Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Forgot to say we had nice chips on Saturday from the Codfather, one of my favourite chip shop comedy names. There is a hairdressers in Warsash called Herr Kutz - like what they have done there. It's on a par with Pam Purred Pets.

Pet cat went to vet yesterday to have a booster injection which was mistakenly not given when she went in October. Forked out for some worm tablets for her. Also went to the dentist, we have a new comedy dentist from another eastern European country, he is very jolly and recommended Sensodyne, so clearly got himself onto a good thing there. He reminded me of Father Christmas. Let's hope he is still around next time we go, generally we get a ne one every time as they are all on six month contracts. It costs £16.50 to have him prod around in my mouth. Get half of that back from HSA I am relieved to say. Also went to the hospital to see consultant for my annual check in and my blood results are fine and its 'Watch and Wait' for another year. I have to go back every year until I die. Or she ( the doctor) dies first? Not that I am planning to assasinate her, you understand. She said next year she might have the technological advance to do the consultation by phone. Steady on, NHS! Just to complete my mystery shopping of the NHS on your behalf prior to the general election, ( did I say that all children in Southampton in Year 4 get free instrument tuition - I didn't get that as a Thatcher's child, I can tell you!) A decided to be sick and come out in a rash on her cheeks, plus headache and stiff legs, enough of the indicators to make even the least worried parent reach for a thermometer and check the meningitis website. in my case, I had to borrow Hattie's thermometer as I don't really have much time for all that fiddling about a la Nicky Davy, and temp was ok, but I called the Doctors out of hours nurse, who suggested I take her to to walk in clinic at Bitterne and wait for 90 mins to be told that she was fine. She did a dramatic puke whilst in the waiting room - well I got her to the loo just in time, but it didn't give us any extra points in the queue. Still, a tick for the NHS out of hours service, I feel that if she had got meningitis and was going downhill fast they would have fast tracked us.

I am beginning to feel a bit aged, that all I can tell you about is the health of family members. Nothing sporting to tell you about as my day yesterday was spent with A being a bit forlorn but not ill, and me doing a ton of washing - yep, literally! and getting it all dry whilst the sun shone. Washing is something I am good at, I also did the ironing, including 5 shirts for R, who announced that he likes ironing shirts and is happy to do them himself from now on.

So, the NHS and laundry. Went to work for a break from life as a drudge.

Nicky Davy is a legendary figure, the still living mother of two girls who lived next door but one. She poked thermometers in their mouths at every opportunity and seemed to always be saying ' they can't play, they've got temperatures.' which was bewildering to us who didn't know you could have a temperature. they also had to go to bed earlier than the rest of us in the street, so we played near their window just to annoy them. I loved both girls, Jo and Tricia, and in fact Tricia was in my class all through secondary school and then we were both at uni at the same time. She was the most healthy and robust sports person you could meet, rowing and canoeing for the country (almost). her sister, meanwhile, the last time I heard (and I am not on facebook so forgive me if you know better) was wasting away eating just cotton wool or similar. So, my reluctance to bother my children with thermometers stems from a mocking relationship with them from an early age, plus never knowing actually what is a good temperature to be, so why bother knowing what you are, if you don't know whether that is good or bad? if you told me you had a temperature of 38.8 I would be as impressed as if you told me you had one of 34.4. I have no idea which of those is better or if it matters.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

As Heifer would be taken as an insult if you were to call a young lady one, that might be an interesting texting experiment for Mr Niddler. I have done loads of cycling and feel that I may tell you a little about it as it will complement the words I have written on the Bike Radar Cycling Plus team blog, which you are welcome to access.

Today I did a group ride with the Esporta tri club, and tackled some great hills, both up and down - I seem to find coming down a challenge as I am tempted to brake too often and not trust the bike or myself to not have a terrible crash at speed. Having had a crash with myself while at precisely 0 mph on Friday I do well not to trust in my ability too much. I uncleated one foot and then tried to put the still cleated one down, thus falling slowly on my left and all this right outside the main entrance of the Holiday Inn in Fareham. I was there to attend a moderation meeting about maths, an experience so harrowing and depressing I was ready to give in my notice and never go near a classroom ever again as I left. Which strikes me as not the kind of reaction that a team of Hampshire inspectors would wish to engender in their workforce. Managed to overcome my feelings with a ya boo attitude, encouraged by R who says he never listens to what they say about grades anyway. Still, came home, via the Pink ferry from Warsash, nursing a bruised behind, sore wrists and dented confidence in my ability to teach as well as twisted handlebars. Luckily that evening I was reading Mark 7 with Sialou, which is always fun and inspiring, and we both learned new things about Jesus and what he did with people. When I got home, R had gone out to an Alarm concert at a pub in Southampton. I knew he was going from about 15 minutes before I had gone out, and he had got Hattie to nip in to babysit for a few minutes in our overlap - rest assured! He had a great time, as he did at the club tennis night on Thursday, where he found himself in the better quarter of the people there. He should write his own blog if you want to know about his sporting successes. I will stick to my own, as the list is getting longer and longer for him. He ran 10 miles the other day to ensure that I wouldn't beat him in the tri we are both entering soon. No chance of me beating him, really he shouldn't worry. I have more chance of beating him in a sailing race.

With everyone I meet, I insist they pick up my bike and see how light it is. Particulary impressed by the parcel delivery man, who said - 'About 8kg?' not bad estimate my friend, 8.6 - he clearly spends too much time picking up parcels. He can do 120 drop offs in one day at work. I got a text to tell me the hour window he would be there, and although he was 2 minutes early, his scanner would not release the parcel till the precise time of 2.30pm. What amazing technology exists these days. When I was at Junior school we did a project on bar codes, for some trade journal, we had to learn about what the numbers meant. They were a new and jazzy thing then - and now we all have them on our foreheads!

I cycled the long way round to the church weekend away at YMCA in Botley, where once again we enjoyed the pattern of weather we have come to expect - sunshine all day Sat, a downpour on Sun am and then more sun. We did Its a Knock out water games and the girls excelled at climbing trees all weekend, and the other favourite past time of theirs - buying drinks from vending machines. The girls and I and Imogen stayed the night and Granny Mary came down for the afternoon on Saturday. A and H both took part in the children's concert - H on clarinet, A singing from memory one of her own compositions. Bless em! The adult 'talent' was all male, but as you may well say, if I wasn't up there then I can't complain, be the change etc etc. I was delighted to say the Libby's talent as a songwriter was represented as R sang a song of her penmanship - or penwomanship I should say. Although the weekend was very pleasant, it has confirmed the nudging I need to keep seeking further and deeper and finding my sense of community and spiritual home someplace else for this time. Don't know - its a tough one, no easy answers and no way of answering them without some change.

Had a beautiful solo ride on Tuesday in the sunshine as part of a tri for some training, I did all 3 disciplines back to back, but in wrong order, while simultaneously getting a new tyre put on the car. I was not doing the car work myself. I rode out and back to Lane End, parallel with Winchester. It is such pretty and quiet riding country, I want all of you to come with me on my adventures, I love jsut trying out a lane and seeing where it goes and coming home when I don't recognise any of the place names anymore. I hardly see any cars or other people on the quiet lanes and its the kind of place people would go on holiday to.

A final cycling story. R and Timmy, Paul and Ang's 10 year old, cycled the 4 miles back from Botley as their overstuffed car was brimful with children and bikes and duvets. I passed them as we came out of the drive of the centre, and a little further on, drove carefully over some odd fabric items littering the road, thought little of it and came on home via a stop at a brilliantly renovated park in Hedge End next to the paddling pool. At home we found R and Timmy, who had cycled past said items and commented ' That's my dressing gown!'. So between the two of them they had cycled on with 2 dressing gowns and two blankets - Tim wearing the dressing gowns, and Rob swathed in blankets. Paul had been alerted and drove back to check for other sundry items that may have flown out of his roof box on travels. He said Rob looked like an old woman, and Tim was shattered with the effort of a mainly uphill ride in two thick cumbersome layers more than was necessary. I keep giggling now thinking of the pair of them. The moral of the story, of course, is to take due diligence to lock your roof box, or just keep quiet and cycle on past if you see your dressing gown in the middle of the road.

Before I wanted to give up teaching for good after Friday afternoon, I had a lovely time with my class learning about Percy the Park keeper and wild animals, with painting and making homes for animals in the woods as part of our literacy learning. Its all about immersing them in the text, so they have real experiences to write from. And on Monday I went in on a day off to take part in and achieve my Open Country qualification, which involves doing lots of risk assessments and taking compass readings and a nice mooch around the country park following a map. I had a lovely day, in the sun, I can see a weather theme developing here as no one apart from Eeyore and Hattie have nice days in the rain. She likes walking in the rain. She clearly didn't do guiding with Diana Sandford, affectionately known as Sandbag, who made us eat cheap spam and sent us on marches in the rain to obscure museums that no one really wanted to go to anyway. Once we walked miles to the vicar's house to watch the royal wedding on his tv. Imagine having to be so saintly as to have an influx of guides who had not washed for days sitting on your sofa to watch Fergie in a meringue. My dad still remembers the expression on the coach driver's face when he saw the assortment of old bits of metal that accompanied us on any camp, essential to the fire building process, which took most of our days. We were so busy making fires and cooking unhealthy breakfasts and tying bedding rolls we didn't have any energy left to sing campfire songs, or walk miles across countryside. One time she picked peas out of the grease trap to eat! We burnt everything, left no rubbish, we buried the ash left over. We dug our own lat pit. It was like flipping prisoner of war camp. We did everything for ourselves, literally there was a few hours in the afternoon for lying down before starting all the fire building work again for the evening meal. I thought spag bol was supposed to have black bits in it and taste of ash for years.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Today I went for a ride on my new bike which was awesome. I can't tell you about the ride experience, but I can tell you about a conversation I overheard. I stopped at the Farmers Home in Durley, a village about 5 miles from my house and in deepest darkest Hampshire. Well, a guy came out of the pub while I was stood outside waiting for a lady to bring me a drink (couldn't leave my expensive bike so asked her to get my a diet coke and bring it to me) which she did very graciously. Unlike her male accomplice, who suggested I get a car and then I could lock it in the car park. Ba. Anyhow, the chap on the mobile was a tall and strong looking man of somewhere between 30 and 40 and he filled his jeans, if you know what I mean. I mean, not like that, and he wasn't overweight at all, muscly and big and I would have put him as a builder who did bodybuilding for a hobby. Now reading that back it is sounding more and more dodgy as I describe the poor guy in muscular terms. Anyhow, this was his side of the conversation:

yeah, did quite well today. 5 heifers and 5 steers, sold the heifers for 500 and the steers for 6. I was expecting to get 50 quid more for them but surprised by 100.

Now, either this guy was on ebay selling bits of a model farm, or he was a REAL FARMER drinking beer at the Farmers Home. I mean, I have never heard a mobile conversation about heifers and steers. Does predictive text cope with heifer? I was very excited to hear this snippet of a life so near mine and yet so far away, the last person in my family to sell a cow was my grandad who died before I was born. I don't know if he sold cows, actually, but he did look after them and milk them so I guess he took them to market sometimes.

The sun was out and the new bike is a dream and I just waltzed around some of the most beautiful countryside we have so nearby to our house. I am very lucky to live in such a pretty part of the world. And we have trees outside our house now. Yesterday I did a great little run at lunchtime in Royal Victoria Park, a route I have done many times but I did it backwards for a change (not running backwards, just running the opposite way round to usual).

Another exciting thing that happened yesterday was the window cleaner turning up at the same time as the labour canvassers for our vote. I told them I thought our current MP, John Denham, was excellent at his job, he really gets involved in local things and I like him very much and will vote for him again. But even more exciting today, was that JOHN PRESCOTT came past MY HOUSE in a minibus talking on a loudspeaker and saying 'Vote Labour'. How exciting! I was just getting out of the car and heading indoors so didn't stop him to chat.

As well as me being an international triathlete, cycling star, tennis hero and sailing champion, R is not far behind in his own sporting ambitions, in fact, he is way ahead and better than me at all those things. But this week's scoop news is his tenning rating. He had a tennis lesson to get a rating, which start at beginner and go through about 6 levels to get to 'County star - see you at Wimbledon.' He thought he would be middle of the road, but came out as a blue, that is a level below an international tennis pro! Almost! It is really good anyway and a rating I could only dream of one day having. Thus inspired, R had entered a couple of tournaments at the club and finds that one is counted as a veteran when one gets to over 35. So what with the sailing season starting tomorrow (I am on duty as 'general help' 3) and all the training I need to get in, I think R will have to play tennis on the boat to get any practice in. R is so modest about his sport, but really, he is one of those people who has fantastic coordination with bats and balls and so on and just can do brilliantly at sport. I am in awe of him. He can also make a bike out of nothing and knows how to get a mast up on a boat and today he made a wooden car with A. He is nearing Laura's pa in terms of skillset.

I spent the day at work yesterday, yes, sorry to burst your bubble or favourite joke about teachers and holidays, but both R and I went in yesterday - yes , in our holidays! And I spent the day laminating and trying to cheer the classroom up a bit with some new displays and so on. Laminating and using a paper cutter are important skills for a teacher to have. I came home with more work to do than all the work I had brought home in the first place to do at the start of the holidays. And now it's the end of the holidays. Nearly.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

My blog will be live on Bike Radar website this week so can't tell you too much about the 30 mile ride I did today, apart from that I wanted to die at the end of it. After it, I went to Sainsburys in Camberley and was very indulgent, having a muffin, a yogurt, a cuppa and a newspaper in Starbucks there and paying a nice man to wash my car, after the disaster last week with the car wash. I did not eat the newspaper, only read it, but it is all about boring ugly men anyway. might as well have eaten them. Then drove home and went to the very quiet gym for a jacuzzi / steam / sauna / 10 slow lengths of the pool combo to help my poor sore muscles. Yesterday we went in the outside pool for the first time this year, yippee! Summer is here, its official. We had Angus with us and he did not think much of going in an outdoor pool in April so we retired to the indoor paddling pool. Yesterday was a happy day as we picked R up from his ski trip to France, he is very brown from neck up and was very tired from being on a coach all night. He had a great time with charming teenagers who were very well behaved throughout.

The girls and I spent a few nights at my parents' in Claygate which meant I had time and babysitters to get some training done, for what it was worth - not much judging by today's bike ride. I went to the swimming training at the Esporta in Kingston which I really enjoyed, the time flew by. I also did one of the best classes I have ever done, Body Balance ( which is NOT anything like yoga, or tai chi, well, not much...) with the best instructor since Sarah at Pilates at Whitley. He was encouraging and praising and I left feeling great. Also did some bike rides on the road and a run across Littleworth Common.

We did another National Trust Easter Egg hunt, at Ham House, which is not made of Ham, but is in Ham. It is a great specimen of a National Trust house and is well set up for children and the girls enjoyed it, as did the two grannies we took with us. We also did Bushy Park with grandparents, for a woodland walk and a cup of tea. And with Angie, Angus, Niall and Pop we did Dinosaurs Unleashed! in Oxford Street. Going on the underground is an exciting enough day out for girls from Hampshire, and the dinosaurs were interesting but a bit overpriced. Security guards kept stopping us eating our picnic, so we had to keep swapping sites and nibbling. We had an ice cream in Hyde Park afterwards (thanks Pop). No security guards there to hound us. Although the deck chairs are £1.50 an hour. We sat on the grass.

Picked some of 'Claygate's finest rhubarb' from dad's allotment. He has officially entirely retired now, as the council have cut jobs for over 65s so he had to go. He only worked 3 days a week ( only! thats the same as me..) so now has 7 days to dedicate to allotment activity instead of 4, so we have high hopes for him sweeping the board at the Claygate flower show this year. Dad took me on a tour of some places nearby that I had never been to, including Hersham, which is the village next door but one to Claygate, that I had never been to before. How funny! it is very pleasant, and includes a Squires garden centre which my dad prefers to Garsons Farm and Whiteley village, an amazing self contained village for old people built in 1912 by a Mr Whiteley, who was shot by his nephew and before that had run a shop in London. In return for this cultural tour I introduced my dad to Aldi, in Walton, which has an underground car park which my dad had never been to before. I bought some running shorts and socks and some trainers for H ( £12, better than Clarks prices I thought).

Sunday, 4 April 2010

At the ATM today, as usual I clicked the 'No' to the question 'do you want an advice slip?' . I always click no, but am intrigued by what the advice might be. Is there a webcam and if you are commiting a fashion faux pas, is the advice on better colour choices? Does it tell you to put a tenner on a horse in the 3.30 at Lingfield? Or is it into bigger things - can it cleverly work out by looking at your bank details that you spend too much money in B and Q and on online cycling websites? I needed the cash in case of high expenditure at the National Trust Easter Egg trail we went on this afternoon, but I need not have worried, for just £2 per child we managed to get a Cadburys egg head each and did the trail along with half a trillion other families who had managed to find Hinton Ampner. I have been there a few times before, and as the crow flies it is not far from my front door. Every time I go there I arrive by a different and uncertain route, the second time I went was the first time I trusted a sat nav and I ended up in a field gate going nowhere, with it telling me to plough straight on through. This time, I cunningly did the Bishops Waltham route, but tried to cut some corners by taking the route I did last Sunday on my 28 mile bike ride. More on that later. Anyway, the corner cutting failed and we took a while to get there, but it was a pleasant day and the girls were great company. Unfortunately for me, the trail to get to the Easter Eggs at the end involved bird identification, we were ok with robin, pigeon, blackbird, but the national trust clearly assumes we all live in the countryside and know about these things when we had a heron and a nuthatch or something to identify. I thought the heron was a stork ( it has a fish in its mouth which looked like a flap, ok?) and A gallantly remembered that there was a bird called a chuffinch.

The other excitement of the visit was the lambs, whose field we walked through, and some were not even one day old. There were two being kept in a pen while some farm helping NT people drove around on a quadbike catching their mother, who was not in the mood for mothering lambs and had gone off to a nightclub or similar. The last we saw of her was on her side on the back of the quadbike being carted back to her offspring. But where are the fathers, I ask you??? Its alright blaming the single mums, but no sign of the dads. We managed some good puns on you/ewe/yew as we sneaked around under some yew trees nearby. H was a bit put off the lamb field when we spotted some bloody membranous item on the floor and she asked what it was, and I told her it was sheep placenta/umbilical cord and would soon be eaten by crows. She moved pretty rapidly out of the field, in fact climbing a wall to escape.

My exclusive blog starts next week. On Tuesday I had my first photoshoot for the magazine, and after a night of little sleep at the Holiday Inn in Bath I had to hang around a photographers studio for a hour, then be driven for an hour to hang around and then cycle a million times up and down the same road while we were photographed. Then an hour back to the studio, for lunch with posed shots, then shots of us being set up on our bikes and being 'massaged' by our cycling coach, Ben. It was lovely to meet Ben and the rest of Team Cycling Plus who are all much more knowledgeable and technically skilled than I am. Regarding bikes, that is. I am good at baking and pastry, I and the girls made a great French style apple tart yesterday, following Hugh Featherly Whippingspool's recipe in his Family Cook Book. I took my bike on the train to and from Bath, which was easy, and the journeys were ok, a delay at Bath but once we got going all was well. It was a change from routine but I am glad I am not a fashion model, all the hanging around waiting for photographers to be ready. I have been making a massive effort with my nutrition lately, eating a million different salad and fruit items per day, and cutting down on my bread. I need to up my protein levels though. Last Sunday I went for a ride with the tri training group at the gym, and found a banana was amazing at half time, when I was struggling up the hills, suddenly I was transformed and shooting off ahead. I was pleased that through the whole 28 miles I was never the one everyone was waiting for, which I had dreaded, and although my legs ached that day, they were fine the day after. It was a lovely route similar to one I had done back in the autumn with Rachel, and heading straight out from the club at West End to the lovely villages and countryside north east of Southampton, around the Meon Valley. I was really pleased with the fact that I had done it, and enjoyed doing it with a bunch of other nutters. Next Sunday I am doing a 30 mile Evans Ride It! on my own so hope I can keep up momentum on my own.

This morning I took a quick sneaky run, as Sialou and Digson were staying over and not awake, and the girls were reading in bed, and I felt strong and bouncy in my new trainers. Like Tigger. We had messy church this morning, with Easter story and crafts and I think it went well, we enjoyed it.

On Friday we dropped R off at his school to go skiing, and left before the coach arrived to avoid the busy bit and as he would be concentrating on the kids it made sense to say our goodbyes early on. H cried and is really missing him. We had got back to Fareham when I saw two missed calls - he had left his wallet in the car! We got back to school to see the students getting on the coach, and giving R their travel documents. Tee hee. We did a Easter Egg hunt in Fareham shopping centre to win some goodies, don't know yet if we have won... and got our faces painted for free by the best ever face painter. Beautiful. H felt a bit rough and has felt ill yesterday and today too, shes been keeping going but not her usual self. Yesterday we did a lot of reading, we have now both finished all the Little House on the Prairie books I got from the library, and I need to track down some more. They were a hugely big part of my own childhood reading and reading them again is a delight, made all the better for sharing the stories with H. Laura was one of my heroines, and she and Anne of Green Gables have a huge part to play in my becoming a teacher. The Laura books are so so powerful because they are autobiographical, the stories of simple pleasures, of hard chores on the farm and of the conditions her family lived through to get their claim on a homestead in the USA in the late nineteenth century. Her Pa is an awesome man, with skills as diverse as skinning a muskrat, shooting a buffalo, fending off a prairie fire and building a house - many houses in fact. He can butcher a pig, make hay, make doors, build a stable out of grass, you name it, he can do it. What a guy! She ends up marrying another bloke with similarly awesome farming and DIY skills, who owns the best horses in town. Her mum is pretty amazing too, being able to raise four girls and feed her starving family on potatoes alone. She can make dresses, curtains, mattresses filled with hay, dinner for 18 men with no notice and keep a vast garden, make preseves and sweetmeats and teach her girls their grade books when they can't go to school in the snow. It makes me want to head to Dakota and start farming, though I guess things have changed a little in the last 120 years there.

I have realised there is a problem with the new car. It seems to not be able to park. Honestly, it is an embarrasment to me, the way it leaves itself half up on the kerb and half out in the road. Our road has really gone upmarket, I always said we were at the posh end of Thornhill and now we have 7 little trees along the verges in front of our row of houses. We have rechristened it Hinkler Avenue.

So much to tell you! Yesterday morning the girls and I did some errands in Bitterne, which was lovely, as the girls don't go there much anymore, and yet it was a huge part of their early life. We walked down an alley and H said ' I can't smell baking bread' and despite the supermarket not having sold bread for about 3 years now, I was touched with the association she had with that place. I know I go on about Bitterne, and you may be thinking it doesn't deserve such good press, but it is a child friendly shopping centre like no other, with little pieces of play equipment down its pedestrian precinct. H is too big for the slide now, and it was weird to remember when she was too small for it and I had to help her on to it. I will try to take them more often, they really enjoyed the trip!

Matthew, I know there are not enough paragraphs in this one.