Monday, 14 November 2011

A recent phone call to the bank, at their request, to give them my phone number involved me having to recite numbers at them. I have numbers of everything, the library code, the paying online for everything codes, the code for remembering codes. One thing I think eternity has to offer is a code free life. No 4 digit codes. No codes that have to have numbers and letters in odd combinations. No codes that are memorable and yet forgettable. No re joining the same teachers resources site under 3 different names because you can't remember what you called yourself or which email you used to sign up. Help. Now and again they send me clues in emails addressed to Kaye. Ah, clearly I called myself that one late night to log on to use another lovely teacher's freely shared resources. Would share some of my own but I struggle to upload a photo to a blog let alone a resource to a website.

We are apparently going on strike again in a couple of weeks. Our financial situation will feel the strain, but not as much as the financial situation of all teachers for ever more if we don't. I find it hard to be in a profession that seems to be so hated and scapegoated as teachers are. Either we have too much holiday, too much pay, work too short days ( I reckon 7 til 7 counts a long enough) or its all our fault when children kill each other or bully each other, or anything else each other that they shouldn't be doing - or both. I wish the whole government would come and spend a day in a school working as an LSA, to realise how hard everyone works and what a difference most of us make most of the time. We are not the enemy.

Phew, safer territory, onto 2 lovely bike rides on my own in the sunshine of the weekend afternoons. That's better, up a hill, every shade of colour around me, and I even saw some splendid looking chaps, in suits I thought only Fantastic Mr Fox's enemies wore, shooting something or other, and feeling very pleased with themselves I am sure. Maybe it was Boggis Bunce and Bean themselves.

I don't think I have announced a death here before, but I am very sad to say that Kathryn Copsey, founder of CURBS charity, died. She wrote the book 'From the Ground Up' that said what I felt about children and the way we do children in church, or out of church, or anywhere really, and I spent a few days with her a few years back seeing what she and her team did in East London and leafy Surrey, where I attended a house group for people with mental health troubles that was the most loving example of the body of Christ seen this side of Bosnia. Kathryn received treatment over the last year for a brain tumour but it seemed to be lurking and there was no more treatment to give. Although I only met Kathryn a few times, I can honestly say that the effect she and her husband Nigel had on me was lifegiving and life changing. Like many thousands of people impacted by her ministry, I give thanks for a life lived out in the front line with children in the most deprived communities. Maybe a bit like Jesus.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Train toilets - no one's favourite place to be, on the way home from Waterloo today ( pun intended) I walked through the carriage to the loo, followed by a man. As I opened the door to the loo, he stood behind me and as I went in, said 'Number one or number two?' I could not believe my ears. Here was a stranger asking the nature of my intention in the toilet. Did Jane Austen have to put up with this kind of thing in the stage coach from London to Southampton??? I begged his pardon and controlled my urge to retort with an in depth detailed account of my expected movements and said 'we'll have to wait and see'. A reply I thought suitably enigmatic. He then explained that he was in two minds as to whether to wait for me or head on up to the next carriage. He headed on up to the next carriage. What ever next? Can you imagine the reception he would have got from someone less charitable than myself, ie someone carrying a gun or knife, or even someone a bit miserable. He might have tipped them over the edge and how could they be held responsible for the actions in the light of such preposterous nosiness in their private business. The guns and knives feature in my thinking because on the last night we were house sitting for our dear godly friends the Parson family, I started reading a book about gangs in south east London. I am glad I read it on the last night, as they live in South east London and I was feeling rattled enough as it was, staying in an area less leafy and green than I am used to. The problem with London is that it is a victim of its own success and is too busy. The buses are packed, the traffic is fast, the people are fierce and stressed and even the cyclists go storming over Blackfriars bridge so fast I thought there was a special event on, maybe a time trial, but no, it was just the 'rush' hour. I have never seen so many bikes apart from on a triathlon or sportive. Everywhere are people, and the fact that we did the Science and Nat History museums at half term did not help, as they let in about a billion people to each museum so they are busy too. We rushed straight to the dinosaurs, which are so utterly spellbinding that I was lost for words. We looked at the obligatory half a million stuffed birds and animals, and really enjoyed the inside the earth bit about gemstones and rocks and volcanoes and fossils, really well done and interesting. The Science museum included a fabulous educational show about bridges, and meeting up with the cousins which is always a hit. Seeing Stephenson's actual Rocket, and the Apollo pod ( looks like it was made by Wallace and Gromit) is amazing too. How did the british end up with a piece of USA history like that??? Did it land off the Isle of Wight and we said 'Finders Keepers?'. We enjoyed Hyde Park, and walked all the way back via Buck House and St James Park to Westminster bridge to get the bus home to the delightful Old Kent Road. We also did a walk around Spitalfields with Elise, and the Museum of London which is also in the city and worth a visit next time you are up in town. The Parsons family home contained a worthwhile range of reading material and we also watched a favourite old film, Shooting Fish, which is not about fish or shooting and is really fun to see if you have somehow missed it so far.

So, home to the green and pleasant land of Thornhill.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The days have been full, as Calvin or Hobbs would say, however, not as full as theirs - just many many hours at work, 3 days a week, from 7am until at least 5pm, usually 6pm. Two days, don't get in until 8.15am and leave at about 5pm. Then a couple of hours in the evenings. No sympathy needed, I signed up for this crazy deal. I have, however, been keeping my weekend fairly work free, you will be pleased to hear, thus being able to keep my sailing career afloat, boom boom. Double pun there, as you get hit by the boom if you don't move your head down quick enough. Boom boom.

Unfortunately, the training for triathlons does not mix so well with being a full time lackey, I mean teacher. I am cycling to work most days, and have done another 66 mile New Forest sportive, on the baking hot 1st of October, but apart from that the cycling is a bit shelved. I am missing it. I am enjoying lots of the features of my new job, but other bits are hard. R is being a domestic god, making chutney, keeping on top of the ironing and shopping, making much nicer dinners than I ever did. He has been busy with bike business, a steady flow of work coming in, sometimes one night he thinks he will not have much the next day and then he gets a call and has a job to do. He is reducing the stockpile in the shed on quiet days, and selling refreshed bikes to ebayers. Today he had dog company, Noodle, who did a lot of poo in the garden. The rest of my family want a dog, however I have stipulated so many regulations to be met before a dog moves in that I think I will die before a dog comes to live here. After only one doggie day, my kitchen stinks of dank dog. The poor goldfish are starving and forgotten, the dog would go the same way within a week, limp and lifeless in the garden with the RSPCA knocking on the door. Not that the goldfish are in the garden, limp and lifeless. They are in the playroom slash bike work room. And the RSPCA were at the door last week, which I noticed when I saw that R has signed up to pay them money every month to protect pets from their owners. Could have given them the fish and saved the money and their trouble.

Anyway, today was a big day, as after trailing around a few secondary schools, and lots of discussion, and then some, and then an analysis of the benefits of each school according to H's criteria ( number of stairs, friendliness of teachers, ease of transport links, etc etc etc ) we have finally submitted the application for secondary school. We will find out on 1 March, and any of our 3 choices would be fine, so if number 1 says no, we would be happy with 2, and likewise 3. Which is a good place to be in, and why the choice was hard, as we genuinely would have been happy with any of the three options. Including our local comprehensive, which when we moved to Thornhill was a real sink school for the authority to send all its troubles to. Now, its our number 2 and was very very close to being number 1. Its a big day, thinking about secondary school, when it feels like only yesterday that I turned up at Kanes Hill with a two year old and six month old to look around before we moved to our new house. Now here we are in Year 6, Chair of the school council, netball team member and doing everything extra curricular the school can throw at her. Yikes.

R did his half iron man triathlon a few week back, thank goodness, he sruvived and did it in a time that he was happy with - i.e. within the day. We planned to do a stay in campo at Sandy Balls the triathlon venue, the night before, but I booked the wrong night. So we stayed in our own beds instead. But made it up with a campo trip to the sailing club for the hot weekend at the start of October for the girls's last sailing course. Hurrah, a stage 1 and a stage 2 sailor in our midst. I have had the joy of crewing for some very patient catamaran sailors and learned a lot more about sailing from them, despite spending most of my time hung on the edge with a wire. It is quite a good analogy for faith, you have to trust the wire to take your weight and just kick out and get on with it. Trusting utterly in the helm is vital too, if you are with a good sailor who you know is trusting their boat, watching the wind and waves and in control, then you don't need to worry. I can feel a book coming on here.

A reads a Salvation Army comic every week, and wants to join their bible club, and was looking at the form to fill in. It asks ' church attended' and she said 'well I go to several, I am not sure which I attend, do we attend a church mum? '


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Home from Greenbelt. Everything went well, the weather was mostly ok if not warm, but my new sleeping bag meant for comfortable nights under canvas, as the House family were using the campervan, we were back to the trusty tent. For £50 and a trip to Salisbury, that e bay purchase must be knocking up towards triple digits in the number of nights we have slept in it over the summers of 2008,2009,2010 and 2011. It leaks a bit, but not to the extent that we have wanted to throw it away in a skip in a fit of dampness. The annual pilgrimage to Cheltenham for Greenbelt gets better and better - we know the way there now, we have the arriving, reservation of spot and camp construction down to a fine art and this year everyone from our little church gang came, plus the Lennards. The band have been invited back next year to once again bang out some worship songs for the children, the junior age range, who had a late night youth club this year. Will write more elsewhere about how much more enjoyable the system was with the children, and also me not working meant I got to go to a lot more things than in years when I have been working as a volunteer. The chilling out and chatting was great, and I went to a few comedy shows, some awesome acrobatics and a surreal clowning show, plus the ubiquitous Family Twist. A and H got to tell a joke on the last night, right near the end, after sitting through some torture waiting. We loved Fischy music on mainstage, obviously, and seem to be amongst many when it comes to Fischy fans who do all the actions. One extremely nice thing was bumping into Helen and Andy Hunter and hanging out with them a fair bit, felt like we had never lost touch ( last saw them nearly 7 years ago) and I popped in to see Andy do his DJ thing and thought it was great! Saw a few other old friends from here and there, couple who cleaned toilets with us in Croatia in 1998 were there and Sue is getting ordained next week, which just goes to show that even bishops clean toilets. Not that she is a bishop. Yet. R is cycling home from Cheltenham, although he called a while back and is having spoke trouble near Nether Wallop, so I found him a nearest station to Nether Wallop to aim for. The girls opted for an afternoon of watching the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe next door but one so I have got through an immense amount of washing, tidying, cleaning, even mowed the grass. I am off to the office tomorrow.... September looms...

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

If you go to George Burgess Photography .com you can look me up in the new forest rattler gallery for some great pictures of me looking awful. My rider number was 125, so you can use that to look them up.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Now, a while back, in April, I went to a new hairdresser, Sam, in Sarisbury Green via Groupon. She was a bit negative, ie talked about her bad luck and didn't have a very adventurous outlook on life, and seemed to me a bit scared of others' thoughts - ie not wanting to ride a bike in case people laughed at her. Anyway, the haircut was nice, but the salon was not very welcoming and I decided to try elsewhere. So, randomly, I picked a salon in West End, and who should be cutting my hair, but Sam herself. Spooky! So, clearly fate has it that we are destined to be together, so I have rebooked with her, and lets see what God has planned. Haircut is great.

Today we made our repeat visit to Portsmouth Dockyard to see some of the attractions we missed the first time, which was back in the half term holiday on a nice sunny day. Today, it was less sunny, and we did the indoor Mary Rose museum - worthwhile, even without the actual boat available - apparently with the MOD cuts it has been brought back into active service. We learned about Tudor medicine and timekeeping and navigation. Then we went to Action Stations! which is a bit like Intech, the science centre near Winchester, in that there are lots of interactive exhibits, so you can shoot and land an aeroplane and do similar things which are not really my kind of thing, however I did do the climbing wall, and the girls did 2 climbing walls. I mentioned to R that I had no idea the navy involved so much climbing ( I guess the Marines have to) and R said if you are on a submarine you do a lot of climbing. Now, the good thing about this ticket is that it is valid for a year, and some of the things you can go to every day if you wish. So we still have not done the Dockyard Apprentice experience, and the Warrior you can go on as much as you like. which is interesting. And you can go to the Naval museum unlimited, although there comes a limit even on a rainy day, even for someone interested in history.

On Sunday I cycled 79 miles, it was the New Forest Rattler, a ridiculously long, but flattish course all around the aforementioned national park. Great scenery, nice people, I hitched a ride (not literally!) on the back of a few groups for a few miles to help me along, and found a couple of nice guys who took turns with me to pull me along a bit at other times. I was pleased with my 'silver' time achieved - 5 hours and 7 minutes. Saw a lady with the same bike as me. Saw a group of lady cyclists from Bromley. Still mostly men, but I am used to it now. I had a really good ride, making it to the second feed station at 55 miles without feeling it too badly. Had a hard 15 miles after that though, slogging it out mostly alone, then there is a killer hill, short but deadly, about 4 miles from the finish. I could not get off once I had started it, as I would have fallen off. I had to keep going, but was screaming that I couldn't do it, and was talked up by aforementioned nice chaps. I honestly had not felt so physically exhausted since giving birth. If anyone asks you to ride up Blissford Hill, laugh in their face and get off at the bottom, unless you are a Tour de France veteran. After all that cycling, I ended up cycling down to the leisure centre to go to Pilates that evening, a welcome stretch out after being hunched up on the bike all day. Now I am working hard on my running, did a short but faster run this morning, hoping to build up some running fitness again before a duathlon in October.

We have been away recently, to Stockport in Cheshire for our pilgrimage to Aunty June's, and then to North Wales for some sailing. It was the Sprint 15 nationals, and R borrowed a boat, so that I could sail them too, so I found a willing helm and off we went, me crewing, and messing that up sometimes. Luckily most of my mistakes were redeemed by Bethan, sailor extraordinaire, but even she couldn't do anything about me being sea sick on day 1 in big waves and so we retired from those 2 races. I took herbal remedies for the next 2 days, and the waves were not so big, and I did fine. Loads of other sailors got sea sick so I felt a bit better. We actually won the ladies cup, but as there were only 2 boats helmed by ladies it was not that much of a competition. The setting was spectacular, Snowdonia in the background, sandy beaches, and people speaking Welsh in the streets and shops, which I think is great. Once someone spoke to me in Welsh! Clearly I was starting to look like a native. We had not been to Snowdonia before and were really impressed with the mountains and the only trouble is how long it took to get home. Like the Lake District, it needs to be moved a few hours nearer. I am sure we could get rid of Birmingham and then sew the country up at the break and that would help.

I have been trying to do a bit of work these last few days, as I want to hit the ground running, as it were. There is a lot to get my head around, but I know I will have a lot of people asking me questions and I want to be mega organised and not lose bits of paper. To that end, I spent 4 days at the start of the holidays tidying my room and cupboard, so that everything is filed, and spent all of yesterday morning doing likewise for my computer documents. I deleted all 'my favourites' on the interweb, but I think that is good, because the important ones I will remember, and the others don't matter anyway. I feel a bit in a state of flux, rather like the dLorian car in Back to The Future. 'Marty! the flux capacitor!' Hattie helped me to see that I probably thrive on routine and work and am at the lowest point of the holiday, ie we have run out of money for fun things, the weather is awful, and I kinda want to get back to work and get going on new things. The girls are busy making cakes as part of their 'Baking Sisters' business, they have been commisioned to make birthday cakes for Charlie and Daisy. Therefore, the kitchen floor is sticky at all times. Apparently they are getting paid materials for this one, so we won't be making a loss. If only they could afford a cleaner to clean up after them.

Now, a nice thing that happened at the weekend was that Gillian and Keith from Alnwick came to stay, with their delightful daughter Rosie, who incidentally is our god child. It was her birthday while they were with us, so we arranged for the Houses and the Clarks to join us on an afternoon at Hilliers Garden, near Romsey, a splendid spot in the sunshine for an afternoon of sitting. That seems to be the main hobby of Duncan and Emma. We also took Keith and Rosie sailing, and the weather was perfect, sun and windy enough wind, onshore, so H and I practised capsize drills. We were having such fun it was 7pm and we had not thought about food for dinner. The trampoline broke on the boat though, which will mean an expensive repair, coming in at over £400, which is very expensive compared to the new ( to them) Topper which Paul and Rachel have bought for £50. We could buy a fleet of old Toppers instead of mending our boat, have one each and a spare. Hey ho.

Campo the Camper van is doing well, although mostly being used by Emma. We have it this week, I used it to get to Ringwood, but it is rainy and a bit grim and so we are not camping in it. Emma, meanwhile, is using it for evenings out by the sea in the rain. She has put up flowery bunting and furnished it with retro cushions. R hopes her enthusiasm wanes soon. We have a shared log book to write down where you went and what you did, and it is mostly Emma doing things in it, presumably sewing. We don't mind at all, and it makes us laugh, we are so not into flowers and furnishings, it is funny to have a shared residence with someone who is.

R is off this evening frantically practising for Greenbelt, at which he is playing which is this weekend. I am sure it will be fine, their band are playing in a junior youth club each evening, and doing some songs for the little kids in the mornings, just him and Hattie singing and playing guitar, without any loud drain noises in the background. Will report back.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Another fish is in residence to keep the other one company, so we now have 2 fish we never wanted. Newsflash that A found some money on the verge along a road, she gave a third of it to her chosen charity, Edukids, and is spending the rest on things she is not usually allowed to buy. H found some money in a field on a cliff near Swanage, clearly they take after their paternal grandfather who is well known for having an eye for gold in the gutters of Claygate.

My last day of freedom as a at home person was spent in Bitterne, aptly enough, as on the last day of term when everyone was at school except me, I enjoyed a very nice swim at BLC, in cool and almost empty pool. My general low energy levels are dragging on and on, I have got rid of the sore throat but am exhausted and can only manage a 15 minute jog, the idea of a 78 mile bike ride in a couple of weeks is not filling me with joy right now. I have even spoken to my Dr with a view to getting an appointment, as maybe I am anaemic or something. That was suggested today, as someone noticed all my bruises. My bruises are war wounds from sailing at the high performance end of dinghy and cat sailing. Seriously!!! I was asked to go out on a fabulous fast cat with a very good couple of sailors on Sunday morning, and learned to trapeeze, the hard way, on a fast boat, but it was awesome as we were soaring across the water, and I felt excited and not scared at all, in safe hands!

After lunch, as I happened to be wandering around wearing a wetsuit, a man I had never seen before asked me if I wanted to go sailing. Of course I said yes, and set off towards the water after him, and able to answer his question 'are you ok going out on the wire?' with the answer - 'well, I learned this morning!' It was a very different boat, being a dinghy, and it seemed to be the kind of tippy over boat that would have FREAKED ME OUT a couple of years back. I was once again in the hands of a very good sailor, literally at one point as I fell off/out/somewhere and I have the hand shaped bruise where he tried to haul me back in without us capsizing. Somehow, in wonderful slow motion, we managed to capsize, and then righted the boat with nowhere near as much trouble as it takes to do it with a cat. Still quite a lot of fiddling around in the water, but it was ok. The reason for my falling off/in is still unclear, but it was when I was just taking control of the spinnaker. This is a beautiful and awesome piece of fabric that means you can sail fast downwind, it is literally like a kite, and is beautiful, so powerful, so awesome, and the crew has the job of holding it in the right place. You can feel the power of the wind through its rope, it is so so awesome, however, clearly a novice I got something wrong and ended up over the edge. I had got it right (ish) the first time and messed up the second time.

So, still smiling, a bit achey the next day, and have instructed R that our upgrading of our fleet will not be to a Dart 18 but to a F18, and I also need to upgrade the Topper to a Asymmetric Dinghy. The boat pot is a little low at the moment, but R is now working as a bike mechanic and is a part time teacher, so I am sure he will soon start using his bike profits to buy boats. He won't need much encouragement!!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Some freaky fish thing is going on. Step 1, H and her friend C attend the fair at Claygate Flower Show and win two goldfish. They live overnight in a big tupperware and make it through the night - one of them dies, which we appreciate. The other one makes it back to Southampton in the tupperware and lives on, tired but ok, until R gets home on Monday with a glass tank from the dump, £2, which he has carried on his bike in a carrier bag, risking untimely death or aterial damage at least if he had made one wrong move on his bike. Tank is dutifully filled with gravel and water and fish is re homed, at which point it gets a new lease of life and dashes about exploring. Friday, the fish gets its new friend, a posh fish from a proper shop, and new proper gravel and a skull and some stones and looks happy. New posh fish looks tired. Saturday night - fair fish two now dead. Posh fish happy. So, in a week, we have acquired and buried two dead goldfish and have ended up with one from a shop that we would never have bought. Damn the things! They have found a loophole in my anti pets policy. I got a book out of the school library about looking after a fish, and it says you need pumps and all sorts. We had a goldfish for years on the sideboard and it never had a pump and lasted for way too long. If you have a spare pump, we will give it a go, but this fish is going to live 1980s style.

Apart from dealing in dead fish, we continue to celebrate H's birthday, which goes on and on. We had the weekend without A in Swanage, then her actual birthday which coincided with the Claygate Flower Show so was spent there, an early start as we were taking up exhibits for the girls, H got a second for her decorated cake, A won a cup as she got a first and a second prize in her age group. For a collage scene in a shoe box with a working light, and for a drum kit made out of yogurt pots. I was ill, still am not great with a cough, but last weekend I was grim, with no voice at all on Friday ( stupidly went to school though) and a temperature. I seem to have a weird virus in my throat that has been there for months, have not swum or run for weeks and my cycling limited to a short commute, I am hoping that the end of term will come and I will magically have energy to go out cycling again.

A weekend before Swanage, dad retired from active scouting and we went to the AGM to see him get his thankyou and well done, and it was a lovely occasion, when you grow up with a scout group like 1st Claygate you get to thinking that everyone lives in a great community with amazing scouts and guides that do exciting things. The Scout and Guide band are playing at Disneyland Paris this year, good luck to them, I shall not be returning to watch. The Claygate flower show obviously is a flagship for Claygate ness every year, and this was no different, apart from the usual impeccable weather, it was raining in the morning to the extent that the thornhill festival was cancelled, but Claygate is in a different league, and floods and tempests would not stop the flower show. I managed to swerve into the WI tent where my mum was selling bric a brac and limply sit for a while on a camp chair, but my illness made the experience far less fun than usual. Well, sitting on a WI chair is probably about the same in fun factor, but I would not normally be doing such, but would be watching dogs or classic cars. On Sunday morning, R was swimming from Hampton Court to Kingston, and so we went to watch. It poured with rain and we were wetter than he was. Plus we couldn't tell who he was as there were over 1200 swimmers and we didn't even know what colour hat he was wearing (yellow). He then spent the rest of the day falling asleep - in the bath, on the sofa, driving, on a different sofa and on the rug. Then in bed. The organisers told the swimmers that after the event they should drink a can of coke to kill any bugs they had swallowed. Yuk. What kind of bugs would be killed by coke? Or what kind of drink would kill bugs? I am going to start using it as a cleaning product to clean surfaces in the kitchen.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Sign in toilets at Paultons Park:

It is likely that these facilities will be cleaned by male and female attendants.

I would have said it was more than likely, but absolutely certain, unless they have asexual aliens doing the cleaning. I know what they meant. But they did not say what they meant.

Everyone is very tetchy and fractious at school, that's just the staff! No, we are holding up well in the face of adversity, in the form of tired children and a full up curriculum, but the children are tired and flagging, tomorrow is meet the new teacher day, always nice as the new class are trying so hard to behave for you! I have a whole bunch just finishing Year R, so will be well trained and hopefully not too wriggly - or squiffly. A uses the word squiffle as a verb, as in 'I squiffled up the tree'. It is a super word and describes her motion upward perfectly. She is a bit of a good squiffler up trees, getting to heights I expect most koalas think twice about.

Apart from holding it together in the classroom, I have been on strike, which was interesting, I don't know if it will change anything but united we stand, and a two year pay freeze amounts to a 10% drop in pay in real terms, apparently, plus the higher pension contributions demanded, and the bit that gets me, they want me to carry on teaching til I am 67. 67! My parents are 68 and I don't think either of them would relish the idea of having just given up a full time teaching job - it kind of shows that people who decide these things don't know how demanding it is, exhausting, being on stage all the time, that is why we need the holidays, to sleep, become human again and catch up on all the planning and paperwork that is thrown at us with constant changes and tweaks and improvements. When I am 67 I might want to work, but I don't think all 67 year old teachers will want to, or be in good health to. I will need a nap after lunch, not a rounders lesson!

Spent some time the other day at Bursledon windmill, which is worth a visit if you are ever near at the weekend. They have been milling flour but the cuts have left them without a miller, and needing volunteers. So, if you fancy learning to mill, now is the time, hear the call! In the meantime, get in quick to buy any of their milled flour. Am off to Bursledon Brickworks next week so will tell you all about that - never been there either, but both these places are very local history for the children at Hamble to study. And interesting for me to go on pre visits to.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Amy's quiz

She made this up at the weekend, it is rather eclectic mix of information, google came up with the answers if you get stuck.

Who invented dynamite?
How many shops are there in West Quay?
How do you spell supercalorfragilisticexpilalidocious?
Name two brands of toothpaste.
What is the longest road in Thornhill?

Where does her mind wander? Now you know. She also invented a new service of washing up, for the price of 50 p per item, she will get your dirty pans SPARKLING. So far I am her only customer and am using her for trials.

H, meanwhile, was busy making a powerpoint about pedometers, by researching on Amazon, she is able to show you the prices and features of an array of reasonably priced pedometers.

Alberto Contador was reccying the T de F and got stopped on a ride by the gendarmarie for not having lights on his bike in a tunnel. good on them. Who does he think he is?

It is a very exciting time of year for sport, with the T de F about to start in a couple of weeks, after Wimbldon finishes. Sadly, I spread myself too thinly over too many sports and once again missed the cut for either of these events. The Olympics didn't want me either, saying that all the tickets I wanted had gone. Really? Other people were prepared to pay to watch grown men play ping pong? I seriously thought we were in with a chance on that one.

You will be delighted to hear that my prayer for healing worked on my ankle, I can now run over 5km with no pain at all in my ankle and a tincy bit of discomfort in my knee. As a consequence, I have now entered a triathlon in September with a 10k run, so something to work up towards again. Wahoo! I have really enjoyed a couple of runs lately, knowing I can do it again. I did a lovely sunny evening bike ride to the north of Winchester on Thursday night, the girls were at Brownies at the planetarium getting their stargazer badges. I hardly saw another car, and no other cyclists, and after a long haul up the A272 towards Petersfield, I cut off down through Rodfield and across the A31 to meander along with the river Itchen. Glorious.

My Friday night and Saturday were spent in an Anglican church, in Bitterne Park, enjoying the brilliant teaching and ministry of Lin Button and her team. You have to go see her! Superb stuff, really simply presented quite complex issues of the human condition. Got a lot out of it.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

More great sailing, less Scrabble. Yesterday was F5 gusting F6, and R and I were home alone without the girls, so we headed off to sail together, in very exciting conditions and with only 5 other boats attempting to race, and them full of hardcore sailing nutters, we knew it would be fun. I have never been so wet, drunk so much sea water or had so much fun! I loved it, despite not being able to see or breathe at times. R is great at helming the boat and with me being confident I could enjoy it rather than think about jumping off and swimming home. We had a bit of 'running' when at times the boat would catch the top of a wave and surf for a bit - wow! Fanastic result! Today we got up at 3.30am to do a triathlon in Arundel, a beautiful if hilly part of the world. R and our super fit triathlon PE teacher friend Claire had a 6.30am swim start in the Lido, and were doing double the distance to me, as I had downgraded as ankle/knee still not functioning as it should. I didn't start til 8.45am so went back to bed in the car for a couple of hours. I was a bit disappointed with my swim time, but my bike and run were great (for me) and I was delighted to post a time under 1 hour 30 mins, 1 hour 28 mins and 0 seconds, to be precise. The bike ride was started with about 15 minutes of climbing up, so that warmed the legs up. We went to the sailing club barbecue for tea which was chilled, chatted with some friends and there were not many people about, so plenty of food to go round. I was going to retire from triathlons after this one today, but I enjoyed it so much I think I might do another one....

Monday, 9 May 2011

Today I saw something so jaw droppingly scary I felt better about taking Amy on the back of my bike when she was little. She did wear a helmet, since you ask. We were driving to Hamble, car on autopilot, and along Ingleside in Netley Abbey we slowed down behind a pony and trap, which Hannah told me was a cruel way of using a horse and it had a brading line or something on it. How did she get to know so much about horses? Anyway, a man and lady were being trotted along, and the lady stuck her leg to the left to show they were turning left at the t junction ahead. At which point, in swivelling around slightly, I could see that in her left arm she was holding a baby girl. Goodness, don't we all have our funny ways?

Another weird thing I heard about is a man in our Triathlon club, a fellow triathlete no less, but who takes his traithletes in bigger chunks than I do. First, he does Ironman distance, which involves swimming a couple of miles, cycling over a hundred miles and then staggering off your bike and RUNNING A MARATHON. When I did nearly 100 miles on my bike, and no swimming, the last thing I could imagine doing is running a marathon. Anyhow, this guy, is going to do that 10, yes TEN days in a row. He must have a screw loose, as my mum would say. Meanwhile, in the Bowen house, Mr Triathlon himself is still nursing a nasty injury to the arm after falling off his bike in the triathlon we both did a week ago. My knee and ankle combo meant that I did a 5k run in the longest ever time recorded in the history of the earth, 2 minutes longer than it took me two years ago. I made time on the swim and the ride though, and finished in just over 1 hour 30. R did it in 1 hour 21 I think, the winner, a guy in his forties, made it in 57 minutes. It was a lovely day, sunny and windy. Granny Mary met us and looked after the girls, offered moral support and a lovely picnic afterwards. R was so amazing, with his injured arm all bloody, he ran around to support me on my last few hundred metres before seeking first aid help. What a star.

Today I had a phone conversation with my oncology consultant, saving me the horror and hassle of sitting in outpatients at the Princess Anne, not one of my favourite places for a variety of unhappy associations. Dr Marshall tells me that my blood results are fine, keep taking the tablets and she'll see me in a year. It is a funny time of year, in between my blood results going in and getting the result, I am sure the feelings fade, but its still an anxious few weeks. Still, another year of grace, nothing lurking in my blood, so you are not getting rid of me yet.

Last week I was in Portswood, hanging out at the delightful Llama Lounge, or something like that, which used to be Pizza Hut. I went into October Books, which I love for its subversive nature, and i actually bought a book. I am not one for buying books when a perfectly good library service exists, still my premonitions of the end of a perfectly good library service ( we don't have one in Thornhill anymore, we don't even have a Post Office here anymore) led me to buy a book. It is called the Sacredness of Questioning Everything, by Dave Dark. I question the author's surname before we go any further.

Last week Lou and I were in the post office pick up point in Northam, trying to pick up some postmen, and were chatting to them about surnames. One told us this, which deserves to be an urban legend and to which end I am passing on: A family have the surname Hogflesh. Pronounced Ho Flay. How Hyacinth Bucket is that? We laughed like drains and wandered out into the sunset, feeling slightly more of a comedy duo than when we arrived.

I railed against the evils of Facebook and Xbox to Lou and another friend the same night, poor girls, they don't know what to do with me when I get like that, foaming at the mouth and all. Friend wanted R to go round and help her set up her X box. I suggested that if he were the last man alive, he still wouldn't be the man for the job. We don't have an X box, a horse box or any kind of box other than cardboard ones that bike bits arrive in and A sleeps in and makes into a house for her teddies.

Sailing has been great lately, I had a fabulous sail one evening last weekend in gusty conditions, a year ago I would have been crying and begging to get off and swim for home, and now I am laughing maniacally and loving it. R and H sailed on the weekend, H did one race with R on a borrowed boat ( it was a series for a bigger type of boat) and then she had other commitments, so R did the rounds of teenagers at the club to find crew, and went out in such windy conditions that the mast fell down and they were towed in. Now, I suspect that I would have been crying and jumping off in those winds. R's career 2.2 as a sailing instructor is going well, if unpaid, as he is doing a couple of weekends teaching children at the club. I have got all my duties out of the way for the year, I was the very responsible post of Officer of the Day, having to open the safe and set the alarm and other such things like look after keys, and add up money, which don't play to my strengths at all, but I got through it! It was actually fine, and a lot of it is signposting people to other people to help them.

H has taken up netball club, to add to her wide range of sporting activities, so we now have swimming on Mon for me, R and A, and H has orchestra. Tue, choir, followed later by diving for girls. Wed H swims. Thur H netball, both Brownies. Fri H swims. Sat H triathlon, K and R swim. Good grief, I need a PA or au pair or someone just to keep up with the costume changes.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Going for the burn/ My legs, still sore with lactic acid dripping off them from skiing, were a little upset to hear my plans for today, as I jumped out of bed at 8am and decided I wanted to do my first ever group ride with Fareham Wheelers which starts from Wickham at 9am. So all hands on deck, with R pumping up tyres and A serving me an interesting breakfast of sugar puffs with milk and lemon juice. So, Wickham Square, blue sky and sun shine, very little wind and the most perfect cycling day, so off I go! Now, cycling is not reknowned as being a female dominated sport, and I keep telling the few single friends I have that they should take up triathlon, but I was the only woman, with about 18 males, ranging from 13 - 70 something. Was not expecting it to be any different, if I am honest, and it might explain why I have taken such a long time before taking the plunge of going along to a club run. However, I opted to join the slow gang, and there were 10 of us, we did a pleasant route out around Corhampton, West and East Meon, Petersfield and Rowlands Castle. We stopped there at 25 miles to have a refreshment break, it is a great cafe with speedy service and good choice of food so check it out if you are ever over there. So far so good. However, my body assumed, wrongly, that the day's cycling was done. Oh no. My fronts of my thighs were burning and heavy and I was utterly leaden for the next 15 miles back to the start. I struggled to keep up, got lost behind at one point and really had to work to keep up. My heart rate was always in the zones above the zone 1 I have been training in all winter, at one point my heart rate was above 180bpm. I blame the skiing for my legs being out of practise on the bike... However, I was utterly delighted to find that our riding average speed was 17mph, I usually managed about 14mph on my own, so having a gang to chase along with made a huge difference. I am looking forward to going out with the very welcoming Wheelers again, but I am afraid that Sunday mornings are at a premium. It would work much better for my sporting life if Messy Church could be on a Saturday morning. On my return home, we decided we would go to see my bro and family at Bracklesham Bay where they are staying in a holiday home, with a huge garden and gate directly onto the beach. Wow! Amazing weather, the children all played in the sea and on the beach all afternoon, and R checked out his open water wetsuit which had arrived since we were away. He found it a bit freaky to swim in the sea, with no visibility when you are head down, and a cold head as the wetsuit does not cover your head. I was really proud of him, anyway, I think he is great, learning to swim open water in order to do his half ironman in September. I would stick to breaststroke, at considerable disadvantage to my speed, but at least you can see where you are going when you breathe.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

This last week, I have been taking in my quota of films for the year, as R and I have spent an awful long time on a coach, on the way to and from Morzine, in France, near Geneva, for skiing with his school trip. More on that later, but for the film buffs, these were all new to me, and a fairly eclectic bunch of titles... The A team - great, but too much double crossing and I get muddled. Marley and Me - I cried at the end, and was pleased to see miscarriage and early parenthoold given a fairly realistic portrayal by Hollywood standards. Balls of Fire/fury - ridiculous comedy about ping pong. There is no way you can make a good film about ping pong, but it had is comic moments, despite the subject matter. Sherlock Holmes - excellent film, missed the end as the coach drew in to the school driveway seconds before it finished. Despicable me - great comedy genius characters, loved this one. Wild Child - what can I say about a film about a wild child from LA who joins a boarding school in England and falls in love with the foppish son of the head teacher that hasn't already been said? What happened in Vegas - one of the most predicatable rom coms you could imagine, no twists in the tale whatsoever. So, that is probably my year's ration of films, all over in a week. Phew. Skiing. Now you are talking! Why would you want to stay inside watching DVDs when you could be out there doing it for real? We were a bit subdued on arrival because the temperatures were in the low 20s, great for a spring walking break, but not good for snow to stay snowy, and the first two days of skiing on slush and lumpy snow low down, but decent snow and great sunny conditions higher up were tempered by the fear that the snow would all disappear - it really was melting that quickly. It is very late in the season and we were delighted when the temperature dropped overnight to freezing, and despite a rainy/sleety day when everyone was miserable, and then a 'white out day' with good skiing but no visibility, we were jut pleased it was cold again, the pistes were being looked after as best they can be and the last two days were clear but cold, perfect conditions and lots of runs high up in good condition. Lots of the lifts were shut (about 50% open) which meant that although we could see the swiss border at the top of a mountain, we could not ski into Switzerland, which I thought would have been fun! The only other problem with the lack of snow at lower altitudes is that like us, tons of people from the lower resorts were heading higher up to start the day, so the slopes and lifts were very crowded on the days with sunshine. However, despite my fear of crashing into people (and of being taken out by the dreaded snowboarding fraternity who sneak up behind you) I managed to keep up with the intermediate group and skiing with 13 teenagers with no fear certainly speeded me up. The French alps are beautiful, the buildings in the villages are identical to those in Switzerland, and it is a cheaper place to ski, and handier to get to, if a bit crowded and packed with Les Anglais! Amazingly, there were lots of skiers there worse than me, which is not something I have come across before, I think a combination of me getting better and it being a big resort with lots of beginners. So, I found myself having to think ahead about other people's moves and avoid them, and overtaking people, the only people I have ever overtaken before have been stationary, so a big shift in my ability! The company on the trip was fabulous, R and I had a pleasant en suite room in the hostel which served great food, although the vegetarian options were egg or cheese, for lunch and tea. Ah, omlette again! They did apologise at the end of the week and explain the oven was broken so they were struggling to cater for our group of 30 teens and 8 adults, (we had a rep and two coach drivers to feed) plus a bunch of about 50 Belgians, who true to form brought their own two ring stove tops so they could cook waffles of an evening. The other teachers from R's school were great fun and easy going and very accepting of me into their 'gang' - likewise the teenagers, who were generally polite and chatty, or polite and quiet, but either is fine with me. The boys who skiied with me in the same group were really sweet, always checking I was doing ok and apologising if we bumped into each other. Spending time with young people is always such a positive and life enhancing experience, I remember when we ran the youth group in Sheffield we wondered why anyone would lead adults when you can work with youth? I was really impressed with R's rapport with them all, they really like and respect him, and he clearly has built that up over the decade he has been at the school - bearing in mind that the youngest kids on the ski trip were only babies when he started teaching at Cams - and the oldest ones he taught there are now 27. The oldest kids he taught in Sheffield are now over 30 - weird or what? I was really proud of him, he is a great teacher, clearly, and I remember something we said a while ago when we were still involved in the big Vineyard church leadership - that the leaders of a church should spend a day a month shadowing their volunteer leaders in their day jobs, to really see what skills and talents they have but which are missed. I have never shadowed R at work before, and although this was kind of not 'proper' work, I was impressed by how his laid back approach works, with the young people grasping the chance to be responsible for themselves, in most cases, with the odd exception as can be expected from 13 year old boys! I hope R cuts and pastes this and prints it out for his head teacher to read, as for many of us, our bosses don't always realise the fabulous people they have working for them, and get complacent about those people. Note to self - remember not to do that when I am sec of state for education. We brought back some delicious rose wine with grapefruit in it, it is a beautiful drink and a bargain at 4.5 Euros a bottle. Had some tonight. Yum. We got back to Fareham at 11am, dragged our stuff into the car and then out again and then shot up to Claygate to eat lunch, and pack the girls stuff up and bring them home. They had a lovely week staying with Granny and Pop, and a day with the cousins in Little Bookham, after a weekend away with the big Vineyard church, thanks to Ang and Paul who took them with their clan. We have a plan to go skiing with them all next year, lets see if the plan comes together - I hope so, as it would be fun to take them all too and they have the crazy 'have a go' spirit that is necessary for a good time in the snow. The present to R from the children on the trip was a pair of reconditioned skis and poles, so he now has all his own kit, so there is no giving up now...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Ah, Matthew, I knew you would like that weird mobile phone story. It is true, you couldn't make it up could you? Today I got an email that started 'Hello dear Friends' . Which almost makes you stop reading right there. R and I have been working crazy hours lately, every night we sit and tap away at plans and mark schemes, so you, dear reader, have been neglected in favour of the education of the young of Hampshire. I have been offered and accepted a new post at my current school, the offical title is Key Stage 1 leader, the unofficial title is 'general lacky and mopper up of administrative issues and stray children no one else has the effort or enthusiasm to deal with'. I do get paid a bit extra for the wearing of a prefect's badge. I am genuinely delighted with this turn of events, as I like where I am and want to help build the team and make it even better than it is at the moment, and it is the perfect next step up on my campaign to become secretary of state for education when the revolution comes. Until it does, I will carry on drumming finger spaces and capital letters into the minds of children who will probably never hand write anything in their adult lives and be used to a world without capital letters as they have been born into it. We had a lovely sunny games lesson today, we are doing 'inventing our own games' and they all played brilliantly on making up games and then testing each other's games out. And the sun shone. We had lots of space on the field and no injuries and only one argument that I had to arbitrate on. Isn't the sun an amazing invention? In the winter, I would have had injuries everywhere - after 3 I blow the whistle and go in, as experience teaches me that if you carry on, the injuries get so thick and fast that you reach a tipping point where more of your class are sat in the medical room than on the playground, there are none left to stretcher bear for their buddies and I and the chapping wind are alone picking up balls and limbs. And the secretary is discreetly typing 'child protection' into Google and seeing if there is a technical loop hole that allows teachers to avoid being strung up by the hamstrings for child cruelty when all they were trying to do was the unit on skipping and hopping, as per the Scheme of Work, and not deliberately maiming children by scraping them along a cold playground. I speak from experience, as my best friend at Infant school and I were skipping along with our arms crossed and I fell over, but she carried on skipping and dragged me the length of the playground - or a few metres anyway, dredging grit and agony into my knee. It was probably the same Scheme of Work. After a fruitless visit to my GP and a faintly hopeful one to my podiatrist, who I am paying, so have more faith in, I am out jogging again, about 1km tonight, but it is better than nothing and desperately needed as I am planning on running 5k at the start of May on a dodgy ankle that has been ill since December. No quick fixes, but another gadget purchased from the 'fitness fund' a wobble board to strengthen my ankles. Do you know of another family that has a fitness fund, that is about 75% of its disposable income. Wobble board, new bike bits for R's faithful commuting and hardworking road bike, two triathtlon entries for the club Tris for H, sailing lessons for h, diving lessons for H and A, swimming lessons for A - swimming training extra session for H . Tri suit for H. Flippers for me and R. The diving people sent a letter asking if H wanted to be fast tracked ( at a cost) and we decided no, even a Bowen girls can't do all that exercise. Goodness, membership at the Hampshire ( not missed - when did we find the time?) is beginning to look like a bargain compared to all this add on expenditure here and there of a triathlon family. The girls are both going on brownie camp this year, perfectly timed to mean we don't need to worry what to do with them whilst we do our biggest triathlon yet. They are staying in a village hall in Owslebury, which is not very far away, but further away than last year which was staying in Manor Farm. When I went on Brownie camp it was always to a village hall somewhere in Surrey. Glad the Brownies are keeping hold of important traditions.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

What a day. I got up early and ended up being late getting to an industrial estate in Eastleigh to join an NUT coach to London. I was a bit stressed by having cycled on my hybrid at time trial effort to get there, then was not sure where the coach was, so abandoned my bike for R to pick up later and waved down a passing coach, which was the right one. On arrival in London we got on a ferry to take us for free to the end of the march, and then spent a while snaking up the outside past the assorted people there before finding the NUT. There were loads and loads of NUT people there, marching alongside the NASUWT, another teacher union. There were an unbelievable assortment of people - A Ghurka with medals amongst a gang of similar and their wives, all tiny and smiley, and this one chap shouting alleluia all the time. There were librarians against cuts, nurses, even physiotherapists, for heavens sakes, and it takes a lot to get them riled. Firefighters, Unison people who work for councils, Prison officers, court workers, the Boiler makers, goodness knows who else, all manner of people from every nook and cranny of the UK. Half a million people, giving up their Saturday and some of them forking out a lot of cash to get to London. Unbelievable. It was my first big march and I had a fantastic day of solidarity and unity, saw no violence ( the protesters causing trouble were not on the main march, but elsewhere) and took 4 hours to walk about 1.5 miles. It wasn't exactly one for getting the heart rate up, ( I had done that on my race to Eastleigh in the morning) but I was very glad to be there and think this is the start of something bigger, of ordinary people fighting for basic public services to be available, for the people who need those services most - the poor, the young and the elderly - they are the people who need schools, health care and libraries. After all the walking, we sneaked in and had a cuppa in a cafe and then strolled back to get the coach back - luckily for me I found a different coach heading back to Southampton. There were a lot of young people on the march, young teachers, which is encouraging. The day was well organised, the police were smiley and polite and so were the stewards and to everyone I asked to come with me who didn't - you missed a great day which I am glad I didn't miss. Next time, come with me! Even if it is your birthday.

Yesterday at work was great, I had my lovely class back, as my student has finished her placement with flying colours. I loved having her and learned a lot from the experience, but it was nice to just faff around after school on my own, tidying up and so on and catching up on little things that need doing. I am very fired up about school at the moment, as I have been offered and accepted a new post there which will mean more responsibility and a leadership role. We have a great team and a lot of potential for growth and improvement, so my job will be to nurture that into reality among the youngest classes. Watch your back, Michael Gove, I am telling you, I am after your job.

One of my favourite placards of the day was a picture of Garfield with the slogan Eat more lasagne. Some had pictures of Cameron planted inelegantly on the end of large pink tubes. Another favourite on the coach home was the sign that said 'Let this be a sign'. See what they did there? The girls were fascinated this morning by my plan of the day, hence the breakneck cycle to get there, with them asking me so many questions as I tried to escape. They watched it on the news when I got home and were asking good questions about it all. I am delighted to be developing their political awareness and hope they develop their own opinions which they follow through with actions, which are about the poor, the marginalised, the outcast. I don't want to be growing pew fodder who sit and nod inside churches. Let's hope today helped in that regard. Amen.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Weird phone call today. On my way to work, with my mobile in my bag on my bike, I became aware of a lady talking to me out of my bag. I told her I was on my bike and then stopped so I could talk to her properly. It turns out that I had rang her! from my bag! And she was from a hotel in Beaulieu! How weird is that, she was not on my contact list, my phone had jiggled about and rang her, I guess the chances of getting an 0 and a 1 at the start are getting quite remote, and then to get a proper code and number of a proper, and local, business, I thought was fairly remarkable. I thought you would like that.

I have had some great sunny bike rides lately, even in shorts - da da! Spring has sprung. Today I planted trees with my class and I heard one boy say it was the best thing he had ever done. That is why you become a teacher. surely.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Two trips to Bitterne in two days. That's more like it! Both by bike, in stunning sunshine. Monday I made excellent time up the hill to get to the doctors for my annual blood letting, the thing about sitting in the doctors waiting room is that I feel like a fraud because I am not ill. Still, the NHS really is cradle to grave, and I have to give a phial of blood once a year until I die, which is checked by my consultant, although she may die first, so I am not sure what happens then.

Yesterday, it was a social trip to Bitterne metropolis, as Ang had offered to take me clothes shopping, as a birthday gift, so I jumped at the chance to do the charity shops. I found a lovely top in the local charity shop on Thornhill Park Road, and then found a over top made of wool in Barnados, so a new outfit for £5. Ang and I also had a very pleasant cup of tea in Greggs, although it needs refurbishing in there, but the place brings back happy memories of little girls in pushchairs and teetering on the the dogdgy loo when toilet training.

Today Fareham - that charity shop treasure trove - but sadly not for shopping, but for part 3 of 4 of my Magnificent Middle - not an abs exercise class, but the leadership development course I am doing at work. It was not as inspiring as the others in terms of content, but still great to be with other like minded people and inspirational head teacher leading it.

I have not told you about the Dinghy show, so I will. First. Do not ever go to Alexandra Palace. It is a stupid place to get to and takes hours and hours and hours. H, R and I went, A wisely decided to stay with the cousins and play. It was fairly interesting in a boaty kind of way, I entered a trillion competitions, some to win things I have never heard of, some to win boats and holidays, which I have heard of. The tickets were a win, so the only cost of the day was to our patience as we sat in traffic in north London. Bumped into a few people we know from the sailing world, Chay Blyth, Ben Ainslie, Ellen Macarthur - well, none of them actually, just a few guys who sail 15s and a dad from my class at school.

I have just read a great book about a new settlement in Oklahoma which did not have a rail road station, and so was starving to death, and about how the community was formed and who did what and the role of children in civilizing the adults. It is one of those books that makes you gasp with shock. Now I am back onto Lance Armstrong, book 2. He should have changed his name to Legstrong.

Amazing news, after months off running I have done a few jogs lately, and not too much trouble with my foot so far, so hopefully the inserts are doing the trick. I have done a lot of swimming, but a rather inaccurate clock that I used for timing ( no second hand) seemed to imply that my time has not improved very much over the last two years, despite all the training I have done. When I look at the times from my first tri, which I am repeating this year, I am hard pressed to see how I can shave any seconds off any sections of it. Surely two years worth of training can be worth something?

On Friday night, the girls were at granny's as they had an INSET that day, so R and I were alone and could have gone out but no, we opted to spend two hours doing our month end finances and budgets for this month. This is our fourth month sticking to our system of writing everything down on the kitchen wall. Will soon need a redecorating budget. It is going really well, and despite having to buy a washing machine, and having just come back from skiing, our monthly figures are standing up quite well. Let's hope the government don't cut our pay, it is frozen for two years, which is as good as cutting, but not as bad a situation as some are in. I am going on a march against the cuts, and have free transport on the NUT bus from Eastleigh. What a result! I love things for free. Sadly there are almost none of them, but lets hope I win the electric jam maker I have entered for from the WI.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Today I cycled down one of my favourite roads, favourite because of the comedy names the residents have chosen for their houses. One is called Gazebo. Another is called Random Oak. Love it! it sounds like the kind of name a rock star would give their child - Gazebo Random Oak. A friend of a friend of a friend has a baby called Matilda, going by the name of Tiddles. Tiddles Gazebo is a nice twist.

Apart from swimming, cycling and wearing my new trainers to walk around the house, I have been skiing! It uses the same leg muscles as cycling so it counts. I am sure you would be bored by the details of the scenery, perfect snow, sunny blue skies and happy children in ski school, so I won't bore you with them. Instead I will tell you about our progress. I am the lower attainer in our skiing family, using the whole piste ( they were lovely wide ones) to make my turns, I like to get my money's worth on the lift pass by covering every inch of snow with my agonised snow plough and attempts towards parallel turns. R, H and A are all above average achievers, we can all now do red runs, but I take twice as long as everyone else. A challenged me to a race, and she was out of the chair lift and down the hill before I had fumbled my sticks together and untangled my legs from the bar. R and I went to the top of the mountain on a grim snowy afternoon, and then on the next sunny day I went back all by myself! I love the views, and the solitude and quiet pistes, and I hate being on busy red pistes when everyone else swooshes down really fast and I am gently snow ploughing my way down. I did not overtake anyone all week. H injured her thumb and is in a plaster cast, with a date next week at the hospital. She missed 1.5 days, and luckily for us, Granny Mary was staying in the same village and was happy to do the childcare. that left r and I free to explore a different ski area, the unbelieveably good Tauplitz, with one of the best snow records in austria and a wealth of options for the blue / red skier. and the most amazing panorama of mountains covered in snow from the top of the lift. I got on well with the chair lifts, I was a bit worried about them as in Switzerland I found them a bit nerve wracking. As well as skiing we walked on a frozen lake, I struggled to have faith in the ice, although it is 25cm deep, it just felt all wrong. We ate out and I partook of a couple of apfel strudels, you really need to immerse yourself in the culture, I feel.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Bit late posting this, but this is one of the places we visited in Portugal last summer. I should consider working for the Portugal tourism office.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Last swimming lesson at the uni this afternoon, we worked really hard and I did some tumble turns! Was dead chuffed as my hope for these lessons was to achieve this aim. It is a lovely pool at the uni, and I am torn between it and the Quays as my new home. R is now a paid up member of the Southampton Tri club and it is my turn to try it out tomorrow.

I was supposed to be in Leicester today riding my bike, but got to Newbury last night ( interestingly, just a few hours after 2 horses had died there in freak circumstances) and realised I had forgotten my shoes. I turned for home and decided that a 4 hour drive and then a 5 hour bike ride were not what I needed this weekend, going for an early night and a 2 hour bike ride instead. It was chucking it down, and the route was quiet, hardly saw any other cars, let alone cyclists. I was pleased with how I kept my heart rate down and got up Beacon hill feeling quite comfortable, but I did struggle with the cold and being wet, my waterproof gloves are maybe oversold on the waterproof feature. Still, being out in the elements is always good for the soul, but ice and freezing winds are more my weather than rain and freezing winds. I can visualise myself doing the same routes in the summer with shorts and t shirt, of an evening - it feels good - and less washing afterwards.

Yesterday A did a diving taster session, and grinned for the half hour duration, so I have put both their names down to do the beginners lessons after half term. If you have ever wondered where everyone is at 8.30am on a Saturday, the answer is - at The Quays. The water is thick with young people diving and swimming, if anyone thinks that young people are not as fit as in the olden days, you need to go to the Quays to see how wrong you are. They can all dive and swim better than me. R was at the Quays, having run there, for his swim training session, whilst A and I set off at a trot to get H and also Kate, R's cousin who was staying for the weekend. We had booked to see 'animals united' at Vue cinema in Eastleigh. A sobering message film, A found it scary despite its U certificate and spent a lot of time on my lap. It is worth seeing, but don't watch it for the laughs. After a quick lunch it was on to Chandlers Ford for me, A and 3 of her friends, to a party at an indoor play centre. I left them there and went to Eastleigh for a shop, and actually bought myself some clothes. Shock. I also won £10 voucher for Vue cinema on a competition, so I will be going back to Eastleigh soon. I already have a £10 cinema voucher for the Point in Eastleigh, but their films are a little random this season.

As it is midpoint in the month, I am about to update our finances. on my own, as r is out at men's curry night. the last 3 months of tight financial planning and recording, we tend to do this review together, so here I go to have a go on my own. Without a calculator. Lets hope I only get things wrong by one order of magnitude, as in the other day when I calculated that we needed £15 000 a month to cover a set of expenses.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

I have become a follower, of another blog, which is of one of my local councillors, Matt Stevens, who is very commited to Thornhill. I am thinking of becoming an MP as have realised my ambitions of becoming secretary of state for education depend on first getting into the lower chamber. Or I could become a peer straight from the shop floor and get in that way. I am going on a march, in March, in London, to protest about the cuts. Just in case you didn't know already, I DID NOT VOTE FOR THEM.

R had a meeting tonight at the Youth centre where he does his bike project to find that all the open access youth work on the east of the city is being scrapped. This means that effectively, unless people volunteer to open youth centres ( and it is not a job for inexperienced, well meaning volunteers on their own, but a very challenging and tricky role which you need professional training to do well) there is nothing for the most disenfranchised and vulnerable young people in the city to do. Shall we look forward to a rise in anti social beahviour, drug use, petty crime and teenage pregnanices? I wrote a letter to one of my councillors ( the young tory one) telling him what I thought, and not to reply with platitudes. He already tried to fob me off regarding the library, which is to be run by local people. Only Libby and I are local people who care about libraries, Libby is not running a campaign a la her Cobbett Road efforts yet, and Thornhill does not have the capacity of people who care about libraries and have the spare time and energy to volunteer in them. Grrr. Can you hear my blood boiling? There may well be other library lovers in Thornhill, I hope there are, but you can't expect people to run public services well.

Having left Esporta on my bat, with R reluctant to do so, we have been experimenting with public swimming pools. A baptism of grime after two years of comparative luxury, at a price. R has done two training sessions at the quays with soton tri club, and got on well. I did ok there apart from the smell of urine in the changing rooms, which I mentioned on a comments form and got a reply today. Last night I had to go to Eastleigh to go swimming, as Southampton pools shut at 9. Well, Fleming Park, I had not been since 1994 and I don't think they have cleaned it since then. I found it a bit too scary for me, as the deep end is really deep and sudden, a sort of cliff edge effect about 5 m in from the deep end edge. It is like a deep water vent in the Pacific ocean. I kept thinking of sharks and that if I drowned down there, the smiley but plump lifeguards probably did not have the skills to rescue me from certain death. And Fleming Park ( I don't like it to start with cos of the word phlegm in its title) is not where I plan to die. So after 32 lengths trying to shut my eyes over the precipice I gave up and came home, never to venture near the place again. I can't help thinking that R will be feeling a little smug over this episode, although he is much nicer than me and doesn't say ' I told you so' when I come home with veruccas all over my body.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Rod rang again today, for Jan. Said he had been with her all afternoon but she had not changed the number on his list. Clearly, she is trying to shake him off. I told Rod that maybe one day our paths would cross. A man knocked on the door shortly after ( not Rod, that would have been spooky) and it was a man trying to drum up business for his Karate club. Makes a change from utility companies and double glaziers. Also had a man round this morning wanting to buy gold off me. Do I look that bling? I don't have any gold to sell. I told him that, but he was already drifting off towards next door, clearly could tell with one glance that I was not one of the seven dwarves. dwarfs? Hmm. Not sure whether dwarf does the same thing as wolf when it is a plural.

Today in some amazing sleight of hand with the clock hands going slower than usual, I managed to do the household chores, some school work and then a two hour bike ride, still had time for a bath before getting the girls, cooked a nutritious tea and lit a fire and have been sat down for hours. It is uncanny. There must have been some time zone travelling going on which meant that I gained hours. Marvellous, have even lit a candle and watched a programme on i player, which I might have seen before, it was Clare Balding cycling through Shropshire, made me want to do likewise. I also had an interview with the student teacher taking A's class, who wanted to know a bit more about what she is like at home, what she wants to be when she grows up, what her favourite subjects are at school - then she asked A the same questions, so it was great to know I got them mostly right. A has taken up recorder playing with her class teacher learning with them and teaching them week by week.

Just a month ago I had to re apply for a card driving licence, as not having had one for ages, I found out that it is essential to have one. So I paid up my £20 and watched the video on the website showing me how to apply online ( not the most Oscar winning of films ever). Well, would you believe it, but my old work rang up to say someone had found my driving licence card and did I want it back! Today! If only I had not been so efficient at the start of Janaury with getting organised with such matters I would have £20 more in my pocket today.

Now, I have not yet seen the most recent Cycling Plus magazine. It is out in the shops about now I think it would be the March edition. Anyway, even if you have not been buying it so far apparently you have to buy this one cos it is me on the velodrome! I have not seen it yet, so if you do buy it, you could pass it on to me when you have read it. I imagine that angle they have taken is that if I can do it, anyone can, which I utterly believe with regard to most things, especially sports related. Somehow I have been kind of missing sailing lately. Maybe it is actually the sunshine and summer that I miss, and sailing is related to that. I am keen to get out there, although I think April at the earliest for me. In the meantime, we have now given up our gym membership and are striking out alone with regards to training venues and so on, I hope the triathlon pals at the gym will still invite me on their rides. But it is time to find a new pool with a deep end and a training session for swimming, plus maybe the odd go with this comedy Aqua Jogger I have bought to help me through the healing of my ankle time. H is keen to add diving to her broad range of water related past times, so with the spare cash from not being slaves to Esporta we are paying for a set of diving lessons, and A is going to do a diving taster too. She is coming on really well at her swimming lessons, after a shaky start which almost saw her demoted to the shallow end, she has held her own and seems to be listening really well and doing what the teacher says. Which is better than me in my swimming lesson this week, when I got bored and couldn't hear very well and just switched off and got out early. We were doing breast stroke and butterfly kick this week, neither interest me greatly. I did a sponsored swim on Friday night, swam non stop for one hour and managed 108 lengths, 84 of them were front crawl.

I just referred back to my blog of almost exactly 2 years ago, when 20 lengths of front crawl had me almost dead. Get me! There is progress, it just happens in creeping increments so suddenly without knowing it you can easily swim over 80 lengths front crawl, when 2 years ago a quarter of that had me gasping for breath. Now, while I was swimming R and a lady called Sophie were sat on the side as my safety cover, and this Sophie goes to Swim club and is a swimming teacher. I tried to be nonchalant when R relayed her comments regarding my swimming technique, but really I am ELATED! that she said I had a good technique and any swimming teacher would be pleased with it. Woohoo! I am not flailing helplessly anymore, I feel like an ugly duckling who turned into a swan, metophorically speaking.

I am thinking about the series of talks I am planning on the international boat flag code. I think they are a good pile of imagery and are relevant to everyday life. Take this one:

Keep clear of me. I am manoeuvring with difficulty.

Works in a car park when you have an estate car, but also relevant in life, ie when you are going through some tricky transition in your work, or just have PMT.

I also like:

I am operating astern propulsion.


Tuesday, 25 January 2011

For a while I have been getting emails from Bon Jovi, and wondering why. Then R told me I bought him tickets a year or two back for his birthday so they probably have my details on their system. Makes sense now, I thought they were stalking me to play bass for them or something. They would be desperate, clearly.

Today, phone call (we had 3 in quick succession, clearly the phone is making a comeback)

Hello Jan, its Rod (Rod said that bit)
Hello Rod, its not Jan ( I said that bit)

The other two calls were not from Rod. Or for Jan.
I tried to embed a map on here to show you where I go on my bike rides in case you are Jon Bon Jovi and want to follow me around singing rock anthems. Although ' Here I go again on my own' ( not bon jovi, whitesnake?) would be apt for my cycling efforts. That bit in commas sounds like a cryptic crossword clue doesn't it? Anyhow, as is usual for anything technological, I failed, and so you can't see my route across Hampshire at a yelping pace behind two men much faster than me, or with more competitive testosterone oozing around them, anyway.

Swimming was fun tonight, about 1800m covered apparently. I do like my swimming club night and am sad about leaving that behind. I am meeting with a gym membership person on Monday, so maybe she will be desperate to keep me and do me a deal to stay members. It would have to be a good deal, though, but I feel I am in a strong position and nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Today the sun shone, I was too hot on my bike and had to stop and take a layer off. That has not happened since about October, so I am hopeful that Spring is springing. I also saw some crocus flowers in my garden. And I remembered how lovely snowdrops are and am looking forward to seeing some soon. Anyone know any good local snowdrop gardens? Aslan is on the move!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Today I watched Saints play, live, in the stadium, against Notts County. It was a nail biting 0-0, with Southampton much stronger and deserving to win if you look at statistics but somehow not actually making anything of their chances. I really enjoyed the experience, having not been to a football match since about 1995 when I went to see Sheffield Wed play Ipswich after winning tickets in a Debenhams staff members incentive draw. I won a bottle of whisky that year too, in a raffle at a charity where I volunteered in the office. I really enjoyed the football and would go again, should you ever need someone to take. I was fortunate today to be there with my financial advisor, who very kindly agreed to take me on his season ticket with him. Clearly I am good business for him.

I did get one of the cloth badges from Rapha, for doing the 500km of cycling. it has not come yet, but my name is on the list of about 80 people who did it. One guy did 728km, clearly not realising that you don't have to overachieve. One guy who did it was 12. I stopped cycling the moment my Garmin said 500km.

Our new shops are taking shape, as they are being rebuilt, I was amused today to see that the chief builder who has won an award is called Mr Wall. I kid you not.

I went on an inspiring course this week, about being a leader in school. I am encouraged greatly by the course. However I have so much school work to do that I have to go now to do some, else how can I lead others, if my maths marking is not up to date?

Monday, 10 January 2011

Today was a great day for eavesdropping - the moon was over Jupiter and the stars were swooping under the sun, with a Dreamworks moon for good measure. I was in the changing room listening to two ladies who were drying their hair.

Yes we flew straight to Malo, Kuoni are the only ones who do it.
Ah yes we went to Mina.
Flew direct.
Mina was great, we went for the diving, how many hotels were there on Malo?
Hotels? No, there were 27 lodges, the whole island is just 27 feet wide and 4 feet across ( might be a bit out there, but bear with me, the hairdryers were blasting out).
Oh, on Mina there is a bar at one end where the watersports are, a bit livelier, and it takes 20 minutes to walk around the whole island.
( Cranking up now) Oh, well Malo is the size of a postage stamp and you can walk around it in 10 minutes. and you can swim out to the reef.
Clearly not the Isle of Wight then. ( that was me thinking, not them)
On Mina there is a bar in the middle and one at the end, where we went for the diving.
Of course Malo has a reef all around it.
Oh. Well, Mina has a reef that you can swim out to in just a couple of minutes, we did diving there, of course.

I left, feeling that my circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight on a bicycle would be as alien to them as almost anything else I could contribute helpfully to move them on in learning to listen and not just talk at each other. They didn't look like they wanted to learn less combative forms of communication, and frankly, they were enjoying the whole thing almost as much as the guys in the steam room a while back comparing kitchen gadgets. I am reading a book by Alistair Humphreys about riding around the world on a bike, not a camel. So far he is in Ethiopia. It is a well written travel book and I recommend it to Granny M, who likes travel and travel books.

Today I met Heidi, my new best friend, as she is a massager. Or whatever you call such a person, a sports masssager, I hasten to add. She gave me some idea and exercises that should help my knee be able to cope with running again. Basically, it is that I have too much muscle on the outside of my leg and not enough on the puny insides. So, off to the gym tomorrow to toughen up my miniscule inner knee muscle. The other option would be a transplant, I suppose.

Glory days are back at Liverpool FC, eh? When I did the Panini sticker book collecting ( approx 1983) it was the glory team which included Sammy Lee, Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish. Now I hear KD is back as manager, with S L helping out on his days off from Macdonalds, or whatever footballers do after being part of the dream team of the 80s. We shall see. I will listen to the sports news with Johnny with more interest now my team are back in the running. I am going to watch Saints on Saturday, so will have plenty to tell you after that I am sure. Also exciting on the radio is Jack Dee pretending to be Humphrey Littleton and the Archers, with high drama of birth and death - better than Eastenders.

Yesterday we went to the uni to do the bargain swimming lessons, me and the girls, with my evangelistic ways meaning the Whitmores, Clarks, Crandons and Hannah's friend Jennifer were all represented somehow in the pool. Ang joined the improvers, and I was in the improvers improvers. We did diving, which was fun, but not much swimming, in fact after 10 lengths we had to cool down! It was a bit annoying that the teacher spent all her time with the most needy person, and I didn't feel like they helped me to improve my stroke at all, which frankly needs improving. But the whole point of it is to be guinea pigs for the student swimming teachers to work on, so I can cope. I asked if we could learn tumble turns, and the poor lady went into apoplexy about why not. Wished I had not mentioned it, but am a bit nervous to start looking like a berk, as my dad would say, and sloshing around upside down solo when the hair drying ladies are doing sedate lanes. Would have liked to try it out under tuition at the uni. Still, days at Esporta are numbered so I will soon be free to go to Bitterne Verruca Land again, and before you know it we will be begging to rejoin our posh gym and going out robbing old ladies to find the money. We are still doing well with our budgeting, writing it all down etc, however my swimming hat split so I had to spend an unexpected £6 on a new one. I have figured that we save too much ( uni fees, if required, although will do about a week at current figures) and give away too much. If we didn't give any money or save any money, then we would have tons of spare money to spend on starting smoking, or doing a triathlon every weekend, or drinking coffee at Esporta daily, or all of the above.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

R came to bed chortling the other night, after flipping back through my blog and finding some of my rants amusing. He says I don't rant enough on it these days. So I will right that wrong. I did track cycling at a velodrome a couple of days ago, while being photographed, obviously, it was exhilirating and totally fun, but exhausting and going round and round made me feel as sick as a horse on a carousel. I totally recommend it as a fun night out, not the feeling sick bit, but that's just me, I am sure most of you have stronger stomachs - remember, I spent all those Euros and all that time at Disneyland Paris just queueing up for the others to have a go. But cycling a la Chris Hoy and his mates, up a vertical wall, can't be beat. If you can ride a bike you can have a go. No rant there.

We are now the proud owners of two Brownies. A has graduated from Rainbows to Brownies, and H was very proud to be the older sister of a newbie. H is now a Sixer, of the Gnomes, and A is a Kelpie, which is what I was. Old Brownies feel to their sixes as old Etonians do to their houses. I imagine. With only 24 days left of our Esporta membership, we are using every drip of water in the place for every shower we take, and R and I squeezed in a training half hour in the pool. It was training in self restraint, as the lane swimming lane was busy, ie 6 people when we got there, and the range of velocities was so wide that it was impossible to stay behind people or not lap people. R took the racing line and ploughed up and down the middle, with me using him as a battering ram and staying behind him, apart from when a guy with a vendetta against me insisted on turning right across me and not letting me go through despite me clearly being an Olympic hopeful in training. Then, to bring out the patience of a saint, a chap got in who was so wide he took up most of the lane and took 6 of my lengths to 1.5 of his. The only patient saint tried harder was the Bitterne leisure centre ladies morning, when a lady was doing widths - widths! against everyone else's lengths. Why did she not do half lengths, I ask you? What was she thinking? Maybe she did not have her contacts in or something, lets give her the benefit of the doubt and be charitable. This Sunday our whole family is starting the bargain swimming lessons at the Jubilee Sports centre at the university. I did a couple of the adult sessions 2 years ago when I was just learning crawl, hopefully now they will be able to help me improve.

The children in my class ( 6 and 7 year olds) have been writing recounts about Christmas day, which give an interesting and frank view of life in families in 2010. Either they were all copying each other, or everyone got an Ipod touch for Christmas. I am not sure what that is, but it sounds scary that children that young either want or know what it is when I am not really sure. I think it is like a personal stereo, I had one of those when I was 12 and it was REALLY exciting to listen to tapes of the top 40 from the radio. There were some great bits of oneupmanship, where someone on a table wrote 'I woke up at 4am' and the person next to them woke up at 3am etc etc, until round to one boy who wrote ' my mum got up early with me and drank tea and coffee'. Poor woman, I bet she did, all in one cup, with a slug of brandy is she had any sense. People still seem to eat turkey dinners, although puddings were more of an ice cream variety than Christmas pud. Breakfasts were suitably bad for you, ranging from Candy canes from Santa to chocolate dougnuts, via Lemonade (cloudy). Not all in the one house, you understand. One family were at the Madisson hotel in London for Christmas and had a swim in the pool pre lunch. Their lunch still featured brocoli, so not worth going there if you don't like greens.

Our other piece of work is about the local shops, with a trip to the shops coming up soon. Today we were exploring Google maps.. and I felt like a magician opening a box of tricks, as the children gasped in admiration as I swapped from map to satellite view, and effortlessly navigated the roads of Hamble and showed them the school building and the local Coop and Tescos. Our study is about Tescos and how local shops are suffering, and we have to persuade people to shop locally. The local shops include a post office, so we have one of those as our role play area at the moment, to the great delight of the children who can't wait for their turn to pretend to be the misery guts behind the counter who does everything painstakingly slowly.