Monday, 22 February 2010

not sure if that is a video you can click and watch or just a photo. It is H and Freddy Flyer, the school teddy who goes on holidays. Today I did 8 loads of washing, and have it all over the house, and R is going to the launderette after bike club to get some tumble dried before it rots. I also cleaned a lot of the house and cycled in the rain to an osteopathy appointment in Northam, but the osteopath was late ( I gave him over 5 minutes and was just leaving when he arrived). I told him that I was not interested in doing business with him, very nicely, and wished him good luck. If my class turn up at 8.45 I don't rock up at 8.50 do I? No! Indeed! Cycled all the way home again in the rain.

In my quest for good library service I cycled to Thornhill library and gave a furiously positive hello to Librarian Surly, and got a positive reply from the lovely Librarian Jolly who snuck out of the cupboard behind LS. I bought 13 children's books for 65p, the girls are getting through them and then I will take them in to supplement my class's kinderbox until the end of the year. Supplementing the education system through my own money again - I don't do it at all compared to some teachers. We have run out of Pritt Sticks till April, will have to mix flour and water together soon.

After school, A and I made some banana cupcakes, and then during Rainbows, H made the cream cheese frosting and decorated them. Very tasty and good way to use up manky bananas.

I read Sarah T's comment with interest and wonder if Year 8s would like to dress up as German fairy tale characters. Sarah could, maybe, go as Rumpelstiltskin or an Elf. Or Gretel. I think 12 and 13 year olds would relish the opportunity to dress up. My own acting as Snow White's step mother went very well, perhaps too well as the boys with swords all tried to kill me.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Thank you to Nid, for comments suggesting my library situation at school not a one off. Granny Mary took the girls to Thornhill library last Friday as they had an INSECT day off school (A thought the teachers spent the day checking for spiders' webs and shooing off little bugs in the classrooms - if only). Granny Mary endured the usual snotty service from librarians - she was returning books and the gruff one wouldn't let them take out any as they didn't have their cards - this is despite being able to look them up and having known them since they were two and zero. GM pleaded and they took home two books each. G M was very busy last Friday, as she did ironing, washing, a trip to Sainsburys and the launderette as well as the library, and gave the girls lunch, all before noon. The reason being that at noon, R was fetching me from work and we were off on our road trip! We got to the check in at Eurotunnel at 15:12, the last minute we technically could check in for our departure. Things were a bit delayed there anyway, and with the Tom Tom struggling to find the Hotel Balladins in Arras we endured a fractious evening before finally enjoying the comfortable bed and nice sized family room. A loved the shoe shine wipes and the shower gel! Generally, I could not fault Mr Tom Tom. He was calm throughout and didn't get too shirty when I spent another half an hour (on the way home) trying to get to IKEA in Strasbourg. We since found out that the owner of the TT has put IKEAS in as points of interest and it would have got us there just like that. For future reference, come off at Cronenburg. We were only going for lunch, not buying flat pack long distance.

For those of you wondering why I was touring the cities and towns of eastern France, we were en route to and from the lovely Engelberg in Switzerland, where we once again enjoyed a week of skiing. The snow was not as deep as last year, which helped as no drifts to lose A in, but plenty enough snow for fabulous skiing, and 5 days of blue skies, and snow on our last day, when we had had enough anyway! So the conditions were excellent, R and I felt we had a week of consolidation, and actually, when I came down the easy slope next to the chalet for the last time, I could see huge progress from the end of last year - I am swishing towards being able to do parallel turns. The girls did brilliantly, they are so confident and A is putting in some turns now so won't be hitting the land speed record this time around. She looks like a little Swiss child now, whizzing away and going up the button lift and the T bar on her own. We did one stretch of a red run, with me tailing the kids on their lesson, and it was horrendous, I ended up crawling back up the slope as a kind passer by had taken my skis up to a ledge for me to ski down the easier side, but I was slipping down the slope and had to use every muscle I had to stay up and get to the edge and crawl up. My heart rate must have been over 200bpm. The next day I had aches everywhere! Unfortunately no one learned from our mistake, and intending to take the long blue run, R and H ended up in the same situation in the afternoon too! We met a lovely family from Nottingham, and hung out with them a lot, with the girls all ringo-ing together after lunch every day while we ate chocolate and drank expensive drinks very slowly on the terrace of the Berg Hotel. Easy rule of cost in Switzerland - the higher up the mountain, the more it costs - fair enough really as someone has to lug it all up there for you to consume. R managed to work a trick on the hot chocolate machine for 4 days but was sprung by the lady on the till on day 5.

I loved just being in the mountains and seeing the views, and I love what we affectionately know as 'The Narnia run' - its so peaceful amongst the trees and you can go fast without worrying about other people. Because there are none, not because you have ignored them. The bottom half of it, you meet up with all the better skiers and boarders doing the descent from the top, and it gets a bit busy and there is a double hair pin bend which we affectionately know as 'Death Bend'. Not so fun, but the bottom bit back to the lifts, which is really steep is fab as you can swoop back to the base station and stop just in time before the orange fence.

The downside of Oak Hall is having to listen to a talking head drone on each evening, or hide in your room, and last year the guy was boring and I wasn't in the mood. This year, R took his guitar and played so the worship was a little more accessible than last year. The speaker was fab, he works for Cornhill and is called Stuart, and he was speaking on Luke 15, which has been very telling for me lately, and I have just read the book Prodigal God by Tim Keller, which he refered to a lot. I went to every meeting and listened to every talk. Get me!! I found the mix of people there this year to be interesting and fun, we sat with lots of different families over dinner and there wasn't a clique in sight - well, there was, but I made it my mission to infiltrate them and it worked. One night I was playing a game called Jungle Mania with them and some other people. Its a complicated version of Snap, and if you have good spatial awareness and quick reactions you will be good at it. I was playing it with a bunch of teenage boys so quit while I was ahead, which was fairly immediate. On another evening there was a table tennis competition, and I persuaded R to enter and paired him up with a chap called Colin, from Farnborough, known to me as a marathon runner and actuary. They got through the preliminary round and made easy work of the quarters and semis, and won in 2 sets in the final. It turns out that the very modest Colin had played table tennis to county level!

I hope I have painted a great picture of the trip. The girls had lots of fun in the kids club and at their lessons, and generally running around the chalet being excited. They were incredibly patient passengers in the car and A did not mention feeling sick until we were on the M25 on the way home, 10 minutes from my brother's! She used to be sick every time we went from here to Surrey, so to do such a huge road trip without sick is awesome. The thing that I despaired about was the French road system, we went on the toll roads and they are so expensive, and involved such long queues to pay for the priveledge of queueing! Grr. Also there is this ridiculous situation near Strasbourg, where the two lane motorway disappears and you have to travel along a normal one lane each way road and go round two roundabouts to get back on a motorway - and this is all the traffic on a major road network! A bit like Winchester before Twyford Down. And the motorways seem to go through cities - well, Strasbourg and Rheims, rather than past them, as tends to happen in England. Which means the road becomes really busy with people popping to IKEA, for example. Its not like the countryside is so beautiful you couldn't run a bypass through it, its all same old same old fields really. Sorry, France, sure there are some lovely bits but not the bit you see from the Autoroute de l'est.

Interestingly, I noticed today, in my life I have known a Sam West and a Sam East. If any of you know a Sam North or South, will you introduce us? I would like a whole set.

Back to France, and I am afraid H has picked up some of her grandfather's attitude to the country, complaining about the toilets ( some were a bit whiffy) and the fact that no one spoke English. She was horrified that someone might insist on her eating Frogs legs and snails. We worked hard on explaining that French people are allowed to speak French as she is allowed to speak English, but she will take some convincing. She loves the holidaying we have done in German speaking countries, and will have a go at a bit of German, but despite our positive efforts to model 'having a go' in french, she was not keen. Croissants might be the key to her heart, and 4 days in Disneyland Paris will give her an authentic experience of the culture.

The novel I read on holiday was set in Paris, a Rose Tremayne tome called 'the way I found her.' Gripping stuff and very clever, with lots of unanswered questions, and all told from the view point of a 14 year old English boy left to his own devices in Paris for a summer. I read her ' The Road Home' and feel sure that the next offering of hers that I find in the library will be just as good as those two have been. If I can persuade the librarian to let me at the books. Interestingly, for those of you following my threads on libraries, I just renewed my books on line with considerable ease. Much better than ringing them, now I have a pin number.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Today I fell off my bike, so think it is worth telling the world. the last time I can remember falling off my bike was in 1993, so I should be safe for another 17 years, unless I take up BMXing. Actually, a year ago I did a bike ride with Ang and I did fall off then, and once more recently on a bike ride with Rachel, but they were both off road falls on soft ground so don't count like today did. It was a proper falling off on a road and if a car had been coming the other way, or from behind, I would not be in such a good state as I am. Which is fine, since you ask, I have a bruised leg and a headache and tense neck and shoulders and a bit stiff, but all vital organs seem to be working ok. It happened on the same bend that I stopped at a few weeks ago to help a lady push her car out of a ditch. Well, she drove and I pushed. Today, I saw ice on the floor and thought 'oh there's ice' at the same time as I slipped on it and sprawled across the road. I was wearing gloves, a helmet and, for the first time ever, I had borrowed R's winter cycling leggings, so was well protected. My bike was damaged, so I walked the rest of the way to school (worked this morning, doing a meeting to talk about the year 2s progress - or lack of...). then I got a bus to Tesco - I was very blessed as literally 2 buses came at once, giving me the option of Tescos or Woolston. OK, so not that blessed, it could have been St Tropez or Nice. Anyhow, after a quick mooch around Tesco to buy a birthday present for one of A's friends, I walked the rest of the way home, feeling dizzier and more tired with every step - and I could normally run that easy peasy twice! So clearly, I need to listen to my body and heal, hence having just had a bath, and texted R to ask him to come home early ( he is on a boring course so I knew he would like a get out clause - in fact, when I rang at 8am to tell him of my plight, he offered to come and get me then, before the course even started!).

Have finished reading Adrian Mole the cappucino years. A bit behind the times but a great comic read. Am reading Mr Gum's dinner by Andy Stanton, my vote for the best children's author of all time if he continues to churn out such great stuff as Mr Gum.

We have given Amanda all her belongings ( except one carrier bag of toiletries which I hope she realises she needs at some point!) and got our key back from her. It is very peaceful at home now and less noisy and just calmer in every way.

While I am here, I'll tell you a few other things going on - yesterday I played Sarah at tennis, we did well, she is good and I am improving and we are well matched. I also had a coffee date at M and S ( Ang was paying, so I didn't feel it broke with my principled stand against them). Last night I had a washing up and planning meeting for our 'Messy Church' which is getting to be such a slick and organised affair that it will soon need to have a new name. There is a facebook group you can join for our messy church, I know nothing of these things, but good luck to you if you want to have a rummage through the net for it. the meeting was fun, I feel purposeful and part of a team. Hallelujah.

Sunday we played family tennis with Chrissie and James Fryer, our new tennis pals, who are long suffering with our children's lack of attention span and forgiving of my poor quality tennis. The girls had swimming lesson and then tea for all at Whitmore Towers, we have enjoyed our Sunday tea time dates together, we have taken it in turns to take the swimmers swimming, or cook the tea. Girls also cycled to church that morning, so they settled down to sleep pretty quick Sunday night. I did a tri training session with Sarah Gale on Sunday morning. We met at Bitterne Library at 7.30am and went on our road bikes (Sarah's first go) to Horton Heath and back to West End, then did a short run around Harefield (I was pathetic on the hills) and then home.

On Saturday R and I played tennis for an hour while the girls went to club, then R took them swimming while I ran a slow and short run to test out my hip/back which I damaged a fortnight before, picking up a tennis ball. I had found it painful and irritated by walking but it was ok on the cross trainer. It seems fine again, I just badly out of running form and have a 10k in 6 weeks time so hope I stay injury free. Me and Paula have similar problems. I ran to Haskins, so then sat in the cafe with a packet of crisps and a scone which possibly evened out the benefits of running there. If you ever want to feel young, go to Haskins cafe. I guarantee, whatever your age, that you will feel sprightly and youthful compared to the rest of the clientele.

I managed to cram two trips to Bitterne in on Saturday, one in the morning to get things for the evening, and another one at 4.40pm to get the things I had forgotten. I bumped into an old neighbour and had a lengthy chat, in Sainsburys. I didn't know her well, but she always smiled at H and chatted and once we went in for a cup of tea, and she just strikes me as a kindred spirit. One particulary exciting thing about Bitterne is the new system for taking books out of the library, you scan your card, then just put the books on the desk and the machine somehow, knows what books you have put down! You can try and outwit it and trick it, but it just knows! It is just a circle of wood. It truly is amazing, and in the case of Bitterne library, I am all for increased use of computers if it means less withering stares from the staff who clearly avoided the customer service training day. In fact, some of the staff there are perfectly pleasant, for librarians, and were able to do things like stack and tidy books, and answer my query regarding where to look for books on a certain topic, for example. Do you know, in 4 years at secondary school, I never used the library? It was never open, no one ever suggested we could go in it, it was like a fossilized remnant of some grammar school past, uncomfortably positioned between Home Ec and the staff room corridor which was forbidden. I was sick once in the staff toilet ( next to the medical room - I thought it was a wise choice as the girls loos were miles away and locked) but got shouted at for my efforts. Next time, I vowed, I would be sick on the floor and Mrs Thornton ( evil deputy head) or Mrs Gough ( evil school 'nurse' ) could clear it up.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

With suspended disbelief I can say that Amanda has moved out. She still has a key for another week ( a concession from R) and her room is a complete junk yard of smelly clothes and the like, but I have not seen her for two days and when I wake up in the morning there is a different atmosphere in the house. She made us a lovely card with a butterfly coming out of a cocoon - hold it there, the cat has just wee -d on a carrier bag right in front of my nose. The impudent beast. She is next out the door. Its like Big Brother here, I am evicting anyone who sits still or pees on the carpet. Won't be long before that's my parents and in laws then!

We had the girls' parents evenings tonight, and both of us coud go, it was a bit of a rush with R having to go back to work for a meeting, and H having Brownies, so we stuffed stew down their necks in between events. Anyhow, isn't it lovely when someone else without a vested interest or bias tells you how much they like your child, how clever and independent and kind they are and how it is a pleasure to know them? Both the girls had done some amazing writing, and they are both mathematical whizz kids, and it is lovely to go to school to hear such great things about them! They both have intelligent and thoughtful teachers who are bringing out the best in them, so I was complimentary back too!

The stew was a great meal, R made it last night and it was in the slow cooker. Beef stew is a big hit with the girls and I remember it from my childhood as a favourite before school dinners put me off meat for life. R was brought up on raw steak ( real steak) whereas I thought stewing steak was steak, and have never eaten a real steak, and probably never will.

I had a lovely 2 days at the start of the week from a social and lunching point of view. I had tennis lesson ( have been kept in the first level group, despite having played against 3 women who are moving up and being equal to them. For example, I and one of them played doubles together and none of her serves, first or second were in, whereas all my first serves were in. I was, as you can tell, a bit disgruntled but am sticking at it and will show em!) Suzanne Baker met me for my regular slot to catch up. She bought me a glass of wine to celebrate our success with Amanda moving on, this is me, who before Christmas didn't drink for 6 months and there I was drinking at lunch time on a school day! Tuesday, I met my nun, Winnie, which is always a blessing, and I recommend everyone get one. After seeing her and praying, I met Andrea for lunch, at El Sabio in Winchester. I have raved about this eaterie before so won't go on. I am still full. Like Winnie, Andrea is a positive presence in my life and always good to spend time with. Like Winnie, she is also in the Roman Catholic tradition, so look at me the old Anglican with all my Catholic mates! Maybe I do have hope for next time around getting a call up to become the Pope. Never say never!

My class are writing stories using the plot of Jack and the Beanstalk and changing the elements of the story - eg throwing magic seeds, not beans, meeting a fairy, not a giant. That kind of thing. I have some great imaginative minds - one hero goes up the apple stairs to meet a giant evil squirrel who has captured a hedgehog that lays golden eggs. One hero climbs up a slab of bacon and slides back down by holding on to the fat of the bacon - which is too slippery for the giant. Lots of axes and death to villains all, I am looking forward to reading the stories when they are completed next week. On Friday we are going in costume as fairy tale characters, so don't be scared if you see a wicked step mother in ball gown cycling to Hamble. Its just me. If you see a giant evil squirrel clutching a hedgehog, do be scared.