Monday, 30 June 2014

Beer, the World Cup and Bowling

I don't normally watch football. Actually, I don't normally drink beer either, but somehow the two seem to go together and I have found myself winding down after a long day teaching cycling or maths or science with a bottle of Italian lager and some international footy. It has to be international, as England got sent home a long time ago. Good thing I have Holland to fall back on. And Columbia, I mustn't forget them. I pulled them out in the Bowling Club sweep-stake, and they are still in the game.

I spent today down at the Bowling Club, trying to get some in-house matches played. I played Mavis in the Rosebowl. It was a tit for tat game that went to 20-20. mavis won on the last bowl in a nail-biting finish. Then I played Doug in Matchplay. Again, we both won one leg each and it went to a tie-break. This time it was me that won on virtually the last wood of the day. What a set of games!

Yesterday the club played Ledbury, who are a very good team. Eartha played her first match. Sadly we got totally slaughtered, but I think she enjoyed being part of the team. Everyone made a fuss of her, anyway.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Annual Accounts

I think it is time I picked up the baton again on this blog. I used to enjoy writing it a lot, and then life sort of got in the way and I started working 24/7 and everything not essential went out of the window. Maybe I should start with a quick summary of the major events of the past 14 months. 

I finished working at a School in Bridgnorth and went back to teaching Bikeability. We holidayed in Portugal, which was beautiful and very hot. You can read about it on my travel blog, which I have kept up to date. 

Back in the UK, Bikeability kept us going until half term and we spent the autumn break in Belfast with some fabulous people from the Couchsurfing world. Nick went off to Canada and missed the fun.

During the very choppy crossing of the Irish Sea, I applied for a Daphne Jackson fellowship, aimed at getting students back into science. The rounds of interviews went on and on, and I made several trips up to Loughborough. I got through so many rounds that I really thought I might have a chance. Inevitably I didn't get through (they are very competitive).

I suddenly became very popular as a private tutor and as my case load increased, I decided I would make a go of it as a business. Flying Tutor was launched at the end of January and to date I am making a healthy living from it. It is only now, as the exams are over, that my feet are hitting the ground again.

In the middle of all this, I trained as a Community First Responder too, going out with the ambulance service helping to keep people alive, or at least reassuring them that they won't die.

The kids have grown and grown. Mel's feet have expanded from a size 5.5 to a size 10. Donny and Mel are both taller than me. They have chosen their GCSE options and are doing their bronze Duke of Edinburgh award.

Saskia and Eartha have just spent a week in France with the school, which was their first trip away without the dreaded parents.I think they had a lovely time.

Nick has had a trickier time. His natural tremor and gait both deteriorated significantly from about October and he was referred for diagnosis. A brain scan and some functionality tests later and he has a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease, or at least Parkinsonism. It sucks. Practically, it means he is very tired all the time, as he is battling the shakes. He has trouble with fine movement, like doing up buttons, writing or using cutlery. The good news is that he is starting medication this week, and most anecdotal stories suggest that it works really well to start off with. We will have to see. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Wedding Belle

As the snow retreated, slowly, very slowly, we felt the need to get out. The wind was still blowing cold, and the ground underfoot had changed from frozen to squelchy. We headed out to Queenswood, near Leominster, with Sarah and her three girls.

Harry and Izzy enjoy squelching.

Fourth attempt at taking this photo, thanks to the dog leaping at me everytime I tried.

Cool reading seat.
Last weekend we headed up to Sheffield to celebrate the marriage of my friend Angela to a lovely man called Russell. They had their nuptuals at Gretna Green with close family, then celebrated with friends and family a few days later. It was lovely to catch up. I took about a gazillion photos of their outfits and grown up kids whom I haven't see for ages. A small selection here:

Russell and Angela
Russell and Angela and their grown up family.

Angela and My Grown Up Girls
Dragged to the Alter? I think this one came willingly.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Snow Drift

Yes, I know, it's been so long that all my regular readers (both of you) have wandered off to read someone else's blog. I can't say I blame you. I've been snowed under with too much work and not enough time. Ho hum. The school I'm at originally wanted me for 6 weeks until October half term. They keep extending the contract, and now it is until May. I'm quite enjoying having a regular income, and mostly nice classes too. They didn't know who they were getting so I have no exam classes at all - Y12, Y9, Y8 and Y7 - which takes the pressure off a bit. On the other hand, I still can't cope with the work load. I just want a job that finishes when I go home.
Nick's hard work.

I didn't go in to work last Friday because of the snow. In fact, the snow has been so severe up here on our hill, that we haven't made it out of the house at all for three days. Nick spent two hours this afternoon digging out the drive to make sure we can get the cars out in the morning. 

Snow Field
Then I took the dog for a walk to a neighbouring field, whilst the kids went off and sledged down one with sheep in. The dog leapt over a stile and disappeared up to his ears in snow. I followed him, but ended up up to my knees (literally) making post holes with every step. There is a video for the non-believers, who think I may be exaggerating.

 In the end I just stood there for a while and then took the dog home again. It means I'm about 10 miles down on this week's MoonJoggers target, but I'll make up the miles later in the year when the weather isn't so unseasonal. The spring equinox celebrations had to happen without us down in the woods in Gloucestershire. We would have needed a snow plough to get there.

Snow Field

Meanwhile I've been introducing Mel to Red Dwarf. So far he's watched season 1, 2 and 6. We've been sitting in front of the screen doubled over with laughter at it. I guess he shares my sense of humour. 

Drifts on the side of the road.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Year Eight Challenge

Bothe Donny and Mel have been told they have to "Learn something new" by about March for their Y8 Challenge. Donny has yet to decide, so I hope she picks something easy. Mel went for what he likes - cooking. He decided to learn how to cook a number of different desserts. The first one here is a banana split. 

Mel's Split:
Take one banana and halve it lengthways.
Add three scoops of vanilla ice-cream.
Squirt and inordinate amount of squirty cream over the top.
Sprinkle grated milk chocolate over that.

Eat carefully.


Not recommended for the faint hearted, or those on a diet.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Moon Jogging

Moon Jogging - no, that doesn't mean jostling the heavenly bodies for position. My friend Heather got involved and I thought it looked like a good idea. A whole bunch of people from all over the world have signed up and pledged to walk 1000 miles in a year. The idea being that when all those miles are added together, they will be the distance to the moon. So far, I'm off to a flying start, with just over 23 miles logged this week. To achive the 1000 miles, I need to average 20 miles/week or 3 miles/day give or take. I can see it being very hard to achieve, as it wouldn't take many missed days before you realise you have to walk 38 miles/day for the next month to get back on target. 

Lake Lugg
Will I manage it? I don't know, but there are a lot of motivational people on the site posting pictures of their 12 mile runs and whatever to make me feel like getting out there (or possibly that I've bitten off more than I can chew, depending on my mood). I do feel a lot better for having done some exercise this week though.

King Rat
Dick Whittington
We went to the panto, as every year, on NYE. It was Dick Whittington, or Puss in Boots, and it was, once again, most enjoyable. The dame was a new actor, who was particularly camp. At first I didn't know what to make of him, then he grew on me and his muddled rendition of the 12 days of Christmas was absolutely hilarious. 


The Dame
Afterwards we went for a meal, driving past the floods of the River Lugg - we renamed it Lake Lugg. I took some photos the next day when I went out to interview the Wolf Paw Tipi Villagers for Pagan Radio. The River Severn has also burst its banks and looked spectacular in Worcester. 

Lake Lugg

Lake Lugg
Severn Flood

Severn Flood

Donny and Mel had their 13th birthday this week. I can't believe they are getting so old. Before I know it they will be off at university doing their own thing and I won't know where the time has gone.

Nick and Eartha bringing the cakes.
Donny and Mel blowing out their candles

Thursday, 27 December 2012

But Only Just

I cannot begin to tell you how hard I have been working these past few months. Everything, and I mean everything, has been put on hold. I work a full day, then race home with just enough time to stuff some food into me before heading back out to tutor more children in the evenings. Finally,  having done a 13 hour day, or so, I come back in and need to do marking or planning. Exhausted doesn't cover it. And I don't even get sick pay or a pension out of this madness. There is something wrong in the world.

Things I haven't done include blogging - I'm not up to date with even last summer's travelpod, which makes me sad. It is one of the things I love doing, that I'm quite proud of. I feel a part of me is missing because I have had my creativity removed by so much work. I feel like an automoton, who travels the country, spouting science and maths facts at young people endlessly. It feels like a type of Sisyphisian punishment, where I'm doomed to spend eternity repeating the same thing over and over again.

I have also cut out exercise. I've cancelled several trips to the mountains, failed to go swimming, not run a step and given the poor dog short shrift. Consequently, I'm getting heavier and more unfit and my blood sugar is rising significantly. It all sucks. I can't keep it up, but what to do?

Slowly, as my strength returns over the winter break, I am feeling panicky attacks. My throat is closing up with a condition called globus hysterica that I first experienced four years ago when working for the Bad Headmistress. She has since retired, but her legacy lives on. This psychological condition is caused by the muscles in my throat tightening due to stress and tension. It is bizarre that it is happening now that the pressure has eased. What's that all about then? I've just had a bit of a rest and I think it is a manifestation of the fear of going back to teaching next term. Ho hum. I gotta get a life.

Around the autumn equinox, Mel finally persuaded me to get a hamster. This beautiful creature, Noxy, came to live with us briefly and soon became a much loved addition to the family. Sadly Noxy escaped one evening in December and was not a match for our more predatory pets. Noxy was buried with full honours in the front garden.

Once the initial trauma had subsided, we decided to get another hamster. This one is thankfully still alive and has been named Hiro (after one of the characters in the TV series Heroes that the kids have been watching). He's a friendly little thing, and is filling a Noxy shaped hole quite well.

Nick is the Holly King
Just after the Winter Solstice, we headed off to Stonehenge for the Druidic ceremony that we get invited to at this time of year. The kids were under very strict instructions not to touch the stones, as they got into trouble for it last summer. The weather this year has been appalling. It has rained constantly since April. I'm not even exaggerating. There is widespread flooding and anywhere off-path has been turned into a quagmire. I'm actually looking forward to cold weather so the mud freezes up a bit. 

The Three Maidens
Anyway, the threat of yet more rain meant several regulars cried off the ceremony. Afterall, the thought of standing in the rain for two hours getting the ritual robes sodden wasn't all that enthralling. Anyway, we risked it and it did in fact stay dry. The knock on effect of fewer people attending, meant we all ended up with jobs to do. Nick was the Holly King, the girls handed out the mead and snacks and we all joined in mourning the demise of the Holly King, as his reign wanes before the return of the sun. 

Christmas Day itself was spent at Mum's. We'd done the preparation the day before, so there was only the actual cooking part to do, and the opening of presents and the eating marathon to get through. I think we judged the presents OK this year. The kids all seemed quite happy. Donny got a nook, which is like a kindle, but half the price. She and Eartha have been glued to it ever since. Mel's top present was an alarm clock, something he'd asked for. Saskia's most used so far have been a book of puzzles and a book on how to draw cartoons. Nick and I got a great selection of music, books and clothes. Not a single smelly bath product in sight. Hurray! Mel is making up for it on the smelly front though. He got a packet of Lily flavoured joss sticks, which he is now polluting the house with.

Xmas Lunch

So, onwards to 2013!