Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sally's for Tea.

The weekend has been busy and social. On Friday night I went out ten-pin bowling with the staff I worked with before Xmas. It was really nice to see them all again. While I was out, Mel went to the panto with the cubs to see Red Riding Hood. I think he enjoyed it, although he was mega-tired afterwards as it was such a late night.
Saturday, Mel went off to his friend Daniel's for most of the day, so he didn't get much of a chance to catch up on his sleep. Nick and I sat like book-ends on the sofa, glued to the Stieg Larsson trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo/Played with Fire/Kicked the Hornet's Nest). Once you start to read them, you can't stop.
Today, after the little ones went to gymnastics and I managed to run continuously on the treadmill for 24 minutes, we went to Sally's for Sunday lunch. Sally lives in the back of beyond, with horses and dogs. Once we found it, we had a lovely afternoon, just chatting and playing games with the children.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Hello Shiny New Car

It's taken me a week of being stranded to sort out the lack of car. My little red car is now sitting in a garage waiting for the garage mechanic man to sell it for salvage or scrap. Despite the overt cost of buying a car when I don't have an income, it just really isn't practical to live in the countryside without one. So, I had a search and came up with this black beauty. She's got 5 doors, which is more practical now the kids are getting larger. She's diesel and about 3 years younger than the last one. She's also eco-friendly, meaning she has low emissions and therefore low car tax. All in all, I'm quite happy.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Goodbye Little Car.

This thudding great Were-rabbit lept out of the hedge. I swerved, skidded (possibly on ice) and ended up in the tree. The car is, unfortunately beyond repair. I am sad. I liked my little red car and it seems a sorry way to go. At least Eartha and I were unharmed; as was the rabbit.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Had My Three

They say bad things come in threes. Well, I'm ready for the good things now. I've had my three.
  1. We need a new boiler. The long drawn out diagnosis is that the boiler has had it.
  2. I wrote my car off tonight swerving to avoid a rabbit. The car hit a tree. The rabbit survived.
  3. Someone I love very much has breast cancer. Extent and treatment to be determined.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Opening Presents.

Mum came up last night and we did the birthday thing (again). The kids finally got to open the pressies that they got from their friends. There was just too much going on during the party. Everyone is still very tired, but it's getting better.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Sleepover Party

The kids wanted a sleepover for their birthdays. Now, I didn't fancy having lots of wild children tromping round my house all night. Oh no! So, I booked a bunkbarn. It is like a hostel - you bring your sleeping bag. There's a kitchen, bathrooms, lounge; everything you could need. We had the place to ourselves - that is five adults and sixteen children (and three of the adults legged it before bedtime!)
Tea was cooked in military style by Angela. We lined the kids up like in a canteen and served them chips and pizza with ice-cream to follow. OK, so not exactly health food, but hey - it's a party, right? There was a cake, with candles, naturally. You can't have a party without a cake.Mike had set up Monsters vs Aliens to project onto the wall, so we had all the kids snuggled in sleeping bags, watching the film. They scoffed tons of popcorn and left the rest on the floor to get glued to their sleeping-bags and socks. Daniel had an unfortunate spill, which deposited a large amount of popcorn inside his sleeping-bag. (Fortunately, as it turned out, Daniel didn't actually go to sleep at all, so the sticky inside of his bag was not the problem it could have been.)
Then we put them to bed. And they all went to sleep .... NOT. We policed the hall until about 11.30, when the little ones were asleep. The bigger ones were not, and soon afterwards came and raided the goodies we'd left out for the midnight feast (well, it was inevitable, wasn't it).
Nick and I went to bed during a momentary lull, only to get up again at 3am to put everyone back to bed again. I had to use my BIG VOICE at that point. I'm not at my best after 3 hours sleep.
As far as I can work out, very little sleep happened during the remainder of the night. I know Saskia slept most of Sunday, as did Eartha and to a lesser extent Donny. Mel managed to make it through to tea time before falling asleep literally on his nose, curled up on the floor.

And a good time was had by all.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Five Miles

I've been meaning to do this walk around Cleobury Mortimer for a while now. I found it on a website and printed it out. It was about five miles across stiles and fields through the Shropshire countryside and I fancied going somewhere I hadn't been before.

There seemed to be a storm brewing so I took waterproofs and Pal. We traipsed across some very muddy fields. Pal was freaked out by the wind turbine. Her really didn't like it at all. It brought to mind the phrase 'tilting at windmills' as he barked and dodged underneath it.

The storm never did catch up with me. I had a nice chat with a farmer, who was rounding his lambs up by quad-bike, then I cut back down the lane to avoid more sheep-filled fields. Pal on a lead means you come home with one arm longer than the other and I wasn't up for that. The walk took about two and a half hours, so I think Pal got a good run, despite being tethered to me some of the time.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Unexpected Trip

I went into my kids' school to try to sort out their PE pumps. Between the four of them, they have 5 pumps. As an average, this isn't good. Searching revealed one more of Mel's, which only left Saskia with no pumps at all. On the other hand, she just helped herself to Mia's (a school friend with the same size feet) and promptly lost one of those too. So, now we have 7 pumps, but one doesn't belong to us. Either way, it looks like I'm going to have to go to the shoe shop.

So my plan for Monday was to walk the dog, then replace Mia and Saskia's missing pumps.

On my way through school, the headmistress collared me and asked if I was busy. Busy? Would I be able to help out on the school trip to Warwick Castle, because two parent helpers had dropped out at the last minute. Everyone was looking a little stressed.

I phoned Mum and dragged her out of bed to come and rescue the poor dog. He wasn't impressed as I climbed onto the coach with the kids, while he was stuck tied to the railings. Saskia and Eartha were thrilled that I was coming with them.

Warwick Castle was not the most helpful of tourist attractions, claiming never to have heard of our school and not to have booked the activities booked. How they can have forgotten that 100 pupils were coming is beyond me. One of the teachers had to put the whole lot on her credit card because they refused to invoice the school! Unbelievable!

There were a few other niggles, that I won't bore you with here. They desperately need a dedicated education liaison officer. I might write my own job description and send it to them asking for employment.

Anyway, after lunch, we went to the Princess Tower, where the kids got to dress up as Princesses and Knights. Then they got to make a wish, some of which were quite bizarre - one girl wished for a spotty sock, for example. You gotta love em.
I took a group of six off to sketch swords and the Trebuchet and climb the towers (530 steps). It was all good fun. Eventually we met up with the rest of the group, admired some peacocks, didn't buy anything in the shop and headed back to the coach. We got back to school by 5pm. Not bad for a surprise trip out.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Wasted Day

So, it's snowing thick and fast; the kids' school is closed; but numpty here makes an attempt to get to the interview. I slid down the road, nearly failing to stop at the junction, and fish-tailed up the hill. There wasn't even that much snow - maybe three inches, but it was making the roads lethal. By the time I'd ended up sideways across the road twice and had passed several abandoned vehicles, I decided no job was worth dying for.

I pulled over and stopped in a layby, deciding to sit it out. After all, there was rain promised later, to melt all the nasty, slushy snow away. I know other parts of the world don't grind to a halt when a few flakes of snow appear, but maybe we just have the wrong sort of snow. This stuff churned up into lumps, but turned into a grey something with a smooth, slippery, bowling-alley type texture as soon as any pressure was put on it (e.g. by a car tyre).

After a few phone calls rearranging the interview and sitting by the side of the road for well over an hour, I decided it had melted enough to try to get to Mum's. I couldn't get home because there was a stranded lorry on the hill blocking all traffic, and the back-road was still not passable.

I slithered down hill, past several pranged cars, and through a slalom of abandoned lorries. There was a bus following me. I thought if that starts to slide I will have no hope. Fortunately it didn't. Down at Mum's they'd only had a dusting, and no doubt wondered what all the fuss was about.

So, in the afternoon, I headed off to the nice school and went through the ritual humiliation that is being interviewed. I waffled and talked a load of rubbish, as I always seem to manage to do when someone asks me a question like
"So where are your boundaries?"
What am I supposed to say? There's no sensible answer to that.
"Naturally, sir, they are at level 3. I wouldn't have it any other way!"

So, another wasted day. I haven't officially heard, but seriously, I would have been better off staying in bed, rather than risking writing my car off, only to have my confidence bashed once again. The whole process leaves me feeling depressed and inadequate.

I don't do interviews. And when I get rich and famous, I won't do interviews then, either. I shall get my publicist to read out a press statement. I think I'll suggest that to the agency next time they want me to do an interview.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The Quandry

I was hoping for a bit of time off. You know, get the house clean, update the blogs, sort out an exercise programme, maybe even start learning some more Chinese... then this agency sent me an e-mail: Biology A level teacher wanted 4 days/week.

Well, I've never worked for this agency. I registered with them a year ago, then backed off when I saw their rates. Basically, they only pay 2/3rds of what I'm used to getting as supply. To put that in context: I was earning more than their current daily rate when I was doing supply in 2004 as a newly qualified teacher.

Amusingly, when I first registered with them and saw the rate they were offering, I phoned them up and asked if they had accidentally put the Teaching Assistant rate on the form by mistake! I wasn't even being sarcastic - I genuinely thought it was a mistake.

So, anyway, I sent them an e-mail about the Biology post along the lines of "Show me the money" and they promised to talk to the school and blah blah blah. Anyway, ultimately I have an interview for this two-term position at a very nice school tomorrow. I thought everything was tickity-boo until I had a generic "this is your contract" e-mail from the agency late this evening, quoting the terrible rate as the rate I would be paid.

Frankly, it isn't worth getting out of bed for, with diesel at £1.32 a litre and a 50 mile round trip every day to said nice school. On top of that, as it is long term, it would prevent me from taking a better paid job before September. It would involve planning and marking (which day to day supply doesn't have to do), plus it is teaching A level, which is certainly not for the faint-hearted. There is no way I am going to work for peanuts.

So, my dear readers, do I go to the interview tomorrow, in the hope that the 'contract' e-mail was just a generic one and an acceptable rate will have been worked out between the school and the agency. Or do I stay at home and badger some of the better paying agencies to find me some work? Do I even care if I'm not employed for the next few months?

I think I'll sleep on it.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


Amazingly, my biggest children turned 11 today. They have grown and changed so much in the past year. It is scary. They are definitely into the start of teenageryness - in both their tastes, growth and attitudes. Yesterday we went clothes hunting for them to beat the VAT rise. Yes, I know there is no VAT on children's clothes, but Donny is in ladies sizes now! I suppose having a 6'4" daddy doesn't help, but I think there must be some very skinny teens around if they can fit into the 'children's size' clothes on offer. Even Mel is in age 13 clothes now.

Anyway, cakes and candles and presents for Donny and Mel.