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.