Sunday, 24 April 2016


Friday was an exciting day for many reasons, with reason to celebrate. One thing that happened at about 8.45pm when the day was nearly over and I didn't think it could get any better was my contribution to the apprehending of a shoplifter in Tescos. Idling by the tills, whilst my family hunted for bison and boar, I noticed a lady with a large and unusually highly situated pregnancy bump. She would have been carry triplets for sure. She was walking very fast towards the exit, whilst also carrying a large bag. Pregnant women do not walk like that.  I told the man on the tills about her and he rushed after her, and outside the store he managed to retrieve a variety of items from her. I have no idea what happened next except that the young man came and found us as we were leaving and suggested I head back to the wine aisle and choose a bottle on them to say thankyou.  Wahoo! OK then, if I must! Well done Tesco.  We finished the evening with Prosecco, nachos and two episodes of Fawlty Towers. You don't often get a finer evening than that!

Today whilst walking in the fine neighbourhood within which I reside, I walked along a road where the neighbours had all clearly got together and decided to have a homage to IKEA and B and Q in their front gardens. I counted a computer desk, a microwave, two sofas and three arm chairs, a shed roof, a fridge  and a boat all carefully displayed in front gardens. It was quite a treat.  We have been adding to the ambience of the area ourselves lately (no boats at the moment) with lots of full garden refuse bags, as we are employing a local gent to try to make something decent of our sadly neglected garden. He is working hard on reducing the brambles, general weeds and so on, It is a huge task but he is dauntless.

In other news, I have done an immense amount of laundry this weekend, blessed by sunny and windy weather ( I know it would suggest sailing is the thing) I have washed and dried and even ironed almost every item made of fabric in the house. I took the duvet off Rob in bed to get going on washing it - which reminded me of the week I started Brownies aged 7.  I had to do a good turn every day, and decided on the Sunday I would change my mum and dad's bed. However, I started the job before they had got up.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Chemistry lecture and Physics A - university and inspiration

Today I returned to a large lecture theatre that I had not visited in half of my life. Half of my life. I was last there when I was 21. You can figure out my age now for yourself! Physics A is a big lecture theatre, and in my first year at Southampton Uni I had to take 'Ocean Science and Man's Use of the Seas', course code OC104.  Yep! I hear you cry. I did it too! It seemed to be a compulsory module for all students. Regardless of whether you were at uni studying physiology, computer science or cupcaking making, you were on that course. The other big one was Ecology - in a huge lecture theatre with Rory Puttman a memorable, scary lecturer. Anyhow, you will note the 'man's' use of the seas - this was in 1991, and clearly feminism had not reached the Oceanography department at Southampton. 

So - how did I come to be in Physics A today? I saw an event on eventbrite, whilst booking a vegan feast evening for a group of friends (another story) and ordered 3 free tickets for A, myself and a friend of A's. A bit of a scurry round for her to find a friend suitably interested. We thought the lecture was about astronomy, so her friend came along on that premise. However the friend, whose parents were at uni at the same time as me, incidentally,  her mum studying chemistry, was eminently perfect for coming to what turned out to be a chemistry lecture.  The visiting lecturer,  Nick Barker, works at the Uni of Warwick as a scientist who goes out to schools to inspire children to do sciences, so far as I can tell from his humble introduction. He spent 12 years teaching Science in secondary schools so is well qualified to do so. And he was great! Funny, chatty, emotionally vulnerable (I always worry that this experiment might go wrong...) able to explain oxygen, combustion, fuel cells, burning hydrogen, how to make liquid oxygen, and along the way answering the question why does the flame of a candle look yellow? I enjoyed learning stuff that I already had learned a long time ago when I wasn't really interested. It was a little electrical jolt for the memory - half my life to jolt back through, remember - and it did the job well. He was passionate about Science, an effective communicator and teacher and I would have loved to be in his class at school.

For a few years, a few years ago, we took our girls along to the annual Uni open day. It is great, and is coming up in March and you should go, even if you don't live in Southampton and don't have children. It is full of interesting and hands on Science, and passionate people telling you what they are studying, researching, teaching. I think it is great and am currently conjuring up a selection of children to take along myself.  There is nothing more inspiring than seeing inspiring people inspiring children. What a joy!  That is what made today so good - the joy of being inspired.

Thinking back to OC104 - there were some inspiring bits  - and some awful bits. There were a series of lecturers from a variety of disciplines. I remember learning about El Nino  - and remember what I learned. I remember learning about deepwater ocean life. I remember learning about the deepwater current systems and how Antarctic ocean swirls made the rest of the world go round.  I have not had much use for this learning in my life - I knew what a tsunami was when one was reported on the news - but I haven't used that learning a whole load in this last half of my life.  

I don't think I had been to a university until I went to look around on Open days. To be honest, I don't think I knew there were any other than Oxford or Cambridge until I was in 6th form.  I had no idea what they did or what they were for. I have been blessed to bring my children up in a university city, with a really good, research based university a few miles away. H has been to a few events there during her time at secondary school. I have dragged them along to the family days a good few times. They both swim at the pool there with their school. I have taken H to see Shakespeare in the uni theatre. We went to a fair few children's plays and such like at the theatre when they were younger. We went to a schools music festival in the concert hall there. We did swimming lessons there. University has been normalised for my children in a way that it wasn't for me - different time, different place, different life.  I find it inspirational every time I walk onto the campus. I envy the academics who get to do that every day! What a joy  - to be inspired, to work in a place of discovery and see people inspiring others every day!

I guess that is a bit of my dream of my ideal school too - on a mini scale - but that sense of purpose, of study, of finding out  new things, of sharing that learning with others.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Warmth and belonging plus gelatine buns

After the wasteland, tundra existence we were suddenly transported to tropical climes when the gas engineer came and fitted the part to the boiler. Without a care, coats were cast into the cupboard and normal garb was resumed. It were right good. And for a very reasonable price of just £54.  Talking reasonable, R has found a new garage to pal up with, called Hutfields of Botley. He likes making new garage friends.  I think they are most reasonable, and the Volvo has been there today for new brakes, after new tyres last week, it will be feeling spoilt. 

I had a significant spiritual experience on Sunday as I joined a new religious order. I know it sounds like a band from the 80s, it is actually Hopeweavers, where I have been spending many a quiet day (some people think that me and a quiet day is a paradox) for the last 6 or so years. I love going there and the ethos and it seemed quite a straightforward decision to write my rule of life and try to abide by it, so I went along to be sworn in on Sunday at St Luke's in Hedge End. the bishop came and seemed overjoyed with the whole thing, and it was really moving to stand up and declare my allegiance and oath of fealty etc. I very nearly cried.

In fat club news, since getting to my target (again) I have been weighed weekly, not always at my regular class, sometimes I have had to dot around to other classes to fit in with crazy work schedule. Anyhow, this week, I stayed for a bit at the late version of my normal class. Well, I lost 0.5lb but am over my target zone so had to pay. The stand in compere asked me what I needed help with and I said biscuits. She suggested I try fat and sugar free rich tea. There can not be anything left in a rich tea apart from flour. So, in effect, a kind of dried mouthful of flour seems to be suggested fare.  Have not tracked them down (they sell them in Veals) and am not planning on doing so anytime soon.

Reading - I have been reading about my Antarctic hero, Tom Crean, again, in the book about him, Unlikely hero. I am utterly besotted with him. He escaped from so many icy disasters whilst looking after puppies and saving the lives of all around him, I really find it hard to believe no one has made a film about him.  I am now reading Auggie and me, a follow on book from Wonder, which is an amazing children's book which everyone should read, possibly starting with Donald 'Trump'. Such a good surname. Wonder is about a boy with a facial abnormality. How he is treated at school. How bullies bully him and friends stick up for him. How he is a friend. It is a top read and I recommend it utterly to you all. Along with Tom Crean the hero of the ice.

A has to put a gelatine bun in her hair on Sunday - can't wait for the putrid fat smell of hot gelatine as we smear it on to her glistening hair. The things people do for sport! I don't know why synchro swimmers can't wear swim hats for convenience, instead of dripping pig fat over their heads. We are looking forward to seeing a spectacle in the water, and I believe at least one granny is attending which is great - who knows, they might be inspired to take up the hot dripping sport for themselves!

Monday, 23 November 2015

Coldness immersion heaters and devils

We are living in a post apocalyptic state, something akin to the Hunger Games, in a house with no heating.  Yesterday, with a rather sore head and sides, I spent more time than usual in an arm chair, next to the coal and wood fire, burning the old piano rather like Billy Elliott's dad had to during their apocalypse (AKA the Thatcher years).

Last night the girls slept in the same bed with one electric radiator keeping their room warm.  I slept with the electric clothes airer. Which is a line usually only found in those rather cheap Sunday papers.  This 1970s style of life has been inflicted upon us by the chilly northern wind of late, and serves me right for being smug and not turning the heating on earlier, as we may have then found out it was broken before we needed it.  We do have something called an immersion heater, I had no idea we did but apparently in 2004 when our gas system was cranked up the plumber suggested it was a good idea. I now agree with him.  Immersion heaters are somehow a object of the past, known in my world only in how they belong to my parents and mother in law, and back in the day, my granny. She has a great airing cupboard in her flat, with a really interesting shaped lock opening thingy (clasp?).  She used to 'put the immersion on' and I had no idea what that involved. Still don't. 

 My granny's flat was great for playing hide and seek with my brother and cousins.  We used to hide on the balcony (which was maybe a couple of feet wide and 6 feet long. A challenge to hide on.  My cousin tried to hide my brother in the oven. There was a food cupboard for hiding, a big bath, the airing cupboard, her bedroom wardrobe (don't lock it!) two big double beds in the spare room, and a cot (it was like a dormitory in there - my cousins' whole family could sleep in there and there were 6 of them - and a dog.  And in the big lounge, a kind of put you up bed you could hide behind, plus arm chairs and sofas to hide behind. It was a modest 2 bedroom council flat but the way I describe it you probably have IKEA in mind.

Other good things about my granny were: in no particular order:

her generosity with sugar in tea
her generosity with cake, all Mr Kipling's finest
her generosity with time, life and fun
her child centredness, always happy to play
her sense of humour and of joining in
her complete love for all 6 of her grandchildren
her card games and horse betting
her fun

Tomorrow is her birthday. She would have been 114 so probably best she left this earth a while back as the world gets too full if everyone lives to 114.  She would have been 100 when H was born. H today is the age that she was when she was living and working in a big house in London, as a betweensmaid I believe. That was 1915, in London, a 14 year old girl from Lingfield near Haywards Heath, living and working in Egerton Gardens.  A couple of years back H and I went and found the house. Which is now converted to flats. But seeing that door and that stone step which she scrubbed was powerful and meaningful. We didn't need to go inside.

The possibilities and opportunities available to my daughter, born 100 years on, are inconceivably vast compared to those open to a country girl born in 1901 into a large working class family. The freedoms H has to choose her own way of life and to be able to achieve are so much greater. We are not there yet. Still some way to go to reach equality of freedom and opportunity for women, but we keep chipping away.

My mum has virtually the same qualities as my granny, as a granny to my girls. She only has 5 grandchildren, mind. I hope I have grandchildren and that list lives on for them too. It is a good list of noble qualities, especially the generosity of cake. I am not so good at that yet. Will work on it.  I think I am doing ok on the other things.

Happy birthday.  A Mr Kipling cake is well deserved and best shared.

In other news, interested today to hear  the amazing news from Sep Blatter (is that really his name) that he has seen the devil and the angels singing, and that the angels singing won over the devil, so far as I can make out, and he came back to this earth after this near death experience.  I believe in angels ( and Abba) and I guess I believe in the spirit of evil, not sure he is personified with red eyes and a pitchfork, and not entirely sure he pops up along with the angels singing in some kind of karaoke contest, but who am I to argue with something about which I know nothing?  OK, OK, doesn't usually stop me.  So top marks to Sep or whatever he is called for detracting from people nosing around in his bank account by distracting with talk of angels and demons. Top job, he should be in marketing!

Good to be back for you Barrs, tell your friends I am still here, the original blogger since 2006.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Netley I love

So tonight I heard my blog is still read  by the Barr family in bed. Hearing about the options that Duncan Barr has in his suit pockets I am surprised, even awed that my blog gets a look in during bedtime routine in the Barr house.  Netley, and Netley sailing club in particular is one of my passions, here is why :

 Because sailing levels everyone to a basic elemental fight to stay upright.
Because people are kind and generous even if you sail a cat and they really think therefore you are an idiot.
Because there is the opportunity for children to live safe and free, managing risks and climbing trees.
Because all sorts of people learn to get along despite differences.
Because the sunset is awesome.
Because sailing has taught me to be braver and calmer and laugh in the face of peril.
Because my girls have been growing up with the sea air in their lungs and camping as normal.
Because starting to sail was the beginning of my life part 2.
Because rob cackling maniacally when it's really windy reminds me of lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump.
Because I feel accepted and able to be my slightly over the top and wonky self at Netley.

Thank you if you are part of it. Heaven is hard to create on earth. X