Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Tudor Trip

Saskia is studying the Great Fire of London at school. She can tell me, without hesitation the date it happened, street where it started and who the King was at the time. All of these things I would have to think about a bit before answering.
Their class took a trip out to a Tudor house yesterday. Yes, yes, I know the Tudors were a bit before the GFofL, but the dangerously inflammable houses were still around. Timber frames and thatched roofs were an accident waiting to happen.

Saskia made a model of one of the black and white houses with Nick. It was a masterpiece of cereal-box engineering. Unfortunately, it lost its roof when Eartha sat on it, but it went to school and is on display nonetheless.

Not working has its advantages. I volunteered to be one of the parent helpers on the trip. The kids in that class know me anyway because I change their library books every couple of weeks.

The coach ride was about half an hour. When we got there the kids got to try on medieval costumes of rich people and of the poor peasants. Everyone wanted the rich clothes, of course. Much prettier.
Next they checked out how the beams are held together by pegs instead of nails. There was a short talk about it and they were actually shown how the joints worked.Then they investigated a little grate-watering pot, ideal for putting out sparks (something the victims of the GFofL should have had). They all got their hands in to try it out. You put your thumb over the top to hold the water in by suction, like putting your finger on top of a straw.

The last two activities were trying out some old toys and having a go on a loom.
Finally, we took a short walk around the town, looking for Tudor houses.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

January Twins

Well, January birthday season is mostly for the twins in this family. Saskia and Eartha turned 7 a few days ago, and we did the ritual presents, cake and candles thing. They both made wishes, concentrating really hard and screwing their eyes up.
My eldest twins had their birthday at the beginning of the month, which they share with one of their cousins in Canada. There are a couple of other Canadian relatives that also have birthdays in January, not least Nick's twin sisters: Lyn and Di.Saskia and Eartha are really excited because we've decided to send them to Canada with Nick when he goes in March. It will be their first time visiting Nana in Canada and all the relatives and Eartha, for one, is buzzing with anticipation.
She badgered Nick into letting her phone Nana last night. Nana doesn't hear too well anymore, so she handed the phone over to Nick's younger sister, Kate, who had a long chat with Eartha. This has fueled Eartha's plans for the trip and she is hyper with excitement. I dread to think how strung out she will be by the time they actually leave. I've got six weeks ahead of me, living with the Duracell Bunny.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Snow , Quitting Work, Bowling and More Snow

The interminable winter weather is still going on. We've had more snow, and then some more snow, just for good measure. The kids have been to school twice since the middle of December. I've got a sort of cabin fever from not being able to get out and do anything for days on end. I've not been climbing. I've not been swimming. I've not even been able to walk the dog much. I feel like I'm wrapped in a lardy layer and I'm itching to get moving. I can feel my fitness draining away. It's horrible. The kids are equally grumpy with each other's company. Driving has been so dangerous we haven't been going out except for essentials.
So when we have managed to get down the forest, I took some lovely pictures of all the snow. The kids built snowmen and made massive snowballs and the dog disappeared off on his own investigations.

Work-wise, well, basically, I quit. Supply is convenient like that.

I drove for two hours in the snow to get in last Thursday. The minute I arrived I was wheeled in front of a class. Over an hour later they had breakfast and I got told off for trying to get to the toilet instead of staying with them 'on duty'. Then I was in front of classes for a further four hours before lunch. Due to the ice and snow they cut lunch to 20 minutes. Then I was in front of a class for a further 90 minutes, before driving home again (1 hour 50 minutes).

Call me lazy, but I didn't sign up for slave labour. So I'm happily unemployed again, which is kind of handy, seeing as my kids' school has not been open due to the snow.
On Saturday we took the kids ten pin bowling as their birthday treat. They haven't tried it before, which puts us adults to shame. Mel won every game. In fact the kids came 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th every time and the adults brought up the rear (places 5th, 6th and 7th). Mind you, they did have gutter crash barriers and we didn't (or maybe the adults are just rubbish?!). Anyway, we had a great time and that's what's important.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Birthdays, Long Hours and Trees

Where did a decade go? Donny and Mel turned ten a couple of days ago. We did the candles and cake and pressies thing on the day itself and we are going out for a surprise treat on Saturday, providing the snow holds off. They got some nice clothes and a few toys. Donny was pleased with the books and Mel was thrilled with the science experiments he got.
This week, I have had no energy left to do anything at all. The position I took in Tipton turns out to be hundreds of miles away. I haven't managed to do the journey in less than an hour and twenty minutes each way. Make that longer for snow and lorry drivers who break down in the middle of junctions on the way. I have been on my beam ends. I don't know where to put myself for exhaustion. I can hardly move when I get in.The drive is only part of the problem. The way the school is set up means there is zero personal time during the day. End of story. I can't get enough to drink because there are no breaks. I can't go to the toilet, because there are no breaks. I'm not going to last at this place. It is just too intense. I cannot go from 6.30am breakfast to 10am without a drink. I can't last until nearly 2pm without lunch. I get ill. I am not a machine.

I had a dream after the first day, that my car had been stolen and the feeling was of relief because I wouldn't have to try to get into work!

So, my third day and I'm at home due to severe snow. My kids' school shut yesterday and is shut today too. Most of the schools across the country are shut, though notably not the one I am assigned to. Needless to say, I didn't even attempt to go in. Mum is snowed in, and without childcare I'm stuffed.
Meanwhile, the tree in our front garden, that was looking the worst for the snow, toppled right over under the weight of it. It blocked the drive completely, so I couldn't get out even if I wanted to.
I called Dave, a friend of the family, who turned up a couple of hours later with a chainsaw. He made short work of the tree, which is now in chunks on my lawn. At least we can get out of the drive now. Dave is hero of the day.

A carving a friend did for our wedding sits outside our front door.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Out with the Old

I guess things started to go down hill about six years back when we lent our house to a fundamentally Christian family from Frankfurt. (As you do.) They had five kids, who must have spent the holiday tearing around our house. They left chocolate bar wrappers in the attic. They broke the plastic casings in the car. They made an open fire in the grate and left little melted spots on our living room carpet. Most importantly, they wrecked one of the rings on the cooker.

We forgave them, of course, though a note to say "Thanks for letting us use your house" would have been nice. We never heard from them again. Maybe they were ashamed. I bought a rug to cover up the burn marks on the carpet, but the cooker was never the same again. Turning the ring on caused the electric in the house to trip so we learnt to cook with just three rings.

Oddly enough, Mum thought this was dangerous. Mum is funny like that. When a second ring started fusing the electric a couple of months ago, Mum made distressed noises and indicated that the money I was getting for Christmas was to be spent on a new cooker.

I took advantage of the Sales and ordered a posh double oven
affair with a gloriously flat surface for easy cleaning. Our old cooker, however, must have got wind of the plan because last night it decided to kick off in a last final gesture of defiance.

Whilst cooking its final supper, the back ring caught fire. Nick, with a slightly warped quick thinking reflex, chucked his cup of tea over it, leaving the cooker wet and smelly and Nick with black soot up his T-shirt.

Not a moment too soon, the new cooker arrived today. I unhooked the old cooker, which was surprisingly easy, and hooked up the new one, which was damn awkward. I swear cooker companies must be in league with electricians. What possesses a cooker manufacturer to make attaching three wires so difficult? I don't know. There really is no need to position the access so only highly trained contortionists can get to the pins.

Anyway, I did it, and nothing went BANG when I turned the 'leccy back on, so I guess my yogic squatting, sparky skills did the trick.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year

Since we had kids, all the late night dancing and carousing has died out. We just about manage to stay up to see the New Year in, most years. There have been a couple of occasions when we've woken up after the event, shrugged and gone to bed.

This year, the kids wanted to stay up for it. Well, Mel did and if M
el does, then the rest of them do too. We gave them a bath and stuck them on the sofa in front of Pirates of the Caribbean and the inevitable happened..... They all fell asleep.

Waiting up for the New Year.

This morning I feel great. I am ready to take on whatever 2010 throws at me. Life is buzzing. I took the dog for a very cold walk in the forest. It is well below freezing. When I got there, the car park was virtually empty and I thought I had the forest to myself, the way it is usually.

It really gets busy on holidays. When I was there on Boxing Day, I could hardly find a place to park. We walked for an hour or so and by the time we got back to the car park, it was starting to fill up. I guess I was just an early bird today. Still, by next week I will have the place to myself again.