We've never tried to empty it all at once.
B: Well, ours has a bigger bucket than yours, we just open up the basket below and fill it, but then ours had a bigger bucket than yours. Did you treat yourselves to a new built in microwave?
A: No, moved the one we had.
B: Oh, so the counter looks bigger, yeah. Maybe you'll get a built in like ours?
B: Bet you enjoyed using our toaster! You haven't got one, have you?
A: No ( clearly losing out here, so far nil point on any kitchen gadget) We are wondering whether to replace with a two er or a four er - but now the kids are not around so much, we don't really use one... then, if people come round, you do toast....
B: We have a fourer ( course you do you win at everything don't you? eh?)

( I was desperate to interject on behalf of A that he would buy a sixer and raise him two.

So ladies, now you know what men talk about when you are not there. Gadgets, even kitchen gadgets are fair game and they will out gadget each other until there is a winner.

Our spare room is nearly ready for habitation, having spent Tue and Wed decorating and putting down carpet, it has paint, carpet, one curtain, nearly the other one but its a bit tricky measuring and I need some help and underbed storage boxes for all the Godly play stuff to live in. The room looks so nice, we would swap it and move in, but our neighbours on that side are the slightly loud ones and are not reliably quiet. If you want to come and stay for a few nights, they will behave, and its not too bad, honest, but we don't want to commit to it being our room and then have them banging their beds against the walls and shouting at each other early in the morning. Having said all that, we are really looking forward to having you to stay now we have the space and a nice set up for you. That's clearly not all of you, as it would be odd if you lived down the road and came and stayed, but if you are from further afield, please do come and test out the new IKEA curtains. A and I had a lovely visit to the great blue and yellow temple, we don't go often enough, considering how near it is, but then it is in town and I find town overwhelming these days.

did a 5km run this morning inside the magic 30 minutes. Got to do that twice, and a bike ride in the middle, on 4 Sep for my next event, which is early in the morning at Bushey Park if you wanted to come and cheer me on - though why would you get up early to watch women run and bike?

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

That is a photo of A's first sail. She was in an Oppie in Portugal. Thanks to Nanny J for the photo. A has not sailed since being back here, but everyone else has, a lot! A seems to have picked up enough know how to point out last night that in the credits on NightGarden, Iggle Piggle is foolishly using his sail as a blanket and relying on the tide to get him across the ocean. A hung out with Granny M while H and R sailed in the dart 15 nationals (Dart 15 is a type of cat!). They came 48th out of 62, with a best result of 18th and the rest of the races ~ of which there were 6, they came consistently in the 40s. I hung out at the sailing club and tried out my new strategy for clocking up some sailing hours. I find a young man in a wetsuit and ask him to come out and sail with me. So far I have found 3 willing victims, all of whom have passed on their expertise to me, and given my confidence to helm. I even went out on a Dart 18 and only had a slight worrying moment when Tom thought we were gybing and I decided to tack. I really enjoyed being a passenger with Tom, he had a 'let's go a bit faster - this is tame with you helming' moment and we had to sit out over the edge, held on just with a foot under the toe strap. Well, a foot each, clearly. Lots of fun and I felt like I learned a lot, and am planning to mount my own campaign next summer at the 15 nationals. In between now and then i may publish an alternative sailing dictionary, to help you understand the terms involved which are a whole new language. That and all the cycling lingo I am learning - I could get in a muddle and luff up to my sprocket. We had a sunny weekend and I love the community vibe of the club, all the kids have fun together and hanging out there so much means I know a lot more people and remember their names. We are finally back at home for more than one night, first two nights in my bed since 26 July!

thanks to anonymous for joining the gang, hope you find something of interest.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

It is impossible to be good at everything. I have tried. I signed up for my first ever solo sailing race on Sunday and it was a disaster. H signed up for the concurrent junior race and was the only competitor, so she got to start 5 minutes after the adults and join in their course. She actually finished the short course while I took over 30 minutes to cross the start line. It was awful, there was little wind and what there was shifted around and I never got to go anywhere, except backwards a little and then back to the shore cross and fed up. Bah. My confidence was elevated to the point of entering a race by the great sailing I had done in Portugal, where in quite brave conditions for me I had sailed with two sails and then with two sails and H on the trapeze wire dangling off the side. If I knew how I would import a bit of video in here for you to see that I can do it, except we didn't take any.

My lack of confidence/enthusiasm/competence for IT reached new heights, when on losing my mobile for the millionth time ( think it is in a field in Netley) I don’t care and am enjoying getting on with life without one, and the thought of going into one of those shops with no visible products and just shelves with phones around the edge makes me feel sick. I don’t have a clue what I would want, if I wanted one at all. R had done all the contracts since he first insisted I get a phone, when H was born. That is 9 years of no competence or experience or knowledge or interest. I am just going to not mention it, and if people really want to contact me they can ring our house or come round on their horses like in the olden days.

Portugal. Is a very warm and pleasant place for a holiday with nice beaches and friendly natives, who go to beaches on Sundays even when it is not sunny. The temperatures varied between 20 C and 38 C during our week long stay, and one day we went to the beach was the 20 day, with most of Portugal’s population out in their bikinis. They are up there with the Brits in the obesity wars, I can tell you. We did a few sessions of sailing back at the sailing school in Foz de Arholo ( or similar spelling) which we visited a lot last year. This year was A’s turn to have a go in an Oppie, with R wading after her to give her advice and commands to avoid disaster on the high seas. When disaster struck and she capsized, or to coin her new word, a capsization, it was R’s fault for talking to her too much. A came up with another malapropism, when she observed that Portuguese drivers don’t use their escalators much when turning corners. Or their indicators when ascending inside shopping malls. We stopped at a mall on the way back to the airport to get tea, and found a great bargain corner in the hypermarket where I purchased two sets of towel, goggles and swim hat for 47 cents each. Would have bought more but the bags were full. You can never have too many towels.

In a bid to not do any house work this summer, we stayed a night with G M, who kindly picked us up from Heathrow. I was delighted to do a run in Bushey Park which went ok, as my running in Portugal was sluggish at best and walking at worst. I am doing a duathlon in Bushey Park soon and wanted to get in some running there, plus it is a fabulous, flat and wild landscape within a mile of G M’s house. We then spent 4 nights at Netley, camping, after having done some washing and filing of post accumulated – recycling, mostly, as people still seem to think I want to buy takeaway pizza, despite not having done so since about 2000. We had really mixed camping weather, with a grim rainy afternoon on Saturday which was sister in law Ang’s birthday. They came down to join us, Angus sleeping in the tent and the rest of the family sleeping in our house. Ang tells me that it always rains on her birthday, so make a note not to plan any events for 7 August, ever. A is loving her new freedom on her bike and pedals around the sailing club constantly. The only problem is that she tries to turn on rough stony ground. I have never got through Savlon, antiseptic wipes like this. I even had to buy some melonin or whatever that super wound dressing stuff is called. She has scrapes and cuts that make her look like a NSPCC advert.

H and I did go back to the same piercing place, btw, where a lovely gentle man used needles to do H’s ears and she didn’t even flinch. She has been really good at remembering to do the Savlon spray applications, so I am thinking that shares in Savlon would be a good buy right now. Or a fortnight ago.

Today I went to a aerobics class called Body Vibe, which involved no calling up dead spirits at all, but some press ups and balancing with a ball and dancing around. I also did a bit of swimming, but got irritated by my goggles not working. When we were in Wales a few weeks back I went to a cycling fitness class at Esporta Bridgend, and then swam my 600m in a 25m pool to time myself ready for the West Wight Tri. Wales was a brief event, it was raining when we arrived and things didn’t improve much. We went to Barry Island, much to the mirth of my cousins, but I and the girls thinks its a great beach, wide and safe and sandy, and rightly a popular spot with St David and the Welsh. They could give the Portuguese a serious worry if the World Cup was for average BMI. We were mainly in Wales, for all of 20 hours, for a party for my cousin who is 40. It was a fancy dress party, or that is what he told the family, as we all dutifully turned up looking stupid to find half of the Welsh contingent hadn’t got the same invitations and thought it was smart casual. Or that was their fancy dress? Seeing a girl getting out of a taxi in Porthcawl to go out on the town it was hard to tell who was in fancy dress and what is normal wear for the Welsh of an evening. Again, if my camera was working by now you would see some pics, but its run out of batteries and despite my best efforts they are not recharging like they used to.

Today I caught two buses and one of them was so full I had to stand some of the way. I was a bit overwhelmed with being in Kingston, it was loud and full of people and traffic and just not as nice as I remembered it, plus it was raining. There was a topless man with a scar down his tummy shouting at people in the street. It was a relief to get off the bus in Claygate and hear the birds and the quiet. I really am getting antisocial in my old age. I found it all so noisy. I am glad I don’t live in Kingston and get to live in a really peaceful part of Southampton, with woods for running in within a km of my front door, and the sea within 3 miles ( I know all this because of using my pedometer on runs lately, having worked out how to reset it).

Friday, 23 July 2010

As you know, I write here for the benefit of my non cycling public, although almost anyone can do it and i recommend it heartily. However, life is more than 2 wheels and I am delighted to announce the end of term. Yes, it happened today, and right now at after 11pm I am finally sat down and about to have a rare glass of wine. Rare cos it doesn't mix with training, but the last two weeks haven't involved much of that, as I have either felt not right or been at work or dreaming about work. But, here we are, on the eve of a hugely long holiday, with my first ever experience of doing the same classroom twice so no moving stuff and I managed to get books and folders ready for next year. When I say I, really I mean we, as my great LSAs were seriously on the case and did lots of the dirty work. The children were great too, we had a jobs wheel ( ie a rotation of 5 activities and 5 groups), and one of the jobs was sharpening pencils and another was helping me. We even got the maths resources tidied up. I had a bumper wine harvest, 5 bottles, from lovely families to say thank you for taking their kiddies off their hands for hours at a time, day in day out. Oh, and helping them learn something. Chocolates too, and a couple of mugs, some flowers and some shower gel. I gave the girls smellies for their teachers, and they also made cakes to take in for the helpers. I competely respect the mum who told her child 'we don't give presents to teachers as they are just doing their job' - absolutely, I agree! I think it is one of the few public sector jobs where you are allowed to accept gifts - probably you aren't and they are tax deductible, in which case you didn't read any of this.

I accidentally mislead my class yesterday by telling them the reason we had no fruit for them at breaktime was because the new prime minister had decided that the government was not going to pay for it anymore. That was the message I had received. It turns out we had run out and the greengrocer wasn't delivering, and DC has not made a decision yet. Thatcher Thatcher Milk Snatcher, I can hardly see any outcome other than fruit being abolished, so 4-7 year olds won't get their one a day anymore. LSAs are in for the chop as well, we hear, so soon I will have no LSA, no fruit and probably no pens and paper in the next budget. Hey ho. The free swimming for children is being stopped too, in another short sighted move which will increase spending long term as more obese people have obese children and the health problems related to that, and they will not even be eating a piece of fruit to help alleviate the stodgey diet they exist on. Free swimming for children is so cheap compared to the benefits for the whole family. But then, who asked me?

The Claygate flower show provided the usual exciting entertainment you can expect from Morris Men, the scout band and a few pods of peas. The peas were thrilling, as my brother entered for the first time and got second for his peas, with my dad trailing in third place. Overall my dad got his usual haul of cups, 8 this time, including best exhibit in the show for an amazing Lily stem with tens of open blooms. H got a second prize, worth £2 for her poster design, and A managed a highly commended for getting 36 different objects in a match box. My mum got a third for her victoria sandwich I believe. There was a lot of competition in the baking classes, and the cake made by a gentleman class had to be seen to be believed. Our friend Jo came along for her first ever Claygate experience and found it a bit of a culture shock after Bangladesh, where the fruit and veg are of different varieties and there is a prize for the juciest mango. Jo managed to do the whole English summer in one go, with great weather and two sports days to go and watch, plus 2 clarinet concerts and a choir concert, she certainly got her money's worth from her visit. She also came to H's birthday party, which involved me setting a trail in Telegraph woods and H and various friends, family and haggard parents following it to find me and the picnic at the end. The sun shone and it all went without a hitch, and H seemed happy with the outcome. Her birthday present from R and GMary is a new bike, and A has moved up to H's second last one, with gears for the first time, so we are now able to ride further than just a few metres without A crashing or giving up, and R took the two of them by bike to the swimming pool yesterday, and back, and all I had to do was cook tea. My present to H is having her ears pierced, so we are planning a trip to town to do the deed. She had them done a few years back but was too young to deal with them independently and we gave up, so this is a second chance. I won't take her to the place I had mine done, which was a serious piercing parlour with ears a minor part of the body hardly mentioned in the price list and the price list giving options for piercings I didn't know existed. Ouch.

Monday, 12 July 2010

During my various bike rides around the nation, I have taken to observing the names people give their homes. A regular on my route is Karma, a nice touch, but I never feel like I have reached Nirvana at that point in the ride. On my disaster ride around Marchwood, I came across the classically named quaint cottage - Almond. not Almond Cottage, just Almond. It was nearby to a close called 'Old Magazine Close'. Now clearly the local council are into recycling, but living in a road named after an old magazine? No thank you. Fair Oak is a treasure trove of comedy names for roads, Dumpers Drove always makes me smile. This weekend we went to Bike Radar at Brands Hatch in Kent. It is a great location and there was lots to do for all, including the 70 mile sportive ride which I did on the Saturday. It was very hot and there will be a full technical analysis in the magazine. I was followed by the photographer and after a while recognised his car and could sympathize with A list celebs, he kept jumping out from behind bushes with his long lenses getting close ups of my sweating face as I tried to ascend cliff faces on a bike. At least they have usually just stepped out of the salon. I can only suppose that C + mag are intending to run a Chamber of Horrors which is why he took so many pictures of me.

My stats were pretty good, didn't make a silver medal time, was 13 minutes over, did it in 4 hours and 43 minutes and 8 seconds. So, a bronze medal. But I was the 12th fastest female out of over 40, and well in the top half of the field overall. So, London 2012, move over Victoria and Emma, here I come!

It's getting very near the end of term and the children met their new teachers at my school on Friday. That meant that I was more nervous than them, but I know most of them from the playground anyway so I think we'll get on ok. I got a little note from one girl in my class saying 'I like you' which is always nice. the only trouble was, it was addressed to Miss Borin. Do I laugh at her spelling and hope it is just a spelling error, and then cry that her spelling is so bad and therefore it follows I have taught her nothing. or do I cry outright that she thinks I am boring? It seems to be a lose lose situation. I went through last year's 'thank you teacher' cards to get a bit of encouraging to make up for being addressed as Miss Boring, and found the one that says I love you ( twice). Aah. That's better. I need a bit of loving. Have now recycled them and have room on the mantelpiece for a new collection. Hint. Actually, our mantelpiece, such as it is, contains a award for R, who was Green Volunteer of the Year and a picture drawn by A of a tree, and a photo of a recent baby, there seem to have been a rash of them lately and the pictures are up, I promise.

A few times at the Bike festival I got spotted by my adoring fans, no one asked for an autograph but a few people said ' Are you the Cycling plus team'? or similar tentative questions. Fame at last. Jeremy, aged 5, asked me last week - 'are you trying to get in another magazine Kay?'

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Luckily for us, H's flurry of enthusiasm for football petered out last Sunday afternoon at about 4pm. She was in the front row in the sailing club house watching, and gave up her seat at half time for a lolly and a trip to the park. Normally on a hot Sunday, the walk from the sailing club across a few hundred metres of grass to the park involves tripping over sunbathers, families playing football and rounders and plump dog walkers eating ice creams. Last Sunday, there was no one to trip over or bump into. No couple sat under a tree playing scrabble. Not a person. Only a few plump dogs eating ice creams.

I am not sure how up to date you are regarding cat Emily, ie have I told you that she has moved to Milford on sea? and who would blame her? It's a lovely place to retire to, and her new family are a retired couple who live by the sea. R got in a muddle and told Jo that Emily had gone to Eastborne, but it is not true - its Milford. Due to not having a cat and wee and poo to cope with, we have made the most of our freedom and spent 6 of the last 9 nights camping at the sailing club. With the run of sunshine, we have relished sleeping with a sea breeze rather than in our stuffy house, which does get very hot in the summer. The girls commuted to school 2 days and turned up tanned, tired and with the most dishevelled hair that I would expect a visit from a social worker, were it not for our new government having sacked them all. We picked a prime spot so we had a sea view too. Last night we had a family fire on the beach, that is a little fire and sit, not a funeral pyre for members of the family.

We are watching HSM2 at the mo, the bit when Troy tells Sharpei he is going to clean the kitchen. A hero in our eyes.

To add some variety to my cycling training, I took Josh out for a spin last Sunday, which was fun and he has caught the bug and bought the shoes and shorts so he can come out with me again. As my blog is increasingly a sports related publication, it may interest some of you to know that Libby Crandon has bought some trainers.

I went to town on a Thursday evening a week ago to buy some sports bras, I was totally overwhelmed by Debenhams, as I rarely go to town or shopping if its not in a charity shop, but charity shops aren't the best place to buy bras. Especially sports ones. And as I have boycotted M and S I had to go into town. Even though it was late night shopping, there were too many people and too much stuff to buy. I so enjoy my solo rides in the countryside, I am finding busy places a bit much sometimes. However, I made an exception for centre court at Wimbledon, where I and Jo Hayles watched Birdych knock out Federer and Murray go through to the semi finals. We had a lovely day, with a Pimms picnic lunch /tea. It is weird how tired you can get sitting and clapping. We did do the walk to and from the ground from the station, and I got a stitch both ways. This is crazy - I never get them anymore when I run.

My sailing career has gone up a notch with two weekends camping meaning sailing on tap, as it were. Last weekend I did my first solo sail on the catamaran, known hereafter as Bat Cat. I managed to tack and gybe and the wind was kind, consistent and gentle. I then took Ang out as my crew, and there is nothing like teaching someone else to consolidate your understanding. I then had another go on my own and it was a bit more windy by then so I came back in quicker. Buoyed up ( is that the right spelling - in which case, great sailing joke!) by this positive experience, I fixed up a sailing date with Bethan, a mum from my class who is also a teacher and more importantly an Olympic sailor. When we went out, there was almost no wind, but it picked up and got to a point where I would not have gone out in it if I had seen the whites on the tops of the waves. I helmed and Bethan crewed, which is ironic, but she was a fabulous teacher, really patient and encouraging about how in control I was, even when I didn't feel it. We got splashed a lot, and she was so confident in my ( and probably her) ability and in the tolerances of the boat, that I kept going in wild conditions that would have had me begging R to let me jump in and swim for shore last year. So, 2012, it will be a steep learning curve, but I reckon Bethan should have another stab at the Olympics crewing for me. I am loving the outdoor lifestyle and feel immense gratitude to our creator for such a beautiful world to get out there and live in. A and H are very good at climbing trees and have a nice set of friends down at the club. H did training yesterday, sailing with another couple of girls of similar ages, they seem to make a pastime out of capsizing, sometimes on purpose. We found out that the world record for the number of people on a Topper under sail is 18, and H, A and sailing friends are setting out to beat that, and spent a few hours on the end of rope trying to all stand on the upturned topper ( hereafter known as ET). Am I selling sailing to you?

Friday, 18 June 2010

It seems that H also has a secret desire to be a football commentator. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, she knows the names of the England team and said 'Oh, John Terry's injured. Oh he still looks a bit pale, oh he's up on his feet again' with more panache that Adrian Chiles could ever muster. At school her class are having a sweepstake on the time of first goal and the score, H has her money on 37 minutes, so she has 5 minutes more to watch and they just nearly scored, luckily for her they didn't. Her score prediction is 2-1 to England. We still don't have flags on the car, despite the girls telling me today 'They give them away with newspapers mum.' Well not my newspaper they don't.

A was incredibly sick and had a full time relationship with the toilet for a couple of hours last night, it was one of the most shocking episodes ever witnessed, she is so good at being sick, she just gets up and gets on with it without even calling for us, bless her. I had an INSET day today, although its not about training at all, its just a whole day for planning, we were doing our overview for next year, which is going to include re enacting the great fire of London with cereal packets in the playground being set alight. It was nice to plan with the LSAs involved for once, as they have a different viewpoint on the whole process and can see if things might come unstuck logistically. So, a sick A could come with me and potter around on the computer and playing with the toys in my class room. I do know that they didn't have cereal in London in 1666, well, not in packets. And we are going to deliberately burn some cakes and set the fire alarms off. We do have to run these plans by the caretaker first, and possibly the fire service.

This week I have had a couple of great bike rides, a 30 miler on my own on Tuesday which took in bits of the Meon Valley not previously covered, with lots of hills, followed by 36 lengths of crawl. Last Sunday morning I did about 25 miles with Claire, a mum from my class and a PE teacher, ex basketball player and triathlete. Well, she kept the pace up! I loved being out with someone fit ( ter than me!) and pushing myself a bit. I also loved being out on my own on Tuesday for the rest and meditation time available when its just you, your bike and a hill.

I just saved over £300 by shopping around for our home and contents insurance rather than renewing. Call me Martin Lewis! I was very alarmed to read what we are insured against, which includes 'malicious people' doing thing to our house. I had to check with R that he is not a street trader, goldsmith or diamond dealer before clicking the Continue button. I guess in those lines of work you have more than your fair share of malicious people turning up and doing malicious things to your house. I don't know what they do, these malicious people, or how the insurance company make up their minds on whether someone is genuinely malicious or just having a bad day.

Other things of note to tell you are that once again, my green fingers are too green and we are suffering a glut of spinach and lettuce, so its green salad every day and you are welcome to come round and maliciously sneak some green leaves from my garden, as long as you don't enter through any door locked with a mortice lock. I get up to £500 for missing plants, so that's a lot of spinach you can sneak off with before I have to pay. Guess how much the amount I can claim for ruined frozen food is if my freezer breaks? £60 000 !!! That is a lot of frozen spinach! Or thawed spinach, or in the case of our freezer, rhubarb and blackberries from dad's garden. If one blackberry is worth what, 5p, that's about 10 million blackberries defrosted on the floor.

The new government, who seem to be hellbent on making all teacher hate them, seems to be shutting websites without any replacement, changing curriculums which have already been sent out, but they seem to have made everyone happy by getting rid of the General Teaching Council. Why tamper around with education right now, leave us be for a year or two and do something else to do with post offices or banks or something. I wrote an email to Mr Gove ( face for radio) inviting him over to chat through education policy but he has not replied.

My internet bargain shopping included, this week, reducing the cost of flights to Austria from £1500 to £460 just by going to a different website. Same planes, same flights, just a different website. We have decided to go it alone with the skiing next year, leaving the safety of Oak Hall lasagne behind and self catering, staying in the apartment near Salzburg that we stayed in two years ago. The girls love the Oak Hall atmosphere, instant friends and English food which only Fairthorne Manor get close to. It will be a different kind of holiday, but I can't bear another week in bunk beds. but Austria! Hey, we really should move to the Alps to save all this travel time...

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Football commentating is one of my favourite arm chair sports, once every 4 years, you understand. I was disturbed, if not aggrieved, to discover that only one of the 30 strong England football world cup squad is older than me. When I told R, he said 'Well you are 37 its a surprise any of them are.' Gee thanks. Anyway, its 1 all in the first Englad game. Half time.

I have resisted the temptation to buy St George flags for my car, despite everyone else in my street doing so. In fact, I was in Fareham, ( another story) buying 3 diet cokes in Pound Land and was behind a lady buying aforementioned car flags. I thought about asking her if she had thought through her purchase, but decided to keep quiet as she looked on the Gosport side of Fareham, if you know what I mean. meaty. I texted R as I was walking through Fareham (in cycling attire) to ask him why it was full of students from his school and ill, poor people. The only town in England with more mobility scooters per head is Worksop. His logical reply was that the Year 11s should have been at home revising, and that only people on benefits have the time to drift around Fareham on a Tuesday at midday, the healthy and rich of Fareham are at work. All 3 of them.

Now, to the football. I would have thought that the USA have a better chance of winning based on having more people to choose from in their bigger country to be in their football team. And that the world cup is unfair on small countries with a smaller pool of population to pick from, like Wales, for example. To make things fairer, I think the number of people on the team should be in direct reverse proporrtion to the population. So Wales get to field a full 11, whereas the USA only get to put 0.1 men on, assuming that is that their population is one thousand times bigger. Do you see where I am going with this and how it would work. The Isle of Wight could start entering their own team, and assuming Wales a benchmark of 11, they would get to put on maybe 40 of 5o in their team. This would work wonders for the world population problem, as big countries would soon catch on to the troubles of deciding which footballer to slice into bits to put in the match, and dramatically reduce their population, one way or another, whether it be by a cull of the elderly and non football playing, or women, or by compulsory sterilisation of all except footballers.

Today was another sailing day, not for me and A, who said ' do you think I am crazy?' when I suggested she sail with R and H to Hill Head. So, she and I played tennis and had a quick swim, and R and H sailed to Hill Head, and A and I drove over and met them for a picnic on the beach. H is hugely confident sailing with R now, last Sunday in windy conditions they won a race at the club. R's first win at Netley, first sailing win for about 20 years, and with H as his crew. I and A both had a quick whizz around, it was windy and fun and R and I had a brief whizz around on our own, my first sail of the year, and I was ok, not getting too tangled up on the tacking and knew what to do.

H was keen to watch the football match, and rather bizzarrely is sat in a small paddling pool, empty, in front of the TV. A couldn't care less about anything on TV at the moment, apart from Total Wipeout.

The girls spent the last couple of days at their cousins' , as they had inset days. It sounded like they had a fantastic time, with a visit to a baby rabbit, a long walk, a charity shop trawl which resulted in 2 pristine summer school dresses for H, lots of playing in the garden and looking at the tadpoles they are growing in a barrel. Meanwhile, R was working hard, hard, hard with the noble art of persuading 16 year olds who have as good as left school that they do want to come in to school and finish their coursework before the deadline. And I was persuading a stupid EXCEL database, I ask you, that it would like to magically produce 28 reports for the children in my class with the right words in the right boxes. I got them all printed out and to the head for her comments before the deadline. Now, I just get them all back with the mistakes she has picked up that I and Sheryl ( jobshare star!) missed cos we've read them too many times.

I haven't told you yet about Switzerland, or my cat. Which first? Cat. On Monday I wrote an email to the Cats Protection league and on Tuesday, we delivered her to a vet's in Shirley who health checked her and passed her on to CPL who have a new family for her. A family who don't go on holiday and spend most of every day out, causing their cat to feel lonely and poo and pee everywhere to prove it. She needs an old lady who doesn't go anywhere, , no children to scratch at, and we need to not have a pet to stress us out. It was a decision which I felt bad about before, like I was the baddy and a failure for not being able to look after a cat, but since she has gone, and H spent one evening crying, I feel sure it was the right thing to do and already our house smells less of cat p***.

Switzerland. Does not smell of anything bad, just mountains and waterfalls and lakes and ice cream. We spent a week with Granny Mary in Wilderswil, we had not been there for 7 years so were overdue a visit, really. It is a great spot, near Interlaken, inbetween two lakes, clue in the name. We visited some amazing waterfalls inside rocks with the awesome sound and sight of glacial water pouring out of rocks above. The sound was really loud and A's great line when I said ' Its noisy isnt it?' was 'I've been in quieter places!' She rushed me around the whole complex of steps and waterfalls quick sharpish, not her scene. We also visited another awesome outdoor waterfall, took a quick trip on the lake, did several walks and runs and a bike ride. We did 28 miles, 14 of them uphill, if you have been to Gridelwald you will know it is a fair bit higher up than the lakes in the valley! The descent back home was good, we were really proud of H for doing the ride, even if daddy did get off and push two bikes some of the way.

The girls and R did a high ropes course, as I had done one before in Austria with H and am still shaking, I let R do this one, and it turned out to be much more varied, with 3 small, lower courses that A could do on her own. H loves being up in the treetops on zip wires, as her ambition is to be a hunter, modelled on Robin Hood. A did really well and had fun on it too. Granny Mary declined.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Today the children at school wrote their own books. They have done loads of hard work lately, and this was a free choice afternoon for them to write a fiction or non fiction tome of their own. I was delighted with the responses, and as they took them home, most of them keenly to finish them off, it meant no marking for me at a time when I am marking assessment pieces and writing reports, plus planning a trip and a unit of english. Not thought about maths yet. Anyhow, I was delighted with the books I saw, which included a non fiction book called 'Football Shooting Strategies' and a version of a Nick Sharratt book, you know those ones where you open half the page and get something funny, like a cheesy princess, cos half the picture goes with the other half of another picture. Well impressed, I was! My favourite title was from an adorable boy who does not find writing easy. It was called 'The dragon and the nit'. Why should a dragon be bothered by a nit, I thought. Then I realised that he has not yet grasped the igh sound, or the i-e way of writing it, and silent k is a mystery beyond him at this tender age. So yes, it was not an original piece about a dragon with a nit infestation, but the classic Knight in shining armour slaying a dragon story.

I got back on the Slimming World wagon on Tuesday night. Despite all my exercise, my weight has crept up to 2.5 lbs above my target zone. And I think now is the time to get it back down in that zone, rathe than when its a few more lbs to deal with. I think with all the cycling I have got complacent and eaten more flapjacks, cakes etc than I would previously have done. So its back to Muller lights for me! In my absence from a Slimming World class ( over 2 years) they have gone all digital, with cards you get your data stored on, a great website with easy syns online to look up and a little reader thingy for the consultant to see your stats at a glance. i am pleased to say, for those of you who love the classic Slimming World set up, there is still a raffle with tickets and a basket of fruit for slimmer of the week. Claire, who runs this class and a million others around Hedge End, is one of the nationally amazing consultants, and is inspiring and lots of fun, and the sister of my ex job share partner at Berrywood, would you believe!

Things that made me laugh lately included cycling around the Isle of Wight. You have to read my other blog at Bike Radar for the full cycling story, but it was the most beautiful day out in the sunshine, 10 hours in the saddle, with the lovely Vicky and Rachel, two of the NCT gang from pre Hannah days. Their bikes were not really up to Millook standard, so to spite me they made me go further up more hills while taking a cross country short cut.

R and H had a great sailing day on Saturday, they were on the water for 5 hours, then H spent a further 2 hours in the water, playing with 4 other girls who she seems to get on really well with down at the club. I had a very special A day, with lots of walking in the woods and going on the train and eating ice cream together ( solero, 5 syns). We were walking along a board walk and got to a bridge. It was narrow, so I asked her if she wanted to go first. She said yes, quickly changed to a 'no, mummy, you go first, there might be a troll. ' So its ok if I get eaten by a troll. She was also concerned that there were crocodiles in the pond and wasn't convinced by my assertions that crocs and alligators don't live in Hampshire. We stamped loudly over the bridge to scare the troll off.

All my cycling is leading to a cycling tan, which goes up to just above my knees, and the bottom two thirds of my arms, despite all the suncream I slap on. I am going to have to try cycling in either my winter leggings again, or a thong, to get a more even colour. I don't know which would be worst option.

Today I had some time at the gym with Andy, the inspiring instructor who believes in health for life rather than doing something cos you ought to. We just have a chat about how things are going with my various events and training and he helps me to think about balance and what I enjoy. I commend him to you. He does sports massage as well if you ever need it, so he tells me.

Apart from work and exercise, I am reading a book by Henri Nouwen called The Prodigal Son. Clearly I am a bit slow on this bandwagon, but having read the Prodigal God by Tim someone twice back in jan/feb, this particular story still has strong messages for me and Henri writes so honestly and is easy to read, and gets me thrilled to the fingertips with the message of God's acceptance and love for me.