Sunday, 31 January 2010

I write from Claygate, where we have just returned home from an uplifting and empowering church service of covenant Sunday, of making promises to love God and live with him through the year to come, particularly, and in your life, entirely, as I understood it. Two songs written by women, and two by Matt Redman who sings quite high and so gets in on a technicality. Matt Redman came to Southampton University a year after me, me being a couple of years behind Matt Hyam turning up at the CU there. There was not enough room in the CU for two Matts, so the weaker song writer left. Or maybe it was arm wrestling they fought it out with? I was not sure, I was too busy trying to find Nick Treby things to do to prevent him playing his trombone in public. Anyway, Matt Redman couldn't take the pace of the fast moving tempo of Nick's trombone playing, couldn't keep up and that's why I think he left.

Yesterday I had a marvellous day out with Jenny Alibon, famous for being my right hand girl on our trip to Bosnia in 2007. We meet annually now, and have a great time! We 'did' the National Portrait Gallery, which I had never been in before. There were some modern photographs in a competition, and some modern paintings of scientists and business people which were interesting, then we went and trooped around the famous men of old, with heaps of paintings of old men so ugly they would have done better to say to the artist: 'I'll be honest. I'm no oil painting. Forget it.'

After a walk in St James Park (why do tourists cross the globe to go to London and then take photos of vermin - pigeons?) we had tea and cake at the Royal Festival Hall, a lovely space, much better used since the re-furb a few years back and now full of people drinking tea and eating cake. R and the girls had spent the day at the Natural History Museum, as A is doing dinosaurs at school and was eager to go and see the bones. I was on the train after theirs, so got back and had a relaxing evening eating chips while rest of family Bowen were over at Family Gibbs of Little Bookham. H has stayed over, and was looking forward to it, being the especially big cousin of two little boys who she adores. We hear that she organised Angus into making A and A breakfast in bed!

I had a observation of my teaching on Friday and my feedback was all good, which is nice. The only problem I had was with one of the boys trying to get under my chair while I was discussing puppets with the whole class. The children were as well behaved as always and I was delighted with how well the lesson went and how much they have learned in this DT project on making puppets, they can now use double sided tape, and as R pointed out, at the start of the year some of them struggled to use single sided tape. They have also all sewed something on to their puppet, and I was blessed with 4 parent helpers to get the sewing underway on Wednesday. I have had a good week teaching, with some fabulous writing being produced by children about giants and great use of vocabulary and compound sentences, with 'and' and 'because' appearing in lots of their writing. I also assessed my reading groups and have a handle on where they need to go next which is a great feeling!

On Tuesday we had Steve and Elaine Jones over for dinner, and in the hour before they arrived I cooked two types of soup, gave the girls tea and entertained 3 angels. Steve and Elaine are thinking, godly people and amongst the few who I can be honest with without fear. They charge reasonable rates and I recommend them to you all.

Housegroup on Wednesday was somehow led by me, Josh FORGOT he was leading the worship but mercifully I had already decided that we would go and pray at Amanda's new flat so he claimed that as his own idea and we all had a cup of tea and prayed for her, at her new flat. It seems very clean and decent, with brand new kitchen and bathroom. Hey. Josh, don't worry, I won't tell anyone you forgot you were on the rota....

Sialou and I have managed 2 weeks in a row of meeting and reading Mark together, so 2 chapters down. It is fantastic to read and discuss the bible with someone who has such a hugely different culture and history to me, but essentially who meets the same Jesus on those pages. I come home really built up by the experience, and can only despair that it has taken me two years to get around to it, and rejoice that despite my slowness, Jesus is waiting for me always.

Monday, 25 January 2010

One of my favourite signs is the one that says 'in emergency - break seal' as I always see someone snapping a cuddly fluffy little seal in half.

Well, we have an emergency on our hands - but more of an emergent - cy - as Amanda is emerging from the protective cocoon of our family into the big wide world of living on her own in a flat. It is a miracle beyond all comprehension. We had given up on the council as it would be at least 3 more years before she was anywhere near the top of the points system for getting a flat. So we had looked at a private flat and R had figured out the finances and so on, and despite his increasing unease, had committed to a course of action and was up for supporting her to move into a flat a 15 minute bus ride away from thornhill. She went to accept and was told she was 10 minutes too late and they had given it to someone else. Big gloom, until, a couple of hours later, R happened to check her bidding status on the council system and found a message sent that day which said she had been offered a studio flat in Thornhill, a 10 minute walk away, and literally a roll down the hill from her flat to some of our housegroup members' houses. She went to view it today and is signing and getting the keys tomorrow and moving in on Monday!!!!!!!!! Iknow it is wrong to do lots of !!!! but hey, you get my ! The girls are excited for her and desperate to help her pack her bags, but in a nice and loving way. She is so motivated and full of life it makes me want her to hang around, she not only viewed and accepted a flat but made and attended doctor and dental appointments today. This level of activity is unprecedented. H has made a list of everything you need for a flat, and we are circulating the church a list of assorted items she needs. She also has some funds that she has saved up ( my idea - good one eh? ) so she may be able to buy some of the white goods/carpet etc. The flat is in dencet condition with a recently installed new kitchen and bathroom, thanks to TPY's Better Homes project, part of the way they have spent the £50 million that Thornhill got from the government back in 2002 or whenever the 10 year project started.

So, that was exciting wasn't it? If you ever wondered if there was a God, here is the dramatic proof that there is. Even I was wondering at times. We are incredulous, especially when we have had some desperate times lately and felt really low, it is amazing to have such news and see, hopefully, the fruit of our labours.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Advert for a 8 hour a week guitar teacher job with Hampshire County Council:

(8 hours a week, maybe increased to 14, to cover sickness for 9 months)

Are you ambitious? ( No, clearly not, if I was I would be Eric Clapton by now)

Do you want to impact the education of 150 000 children ( not in 8 hours a week, no! That works out at mighty big clas sizes, and do they really have that many kids in Farnborough who want to learn the guitar? Are there that many guitars in Farnborough? would there be space for people to move around safely if there were that many guitars littering the place, being lugged to school by poor kids who are looking forward to their millisecond long lesson shared with another 1000 pupils taught by a not very ambitious guitar teacher?)

People should think more about their USPs. I broke the unbreakable USB key today, but managed to mend it again. Phew. The story teller went well, we really enjoyed it, the children were so involved with the whole thing and using their imaginations brilliantly. I taught two maths lessons this morning, we are way behind due to snow, so I enjoyed getting back into the groove with maths. I like maths, and I was a bit worried with the level of some of the children and have a lot of work to get them up to speed! Everything went well with the mayor yesterday as well, and my big week is nearly over!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Spent a quiet day yesterday with the Sisters of Bethany who live, not with Lazarus, but in Southsea. They are mostly elderly and there was a waft of eau do urine about the place, and mixed with incense in the chapel that makes for an assualt on the nasal cavity. The priest leading was called David Lindsay, a gifted and engaging story teller who used Pooh Bear and The Shack in his addresses. I cycled in the rain to Fareham for training purposes, and then got the train to Fratton, and was then disoriented and shivering as I navigated the back streets of Fratton to find the Sisters. The best thing about going on Quiet days and so on is that you are often the youngest person there. I took along a friend who is younger than me, and who wisely got the train the whole way and arrived dry, not literally dripping on the door mat. the youngest nun ( 50 ish - maybe I'm being harsh) came over and said ' I always say a special hello to any young faces we have here.' Hooray!

At lunch time I went into Southsea to buy some emergency boots to warm my feet up, and some emergency socks, and then a paper and had lunch in the pub on a comfy sofa. So it turned into a rather costly quiet day, but fun and I have felt refreshed and enlivened by the experience, even if it were rather a soggy one. Travelling home with Elaine was fun, she is a very lifegiving person and I was pleased to have her along for the ride. Not on my bike.

Today I saw a couple on a tandem with a trailer on the back with a dog in it. they should call those trailers 'tailers'. Did a nice run all along the beach from Weston pitch and putt to Netley Sailing club, then a small lap of the country park and then back again as the sun was setting over the water. i have a new gadget, well, its a head thing that you wear to keep your ears warm when you are skiing and I wore it for running. It is fine, apart from with my hair being short and curly, it sticks out on top and I look like a pineapple on a bad hair day. But my ears were happy, and I hate having cold ears, so that was a good thing. Played a bit of tennis today with Chrissie, a teacher from Berrywood who has a husband who is good at tennis, so he played R.

Last night we went to some strangers' house for a dialogue group dialoguing about how to dialogue. It was a hotch potch of people and very random, a bit like turning up for a murder mystery, they lived in a huge old house as well. There were 13 at the table, and not being superstitous that did not bother me at all. There were some interesting comments, like ' Do we communicate with language or would we also be communicating with vibrations?' It's a good question, none of us knew the answer, and R nudged me at that point as my face was clearly saying what I was thinking. I would be no good at poker.

Today we went to the big Vineyard and I had the opposite experience from the nuns day, when I calculated that I was the 20th oldest person there.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Thrilled to tell you that I cracked the code on the holidays in the Sun website to book the dates we wanted to go to Disneyland Paris. I had priority booking as had gone on a holiday before,with the Sun, and I have dutifully bought the Sun every day for a week and taken out certain pages before despatching it to school for painting duties. So I have all the tokens if anyone of you has started collecting a bit later than me, ask. I was at the Coop at 7am in the rain to buy today's comic, and then logged on straight away. I recall from last time, you see, that you don't actually put your first choice at first choice, but subtly slip it in amongst other dates that you are not interested in, in a variety of combinations, and eventually (took about 10 goes) your actual first choice ( they don't think it is, you see!) is offered to you. Seems a bit similar to the travel agent who suggested Goa when I said I wanted to go to Mexico.

So, I have booked caravan accomodation on a nice looking site about 20km away from aforementioned site of cheeriness and 50km from Paris as we are intending to have a day of culture to cancel out the plastic tastic, and the ferry crossing for UNDER £120! I have booked hundreds of holidays this year, I ask R about the money and he just shrugs, so I will keep going until he looks panicked, or suggest I find myself a night job. We managed to swap our Eurotunnel booking (this is amazing!) for free, for an earlier train, as I have a half day, the girls have a INSET day, and R was chatting to his headteacher who offered him a half day, so we should get to Arras at tea time and not at midnight, and on the way home we will stay an extra night in Arras and not have to have the pressure of driving solid all day and HAVING to get to Calais no matter what. Long sentence I know, but basically we get a longer and more calm holiday. That is the skiing I am talking about, btw. R is also skiing by coach with 40 teenagers but more about that after. Not actually skiing by coach, skiing on skis, not on a coach. I went to Hedge End library and stocked up on CDs for the journey, so far I have 10 hours listening time, including the Famous Five. H is really into Jacqueline Wilson, who teachers will know as the most popular author for girls aged 9-12 ish, and she touches on difficult subjects, with divorce, adoption, bullying etc all covered in her books. She is an engaging writer and incidentally lives in Kingston. I found one J Wilson CD so hopefully we will find a few more as I scour the libraries of Southampton and Hampshire in my quest to stave off boredom and travel sickness across France and Switzerland.

That sounds like I am taking on the whole of France and Switzerlands' ( is that right place for ') problems with travel sickness and boredom. No, I am just thinking of A who recently has shown great fortitude in making it all the way from home to granny's without being sick. Usually she got to Farnham/Guildford and I was thinking that Granny would have to move. Now, with some magic pills from the homeopathic section in the chemist, she is doing the whole 70 miles, so we have some hope for a mega crossing of Europe.

A went for tea at Duncan and Emma's last night and came home like Kim or Aggie. First she offered to clean the house for payment ( Wendy has been ill/snowbound for weeks now) and I said no, the house is clean enough, as I had raced around and done as much as I could on Wednesday and it doesn't need cleaning. So, she offered to spend today cleaning for free, to keep herself busy. R and A had the chat last night about moving out, we seem to have found a solution that doesn't involve waiting for another 3 years for enough council points. When I have been getting stressed thinking about how to move her on, into a more positive situation and not back to a hole like the YMCA, R has been really calm and focused and come up with what we all hope is a winnng combination. A insists that she will get up at 6.30am and come here to look after the girls for me on my work days from 7.30am. She failed twice to get up and look after them when she lives here so my expectations are low. So, the tentative plan is that she will be in her own studio flat ( probably in Sholing) by my birthday.

Yesterday we all watched HSM 1, which R and I have not seen before. It is by far the best of the 3. You have to watch it - even if you are a Sci Fi fan. Such a feel good film! R is a huge fan of HSM, and told his tutor group, who are 15/16 year olds. They think he is mad.

Funny story from R. He was helping a girl with her work, and asked her -'where is the sudoku spreadsheet saved?' She replied with 'Ummmm...'. He looked up at her, waited for a proper reply, then looked at the screen,where there was a folder labelled 'Ummm' where she put all the things she wasn't sure about.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Is there nothing sacred? It turns out that the essential toolbox of every teacher in the UK, Sparklebox, is banned by Hamsphire County Council - its a kind of one stop place for freebie display materials, flash cards, that kind of thing. It has come to light that it is owned by a convicted paedophile who has served a prison sentence. So we can no longer download and laminate to our heart's content - and I had just before Christmas ordered 1000 laminating pouches.

This morning, H banged her arm in the bathroom and I ignored her yelping and groaning and told her to talk in proer words if she wanted help. When she quitened down and I went in to see her, she started the conversation with this opener: 'It's obvious you have not had any training in how to be a mother.'

Happy Friday, mum.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The heating engineers could not do anything today so they patched up the hole and we were in the classroom in the end.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

I am the proud owner of a bullet proof computer memory stick. It is not so much a stick as a bullet shape, and is attached to my keyring to avoid loss. It is waterproof, shock proof and bullet proof and has some software or something on it which can encrypt to a level that the US forces are happy with. Probably about the same as my literacy planning then. R bought this item for me, and I am worried he has plans for me I know nothing about which involve me signing up for military service. One of the USPs ( is that right - unique selling points) on the packaging is the totem pole design it has etched on it. If I was buying a memory stick for its ability to act as a bullet proof vest I don't care whether it has etchings of Winston Churchill, a dancing ethnic figure or Nigella. Can you imagine the talk in the trenches in the first world war? Ah, you'll be alright, mate, yours has got a dancing aborigine on it! and its bullet proof. Hold it over your head!

I was intending to cycle to Sainsburys today to be picked up by a colleage to go to a course and the two Robs swapped my tyres over for my bobbly ones to help in the slush and snow and ice. I suggested that they could be in a Tour de France back up team, but they were on a go slow and suggested that the Tour would be won before their guy had got back on his bike if they were involved. My neighbour then kindly offered me a lift to Lord JS and so when R got home tonight he took my unused bobblys off and put the road tyres back on. I seem to have suggested to a good friend that we do the Round the Island cycle ride for fun in the summer. What was I thinking? She called my bluff and said yes! Anyone else up for it? Girls only, boys welcome in support vehicle with Lucozade.

I was over excited about going on a course, as a part time and temporary teacher on lowly cover contracts and supply you don't really reach the top, or even the bottom of the list for when courses are being doled out. I had not been on one since 2000. So I was way too excited to be getting a free lunch and doodling in the sides of a handout. Especially a handout about statutory testing of 6 and 7 year olds, a practice I find immoral but armed with the facts and information, I can see how it is easy to make it part of the everyday life of the class and not a term and a half of practising. So I am looking forward to getting stuck in to reading conferences and fun work based on the topic we are doing anyway. The course was condensed ( demonstrating that it was too long to start with) and I got home by 2.30, so could pick H up after all! Of course she was disappointed to have me and not be going to her friend's as planned. A had her first craft club after school, run by Chris Davidge, who is a playworker in Thornhill and tasked by Southampton City council with helping Thornhill children happy through play. She came home very hyper and happy so he can tick that box!

H is just getting interested in texting, and has a conversation going with my brother about her upcoming trip to stay the night with them. She has found out how to swap the writing language to Spanish, much to my dismay when everything had a q in it. Like me, she struggles with predictive text, and for 'Angus and baby Niall' I showed her how to write N I ALL instead of the option of Nick, and A N G US instead of bogus. Bogus and Nick, her new cousins. She had given up on Niall and written 'and the other one'. On one of my memorable first texts to R, I wrote ' on the cup on way good'. I also asked Mark Robins if Ali was interested in buying a sex machine. If you know Ali, you know the answer. I was trying to sell her a sewing machine.

There is a huge hole in the floor in the corridor outside my classroom so tomorrow I am teaching in the hall, and have rearranged my curriculum to make the most of it, so we will be doing the measuring in metres objective, throwing beanbags and then seeing how far we threw them. We will also be doing dancing and gymnastics. I am quite optimistic about the outcomes of the day having given it some thought and worked out what to bring from my classroom to the hall and what to forget. Sadly can't bring the interactive whiteboard with me so will be working on a flip chart like the olden days.

Sometimes I think of my first teaching job, my first year, and just cringe - some of my lessons were awful, and I had a blackboard, for heaven's sake! And I can't sleep at night if I think about my teaching practices, especially the first one, where the children learnt almost nothing - as in, they almost learnt nothing - we were in the negative. Poor kids, probably all in prison now, I failed them so badly. Well, I was only there for 5 weeks so a little harsh. There was snow on the playground every day of that teaching practice and we went in every day. But that's Sheffield for you. Used to the snow up there, they are. Not like us southerners who have never seen it before.

We had another day off school on Monday and went into town and did the IKEA creche again - an hour of free childcare - man, if only they had opened 9 years ago I would have been down there every day with my children! On our last visit on Friday, the lady in the creche asked why they not at school, and she asked again on Monday - I expect the EWO to be banging on my door next time I take them. The girls were great in town, relatively patient and fun, spraying perfume samples in Boots, that kind of fun, and we had tea at Pizza Express with Tesco vouchers. We planeed to go in the holidays but the sickness meant that was not an option, so R met us and we had a family tea out, a bit like Sophie in The Tiger who came to Tea. It was a close thing, being a family tea, as R had got his Italiam restaurant head in a muddle and went into ASK, and then did not have a clue where P Express is. It is in Oxford Street, and you can use Clubcard deals to pay for food, so our meal came to an appetising £8, which was the drinks bill.

I went out eating on Saturday, to El Sabilo in Winchester, a tapas place which we first went to for Andrea's 40th birthday Salsa night. We took the Gales, and had a fun evening eating loads. I have booked a lunch date with Andrea there in February and so will soon qualify for a loyalty card. If anyone wants to take me out for lunch, or dinner, just ask and I'll be there.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

It's not called ThornHILL for nothing, we have a great hill in our midst and in fact people denote themselves as being up or down hill dwellers. So yesterday morning ( was it only that long ago) while R set off in the car for work, getting there with no problems to find it shut, A and H got up too early and were too excited, so before 8.30am we had left the house and were heading for Hannay Rise. Us and one other family, who bizarrely were building a snowman on the steepest slope for miles around. It started snowing again and we were joined by Family Davidge and Whitmore, and had lots of fun on our tea trays. One, a metal one, was a wedding present from an Austrian godfather of R. It did good service as a sledge. At about 10am the piste started to get crowded and I wished I had put my salupettes on after all, so we retired to the Whitmores for hot chocolate. Then trudged through the thick drifts ( ok, a little poetic there) to the Taylor family for a play and a cup of tea before finally reaching home, alive. We spent the afternoon cleaning, as Wendy Wednesday was not happening so we all pretended to be Wendy instead. I scrubbed the new kitchen tiles as you only do once when they are brand new, and also had another go at the floor in the lounge which still smells of cat wee. Today I found cat wee and a cat poo in the lounge. She is going to have to go.

Today we had perfect sledging weather, blue skies all day, stunning views and if I had a battery in my camera you would by now have shared my nature photography. We walked over to Telegraph woods, and just tumbled over a gate into the golf course which has undulating terrain and a picture postcard view - looked like Austria, were it for the big industrial estates in Hedge End in the foreground. We had some great sledging on some bits of black plastic that had been left there. There were a couple of other families who had bothered to make the walk through the woods to get there, including a few snowboarders. It was amazing to see so much designer ski gear in West End! And proper sledges, we were the poor relations with our trays up there, whereas on Hannay Rise the day before we had been at the top end of technology, above the Quality Street lids and bin bags. After shivering yesterday, I wisely wore my full ski wear today and was toasty. After a detour to buy chips for lunch, the girls and R spent the afternoon making a sledge, so we trotted back 'up Hannay' to try it out. By now, Hannay Rise was a sheet of ice and only the brave and foolhardy of Thornhill were out. One of the things which makes Thornhill fun is times like this, and seeing the resourcefulness of young people, who get a bad press, but had pressed into action as sledges items as random as an inflatable dinghy, a road sign, a car bumper ( that was in bits at the bottom) a freezer door (one very annoyed mother at home wondering why the freezer has no door), a sofa cushion ( someone wasn't listening to that Science lesson on friction) and lots of signs from the Range. Some kids I knew were proudly telling me 'I nicked this from the Range' and another boy who had clearly been primed by his mum said 'I just found this on my balcony'. Despite starting very low down the piste we still had casualties early on, with A and Matthew wiping out the rubber dinghy lads, so we all came home for pizza and chips. R's sledge is not bad but needs some modifications and the children found the Whitmores' pieces of damp coursing plastic better fun.

I noticed today a plumber's van with 'Flood the plumber' written on the side. You couldn't make it up could you? Well, you could but it wouldn't be so funny.

R is, at the very moment, helping Amanda bid on council flats. It seems she had not got the idea at all on her own, and somehow had managed to not bid on anything. So he is 'helping her'. We have had some good conversations lately and she seems to be realising the huge debt of gratitude she should be showing us, and have a better attitude towards us and towards herself. She has also spent 2 nights at Ang's 1 at her mum's and she tells me she is spending a night at someone else from church on Saturday, so we get to have some time alone. Hooray! It feels great when the load is spread out a bit and other people are pitching in a bit and doing things without being asked over and over again. Well, I have asked over and over again, but clearly it is going in and people are caring and trying to help and recognising that we need some respite.

Ah, probably obvious but none of our schools open today, yesterday or tomorrow! So, I will be a week ahead of myself with planning, and as I am on a course on Wednesday, I won't have seen my kids for almost a month by the time I go back on Thursday. I am actually missing them - when you spend your working life with 30 engaging and fascinating people you do miss them a bit....

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Have just entered for a 10 k, a 10 mile and a tri, in Mar, Jul and May in that order. Fans will be held back by my security staff near Farnham, Brokenhurst and Salisbury, again, in that order. I once had a near miss with Fareham and Wareham, getting onto the wrong platform at Southampton and nearly heading the wrong way along the south coast. It's odd how I never knew anything about Fareham when I was at uni, except for seeing a road sign to it, and nearly accidentally going there, and now R works there and has done for nearly 10 years, and I used to work there and have a soft spot for it as a shopping centre, with its lovely Christian cafe and all under one roof handy shopping centre.

In case you needed more inspiration to save the planet and have been hibernating, I will tell you about the 10.10 idea which the Guardian dedicated a supplement to this week. I think the idea is that you reduce your carbon input/output/use by 10% this year coming. By, for example, turning off one of the ten lights in your house, or reducing your wattage of your living room light from 100 watts to 90, just as an example. There was an article about a man who is not going to buy any new clothes. I don't really like buying clothes much anyway and tend to do it in desperate times - ie on the way to a wedding when realise only have jeans with hole in - but I am going to try not to buy any clothes for myself this year. Although I already have failed as been intending for ages to buy some new running shoes for new season as mine smell and have probably had their day in terms of mileage. I realise that having 2 children of the same sex is environmentally friendlier option as the clothes are easy to recycle for them. Converting flowery skirts into shorts for boys would be a challenge to even the most green goddess of a mother.

Am writing from the comfort of my kitchen table, looking admiringly at my new cupboards that R has worked so hard to put up. The girls helped him loads, in fact, one of the cupboards was entirely constructed by H, so if you have ever been beaten by B and Q flatpack in the past, you could feel completely demoralised at this point, knowing that an 8 year old can do it and you can't. Or you could put it down to R's great parenting skill and patience and realise that if you had done the drilling on the other 5 under his careful tutelage you too would have safely been able to do that last cupboard yourself. We are recycling the playroom worktop into a new kitchen worktop, and then going to the tip to get a new worktop for playroom - unless you have one lying about - 1.5m would be nice.

Today we played Star Wars Monopoly (yes, it pains me to tell you it was the Star Wars version) and despite being really rather ill and not in this world, R managed to win really well, with 2 boys we played against going bankrupt. I came a comfortable second but had not managed to buy half the board as R had. The family we played had great rules which made things a lot faster and more interesting than we had previously played. Move over Scrabble!

Played tennis today, had our family half hour practice ( A's hands were too cold to hold the bat) and then R and I were signed up for an hour, but in his ill condition we only managed half an hour before retreating to the bar. I did my 20 lengths while the girls played mermaids and R continued to hog a whole comfy sofa in the adults only section. Of the bar, not the pool.

We were up in Claygate for a few days in the week, and we had a tasty meal out with ma and pa and the Little Bookhamers in Leatherhead, at Caesars. The portions were truly fit for a king, next time we go we will order one meal for the four of us. My meal included 2 jacket potatoes which were taken home to feed the chicken. We took in the delights of Leatherhead town centre in the rain, and what a spectacle it is, a kind of Surrey version of Bitterne, with a Next and a Dorothy Perkins and a Currys where you would expect to find Peacocks, QS and 99p store. It has a theatre, where we used to have a Bowling alley.

Running around Claygate is fabulous because it is flat. And there are loads of woods and fields and you only get people with nice dogs like labradors, not any rough old Staffies or Pit Bull terriers or other similar dogs that snarl at runners around Bitterne.

Nearly forgot, yesterday was new year's day and R went to do the sailing race. It was a beautiful sunny day and despite my feeling ill and A having been sick that am ( I don't drink alcohol any more so not a self inflicted new year's day illness, thank you for asking,) we loved being in the sun and H had a good go at climbing lots of trees before we retreated to the club house to do crosswords and eat chips.