Saturday, 31 December 2011


This year the pantomime in Hereford was of Sleeping Beauty. It was excellent. Even our Russian guests, Sergey and Regina, enjoyed it, though I'm not sure how much of it they understood. What's to understand anyway? The highlight of the show (excepting the farting cat, of course) was the villainess - a purple-clad fairy mastermind called Eartha. Oh yes. We love it!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Holly King Defeated

The Cotswold Order of Druids had their winter solstice ceremony at Stonehenge. We went down, dressed up and got stared at by tourists. I love the feeling of owning the stones, being the people who can go inside the circle, by dint of it being our place of worship. What I hate is having a bunch of tourists photographing me while I do it. If I wondered into a random church and took photos of the congregation I would get chucked out, and yet it seems to be OK to video the weirdos in cloaks. Hmm.
The Oak King gave the Holly King a good thrashing and my kids handed out the food and drink. Nick called a quarter and it was about 20C warmer than last year, which, let's face it, wasn't difficult.

Beautiful Place and Time

We were invited to my brother's house for Xmas. Mike and Ang live a few miles outside Nottingham in a lovely cottage, that they have been doing up for a while. They wanted to have a proper family Xmas there, with the kids and Mum. Nick was a little skeptical, wondering how they would fit us all in, but it turned out to be very comfortable. It looks spectacular. I was dead jealous. Why can't my house be so neat and tidy and beautifully decorated?
We drove up Xmas eve. It was a little challenging to fit seven people, a dog, presents and overnight bags into the car. Donny and Mel were effectively buried in the back, unable to move their arms underneath the packages and bags. I had the dog wedged between my knees and the rest of the family had sleeping bags piled on top of them.I know some kids got to sleep early on Xmas Eve to make the morning come faster. My kids don't. They were just hyper excited and didn't crash until about midnight. Mike and Ang, who had an air-bed in the living-room, were woken at around 5.30am when Eartha persuaded Saskia to force-feed Angela smarties.
Meanwhile, Nick's cold had developed into galloping asthma. While the goose was cooking Mike took Nick off to the emergency clinic. I took the dog for a lovely walk down The Dumbles, which (Mike tells me) date from the end of the last ice-age, 10000 years ago. When they got back we had a delicious lunch. Mike and Ang are both very foody and great at cooking.

The kids went to play with their new MP3 players and I had a post-prandial snooze for a couple of hours (it must be my age). When I surfaced, it seemed Nick's asthma had gotten worse, not better, and that I was the only sober one fit to drive. Off we went to the clinic again, with Ang this time to give me directions. The nurse dosed Nick with nebulisers, which probably should have been done that morning, and then we went off on a scenic tour of Nottingham, l
ooking for a dispensing surgery. It was gone nine when we got back, but Nick was a lot happier.

Boxing Day dawned at a more reasonable hour. We took the kids on a longer walk through the Dumbles and back before watching Dr Who and finally making in-roads into the massive overly creamy trifle I'd been creating all weekend. The final straw had been the wedges of chocolate orange balanced on the top. You could put on two pounds just looking at it.
We had a lovely time, though I don't know if we'll get invited again. The kids managed to break a bauble, dent the sofa and knock the end off the bedstead. Kids are just destructive. This is why my house is a disaster zone compared to theirs!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Restoring the Balance

The Bikeability season is over. I have taught my last, very chilly, session for this year. Indeed, it looks likely that there will be no more bookings until about March next year, by which time I will be tromping happily all over the Karakorum, no doubt sporting a high-altitude headache.

As irony would have it, the council provided fluorescent yellow jackets last week. They say CYCLE INSTRUCTOR on the back. They are racing-fit, which means slimline and not really designed to have any warm clothes underneath them. They are also summer weight, which means not really suitable for standing around in the wind and light flurries of snow that we enjoyed last week. On the plus point, they are bright enough to be seen from outer space.

I was working with Mike, who was actually easier to get on with than I had been led to believe he would be. We managed to get some of the kids through the course. The school was in a deprived area, and so a lot of the kids had never ridden a bike before, didn't own a bike, and had the road-sense of the average hedgehog. Amazingly we managed to get a few to pass.

At the end of the first day with our new jackets, I noticed the lettering on Mike's was coming off on the back. Oh, how professional we look, shivering in our neon coats with the obscure message
on the back.

In between odd days doing cycle training, I've been decorating the living room. I have painted the walls (badly) and the skirting boards (slightly better). We've had furniture in odd places all over the house, displaced from its usual spot. Yesterday, the day finally arrived. The fitters came and helped me move the sofa outside. I snuggled it under a tarp while the men did their funky thang in the living room. They asked me if I wanted the old carpet, and I said 'no' so they cut it into four. It was only when they were leaving that I noticed they weren't actually going to take it away for me. I guess I mis-interpreted their question.

The sofa came back in, just before a flurry of snow started and I spent the afternoon moving furniture back in to the lounge. I have to say, it looks fabulous. The kids keep rolling on it. Maybe they need to have that tactile thing before they can fully own it.

Anyway, I needed to get rid of the four rolls of old carpet left behind. One can go to a friend, who has no bathroom carpet. The other three? Well, I advertised them on Freecycle and within a few minutes I had three people fighting over them. In the end two rolls are going to a man who wants to carpet his 'cold house' and the third roll went to a woman who wants to keep her chickens warm with it. She took some off-cuts too. Maybe she's making them little carpetty jackets and hats? I'll ask her. She said she's going to give me her spare fire-guard. There's irony for you.

This morning Saskia and Eartha did their school nativity. It was not a cute affair with dressing-gown clad kids wearing tea-towels on their heads. It was more like High School Musical meets Britain's Got Talent. Eartha got a starring role and played it to perfection. She really is a performer. Saskia also performed her part well, making everybody laugh in the right places and singing with a smile. They were brilliant.

Unfortunately, I have no photos of them, as photos are no longer allowed in school. It is a sad state of affairs, when we are all so worried about 'bad' people that we can't photograph our own kids.

Oh yes, I titled this post "Restoring the Balance" because I was going to talk about work and the lack of it over the winter. Dave, who so often fails to return my calls and e-mails and generally hides when I come to call, has actually come up with some work for me to do. Maybe I won't be quite so destitute in January, after all.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Pain in the Foot

It never seems to slow down around here. I feel like I'm working 12 hour shifts and don't have chance to scratch my ass most days.

I ordered a new carpet for the living room, courtesy of the house insurance. Before it arrives, of course, I have to paint the whole living room and skirting boards and rearrange the furniture. I started the process by painting the living room using a massive pot of industrial strength white, that must date back to our last house. It looked great until I viewed it in the daylight of the following morning. Parts of my painting look quite mottled, thanks to the contouring of the wallpaper beneath. I'm going to have to repaint a few areas that need a little touch up. I have the skirting boards scheduled for next week, when I have a dull moment.

Last weekend was a comedy night, organised by the Bowling Club. The club is trying to raise about £40,000 to rebuild the club house. The present club house dates from the '60s and is mostly clap-board held together with spit and string.

Mum had invited everyone she could think of - which allowed Nick and I to have a rare evening out together. We got Helen to babysit, which for some reason meant we had Helen's two year old, Sapphire, for most of the day before hand. Helen had gone off shooting clay pigeons. I'm not quite sure how that transpired, but Sapphire was no problem.

The comedy night was excellent fun, and we made a large party, what with all Mum's friends that she'd dragged in. I advertised, for the first time, that I'm nuts enough to try to trek to K2 next year and, in doing so, I managed to raise about £240 in pledges for the club. Hopefully that excellent total will rise, as I harass all my friends too.

Ironically, despite being signed up for a mega-trek, my foot problem means walking is painful. I have a pinched nerve in my foot. The condition is called Morton's neuroma, and everytime I take a step, the nerve is irritated. The cure for this is a bit hit and miss - an injection of steroids into the site, which works in about 70% of cases.

Well, the operation was scheduled for Friday, so I missed out on a day's work teaching Bikeability (something I can't really afford to do). Mum drove me to the hospital, as the anaesthetic prevents you from driving yourself home again. It was not the most comfortable of procedures. I swore when they injected the first lot of local anaesthetic, held my breath as they injected in a small ocean of steroids and more pain-killers, then watched as my toes and top of my foot went as white as the dead.

The anaesthetic wore off over the next few hours to leave it feeling as though it was bruised all across the ball of my foot. I can hobble around on it a bit, but I have had to miss out on the BMC's walk along the Long Mynd today. My foot currently has a purplish bloom spreading across its top, like a type of frondular fungal infection.

Still a bit miffed about missing the Long Mynd though.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Getting Witchier, Radio and Moose.

I can't remember if I told you... at the Mensa AGM I was accosted by a gentleman, who had a friend who was starting up a Pagan Radio station. He thought I might be interested in it, so he gave his friend my e-mail and she got in touch. Well, we talked and I ended up offering to record some stuff that she might want to use. She sent me a little voice recorder and that's when things started to get tricky.I thought I would just read out some stuff I'd written and 'bingo!' it would be easy. No such luck. I wrote a couple of pages and discovered that not only did it only last less than five minutes when read out loud, but it was also delivered in a boring monotone, that no self-respecting radio presenter would ever get hired for using. Sigh. Back to the drawing board.I decided unscripted was better, and sat in my car one afternoon with the voice recorder. I managed to spend 15 minutes moaning about how the kids had set fire to my living room carpet in a pumpkin related disaster. Score! I sent it off and they were too polite to tell me it was awful.

Anyway, I couldn't bear to listen to myself, so I thought I'd record someone else. We went to the Druid ritual for Samhain at the Rollright Stones. Once again, public speaking was a disaster, as I fluffed the blessing of the food. Even my son heckled me. I'm really not cut out for being the showman. So I cadged and recorded an interview with the ArchDruidess after the ritual, which came out rather well. Score two! Get someone else to do the talking!
Finally, in the spirit of getting witchier (I think my cover has been completely blown now), my friend Kate asked me if I wanted to go to the Witchfest in London this weekend. Kate is totally non-witchy. She's a member of the law-enforcement community in her day job, and they don't come much more conservative than the police force. But Kate is smarter than the average bear, and doesn't make judgements rashly.
So, Saturday saw me getting up at the crack of dawn to catch a train to London for this Witchfest. I have to say, it was a fabulous day out. We went to a whole load of workshops and lectures, saw some Morris dancing and did some shopping at the stalls there. The famous Prof Ron Hutton gave a couple of talks on Ancient Pagan Britain and the way that Hekate has been protrayed over the centuaries. He was an entertaining speaker. The other cool thing, was that the Pagan Radio people had a stall there, so I finally got to put names to faces.
We also did a short workshop on animal totems, which included a meditation. I was expecting my usual bear to appear in the visualisation, but instead I got a moose. This confused me, afterall, the moose is not even a European animal. Nick looked up the meaning for me, and it seems it is all to do with courage and self-esteem - two areas I really need to work on. So here's me, having the courage to tell the world and his wife what I get up to. And no, I didn't wear my cloak, but a lot of people did. I was definitely under-dressed.

Left Over Photos

I missed out some photos from the 'Trail' blog, mostly due to my random internet. I loved the 'zen' garden with standing stones, and the kids making their Spooky Designs.

A Good Combination

I have been without reliable internet for a while. My router died a slow, agonizing death. It would cough through a few Mb of data, then gasp a rattling breath when I asked it to do something complicated... like show me my e-mails. Finally, we had to have it put down humanely. We are pleased to announce our new arrival. A smart, white wireless contraption that works more often than the last one did. It still isn't perfect.. I assume this is because we live in the countryside and therefore get a sub-standard Broadband connection. After all, only city businesses really need decent connectivity, don't they? Can you hear the sarcasm in my typing? Sigh. Changing the world, one byte at a time.
Last weekend my hill-walking friend John got married to the lovely Lisa. I'm sure John would appreciate the fact that I climbed the Malverns in the morning, raced home, got changed in ten minutes flat and still made it to the right church before the bride. There was a good turn out from the Bewdley Mountaineering Club. Most of them scrub up well. I haven't seen any of the men in a suit before, or the ladies in dresses, for that matter. Usually they are all covered in mud or swigging from a wine bottle, or both. And that's just the ladies.

Anyway, I digress. The blushing bride in a flowing white dress was walked up the aisle to a famous tune
by Worzel's. The words echoed romantically (and they are romantic, if you think about it) around St Barnabas' Church:
"I've got a brand new combine harvester, and I'll give you the key. Let's get together, in perfect harmon-y."
I'm guessing it was a first for most people. I loved it. The service was pleasant, with lots of good sing-along hymns. Next stop was the reception over the road.
I got to catch up with people, chatting away to everyone. There was a pig-roast outside and fireworks scheduled for the evening. I stayed as long as I could, but I still missed the speeches and cutting the cake and display of fireworks, which was a shame. I just have too much of a hectic life.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Following the Trail

Nick discovered an advert in the paper for a Spooky Trail for kids at a garden centre, not too far away. It seemed like a fun thing to do, so we headed off. Nao and Anne squeezed in to the car too. At first it didn't look like there was going to be much to it, as we pulled up. It looked like a garden centre. Before very long, though, we realised it was going to be both fun and beautiful.
The kids had a trail through a meticulously maintained garden owned by a pair of Druids (who actually run the garden centre). A huge Herne the Hunter statue greeted us at the garden entrance.
There were ghosts hanging from the trees, fake gravestones hidden in the bushes and pumpkins glowing through the foliage. Evidence of the green man peeked out from fountain and a nestbox. There was a hobbit home, a witches lair, a stone circle looking very zen garden and a labarynth trail to follow.
After that, the fun was not yet done. There was face painting and spooky sculptures to make out of natural materials. The kids had a great time.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Full House

We have had a full house this week. Half term started off with a beautiful weekend, where I climbed to Malverns with Donny and Pal. We managed it in T-shirts, only putting our jumpers on when we got over the ridge at the top, and the wind hit us. It was glorious.
Then the weather closed in and it's been damp pretty much all holiday. On Monday our first set of Couchsurfers arrived - a mother and son from Lyon, France. She's German, he's half Japanese. They are staying for a week. The son, Nao, is all of 9, half the size of a grasshopper, speaks four languages fluently and can give me a run for my money on scientific facts. Whew! I'll look forward to seeing his name on the Nobel Prize list or similar in the next 20 years or so.
The mother, Anne, is incredibly easy to get on with. She loves to sew, and has been scouring my house for things with holes in. She's even converted two rabbit skins I tanned and then forgot about, into a kind of cushion.The second set of CSers arrived on Tuesday. Dominique and her two daughters come from Calais. They only stayed one night, but they managed to fit in, do the cooking and come swimming with us in that time. Maybe we will go and visit them in France sometime.
Meanwhile, I saw a job I wanted to apply for. It is the first scientific job I've seen, that I fancied doing, for about ten years. It is about modelling climate change and species population reactions to it, amongst other things. It is the sort of job I would have walked into, if I'd seen it straight after my PhD. Now, I can only keep my fingers crossed that I will get an interview.
The thing is, of course, I love doing the Bikeability stuff, but you just can't live on it. If there was a chance of being able to make ends meet and still do Bikeability, then I wouldn't have spent the whole of Saturday afternoon filling in an application form for the Science post. On the other hand, I haven't felt 'alive' since I left science, in terms of doing a job. Just imagining dealing with data and being allowed to be precise and meticulous again fills me with a thrill, when most people would shudder! Being stretched intellectually, instead of being pushed to the limit by stress, is such an exciting possibility, that I couldn't sleep on Thursday night. I ended up reading until 2.30am before I could calm myself enough to doze off.On Friday we went to Queenswood. It is just gorgeous at this time of year - the colours of the leaves are like flames on the trees. We wondered up and down for an hour, while the kids tried to fill in a quiz on the shapes of leaves. After that, and lunch at a cafe, we went and put flowers on the family grave in Eardisland. My grandmother would have been 100 a few weeks ago. Anyway, Hallowe'en or Samhain is a good time to honour the ancestors, and it felt good to do that.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Cider Time Again

It seems the apples are ripe again, so Mike and Angela spent today crushing about a million of them into pulp and juice. Then the juice is squeezed into a big bottle, and poured into a barrel. It gets fermented for half a year or so to make cider. The kids love helping because they get all sticky and mucky and covered in appley pulp. They played 'scoop the gloop' and 'dodge the splodge'. One of the fun parts was throwing a rope over the tree and getting it to rain apples.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Doing the Job of Two

I turned up on Monday to cycle train a bunch of kids from Year 5 at a local school. I do love doing this job. It is spending time outdoors playing on bikes. You get the best out of the kids and they think they are just escaping from the classroom, when in fact, they are learning a skill that, who knows, may save their life.

So, I turn up, but my colleague - the other instructor - doesn't. This particular instructor (let's call him Mr Pro-4x) is a little difficult to pin down. He only likes to do jobs on his own terms, which doesn't really make it easy to synch with school timetables. He doesn't answer his e-mail much either, so you have to wait a long time for confirmation, about whether he can do a training session or not. All that being said, he had confirmed that he would be doing four days with me at this particular school this week.

But he wasn't there. I don't have a phone number for him.

I started the session on my own and hoped he was just a bit late. After half an hour, the class teacher came out and asked if she could phone someone for me. For the next hour, I tried to run a session alone, whilst fielding enquiries, phone calls and a stressed looking TA. To say we were made to look incompetent is an understatement. I was annoyed and embarrassed, not to mention run off my feet.

My break was spent trying to find another instructor that could come at short notice - I failed. Just before lunch, the co-ordinator from the council called, which meant I had to leave the entire group of kids, and their cycles, to finish up without me. It was a major snafu.

We had to cancel the second part of the course (which is on the road) and re-arrange it. That's 15 sets of parents that have paid for something, which is now post-poned for a month. 15 sets of inconvenienced parents, who have to transport their kids' bikes back and forth from school again.

I got home to a message from Mr Pro-4x, which was sent after I left in the morning. He said he couldn't access his e-mails, couldn't make the dates for training anymore and was sorry to have left it so late.

I checked his other accounts - it seems he could access Twitter and Facebook during the period his e-mails had been inaccessible. It also seems that while I was doing the job of two people and fending off an unhappy school, Mr Pro-4x was getting wet and muddy on a BMX track somewhere. Maybe I am just a cynic and there is a very good reason why getting muddy was important enough to let down so many people. Right now, I can't for the life of me think of it.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Where was I?

So I says to the doctor.. Look me shoulder is so much better... and he says... No thanks to us! I'm quitting the NHS!

It all started a year ago, when the chiropractor ripped the ligaments in my shoulder. I may have mentioned it before. Eventually, I got to see a specialist. I didn't know it at the time, but this 'shoulder specialist' was actually a locum on loan from the eye department.

She recommended physio, and I waited several months for the appointment to come through. When it finally did, it arrived while we were on holiday. It said: Please call within two weeks or we will assume you no longer need the service. By the time I got the letter, the two weeks were up.

So I went to the follow up appointment, which had been booked in March for September. It was supposed to be about how much the physio had improved my shoulder. Laughably, of course, I hadn't had any physio. But, by this time I had hip pain, so I thought I would ask about that, on the off chance that Mr Shoulder Consultant knew anything about hips.

It turns out he knew more about hips than the eye specialist knew about shoulders. I got an X-ray and a diagnosis. No treatment, though, but you can't have everything.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


I knew the start of the term would be tough. The kids are having to get used to early mornings again. The big kids are overloaded with homework, piano, violin, climbing, sports club, science club, scouts and getting the bus and a thousand new things to get their heads around. They had a weekend away with the scouts doing a Cycle Camp too. They came back shattered and covered in mud. They had a great time! The little ones have swimming at school, piano, cello, sports club, choir... I bounce from one thing to another, hoping I haven't forgotten anything.

So, bearing that in mind, the three weekends in a row that I ended u
p being mostly absent, was not all that helpful. You already know about the Malvern and bowling trip. You know about the Snowdonia trip. This weekend it was the turn of the Mensa AGM in Coventry.

I had offered to help out and so I ended up on the reception desk most of the weekend. I do prefer to be part of the help committee, mostly because otherwise I'm a wallflower, who shies away into the corner and gets bored. Helping out gives me something to do while I'm getting to know people. As it happened, there were lots of people I knew, so it turned into quite a social time. I got to do a bit of networking too, which was great.

I went to a very interesting lecture on self-publishing, which is a route I may well go down, now I understand it. I went to a lecture on bees, which was nice. My dad used to keep bees, so it was all familiar stuff. I knew enough not to get lost in the technicalities. In the quiet moments, I went for a walk around Coventry and took a look at the cathedral, which got bombed to pieces during the WW2 blitz. The replacement is a bit of a 1950s monstrosity, but maybe it is indicative of the era's zeitgeist.

I ended up talking to a strange Mensan (let's face it, most of us are quite strange), who told me about his friend Eleanor. Eleanor is starting up a Pagan Radio - world wide internet broadcast. (Sorry folks, I really am coming out of the closet these days). Anyhow is launching in February 2012 and I'm interested in getting involved, time permitting. We'll have to see, what with everything else. It sounds like a fun project if it gets off the ground.

Work wise, I have some bike stuff coming up, though not a lot. I have a few kids I'm tutoring, though again, not a lot. I have had to replace my printer, and my mouse because.. erm, they stopped working. The printer was under guarantee, so I just swapped it for a better one and paid the difference. I bet the mouse was too, though I didn't think about it when I bought a new one. It feels better to have all the techno stuff working properly.

Blah blah. Minutiae.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Photos from our bike trip.

It's taken me a while to get things sorted - it took ages to get the blog of France sorted, and then my mouse needed replacing and blah, blah, blah. So here, at long last are the photos of our bike trip out with Sunna and Olof, our Swedish guests.
1. Bikes and helmets.
2. Ice cream break.
3. Ceiling in Great Witley church.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Swedes in the Garden

No, I haven't suddenly dug up my overgrown lawn and started growing vegetables. I wish I had time to tend a garden. Maybe I should be careful what I wish for. I have had a pair of Swedes camping in my garden. They arrived on Wednesday by bike and left again yesterday. They were really nice, easy-going people and we enjoyed having them to stay.

On Thursday I got all the kids out on their bikes, with the Swedes, and we cycled nine miles altogether. We visited Great Witley Church, with its restored painted ceiling and beautiful gold trim. We had ice-creams and a drink at the tea rooms. It was lovely.

Naturally, the kids started to flag on the way back, so Nick came and rescued them in the car. My bike got a flat tyre too, so rescue was just in time for me too.

Yesterday, I had the day to myself, more or less. Donny and Mel went off to their friend's house. They spent the day tickling for trout or something. Naturally, Mel came back soaked, having fallen in the River Teme.

Saskia and Eartha, on the other hand, went off with one of their friends to record a charity Christmas CD. Whilst Saskia has perfect pitch and is very musical, Eartha is the performer, so this was right up their street. They had a fabulous time and came home very tired.

Donny is troubled by warts. I had them too, when I was a child, and they are very common. They hang around for a while, then disappear as mysteriously as they came. The over-the-counter remedies won't work because the offending growths are too close together, so the doctor suggested gaffer tape. I know, don't ask. I think it is supposed to suffocate the damn things. Meanwhile, my poor daughter is wandering round with silver sticky-tape on her fingers, feeling a right nana.

My computer mouse is not working. The spring has gone so I can't click anything. I have had to requisition Mel's laptop. I shall have to get a new one. It really is a pain in the neck.

While my kids were out enjoying themselves with friends, I have been reading the Twilight series, by Stephanie Meyer. I know, you all probably read them years ago. I was certainly recommended them years ago, and somehow never got around to reading them. It is a hugely popular series, particularly in the teen-fiction section.

So, what do I think? Erm, they are quite addictive, lite reading. I want to read more and find out what happens to the characters. This is good. On the other hand, I don't get the attraction of the main character - Edward Cullen - you've probably heard of him. He is moody, icy cold and has an unyielding stony body. Sorry, ladies, this does nothing for me. I could go for the werewolf though... he's hot.

As far as the literary style goes - it is very simplistic stuff. The entire story appears to be told through the reactions in his liquid gold eyes and her fluttering heart. Not much else happens. The plot is made up of micro-plots based on emotion and tiny scenes. When I saw the film before reading the book, I thought the books were so popular because Edward was protective towards Bella (the heroine). And what woman doesn't want a man that protects her? This doesn't stand out in the books though. There's a lot of teenage angst going on.

I will read the rest of them, but I'm actually kind of disappointed. I keep comparing the plot to something like Steig Larsson's "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" and it just doesn't hold a candle. Mind you, maybe a simplistic plot is enough for most teen minds. Teens live in such a sea of emotion. My 11 year olds have got to that overly touchy stage. We have conversations like:

"Have you seen my phone?" is answered at top volume with
"Stop picking on me! I haven't had it!"


"Can you put your shoes on?" is answered with
"I'm doing it already!" followed by slamming doors and stamping feet.

Sigh. Only another decade or so of yelling to go.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Travels with my Cello

"Yes, I need a taxi from the railway station," I told the disembodied voice at the other end of the phone line.
"There's a rank at the station, love."
"I may need a larger cab, though. I'm travelling with four children and collecting a cello."

Even to my ears, it sounded like I was making it up.

Before the holiday to France (see the pod) I bought a cello on eBay for a bargain price. Eartha wants to take up cello lessons and who am I to deny her. Anyway, renting a cello is enormously expensive, so we got a second hand one instead. The only hassle was that the bargain we'd secured was 'local pick-up only' and on the other side of the country.

Thanks to Nick's job, we get a certain amount of free train travel, which was the only reason it was economic to to do a 500 mile round trip. It would only cost us time. A lot of time. It was a minimum of 13 hours on the train.

Logistically it was interesting too. Mum went in for her operation on Thursday. It was very quick, for such a major operation and we brought her home on Friday. She's making a marvellous recovery and is quite mobile; much better than expected. She even had the ener
gy to come to the Captain's Day at the Bowling Club on Sunday. She didn't bowl, of course, but had a social time. She won a box of raspberries in the raffle, but heck, I won a can of coke.

Talking of bowling, I had a match on Saturday, at a small village club in rural Herefordshire. Mum gave me directions - but to a completely different club. I guess she was still suffering from the effects of the anaesthetic. I ended up asking directions from confused guests at a wedding and screeching into the car park ten minutes after the match started. Having said that, our rink was the only one that won, probably despite, rather than because of me.

Anyway, Mum couldn't look after the kids while I was fetching the cello, so they would have to come with me. And then, there was the matter of the dog. Again, Mum couldn't have him and Nick was at work. Eventually, late on Sunday night, I cajoled friend Beth into dog-sitting in return for me babysitting next weekend. Pal got quite a good deal out of this; he got a couple of walks and taken to the beer festival, where he was fussed continually for eight hours. My pooch was pooped when we got back in.

And so it was, that I was trying to persuade the taxi company of Great Yarmouth that I was not making a hoax booking. The whole trip went amazingly smoothly. British Rail, completely out of character, managed to make every connection (and there were lots of them). The kids behaved themselves and the taxi was there as promised. We made it there and back again without real incident. Eartha keeps hugging the cello like it is her best friend. It needs a bit of an MOT and a new string or two, but it'll do the job to learn on.
Guess what woke me up this morning? Yep, a three-string, un-tuned cello rendition of 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

International Meeting

The end of term meant many activities at the school. There were two Leavers' Assemblies for the Year 6 kids who are off to high school, an end of term picnic, a party for the Y6s, parent's evening... I felt as though I lived there after a while. To add to all of this, we had three Couchsurfers of varying nationalities staying.Aziz is an intelligent, interesting Albanian who fled the troubles of the Kosovo- Serbian war and now lives in Germany. He stayed for a week. We went up the Malverns with him, and into Worcester. He also went off to Shakespeare's birthplace and Ludlow Castle.

Victoria also stayed with us. She is a Buddhist priest from Japan. Well, technically she's English, but she married a Japanese man and brought their youngest daughter with her. Sahara didn't speak much English, but seemed to get on well with my kids, being the same age as Saskia and Eartha. I arranged for her to go into their class for a day too, which Eartha was hugely excited about. I think they had a nice time.Now the holidays are here, we can finally relax a little (who am I kidding?). Yesterday we went for a walk in the forest with Lynn, her twins, her friend Jan, Jan's daughter and Jan's daughter's friend. We had a picnic and let the dog run. It was a nice afternoon out.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Life's Varied Tapestry

It has only been a week or so since I last blogged, but so much has happened it is difficult to put it into print without the danger of it ending up as a list of: I did this, I did that. There is nothing more boring.

My aunt and uncle went back to Holland. I was so busy while they were here, that I felt I didn't see much of them. They took the dog on long walks and spent lots of time with the children, whom they adore. The feeling is mutual. One of the days, the dog got a 2 hour walk from Tonny and Peter, then had another 2 hour walk when the Scouts walked to Arley. He was very happy, though somewhat hungry when he got in.

I managed to lose him on a walk in Cleobury this week. I took the car in to have the brakes done, and went for a walk down the River Rea. I'd not been there before. It is really pretty and we had a great wander. On the down side, I turned back after an hour, but the dog didn't. I had to enlist the help of a farmer and his quad bike to locate the errant mutt, not to mention getting Mum to drive around the back lanes looking for him.

The kids had their respective sport's days, which they seemed to enjoy. They don't excel at sport, but they quite enjoy doing it. They have climbing lessons and swimming lessons and gymnastics lessons, so not exactly couch potatoes.
On Sunday, Kate came over and galvenised us into chopping back th
e garden. We openned up the path and created a mega-mountain of trimmings. This lead to the discovery that a large tree was pushing the fuel tank off its mountings. I had to pay someone to chop down most of the rest of the tree, re-position the fuel tank and take all the foliage away. Expensive business, this gardening.
Also on Sunday, we had a visit from my French friend Steffie, who was in t
he country with her son Matt, visiting Matt's father. It was great to catch up and put the world to rights for a few hours.Donny had her end-of-term violin concert, which was most enjoyable, yesterday, and today the whole of class six had their leaver's party. This seemed to be an exceptionally noisy disco and a barbeque. They enjoyed it. I stayed outside, trying to preserve what was left of my eardrums.