Saturday, 27 March 2010

Bitterne precinct is home to an alarming mini Natwest bank that has sprung up right in the centre of the landscaped grounds, in front of the current bank, like a monstrous spawn of banking. Go and see for yourself this shocking carbuncle on the delightful facade of late Georgian shops that is Bitterne.

I was in another precint today, a rather sad little place in Chandlers Ford, with no soul, but plenty of sole - as in feet, not the fish. I was there to buy some new trainers at a shop with the punning title of Up and running. I told them that my trainers that I walked in wearing were purchased from their main competitor in Eastleigh and that I had blisters every time I ran, and could they do better. Well, yes, it seems they can. I had to try on two pairs and run on their treadmill and then have my strike analysed on the video computer, and it seems I need a bit of support as my left foot slips inward a bit, and the old shoes were probably too wide so my feet could slip around. So, we shall try these new ones out. I went for a great muddy run today, it was the Bolt round the Holt, which hardy followers will recall I did a year ago, my first ever event, a 5k. This year I did the 10k, and it was hard work at times, some good bits and some bad bits, it was extremely muddy and that meant for some very slow pace up hills as you had to slide and slither around. I haven't done as much running as I would like, what with having a million other sports and a family and a job, and I struggled with the last km, and the first km, and some of the km in between. R got a better time than me which is devestating. Sarah and Chris Gale did it too, Sarah coming in first and Chris coming in last, and Adam also came with us and did the 21k ( half marathon) as a little walk in the park compared to the mighty London marathon which he is doing next month. The weather was nice for running, sun and cloud, and then suddenly a rain storm just as we were hanging around the finish line to cheer Adam over it.

H had taken her clarinet, so she spent the entire time we were running busking, with Katie holding the music. They clearly made a little cash, as H gave K £1.20.

This week I have confirmed my celebrity status in Hamble with a impromptu assembly to the infants on my appearance in Cycling Plus. Yes, the first edition with me in it is OUT NOW! I turned up with my class to assembly, and always it is me who is leading it, and I always assume it is someone else. The thing is, the other two members of staff who do it seem to have their PPA time or be on courses every Thursday morning, so I really should have caught on by now to the fact that it is me or nothing. Anyway, I talked about cycling and took questions, and then stories about their cycling adventures, and promised to bring my new bike in and cycle round the hall for a assembly treat. After school I went to the secondary school to book the girls in for a couple of sessions in their holiday playscheme, and found that most of the infants have swimming lessons there on a Friday, so I had a deluge of fans admiring my bike (the old new one Rob made me) and asking me about my riding.

Seeing as I have not started my official blog yet, I guess I can still tell you that I went for a 21 mile ride on Monday with Lou, it was a great route from Cycling Active magazine (the competition) and was north of Winchester, along very quiet lanes with very few hills to speak of. Lou had not cycled for 2 years and was nervous about it, but she only fell off once ( into a bush)and did really well. I loved being on my RJB road bike, don't tell Lou but I could have done it in half the time or less, on my fab new bike. On Tuesday I went to see my nun but she was in Liverpool (seeing her long haired lover, perchance?) so I cycled to Fareham instead. I cycled down to the sailing club and walked along the beach and then down to Hamble and got the pink ferry to Warsash and then slogged through the neverending suburb of Locks Heath to Fareham. Walked up a hill. It was cold and drizzling and I was in need of sustenance. I was going to Fareham to see R's osteopath, as since my bike fall my neck is still not right. After some of her deep tissue work I could feel how I was sloping and curved like a banana, and holding my head right of centre. Of course, she found so much wrong with me that I have to go back next week.

I have rekindled my entering of competitions after seeing one in Fareham shopping centre to win a grand to spend there. Whilst there I also entered one to win a spa break in cornwall and have one more to win a trip to Brazil. We'll wait and see shall we?

Saturday, 20 March 2010

This afternoon was spent in Thornhill Baptist Church, taking part in a voting activity to decide, as a community, how £100000 was to be spent on projects in Thornhill. I and R had both put in bids, and it was a long and stressy afternoon listening to the 25 proposals and then finding out whether we were successful. The whole community are invited to come and vote, but you have to stay for 3 hours and its a big ask of people with families. Consequently, the turn out was skewed towards the elderly and disabled, which is great, that those often isolated people are involved, but meant that the successful bids tended towards meeting the needs of the elderly rather than the young. Which meant some great projects did not get funding, and a lot of repetition of taking people out on bus trips. But R got some cash for stuff for his bike project, and I got cash for some after school sports clubs at Kanes Hill, which hopefully will be on my work days and help with my childcare bill!

The morning was kind of ruined by the afternoon to come, and by the rain, and by H feeling really ill and the rest of us not being quite right, with various aches and pains. The car seems to be aching as well, as last night it displayed two warning triangle signs and a ABS light on, and a message - Brake Failure - Stop Safely being displayed. The brakes seemed fine, and I did wonder how to stop safely without brakes, seemed an ambitious task to undertake. R took it back to the garage and to another garage to be looked at, and of course, by then, it was not doing any of these messages or lights.

A really good thing about this morning was the marking of the recent assessed writing that my class have done, where nearly all of them have made a lot of progress, some absolutely heaps - when you are banging your head against the classroom wall and gently moaning and sipping gin in the cupboard at play time you can be close to despair, but then you see this kind of progress and go 'WAHOO!' as opposed to the wrist slitting which you come close to when you are up close to the chalkface, as it were.

Last night was R's school Year 11 prom. It took a lot of complicated driving ( complicated by the brake failure light). Here goes. R leaves school and goes to pick girls up from Libby, and buys them KFC for tea to eat in car on way to pick me up at 5.30pm. I drop R H A off at Botley Grange Hotel ready to be on the welcome red carpet to watch the beautiful girls in their ball gowns, and the awkward but loveable boys in their suits. I drive to Rob and Judi's for 6pm to pick them up and get changed. Back to hotel, for 6.33, to join red carpet welcome team. I depart with girls at 7.15 to take them home where Libby waiting to babysit. I return to hotel for meal and disco ( teachers out in foyer/bar drinking). 11pm, R takes me home to relieve libby, and then returns to prom as has to be there til chucking out time. R takes R and J home and gets home at midnight. The food was nice, with a lovely raspberry creme brulee. I and Judi were sat together, on a different table to to two Robs, and we were lumbered with the entire senior management team. Nice to put names to faces, but hard to remember which names were the ones R generally prefaces with a swear word, and which ones he likes and respects. I mean,obviously he respects all his senior management team 100%. I really don't know why he isn't more senior, he is getting paid peanuts for the work he does and he could do their jobs standing on his head. Two avid cyclists on my table, so talk turned to cycling rather than the awkward bits of me trying not to drop R in it. Phew. I always say that R and Rob G should be married and I should marry Judi, it would be a lot easier on understanding and communication, and so for one night only, we were!

The prom is clearly not a place to go to feel young. No - the Thornhill healthy vote afternoon leaves you feeling like a spring chicken if you don't have a catheter and chronic liver disease. No, spending an evening with nearly 200 16 year olds is going to make you feel old. But the worst bit of the evening was the number of members of staff I mistook for students. Some of the teachers so young it made me feel old! R pointed out that a few of the younger teachers could technically have been at Cams when he started teaching there. In fact, the first Year 11s he taught at Birley in Sheffield would now be 28. Twenty eight!!!! I could be teaching their children! I don't know what all the !!! are for cos it is clearly not funny when you do these calculations in an ageist society. So, lets stop worrying about being so old I could nearly be teaching the grandchildren of my first class and enjoy the delights of age and wisdom.

Friday, I went to school and had a nice day, thank you. We finally got around to teaching the controversial subject of Jesus, two parents in to see head concerned that we would be indoctrinating the kids. We are teaching an enquiry based model, and teaching the skills of doing research and finding out answers to our own questions, and the children were brilliant at thinking up questions - why did Jesus wear rags? Was he rich? Did he disagree with anyone? Why did Herod want to kill him? did he have any sisters or children? Was he married? They came up with their own ideas on how to find out the answers, including ask a priest, ask a Christian, and only after me prompting them, looking on the internet! I trying not to feel that my professionalism being called into question by parents, who are essentially not trusting me to do my job. I can't help feeling we would not have had the same furore if we were studying Vishnu or Krishna or Budha. Which begs the question, why the animosity towards Jesus and tolerance to other religious figures? Anyhow, one of the children asked the question ' Why don't I believe in God?' which I thought was a good one and difficult to research but worth asking. The kids were gripped by the work, and it was a great morning.

I finally got a case on Tuesday, which went on to Wednesday, and was short and fairly obvious - in a kind of 'if you are going to nick a few grand from a till, don't do it under the CCTV camera' kind of way. It didn't take us long to reach our verdict, and then we found out the guy had over 100 previous convictions. We had heard about 68 of them that were relevant beforehand, which helped to confirm our verdict, but did not dictate it. It was very interesting being in court and listening to all the evidence (not much of it) and much much better than sitting waiting. Thursday I went in and spent 2 hours waiting for nothing to happen. But that meant I got time to have lunch and read Mark with Sialou, which was fabulous, she is seeing some amazing transformation in her life and prayer really working for her. Great to see her, always an encouragement.

I did a bit too much exercise one day this week, with my cycle, plus a gym session with H, and a tennis session with R - my legs were shaking and I could hardly walk that night. This week's exercise has mainly consisted of cycling to and from court.

Granny Mary was here for a few days to cover for me when in court - although it turned out I didn't need much cover. Granny Mary very industrious, mending, ironing, cooking, cleaning, potting plants and digging over the garden, plus buying shirts and doing crosswords. She is like a whirling dervish.

I have been re reading the Laura books - the 'Little House on the Prairie' series, and am delighted to announce that H is loving them. They are my top favourite book series from my childhood, well, along with Malory Towers and Anne of Green Gables, and I was delighted when H got her nose into one and couldn't get it out. Her words!

Dippy the Dinosaur has come back home from his holidays, with a green hat and bag. He had sent A three postcards from his travels this week and then just turned up on Friday morning. A very happy and put a sign up in the playroom window, annoucing 'Dippy is back' to anyone who wanted to know what had become of the exploring dinosaur.

R is watching the rugby, which is bewildering for me - way too many people to keep track of. I liked the Famous Five, but could never get on with the Secret Seven, too many of them to keep tabs on. Same with rugby, way too many men running around. And all that bunching together. I had to teach rugby last year, to year 3. No wonder the state system does not contribute much to cricket and rugby at a national level, if the government expects me to teach it there is no hope for UK sport. Public ( private) schools have proper coaches, whereas the state schools have me. Heaven help us. What do I know about rugby? I find you just have to keep one page ahead when it comes to those kind of lessons. My current class have done some great Monet art work, it is as good as I would expect from upper key stage 2, ie kids 3 years older than them. I can teach art but rugby is pushing it. But that it what makes it so much fun! One minute you are painting landscapes, the next minute you are out doing a line out or whatever its called. Country dancing one hour, french the next, then a bit of coastal erosion and deposition. There is never a dull moment!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

There used to be a shop in Bitterne called Babyneeds, and the strapline ' Everything you need for the modern baby' is still up above the shop front. Unfortunately, the shop is now a charity furniture shop, for a local hospice, so under the strapline are the words 'children's hospice'. I really think they need to sort that out as it gives the wrong impression in all sorts of ways.

I have cycled past it 6 times this week, hence my observation. I have been cycling to and from town, where I am serving as a juror (not a conjuror) in Southampton Crown Court. So far, I have spent a total of 5 mins in a court room, and a lot of time reading or mooching about the city centre. Or meeting friends for lunch. Today I drove to Woolston and got the bus into town, as I was picking the girls up from a after school club in Weston. Getting the bus was so stressy for me compared to cycling. Tomorrow I am going back to work for a day and finding out whether they want me back at the court next week. I have read the Prodigal God by T Keller again, a book from the library by Libby Purves, a book of H's called Kazillion Wish. I have read 4 copies of Marie Clare and 2 of Good Housekeeping. I started today on the Big Issue, while doing Press Ups.

Our new car! Is big and black and looks a little like a hearse. If you have need of a mourning car, call me. The thing with this whole automatic thing, is that it is a doss. I mean, anyone could drive one! Its a cinch! You have to do almost nothing, and if you use cruise control, you can get away with doing nothing, literally, I am sure. Every junction I come to I grab for the gearstick to change down, and am convinced that I will stall at all times, but no, it all just does it for you. Why doesn't everyone have one? I wish someone had told me about them years ago. They are so easy peasy, as H said, she could drive it. And she could!

Today before I got to court I went for a run and cooked tea and cleaned the fridge. Not simultaneously, that would have been a feat! I did some hill climb reps in the woods, which I was pleasantly pleased with as the last time I tried them it was truly awful. This time, not so bad. If I had been carrying a fridge and a pasta bake it would have been something worthy of a headline.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Why we don't need a wee.

Because the Clarks have got one.

H has just found out today and spent all afternoon there, bowling. Why buy one when your neighbours have one? R commented today on the other neighbour, with the barking dog and 3 sons, who seems to burn something very toxic on a bonfire in his garden most weekends. We are wondering what it might be.

I start jury service tomorrow and am feeling quite tense and irritable tonight, fear of the unknown. It says there is no dress code, but dress appropriately. Surely that means different things to different people? I mean, a bikini is appropriate at times.

The other day there was a police presence and a lot of litter outside one of the big blocks of flats up the top of the hill when I cycled past to work. I saw in yesterday's Echo that a woman had committed suicide (well, they not got a verdict yet but most likely) jumping from her balcony on the 13th floor. Well, the newspaper report says she was in the D O P and did not want to leave but was sent home by Doctors against her will. Presumably because of money pressures. And that same night she jumped off the balcony. Now, I don't imagine the D O P is a 4 star hotel, so to want to stay there you must be feeling low. I bet someone is kicking themself for making her go home. I don't know why there was so much litter though.

I read the Thornhill Plus You Final Delivery plan, as we near the end of the 10 years of New Deal funding. When we moved to Bitterne Park, suddenly the house prices rose and everyone from church was moving to B P - we called it the NTB effect on the housing market - Near the Bowens. Well, we seem to be doing the same for Thornhill. People want to stay here and there are heaps of new housing association houses being built with priority for local people. The delivery plan is an encouraging read, Thornhill has the lowest crime rate in Southampton and is the cleanest greenest estate in the city. It is a fabulous place to live. Within 5 minutes of my house I am running in woods and in fact had a great run today, just a short one up to Netley Common.

Once I start blogging for Cycling Plus magazine, my blog for them is EXCLUSIVE, so I guess I won't be able to tell you anything about my cycling or other sporting pursuits. So will get some in now, and tell you the web address when I know it so you can follow my Olympic career there. After finding out I had got this opportunity on Wednesday, I cycled the long way round to work and struggled along the shore road and through the Country Park, and regretted taking the long route. Great views, but very windy day and a windy road. I am slightly panicked that I won't be able to manage a 20 mile bike ride on my next tri, let along the Tour de France or whatever they put me up to. I would like to do Alpe DHuez, so maybe this is my moment. We are going to Disneyland Paris in October, but not sure I could pack it all in - Monday - drive to campsite. Tue Disney, Wed Disney, Thur forget the sights in Paris and head for the hills, Fri come home.

I have just been talking to my brother, who went to a Cafe church in Dorking today. Ang is on the steering committee at their anglican church in Bookham charged with modernisation, so they went to see what a modern church service looks like. They really liked it! We had Messy Church today, I did the Light of the World Godly Play story, and we had lovely soup and some DIY trifles that I had made. There was jelly and fruit and a blob of dream topping (I was so excited to find they still made it!) in a plastic cup. I had made fairy cakes, so you plonked one of those on top and dribbled on icing and sprinkles to your own taste. It was fun, but a low turn out this week so we have a fair few trifles to get through in the fridge in next few days. We and the Crandons are on catering together ( each month a different set of two families do the cooking). Its a dream team, as both Josh and R love mass catering.

I swam at 8am this morning which I haven't done for weeks and weeks, it was lovely to be there when it is quiet. I was not quite brave enough to go in the outside pool. Not quite yet. April. That's my goal month to get out there and be brave.

Cat is trying to eat one of the spare fairy cakes. The therapeutic drops on her food seem to be working as she has not done any misdemeanours in the lounge lately. I have the phone number of the dog whisperer, recommended by two friends, who does cats too, at £25 a throw. Cat now got the fairy cake as I just went upstairs to say goodnight. We are thinking about putting the cat in a cattery rather than leave her alone when we next go away. She is eating a fairy cake. Is that normal?

Yesterday I had my first drive in the new car, which R collected on Friday. I did it ( the drive) in Eastpoint car park, along with another woman having a go at driving a van (I imagine that is what she was doing and she wasn't just lost). It was fine, it is a big car with a turning circle like a lorry, but I can get used to that. I drove home and parked. Phew. R spent the afternoon cleaning and scrubbing the old car and put it on Autotrader at 6pm. By 7pm he was inundated with calls, and they kept coming till he took it off after selling it this afternoon to a nice couple from Reading. They got a bargain decent car with low milegae and long tax. We were glad it went to a good home and not a dealer, which seemed to be most of the people ringing up.

Had a quick game of tennis yesterday afternoon too, with R and H, and I did ok, got a point off Rob! A went off to play at a friend's, which was great, as she usually spends the time on the tennis court rolling around and making patterns with the balls.

H is getting to an age and stage of independence. She goes round to her friend Abi's on her own ( one road to cross), to the Co op on her own, has cycled back from Crandon Towers on her own, and today for the first time she cycled to church at the Youth Centre on her own. She went up the main road way, and caught up with some friends who were walking up, and only had two side roads to cross to get there. It is difficult knowing how much to let her do and how much not to, I hope we are getting there with gradually increasing the boundaries and level of responsibility.

At school ( Kanes Hill - the outstanding one -did I say?!) on Thursday night the Year 5 and 6 children organised a auction, and it was brill. There were loads of cakes on the cake sale, a great turn out of parents and other family members and lots of good things to bid on. The children had been taught by a proper auctioneer, a lovely old gent, who sat in the front row and bid £105 for 2 rods fly fishing in the Test near Romsey. Which was a good thing, as no one else in Thornhill was likely to. I did lots of bidding, but had limits and came home with nothing. The children had done all the organisation and did the welcoming and everything. The money raised was for them to go to Paulton's Park as part of their current project, gadgets and gizmos, which includes creating a new ride. They also said they would use some of the money to support their Action Aid child. They made £900, an incredible total. Well done to them!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

I have lots of sports related news, I will start with the least exciting. I won 2 tickets to Wimbledon second Wednesday, which should be mens quarter finals day. I am taking Jo Hayles, who is changing her flight home from Bangladesh especially. General sport news - I played tennis badly with R on Sunday, and then quite well with Sarah on Monday, despite being hampered by having to use Adam's racquet which was produced in the 1980s. I did ok with it. It was my birthday on Saturday, and I had a great run in the mud/wind/rain with Sarah G. Despite being a fabulous runner, Sarah does not like mud etc, so my choice of route which involved getting lost twice in West Wood ( near Weston Shore) was not her thing at all. I had another marvellously muddy run on my own yesterday around Botley and Manor Farm. the weather was so hot I wished I had gone for shorts, and wished for sun glasses too. I hardly saw a soul and most of my route was just me, the fields and the river Hamble, looking stunning in the sunshine. I not looking so stunning in the sunshine, as a bike fall, week skiing and week post skiiing recovery mean I am not match fit for running, so back to it with determination as have a 10k coming up on March 27. I have done 2 swims the last few days, having bought some replacement goggles in a sports shop in Winchester, which was the lunch date choice of my family for my birthday. Winchester, not the sports shop.

We went to Buddies diner, and then the girls wanted to buy me a teapot and a dress. Buying a dress is not my favourite thing to do, I am not a great shopper at the best of times, let alone with two eager girls wanting me to buy something suitable for Strictly. I ended up in a heap in Jigsaw, and was attended to by a lovely assistant who got me to try on a pretty dress which I bought without looking at the price tag!

Tea pot was easier, nice shop called Dingles or similar near the cathedral, I asked if I could try before I bought and they brought me a jug of boiling water to pour. I also bought a groovy set of colourful plastic kitchen bowls and utensils. While in a shopping mood, on Monday I bought a car! Not entirely on my own, well, I saw it and I NEVER look at cars, in fact had driven/rode past this garage a million times and never seen there was a garage there. I texted R to tell him price and mileage as I thought it sounded reasonable. He texted back that he had noticed the same car yesterday, but not told me as we were not looking to buy a car and I glaze over if he talks about cars. So. We bought it. Getting it on Friday. It is not a Capri, which we would like but which is not pratical for a shooting and fishing lifestyle such as ours. no, the other end of the practicality spectrum, a Volvo. Now all we need is a dog.

Nice day at the office today, a long parents evening but they are all pleased with their children's progress and so am I. We are studying Monet in art and the children are all really keen on Monet pictures, we are doing a colour wash tomorrow, last week we mixed yellow and blue powder paint to - wait for it - make green! It was a revelation to some of them.

Other birthday news - we went to see Chicago, starring Marti Pellow, at the Mayflower in the evening. What a show! It was awesome - the musicians are on stage and are fab, the singing was great, the dancing amazing - it was a real WOW and totally worth going to. I know R and I are suckers for a good musical, but really, this was something else. I loved everything about it and had a fabulous evening on a lovely day, with lots of treats and suprises from lovely friends and family.

I have been selected to be on the Cycling Plus Magazine team of the year. They take on 4 cyclists at different levels of their training, and give you a bike, team wear, gadgets, and entry to any cycling events of your choice. In return, you write a weekly blog and get the odd photo taken for the magazine. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!!!! At last my blogging talent will be recognised by the national press, before long I will be an Olympic medal holder in the pursuit or the pelaton, I will go up and down AlpeDHuez without batting an eyelid. At present, my cycling plans are for a tri on 16 May and a jolly round the Isle of Wight in June with two of my NCT mates, Rachel and Vicky. Bradley Wiggins, Lance Armstrong, move over, coming through!