Monday, 24 December 2012

Christ alive in Bookham, Bounce 10 000 hours

As usual, I am amazed by the popularity of Jesus in Surrey. We visited the church of St Nicolas in Bookham, and it was in one door, out the other, into a church heaving with humanity. They have four services this afternoon. H was disappointed to not be at the usual Christingle at Holy Trinity Clayage (HTC) and get the orange, so she and R have just shot off up the road to make the last of the 3 services for the day at HTC. It seems that the wealthy bankers of Surrey and their associates have plenty of space in their lives on Christmas eve for the ridiculous story of a teenage couple with nowhere to stay, the birth in a barn and the obscure guests at the baby shower. I wonder how good we are at opening our doors to real pregnant teenagers with nowhere to live today? I attended HTC for a holy communion yesterday, was a peaceful contemporary service that was easy to use as a time to reflect.

Our time with mum and dad has so far involved lots of laughter and playing cards. I have brought nothing with me to do, no work, not even a book to read, although I notice R has brought 'The Element' which I started and then he swiped. As well as Bounce I am reading Bear Grylls' autobiography. Bounce suggests that if you do anything for 10 000 hours over 10 years you can be world class. Does reading count? I notice that I am feeling a bit bereft  without some work to do. If I do 3 hours a day of conscious practice at being an assisant head, for ten years, I should get to world class, according to Bounce by Syed.

 R and I had another go at sailing on Sunday. Every hour we put in we are getting worse, I am sure. We came in a dismal second to last, miles behind the other Darts. We were in a good place at the start, and then R very nicely let someone young do something they should not have done, and from then on we were in their wake and everyone else's. He is extremely nice and always tries not to steal other people's wind, etc etc. We had quite an enjoyable time despite being really really bad. I can understand his niceness, and it tempers my competitiveness, and we end up nearly last. I am sure there is a bible verse in there somewhere - the meek shall inherit the earth - and the competitive shall come last, despite wanting to come first.

Saturday was the Tri club parent and kid swimming gala. R gallantly took part, beating H in the one length free style, and being anchorman for the parents in the parents vs kids relays. I was very impressed with his butterfly! I had no idea he could do it with such style. You could tell he has swum in his youth. H is thinking about taking up swimming seriously, we have told her about the early mornings, 5 days a week, and how she would have to give up other things. It is a huge commitment of time and money, if she wants to do it we will support her, however I am hoping she will settle for being a triathlete, much more sociable hours and less training commitment at the club. And time for other pasttimes and sports.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Olympics secret of eternal youth

Have a new best mate. A mum who came in to see me could not believe I had children, she said I did not look old enough! she then followed it up with a comment that she thought I was just out of college. Oh happy day. This week I have been to two senior school carol concerts. one two many, but both lovely.  And tomorrow is the end of a very long term. Am writing this as do not have the mental energy to do school work that needs doing. managed some ironing . Am reading Bounce by Matt Syed. And heaps of other books including Leadership with moral purpose. which is a kind of step by step guide to being a brilliant head teacher. I realised, dear reader, how neglected you have been but think you will understand that Olympic hopefuls spend time training, not writing. And people like me, learning on a curve close to vertical, not sleeping enough and frankly, not putting in the hours. To become world class as a sailor. Rob is building the boat that has been on the drive all summer, it has a mast now. We are selling a boat to pay for skiing habit. And buying new better hulls for the boat we are keeping as the ones we have are held together with gaffer tape.  R and I sailed together for first time in ages and only 4 boats out meant it was boring. Despite the crazy weather,  which meant it was crazy, not having much competition made it dull. I felt awful afterwards. How could I find sailing in force 5 6 dull. As a crew you look out for other boats. Without any I nearly nodded off on the beats. Rob is determined that the new renovated dinghy is going to be ready for Jan 1 racing. Then I am hanging up my rubber boots for the winter and starting ballroom dancing.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Olympic stars

Today we watched the excitements of 30 seconds of ladies cycling in either direction at Hampton Court. Build up was fab fun, more police motorbikes in the entourage than cyclists in the race. Family Powell came with us and camped in granny mary s garden. we have come up with the idea of camp in my which we need to check no one already thought of. It's such a great idea I do not mind if anyone already has done it! H had an amazing week at international Guide camp this week in the sun. For the sum of £50 she took part in a vast range of activities including rafting, camp fire making, bell ringing for Olympics, It's a knockout, so many crafts I lost count, trip to Paulton's park, camp fire singing, zorbing, magic tricks, and all in the company of 350 girls, including visitors from ten international countries. The weather played ball and she came home smelly and dirty and browner than she went. Having had lots of opportunities myself lthrough guides I am delighted she gets to enjoy better activities than I did. I did caving and abseiling as a Ranger, not done either since but glad I had a go. When I was a guide I did canoeing on the Thames on Monday nights, the weather was always sunny and it was a great experience. Apart from capsize drill. That reminds me that at uni I joined the canoe club briefly but did not enjoy capsize by then. Also learned to play squash and did a sailing course at uni. This was all free, along with pottery. I think you need to pay now. You did not have not capsize in pottery but most of my pots lookekld like they had. I did pottery club at junior school, I made a pot that sank and turned into a Head of a scarecrow. my mum kept it by the front door and once almost used it in self defence when she suspected an intruder. You get a feeling of the quality of my pottery if you know people want to throw it around. Watching the backstroke tonight, I commented 'where would I be now in that race' e.g. Thinking, I would have covered a quarter of a length by the time they finished. However, H knows me better and suggested I would still be fiddling with my leaking goggles.See? it is my equipment that fails me, not my body. Looking at the physiques and ages of lithe Olympic teams, I believe there is still hope, but in the shooting. Or the Greco roman wrestling. That seems to be an inclusive sport, with rolls of flab welcomed with open arms.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Domestic goddess. That's me! Today I swept the floor downstairs, put out the washing twice and sprayed a drysuit wet. I also did some ironing ( shock!) and threw some clothes into the bedrooms of my babies. This academic year, my idea of cooking a family meal has devolved ( opposite of evolved?) to the following checklist:

1. open and close fridge and freezer several times.
2. eat a packet of olives ( not pickled onions, I have 4 jars of those to consume, and I am the only consumer in the house).
3. open freezer again and find several items covered in breadcrumbs.
4. put them in the oven.
5. open freezer again and find a packet of suspiciously bright vegetables, find a pan and unite them, add water.
6... spray everything in gravy or ketchup to enable digestion.
7. snarl off in a huff as forgot to cook anything vegetarian for myself.

Balanced meal - two tins of soup.
Healthy eating - only one takeaway a day.
5 fruit a day - or garlic and a soggy banana in the fruit bowl.

We need a butler, chauffer, au pair, nutritionist....

Previous applicants need not apply. Meanwhile, away from the trauma of domestic challenge, I continue my personal count down to the Olympics with a little mixed cat sailing, ready for the next Olympics  (got to plan ahead!).  In exciting but not death defying windy conditions on a Dart 18 with posh Nick from Whitstable, I managed to stay reasonably well mannered for 6 races, with us consistently scoring mid fleet results until some brilliance in Nick's experienced wind reading mind on the last race managed to score us an 8th place. This was all out of 40, before you ask, not my usual 8th out of 8. Now Nick is a national treasure in the cat sailing world, owning more boats that us and being on the committees of all sorts of sailing related bodies. He is reknowned for turning up late. Even when we gave ourselves plenty of time for rigging and changing, we were still the last boat off the shore. Why? What did he spend all that time in the changing room doing? Determined not to be accused of being a girl who spends too long in the changing room I storm into my wetsuit and bound off down the beach, to find myself pulling up sails etc etc on my own, while, I assume, Nick takes a powernap on the bench in the changing room. I have been in that changing room and I would not hang about a minute longer than vital, for fear of picking up veruccas or worse.  There are serious plans to renovate the green shed at the sailing club into a changing village. I have suggested a massage/therapy room ( complementary service -  perhaps a duty?), outdoor hot tubs and steam room. I suspect we will get a heated towel rail and veruccas.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

I am clearly not very competitive, so the fact that I did not get an official time for my recent sportive doesn't matter at all. After all, it is not a race, just a timed bike ride. However, just for interest, I looked at the times of all the women who did the same distance as me (100km) and noticed, in passing, that IF I had been given an official chipped time ( I am relying on my Garmin plus an estimated ten minutes, five at each cake stop) I would have got the THIRD fastest time out of the 30 women who did the ride. Only 30 women on that one, which is a lower percentage than normal, maybe the name 'The long one' put women off, as R suggested. Even if I am way out on the cake stoppage time, I would still have been third, unless I had spent ten minutes caking, which I never do, I stop, fill up, go. No standing around chatting and letting the lactic acid pool around my knees. If I did that I would never get going again.

Last night I went swimming for the first time in months. I found it tough but loved it, as usual, and had fifteen minutes with the pool to myself - aah the joys of Bitterne. Must swim at least once a week to stand a hope of sustaining my place in the Team GB triathlon reserves.

Did you know, ( I didn't) that 7% of UK population is educated privately, but 50% of Olympians are privately educated?

I am wondering if the car budget would stretch to a BMW Z4. I think that is the one I saw in the car park at Bitterne Leisure Centre. Clearly someone who had got lost, the BLC clientele don't usually rock up in such elaborate machines.

Today R made an amazing curry when we had nothing to eat. He found a squash and onion and three carrots and made a meal. Now we really have no fruit or veg and a desperate need to shop. We have one banana ( brown) some garlic ( in the fruit bowl - why?) and lots of redcurrants ripening in the garden. That would be a vicar of Dibley style dinner.

At school we were coming up with ideas for re using the Olympic venue, known as the Copper Box. This is part of our study of the legacy of the Olympics. Great ideas included an aquarium, an indoor zoo, a B and Q and a child care centre. Maybe all of the above. The children are fascinated by the Olympics and loads of them want to be Olympians, they have been taking up new sports, practising ones they already do and just generally being really fired up by the whole thing. I am really enjoying teaching them. Wahoo!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Triathlon. This week I was asked for advice on it. Managing to compose myself I did not laugh at thought of someone asking my advice on triathlon. Next thing I know, people will ask my advice on how to tie knots. Shallow laugh. Anyhow, disappointed to see that I have not been chosen as a domestique for the Team GB tri team. It is probably because I am not very domestic. Anyhow, it's nice to let someone else have a tri.  Sorry, couldn't resist. I have been thinking about entering another triathlon as my legs seem to be ok running a little, and the cycling is good, and it might give me an incentive to actually go swimming for the first time since about March.

Today I had a great ride, a Wiggle event from the Weald and Downland museum, 65 miles around and about, over to East Meon and back, all more to the east than my usual ramblings, so lovely to see some new territory. West Sussex is picture postcard pretty, all roses round the doors kinda thing. My Garmin tells me I did it in an average speed of 15.5mph, and was cycling for 4 hours and 4 minutes. I will look up my official time later, tried to do it at the event but it kept printing out the time of Len Someone despite me typing in my number, not Len's. I managed to hitch some rides on some groups and got pulled along for about a quarter of the ride, which is always a big blessing. I enjoyed the time on my own too, but the last 5 miles were steep and windy ( that is the wind was blowing) in the wrong ways. There were some truely awesome descents, which were steep and windy ( as in curvy) in the right ways.

Reminded me to tell you all here that I would like  to die on skis or a bike, if I get to some ancient age and am about to be put in a home for old and crazy women, save the money and stick me on a bike and push me down a steep hill. Or better still put me on skis and push me down a steeper hill. Not that I think about it all the time, just on the odd occasion when I am hurtling down a hill and LOVING IT and also having that tincy feeling that I am almost out of control. I should have been a cowboy. Or a domestique on the tour.

Thankfully, I know a great bike mechanic and my bike was serviced yesterday, so the brakes work, and he put new tyres on too, so I was gripping the dodgy potholed roads perfectly. The gears had been a bit clunky lately, but not anymore - awesome changes from small to big ring, hardly noticed it. Although obviously I did the whole thing on the big ring. I just checked my top speed on the Garmin and am a bit disappointed that it was only 36.3mph. If I had kept that up for the duration I would have been back at the start before I left.

At these sporting events full of lycra clad men ( mostly much fitter bunch today, not too many moobs in sight) there is always a massage tent at the end. I do not usually frequent it, as queues too long. However today there was hardly a queue, a very nice man and I handed over a tenner for him to rub my legs. Aaah. As usual I feel guilty for being told I have tight calves and tight quads. Sorry, I know, I don't do my stretches as I should, have not been to Pilates for weeks either, which I know helps but its indoors and the sun and the sky and the sea are outdoors.... He was very nice about it, its my guilt, not his. Breathe it out. And relax.

Yesterday R was asking odd questions like 'if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?' I decided against banoffee pie, and said a rather boring tomato and pasta dish, but now I think of it, my death row dinner, Nachos! Yummy gaucamole and sour cream and salsa and cheese  - mwah! My death row dinner includes banoffee pie for dessert. They are two good but different questions, I like my 'what would your death row dinner be?' question as people look bemused as if I am actually on death row. Which I am not. Although I  understand that how haggard I look after a week with Year 1s could lead you to believe that. You are all too kind, but hair dye is becoming an expensive necessity rather than a luxury, and I need weekly facials, ideally, to avoid 'teacher's frown'.

Now, there is some talk about me buying a small car to make commuting timely rather than a logistical nightmare. Not sure yet, but as I am driving (sorry again!) R mad telling him I like every car I see, he has decided that he will take this matter into his own hands. I have already told him I would like a Rav4 or an Audi TT, however, through this medium I would like to tell him that actually I have always been a big fan of Alfa Romeos. I don't think we have talked budgets yet, which is probably for the best. I suggested a motor bike and was offered a test ride on one to see how I got on, but R said he would rather buy a Rav4 than a motorbike.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Think we've lost them

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I really like this picture from Youth week at Netley. H and R were out there somewhere. I was cosily in the bar. I love the conversation between the beach team along the lines of ' Well they won't be bothering us for a while'. Today was blue sky and wild wind and lots of fun on the Dart, I and R together, concentrated hard and had a good race after a bad start ( on the beach sorting out sail troubles whilst we should have been out getting ready). I did my best to not mess up my part of the deal and we went FAST. Wahoo FAST.  It was fun fast. Sometimes a tincy bit scary fast - just how it should be.  Just had a fierce hour in the garden furiously digging up dandelions, my own uniqe take on 'gardening'.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

WEBEX I have no idea what it is but am delighted to say that I am taking part in one.  I have signed up for a virtual online training course called 'Leading Effective Teams' ( LET). R thinks I already do that ( he should know, being in the Bowen dream team). Whatever, I will learn plenty of things I do not know the names of, if the introductory email is an indicator of what is to come. Maybe LET is all about lots of acronyms.   We have been attempting to synch social calendars for the Bowen whirls, it all gets a bit hazy around mid July. Granny M has been on hand the last couple of days which means the house is clean, and R and I went sailing TOGETHER! Goodness it was not too much of a recipe for disaster. All went well and we are talking.

We have had a crazy couple of days of visitors at school. We had moderators in yesterday, and there was an under fives fun day with a farm attached, plus someone from Hampshire doing an audit of literacy and communication in year R. Would have been easy to mix them up and end up with a turkey assessing our Year 2 writing and a donkey observing Year R. Today I knew we had some job candidates in throughout the day, plus moderators for Year 6, and a swimming pool engineer. It would have been equally comic to have muddled them all up. However I did not know that we had a moderator coming to moderate the moderators. I happened to be in the office when she arrived, and I trailed her around the school asking her comedy questions like whether she knew how to repair swimming pools ( the depth has mysteriously increased by 20cm - not by the bottom getting deeper, in case you wondered) and whether she wanted a job in year 5/6. Anyhow, after school I found out that she was an OFSTED inspector type person, moderating the moderators is higher up than moderators on the food chain! Another teacher asked whether she was moderated and the answer is yes! How comical. They must all keep each other in jobs going round in a huge circle. A bit like our sailing friend Phil, who is a recruitment consultant, recruiting people for the recruitment industry! That sounds like pyramid sales to me.

In reviewing our lifestyle change in September (can't say too much) there is the possibility of me buying a new car. I am not a great fan of two car lives, however I can see that the alternative might not be an alternative, with all the complicated things that R does as a job. So, any ideas on the car of my dreams? Will it be a RAV4 or an Audi? Should I go with the dream car of pre baby days   - my lovely little KA? It needs to be small and economical - hey, a bike would do the job!

Thursday, 7 June 2012


I have looked back over my blog and laughed. I like laughing. I am home alone after being wet and cold and sleepless due to Netley Youth Week being awash with wet and windy weather. My weather report on the board for Wed read 'wet windy wild' and today's I changed it to 'wetter windier wilder'. Tomorrow it should be superlative weather.

R has been busy sailing cats and H has had her first go at windsurfing. I have been delegating jobs such as onion chopping and buying milk. A has been watching DVDs and reading books and painting things.  Quite taxing during the holidays, thank you!

I did not alert you to the arrangement of our next skiing trip, a tradition entered upon by R as soon as we return from the last one. Somehow he has conned the Whatmores with their stinky puppy to come with us. Please don't bring the dog. We are going back to Grundlsee in Austria, where we have been twice before for a ski holiday and a summer holiday, if you have been following for a while. We are reserving both the apartments for all ten of us, and hoping for great low snow in February so we can ski at Loser, which the girls loved. I think after France they will find it a bit pedestrian, but there was another great resort half an hour in the other direction which would suit the red runners, Tauplitz. The girls did not go there as H broke her arm (suspected)  and A was excited about it being her day to have lunch with her ski group, so I have happy memories of R and I skiing together there. R loves organising holidays, or else feigns excitement about trawling the internet for car hire, either way, it seems I just rock up at Gatwick on the right day ( at an early hour, no doubt) and join in. Thank you Mr B!

I have left my family to sleep in the camper van as they wanted to. I have been waking up before 6am, today it was 4am. Can someone tell my body clock its half term?  Someone pointed out that I was drinking a lot of diet coke but the bar has now run out of it ( are those 2 statements linked - should I have used so instead of and?). Maybe its the diet coke, maybe its that rattling mast sound, but whatever it is I have come home to attempt what I call 'a good night's sleep'. Miranda fans will like that last sentence. Good night Miranda fans everywhere.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Another great weekend in the water. It should be on, however, my desire to swim seems to take over during sailing to such an extent that I spend more time swimming than sailing. I did not report earlier on my interesting day on an X boat, garnered as a result of being overly friendly in the Coop, I spent a Saturday in the sun in the Solent on an antique, with two strange men. They were not strange, just strange to me. I  did not have to do much except jump from side to side and hike out to keep the boat balanced. And now and then pull a rope. It was a lovely old boat, nice company and an interesting experience, seeing how the other half lives, drinking Pimms on the pontoon in Hamble. We came last or near last in each of the three races, due to navigational errors. Glad I was not solely reponsible for navigation then! I was interested to see the differences between dinghy sailing and day boats. You can not capsize a keel boat, which sounds appealing. It was VERY slow though...

After an utterly random day with Tim and Neil, it was back to familiar waters this weekend with my fast track Olympic training with George. We had an awesome sail on Saturday, with me learning so much that it hurt my brain, as well as all other bits of me, to such an extent that I struggled to walk on Sunday. You know the machine at the gym, the leg press? Well, I essentially did about 2.5 hours of leg pressing, without a warm up. My thighs could double up as girders on a building site, so strong are they now. I was trying to reduce my tack time (from 15 minutes down to 5 seconds), trying to get the hang of hanging on to the wire, and trying to get the hang of flying the spinnaker, after hoisting it quickly, and then lowering it even quicker. That is quite a lot of learning for one day. Sunday was spent going for a jog ( thought it would help the legs, but made them worse) and then lying down mostly. Actually A and I had a lovely time together doing errands, as due to her broken arm she is off sailing duties and spending her time mostly painting. She spent Monday learning to windsurf with a broken arm. On shore, I may need to explain that for the panicking grannies among you! H crewed for R in 4 races over the weekend, and they did well in a couple of them. She wisely saw the wind yesterday and stayed asure, so R had a go singlehanded again. He can not walk, but he can sail and cycle, so that's ok. He went to hospital last night and had an X ray and may have broken some small freaky bones by his big toe.

Monday and Tuesday we raced. Team GB have nothing to fear. A combination of hapless amateur crewing and misreading of the course we were sailing, with the addition of too much time spent swimming around rather than in the boat, we managed to finish two of the 3 races, and then found that one of those we were over the start line and therefore it didn't count. Hey ho. The upside was a lot of big smiles and some awesome speed, and me actually getting slightly better at a few things.  The traditional Netley vibe lasted all weekend, with a street party, disco, band and finishing with a raffle and prizegiving in a cosy club house with 25 knots of wind outside and mist which cancelled the Red Arrows. H would not let me dance at the disco ( mum you are embarrassing) so I returned to the old people's table and drowned my sorrows in another drink...

We have done 3 nights in campo, and usually I sleep badly for night one, then fab for the rest of the time. However this trip I have been awake way to early in the morning. We came home last night to get warm and dry and despite sleeping in my own bed I still woke before 5. Aargh. My body is still on term time hours, thinking it needs to get up at 6.30 when it doesn't.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

that was a year overdue

That last one about the campervan is really old news, we have had it for a year nearly now and lots of adventures had in it. Beyond my techno understanding why it is now on the blog and wasn't before. I would be no good at the News of the World.
Some of you might know dear Emma, who lives around the corner. She and I rode up the road together, and she told me she did not need to wear a helmet. If you know Emma, you will be thinking the same as I was, wickedly, regarding the sawdust between her ears not needing protecting. However, her logic outwitted me, with the reason given for not wearing one being

'its my sister's bike'. Ah, so the magic bike fairy will protect you from all harm then!

Some exciting developments in our lives, firstly being the onslaught of a camper van on to our drive just as soon as we can liquidate some cash and splash it, on a fine N reg 'valentine special', co owned with the House family. We went and looked around it with Dunc and 3 small Hice, and it was not big enough for all of us, so we are going to take turns in using it. We will have it every weekend all year and they can take a turn for a fortnight every summer. We took our tent down on Monday after it had been up for 16 nights and slept in for 9 of those nights. The weather has been tent weather in the main, and on the one sweaty night we spent at home A announced that she preferred sleeping in a tent because she felt more alive. On my pestering her about not wearing shoes for the millionth time that week, she announced that her feet feel more free without them. Clearly we are raising a hippie. I will let her paint nail varnish flowers all over the camper van, then Emma (House, although reading this next bit you would be forgiven for thinking it was the other one) can have a go at brillo pad rubbing on the paintwork to get the hippie flowers off. Emma memorably took to bird poo with a scouring pad on their brown Skoda, possibly the only time ever in car history that someone scouring the paint off the bonnet of a car has increased its value.

We also seem to have booked ourselves another ski holiday this year, at this rate we might as well live in the alps and be done with it. We are taking the lovely Elise Hayles with us for her first ever time on the piste.

So, in between skiing and camper vanning, we just about have time for sailing and triathlons. No time for cooking or sewing or other dull indoor past times. We did a triathlon very early in the morning on a Sunday, we got up before 4am, and then I slept on the back seat of the car as my start time was way after R's. I was really proud to smash my previous best time by 2 minutes - although it was on a different course, so you can't really describe it as a smash as it is not comparing like with like, but still, a delight to see. Half term. A highlight of the teaching profession, although the reports tend to take hours of time on this one. The main joy of our week was Youth Week at NSC, it was our first time for the girls to take part and somehow I was running the shore based activities and R was instructing. I have never had such enthusiasm and support for running anything. Literally all the parents of the kids on the course (34 of them) did something to help, be it organising races, setting up DVD players, launching boats, instructing,endless hours in the safety boats, or making squash and serving biscuits or ice cream, or organising orienteering. Or cutting up onions. Serving in the bar - we sold a lot of Tango. Filling water bombs. Washing up. Taking money to the bank - we sold a lot of Haribos too! I had jobs for all skills, and was stunned by the enthusiastic take up of them. When people saw me coming, they did not hide away and pretend to be asleep - but actually offered to do more to help! Club members who have no children, or children long past the youth week stage were there too, to cook barbecues, teach people to sail, be OOD and beach master, buy ice cream and organise rounders matches, take official photographs and change toilet rolls. The enthusiasm of the parents for sailing and Netley was closely matched by that of their children. The sun shone throughout, which helped make everything seem like a holiday, and explained why so many people at work asked me where I had been on holiday. Even though we were working hard we had a lot of fun too, got to know a lot of new faces and hope to see them all in the bar and on the water all summer.
In RVCP cafe there is ice cream for dogs. This is ridiculous full stop, however it gets more incredible. the flavour on offer? Steak? Sausage? Rabbit? No. Banana and carrot. What kind of credibility can a dog muster if it stoops to eating food that is more tastebud tickling for a rabbit than a hound? Shame on you, dogs of the world. Unite against this crushing of your dogginess.

We invited the Whitmores round to watch a film and catch up on Friday, all 6 of them. Paul pointed out, nicely, that he has a bigger TV than us. Come round to our's he said. Fair enough, off we trotted, and very big it was too. However, what he failed to tell us in his 'big TV advert' was that he also owns a puppy that emits smells from its derriere so bad that I can only imagine it has been snacking on carrot ice cream and banana strudel. Despite Ang's galant attempts with the air freshener, the air got so toxic  I had to open the front door and take in lungfuls of air to stay alive. Next time someone tells me their TV is bigger than ours ( not hard as ours is the size of an average ipad) I will ask if their dog is less smelly than our dog, and as we do not have a dog and will not until I die, we will win on dog smell. I am still in nasal counselling about the wretched cat and her pooing habits that got me down. No way am I going to fall for all that cute puppy nonsense.

Today the girls were entered for a triathlon run by their club, Chapel Tri. There was some debate over the type of tyres to be used ( cycling is on grass at children's events) so yesterday Claire and I took the girls over to check it out. After that, we let them have a play at the nearby park, during which A took a fall off a zipwire, and sat with me limp and pathetic with a poorly wrist. I placated her by buying her a bandage, giving her calpol and suggesting she watch a DVD, then we went to the sailing club to meet R. We had a walk, a pub dinner ( food at the Prince Consort is too greasy, but it has a nice atmosphere for a drink) a lovely walk back when we saw a deer, but no crocs. A slept badly, but she does have a lot of nightmares at the moment. This morning she still complained but we jollied her along and got her in her tri kit, off to the tri, numbered, then R said he really thought she was bad and maybe a trip to casualty was a good idea. She did look grey, so we drove off to Winchester, leaving R and H to prepare for the race, R was marshalling. The service at A and E at Winchester was amazing, within an hour and a half we had been pain killered, examined, x rayed and plastered. She has a fine crack across her bone, radius I think, maybe ulna, can never remember which is which. And amazingly, we got back with 5 minutes to spare so we got to watch all of H's race! So, A's debut race will have to wait until next month, when she is entered in the New Forest tri.

A slighly random story we heard last night is that deer from Netley swim across Southampton water to get to the New Forest. Why don't they take the Hythe Ferry? Apparently because of the M27, the area of land between the Itchen and the Hamble rivers is essentially an island from a deer's point of view, and the only way off is by sea. Hmm. Seemed a bit like an April fool. And it is May.

Monday, 14 May 2012

There are a few bits of me that do not ache. Do something scary every day. Today's scary has been admiring my bruises, getting up and down stairs unaided and generally breathing without too much pain. I do not expect sympathy, as these wounds are utterly self inflicted, the harvest of a race out in a dinghy in windy weather, hanging off the edge on a wire and falling in too much. That was yesterday's scary. We had an amazing start and a fantastic first lap and a half. Then I noticed someone else capsized and thought we should join them. From then on, in a catalogue of errors I could write a book on, I managed to keep on tipping the boat the wrong way, thus landing myself in the water many times more often than is necessary or useful. At any point of sailing I can achieve a capsize, where others have tried and failed, I will succeed! Yikes. My body must have gone into some kind of retreat to protect itself from me. I spent the morning on a mild and pleasant cycle ride with Kev and Lucy from Esporta days, great to see them both, along with a few more intrepid cyclists that Kev has recruited to his merry band of outdoor training enthusiasts. Kev aplogised that the cycle was neither long nor challenging physically, but believe me, it was not necessary to be either with the afternoon I then endured. I love sailing, I really do, I remember when I thought that any sport that involved falling over and hurting yourself was ridiculous. Now, my two favourite sports involve just that! Although I tend to stay upright on my bike most of the time.

Today was cancer free day, a half day off work to go to the hospital and find out that I am fine. Still. 4 years on. Thankfully, my consultant appreciates the cost to me, her, and ultimately you, dear tax payer, of taking a teacher out of class ( thus paying a supply), and having a consultant oncologist tell me I am fine ( probably a nurse, or even an admin person could achieve this, and be paid less per hour). In fact, a text message would do the trick and could be automated and cost the NHS even less. Then doctors could doctor and nurses could nurse and I would be happy to see someone ( anyone!) every 5 years for them to prod my neck, and in between I will give them a call if I am worried. So, we have come up with something more cost effective, for which I feel sure you will thank me.

One irony that amused me was the people at the hospital smoking next to no smoking signs, and outside the windows of the Cancer research unit. Oh, how I laughed. Well, I would have done, could I have drawn breath in the smoky twilight zone that I was walking through.

I bumped into some Christians I slightly knew in the past at the hospital. They told me the name of the church they now went to, and the name of the pastor there ( as if I should know him as he is famous!), then asked me if I had heard of another ( I assume ) famous pastor, from the God channel. No, sadly I hadn't. I have no idea of who on earth they are on about. With my new found catholic bias, I don't think any pastor is more famous than the pope. And he is not on the god channel! Anyway, I mention this because it upsets my 'priesthood of all believers' mentality to have people hopping churches to hear the next big thing. I do not know that the RC church is that hot on the priesthood of all believers either. Still, got to give it a go.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

my new training pal

I have a new training partner. She is quite like me, in fact, alarmingly so. She is better at swimming and running than me but we are about the same at cycling. We have started doing 'Training Tuesdays' together. Last week we did a great little sunny evening cycle around Durley, and only had to cut it short due to a damaged gear cog which necessited that calling of an excellent bike mechanic. Today we went to the Quays for a swim but the lanes were really packed, so we went in the leisure pool and played follow my leader instead. I am delighted to present to the world the mini me super triathlete, Hannah Bowen! She and A did the Hamble Aquathon on Saturday, unfortunately their parents were not there to witness the spectacle of A's first ever multi sports event. She swam and ran all the way. H did really well with her swimming, since last year's event she has moved up an age category and had to swim an  extra 100metres, which she achieved in just an extra 40 seconds. Obviously she did not do the extra 100m in 40 seconds, it was an average, although 100m in 40 seconds would be record breaking time, as the world free style 100m record is 46.91 seconds. That is 4 lengths of Bitterne at an average of less than 12 seconds per length and keeping that up for 4 lengths. Can you imagine that? Awesome. 

Now, the reason the parents were not there to witness the girls' foray into multisports as we were living the high life at the Norton Park Hotel, near Sutton Scotney, near Winchester. I cycled home from there yesterday in the rain, through Owslebury. If I cycle through Owslebury with someone else it does not rain. If I cycle there on my own, it does. Now what is that all about? I took an odd route to avoid Winchester, as it is not pleasant to cycle through a city when you want to be in the countryside. Norton Park is a pleasant hotel, made all the more pleasant when you get a bargain room rate. The wedding we went to was everything a wedding should be, with the right mix of comedy grandads, disco tracks and free drinks, along with a tasty chocolate brownie pudding, champagne and random very slightly related people to chat to. Fab fab fab, we had a ball and were delighted to be invited. Thank you, Anna and Chris.

We saw the other Chris and Anna too, on Monday at the Old Chemist, at a goodbye picnic for Steve and Elaine Jones. For reasons only they understand, they are moving away from Southampton and to N Ireland, which I hear is lovely. Steve has been around in Southampton Vineyard since before we were, ie pre 1997, so we have known and loved him for a long time. He is a legend in the musical / engineering worlds, a comedy genius and utterly unaware of his brilliance. I have very happy memories of a church group, including Steve and I, driving around Washington DC in a minibus, with he and I driving everyone else beyond the patience of saints with our bad jokes. Another great memory of that trip was Matt and Di arguing over which restuarant to eat in, to such an extent that for some reason we ended up eating in the back of a nightclub style bar. Oh the fun we had! Elaine came into Steve's life some time later than 1997 and sadly her being part of the Southampton picture has kind of overlapped with us moving to be a mini church of nutters in Thornhill, so the relationship with her has not been what it might have been. Although her mince pies are to die for, and we spent a happy day smelling wee in a convent in Portsmouth together. Steve and Elaine, we salute you, we will miss you and we will come on a cycling holiday to Northern Ireland, even though you have not actually invited us.

Apart from having fun, I do still go to work, I have come up with a new technique for managing my class which involves working them so hard they fall asleep. I had three children asleep on Friday afternoon. I think they were ill too. Or bored? Anyway, three sleeping children means they are safe and happy and those are two of my three criteria for successful days in a primary school. A good couple of decades ago, infant classes had beds or quiet corners where children could have a nap, and I remember all of us having a quiet time after lunch with our heads on our desks, at junior school. Ha! i don't think that would go down well with Ofsted. I heard on the radio that Ofsted criticisized a secondary PE lesson for 'many children not doing anything' - the school challenged the grading and pointed out that the lesson observed was a cricket match, and the children involved were fielding. Love it.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Three weekends in a row of sailing is awesome for this time of year. And this weekend was ( drum roll) the first camper van weekend of the year - I have re named it the Devil Van on account of how difficult I find it to drive with any kind of style. In it I feel like a battering ram. The engine is so noisy and uncomfortable with itself (or me?) that even in top gear it sounds like it is on standby to generate electricity for most of the southern hemisphere. It probably uses up the carbon quota of a small country in South America.

I am very excited to announce some signficant progress towards my Olympic goals. First, I bravely ( do something scary every day!) took part in a weekend of learning to sail better in (on?) the Sprint 15 with 4 other sailors of similar quality to me. So similar that I won some races! What a great feeling. So, that is step one on the Olympic campaign. Then this weekend I took part in some club racing, on Saturday ON MY OWN and finished a race. I came last, or 16th, but I DID IT! There was a lot of very calm weather over the weekend, so the races were slow and difficult, it is hard to find the wind and use it when it is not there. Yesterday was great fun as I played in the tippy dinghy rather than the flatter cat, and spent time hanging off the trapeze wire and generally attempting to leap about in a manner better suited to a gazelle than a human. I was sort of getting the hang of the upping and downing of the kite, and I can almost rig and de rig our boat (15) by myself. This is huge progress, I promise. Step 2 complete.

Then today it was raining, so I continued my campaign by watching you tube videos of sailing experts showing you how to do various gazelle like moves in under a second. One which made me laugh was the olympic ladies in their 420 boat they are utterly brilliant and it made me realise just how painfully bad it must have been for my lovely sailing pal Bethan to sail with me at Pwhelli, I knew so little and she is used to so much! I now know which is port and which is starboard and what to do about it and when. So that is step 3 and now I just have to hang around sailing up and down in Weymouth at the right time in August and I might get noticed and stand in for someone who has a cold or something.

As today it has just been raining horizontally I have stayed indoors and done so much tidying and chucking stuff away and cleaning stuff up that it has made my hair curl, in between watching the sailing video tips and entertaining the Crandons for a cream tea. My hair did not go straight in between incidentally as I realise my sentence construction might have made it seem like my hair can straighten and curl at will. Sadly that is not the case although it would be interesting to go on Britain's Got Talent with such talented hair.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

I have been OFSTEDED. Last weekend I worked ridiculously long hours that upped the average for all mankind forever more. I did the same on Mon and Tue and was very very anxious throughout. I can not tell you how we did as the government need a fortnight to write and read the report first. I can tell you that I am smiling. This weekend I did a couple of hours work on Friday night after leaving work at 6, and plan to do a couple of hours tonight, but have had a huge 8 hours off in between, which is wonderful, and I have sat in the sun and read the paper. And done the ironing, cleaned the kitchen, done some washing and caught up with home admin that I need a PA to do. I also went on a bike ride ( shock!) and watched TV ( gasp!). One lovely thing about OFSTED week is that I have been out for lunch twice at the end of it, once with the lovely Bethan as her treat and once with the lovely Pippa to actually spend time socially rather than being constantly working together. Both days I went to the Flying Boat, the new and popular cafe in Hamble which is doing a roaring trade. I won a party there which we took during half term, the girls invited 10 friends each and did a make your own pizza party, it went really well and I recommend Ian and the Flying Boat to you all! If you want a party for your children with a difference, he does make your own pizza or cupcake decorating parties and is very good with children, a natural teacher.

Yesterday on my DAY OFF, I also took the girls to the Science day at the Uni, where we watched the amusing Ian B Dunn in his Science and Magic show, an entertaining and inspiring introduction to science for any young mind. I bet he is not an OFSTED inspector! Actually, it is my ambition to be an OFSTED inspector after I retire from being Secretary of State for Education. I will have to go with the upping of the retirement age to fit in all these ambitions, damn it!

For free, I have had 3 sessions of 'bowen technique' - attracted by the name, both Rob and I have trotted along to see Ancki in Hamble, who is a trainee Bowen therapist. The technique seems to involve lying down a lot in her treatment room and then now and again she wiggles a bit of you. I think that just lying down would be a valid therapy that I would be pleased to put my name to.

I feel very very grateful to have a lovely family, the girls are doing well in everything they do and although we have the odd argument they generally live in a fairly harmonious way. H was complimented yesterday by one of her Tri coaches for being delightful to train, never moaning and always hard working. She has got a place at St Anne's school for September, so we embark upon a new stage of life, getting ready for having a girl at secondary school, at a girls' catholic secondary school at that, not what I would have thought we would choose, and well outside of my own experience. I think she will love the 'academic' side of secondary school and we had better start saving for the uniform! I am just about to book the girls in to take part in the club triathlon and aquathlon and a couple of other local tris for H. A thinks two will be enough for her first year competing.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

At school we were sorting 2d shapes according to number of sides and whether they have curved or straight sides. It was a really good lesson ( well I was enjoying it which says a lot). With my most able little maths minds, I was moving them on to thinking about the intersection between two groups ( a la your classic Venn diagram) and what could fit in the intersection between not curved and curved ( we found a semi circle fitted our needs but I appreciate beyond the elementary level of maths this might not work). Anyway, in trying to explain the point of an intersection I split the two hoops up and said - what if this was boys and this was girls - would there be an intersection and what would be in it? Immediately the 'tom boy' announced that she would go in the intersection and another girl piped up with 'and a camp boy'. I DO NOT MAKE THIS UP - out of the mouths and all that! As part of this learning about shapes I went on a game which said that circles have 0 sides. I always thought that a circle has 1 side but I am wrong. R looked it up on the interweb and it has between 0 and infinite sides. That is the kind of helpful thing that really makes maths accessible to 5 year olds ( and their teachers). Anyway, apparently if you insist that sides are straight it is easy to see why a circle has 0, but what about a semi circle?

Home from all that head boiling in maths to find H has been given a year 9 maths test for homework. Really got my brain cells bubbling, thinking about algebra for the first time since I was 16, which begs the question why MOST people do such maths at school - when most of us use it for things like calculating which pizza is cheaper and whether the bargain really is a bargain. She had to do some pointless things with graphs about the Eurovision song contest, and she coped really well, only needing help with a few questions about negative numbers. She has a very strong mental map of numbers and relationships between them but it all unwinds for her when you go below 0. I am not sure that my image of it being like a mirror of positive numbers was helpful. But that might just be because I am her mother and therefore know very little, despite her love and cuddles, I am a maths no hoper, spending my days with 5 year olds adding and subtracting to 20 and not doing tricky things like she does.

I spent Wednesday dressed up as a fairy godmother of sorts, and had a fabulous day role playing fairy tales and eating a fairy tale banquet for lunch and acting out a comedy version of the Enormous Turnip for the children for the entertainment. We invited parents in at the end of the day to read Fairy Tales and had a big response and a fantastic day.

Half term now - time to do things like wash my hair, cut my toe nails and moisturise. Just the once.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

"Enraged Cow Injures Farmer with Ax"
"Two Sisters Reunited after 18 Years in Checkout Counter"
"New York Police Kill Man with Hammer"

I like those kind of sentences.

Today we went on a family bike ride, it was cold and sunny and windy, A was a bit moany and went back the short way for hot chocolate with R at the pub but H stuck with me for the longer loop and I got to take her down my favourite lane in all the world for cycling, which is Greenwood Lane/Alma Lane in Durley. I was delighted to take her out there and for her to not moan. too much. Really proud of her, we earned our hot chocolate and cup of tea at the Farmers home pub when we got back.

I am trying once again to teach my left ankle, knee and hip to run, and am doing a 'run your first 10k' programme and until today have stuck with it - that's over a week of regular running! I have just today finished Kelly Holmes' autobiography, which is incredibly inspirirational - I had no idea that she had lived in a children's home as a baby as her mum's parents disowned her when she had a mixed race baby. To go from a start like that to all that she achieved is amazing, really awesome and a brilliant read. Another awesome book I have read recently is Skellig by David Almond, it is a children's book for H's reading age, it is truly original and gives you shivers all the time you read it with what it might be and what it might be about.

I have spent a lot of time with my wonderful nephews lately, and am enjoying being with a Year 1 boy on a 1:1 and seeing what kind of things interest them and make them tick! We seem to have a routine which involves milk shakes at the baptist church coffee morning as a main feature. Bookham is a great village ( that's why its called Great Bookham!) with charity shops worth travelling 70 miles for.

Last night I went out for a meal at the local Holiday Inn, which I won at a school raffle. The food was good pub fare and the prices were similar, I was pleasantly surprised and am considering it as a venue for our staff Christmas do. Remind me when it comes around!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Shocked to find out I have a fan who reads this missive, I have decided to continue my quest for perfect punctuation on the interweb, so cross everything and hope I have reason to insert a ;. Hi Nick. Glad you still with me. Today it rained a lot and R went sailing, which I guess is as good a thing to do as any on a rainy day. I cycled 17 miles, mainly before it rained, and got the ferry back from Warsash which always makes me feel like I have been to sea. It was low tide and I had to take my shoes and socks off to walk along the slippery bank to get on the ferry, as cycling cleats do not mix with mud, slime and seaweed. Yesterday was my first cycle for a long time, I did 30 miles, 10 of them with the lovely Sarah and Emma, who are sedate and stop to blow their noses and adjust their clothing solutions. It is nice to have company and they are very keen. I like cycling alone for thinking, but sometimes you want to talk and not be on your own, so it is great to have the option of people now and again. I really felt the difference in my fitness since I have not cycled very far since October, which was the last time I did 80 miles. I am excited about the new year, booking in for some sportives and upping the hours on the bike somehow ( a turbo in the classroom might work?). I have also been keenly swimming these past few days, mainly to minimise the effects of Christmas pudding which tend to make me take on the shape of a Christmas pudding within seconds of eating it. I am working on my kick which is very weak. H did a trial time trial a couple of days ago and swam 400m in about 9.30. That would be a good time for me, she is getting on really well with the swimming, mainly because she does more of it than I do. A can now swim a continuous 100m, so our quest for family domination of the swimming, triathlon, sailing and athletics at this year's Olympics seems to be on track. Still not had a call from Team GB but I totally understand that they need to let down some of the people who are smugly sure of their place in the team to make way for some wild cards like us. R is doing a marathon in April, and to help him on his way has booked in for a half marathon in February. Why not do the half twice and forget the whole one, I say?

On to the skiing. Team GB is not known for cleaning up in the medals department at the winter Olympics, but again, that is set to change as team Bowen take on the might of the alpine countries. I am particularly good at the chair lift lift - using one arm to pull up the bar so you can get off a chair lift. Other important winter sports events include drinking the 'vin chaud', carrying two sets of skis to the ski school every morning and the all important bumping down on your bum on the icy road event. If only we had a video camera we could have kept 'You've been framed' in business for weeks and weeks. We were very impressed with the snow, laid on nice and thick, had snowed for about ten days before we arrived, and a few more days whilst we were there. The resort, La Plagne, is amazing, it has every possible need for skiing families sorted, mainly including a huge number of blue runs, some a reddish tinge of blue, but still blue enough for me to get down without too much trouble off piste. I do like to get up close to nature, and loved skiing down the 'Narnia' runs, lower down the mountains into the valleys, with tree lined pistes leading to some exciting moments with close ups of bark and branches, a little more off piste than anyone else in our group. A is a speed freak, and the red run at the top of the mountain called 'Kamikaze' sounds right up her street. H is brave and mastering the art of turing gracefully, although both girls did not enjoy their ski lessons much this year, and seemed to plateau a bit in their skills. We had some lovely family skiing in the afternoons, so much fun to be with them out in the mountains and see them be so brave and try anything, if any faults lie in the Bowen girls it is in being too confident when faced with a steep slope that has mountain goats fainting, they just storm on down.

We stayed in La Plagne 1800 and I would utterly recommend the resort, it is the most pretty and villagey of the La Plagne centres. Next year we are considering going to Champagny en Vanoise, as we skied that side of the mountain and enjoyed it, and you can ski the whole area from there too. We are going back to La Plagne for sure, and also interested in Les Arcs which looks even bigger and better. We have already set out budgets for the months ahead and planned in our savings to make skiing a possibility for 2013 as everyone likes it so much.

Somehow despite the pay freezes, higher costs of everything and expensive habits we have in sporting life we seem to have found some money to pay for holidays! Don't smoke, don't drink, don't even go to a posh gym anymore so the money all goes on boats and bikes. Wiggle caught up with me eventually, as my time as a Cycling Plus celebrity is long gone, and I had to pay for the bike in the end. Still, I got a brand new bike for less than half the cost and would never have bought such a great bike which has given so much joy. Still got it, still going on my lovely Verenti Millook, I don't know what other bikes do better but this one works for me.

Christmas - we got back to Gatwick on Christmas eve, after a long early morning journey which involved both girls being sick within seconds of each other on the coach, followed by an hour and a half of sitting on a coach smelling of sick. We were popular. So, by the aftenoon of Christmas Eve we were ready for Christingle action, and Holy Trinity Claygate does Christingle on an industrial scale - 3 services, 560 oranges speared and banded in red. R and H went back on Christmas morning, when they reported that the church, foyer and church hall were full to bursting for the rendition of classic carols, R's dream church meeting - belt out carols and go home. Clearly Jesus is fashionable among the rich and well manicured of Claygate. One of my friends, Lara, with whom we spent a lovely evening eating curry and playing rummycub, remarked that they had missed us at the Thornhill Christingle. Which was interesting, as we are nearly always in Claygate. Next year we will hang about down here and go for St Christophers.

We were very well catered for in Thames Ditton, staying with Granny Mary and being spoiled with breakfasts of profiteroles etc etc. No wonder I look like a pudding. The cake she bought from M and S is as good as any home made one and I strongly recommend buying one from there next year, despite my embargo on M and S after the incident with the combat trousers. Pop pop taught us how to play whist, or something like whist, when you do tricks and choose trumps. We have also had a good few sessions of Scrabble, one of those things you have to do when it is dark outside and you can't go cycling. Paul Whitmore somehow beat me at Scrabble a few years ago, despite not knowing the rules, so we had a rematch and I managed to beat him, narrowly. Rob won, however, in his irritating fashion. The irritation comes from how frequently he beats me at Scrabble.

Another great social day of lolling about was spent with the Sious and the Taylors, when the main event was the 'how much can you eat?' contest which went on all afternoon. We have played Who's in the bag? with the Whitmores, as New Year's Eve compells us to, although we didn't get around to it on the 31st so they came over today to play it instead. I use it as an educational and feminists device, selecting female figures from sport and history who are inspirational in some way, to counteract all the other pop stars and cartoon characters put in the bag by children. Today everyone struggled with Victoria Pendleton. I mean, I might have spelt her name wrong, but everyone knows her, surely? No. Only Rob and I had heard of her. Similar fate awaited Emmeline Pankhurst and Zola Budd, Joan Collins and Judi Dench, who had the dishonour of being described as sounding like dentures, rather than based on her awesome dramatic art. Joan Collins was in my head as I heard an interview with her the other dau, in which she said she thought she could have been more successful in life if she had the security of knowing her parents adored her.

As I am getting older and know more dead people than alive ( I guess the tipping point has to come sometime) I tore out the year's obituary feature from Granny Mary's paper to go through it with Hattie, as she and I like to keep up to date with deaths. I noticed that Elizabeth Taylor died without telling me. I just need to fix some tea and low calorie treats up for Hattie and I to enjoy whilst we figure out who the famous jazz people who have died are. Lots of jazz musicians die in the Times. Talking of jazz, my school Christmas 'do' was at the Concord club in Eastleigh, a place you only go once, unless you are over 75 and need helping on and off the dance floor, or if you like the feeling of a meat market night club, but for the elderly. Getting to to loos was like running the gauntlet past the bar full of old men with roving eyes. The Michael Buble (sp) tribute act was probably ok but a long way away and I only know one of his songs so a bit wasted on me, especially as he did that one first. No, not my kind of place, thank you. The Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hamble, however, won top marks for a brilliant sailing club 'do' - my first time attending and I loved it, the food was fine, I won something in the raffle, the company was great and I don't remember much else!

I have been spectacularly lucky with raffles this year, winning the first prize in my school raffle, which is a party for 20 children at a cafe. Tempting though it was to take 20 of my class, I am going to let the girls choose 9 friends each. I also bid successfully in the school silent autcion for a meal for two at a hotel somewhere, to which I am treating lovely Marie, my long suffering and gifted LSA. I have actually been doing some work for school today, and yesterday, and I think I am all the better for having had a complete fortnight off not thinking about work at all, my vision for phonics is fresher than ever, even when faced with this sentence:

When observing a child writing, the question the practioner should be asking in relation to Phase 5 is: Is the child applying his/her phonic knowledge and skills, including knowledge of alternative prounciations, as the prime approach to reading unfamiliar words, including those that are not completely decodable?

Well, I should say not, if you did not understand that! Are you secure in phase 5? I think the question is really 'can the child have a good try at new words they come across?' but that does not sound so complicated and technical. Teaching children to read and spell is technical and complicated in some ways, and one of the most exciting and rewarding things you can do in life, in my opinion. Seeing children want to read, choosing books for pleasure, using reading as a tool in everyday life, is what makes is worth getting up in the mornings in term time. Skiing, cycling, scrabble, card games and eating too much with friends and family fill that void nicely during the holidays. However, if I were a millionaire, I don't think I could do that all winter and would miss going to work with children. I would probably go back to being part time if I were a millionaire, though, as I miss my long bike rides with tea stops in Hambledon and Bishops Waltham, and also I have had to shelve the tennis and it would be nice to try that again on weekdays. I would get a cleaner again, for sure, as I spent 5 hours the other day listening to Radio 4 and cleaning the kitchen. Granny M has threatened to come down about once a month and clean the house, so I am keeping it really clean for her arrival. I am really pleased at her offer as I hate the messy carpets and cobwebs but am only here in the dark and not usually in the mood for cleaning in the dark.

For a while our radio in the kitchen had a demonic presence and would only stay tuned to Premier Christian Radio, even if you turned if off and on again and pressed the button to find other stations it only let you listen to Premier. After an exorcism we can now listen to The News Quiz, Just a minute and The Archers, praise God! I did enjoy some of Premier, the interviews were interesting and some good old hymns to sing along to. Its just the adverts which clearly suggest I am not at all in the profile of listeners - adverts for immigration lawyers in Brixton, a denture centre in New Cross and a conference for women making a difference at home. I can not make a difference at home. The dirt is too deep and only Granny Mary has the power.