Sunday, July 27, 2008

Talk, talk, swimming and quiz

Saturday was a beautiful, hot day here. I went to work, where it was a quiet afternoon, probably because it was such a lovely day. But I was able to be useful to an overseas student. I told him something he could have benefited from a couple of years ago, at the start if his course, but there we go! I was then able to help with a general enquiry about his accommodation and employment plans for the coming year. But mostly I spent my time finishing things off as I start my off-contract weeks as of today. Mind you, as we have something special happening at work at the mo, I am expecting to go in and do a bit of work over August.

I met Dani and the kids over at the grandmothers’ house, where they were having a joint barbecue with the four next door houses. This was a lovely relaxed affair with bubble making for the kids, swingball and a man who did magic tricks with string. We walked home in the warm evening air.

This morning we seemed to cover rather a lot of major topics in general chat – adoption, the nutrition of babies, race, abortion, contraception – and thanks to “Mock the Week”, orgies... Then we went to a home ed swimming session, which Dani had booked at our local pool. This worked out very well – we all swam and then some of us went to the park. The kids played in the sun and adults chatted.

This evening I cooked a veg heavy dinner – steamed broccoli and carrots, peas and green beans, sweetcorn and roast potatoes – and quorn sausages or quiche. Then we did a family quiz. It was Pearlie’s idea to do this as a Sunday evening thing for a while. Today it was my turn to compose the quiz and the other three had to answer. They all did very well. Leo surprised me by knowing this:
“If you are anaemic, which mineral are you lacking?”
Pearlie knew lots of stuff – the boiling point of water in degrees Celsius, the capital of Belgium, the number of degrees in the largest interior angle of a right-angled triangle, that water conducts electricity... No wonder she likes quizzes! Dani let herself down by forgetting the name of Paddington’s aunt Lucy.

Friday, July 25, 2008


It’s been a good few days here. As I was stuffing clean, dry sleeping bags back into stuff sacks this afternoon, I realised that I am very happy that we will be at home for the next few months. Pearlie has a couple of camps coming up, one with Woodcraft and one with other home edders, but the rest of us are settled down here. Pride is on the horizon, along with our night out to see kd lang. There’s time for some day trips to the beach hut and possibly a couple further afield. But several days like the last few would suit me fine too.

On Wednesday, Dani was at work in the morning and I dropped the kids off with her at lunchtime. They went off to the lagoon for a friend’s birthday party, which was great fun, apparently. I went to work for the afternoon.

Dani and the kids went down to the main library in the morning to swap some books. The kids are doing the summer reading thing that they usually do. I got a couple of hours to work on a new story, which I relished. Pearlie went off to her games group in the afternoon. Everyone had finished designing and making their games and it was time to play them. Leo and Dani hung out at home. Leo has bought the DVD of the Spiderwick Chronicles so he’s watching that a lot.

Today, Dani was at work all day and the kids and I started the day with a quick trip to a branch library to return a game and a jigsaw. I was starting to feel scolded by the Boggle, staring at me from the shelf! I was feeling indulgent, so made three different lunches – eggy bread, pasta and salad. Then we had a very content afternoon doing our own things. Pearlie did a little bit of writing in French, reading her Roman Mysteries book, chalking on the pavement and playing on her scooter. Leo watched his movie again and then set to work on a new field guide. He is using watercolours and a dipping pen and ink – you should see his hands... He also popped outside to chalk a safe circle around the house. As we live in a terrace, he had to content himself with a line! I did some laundry, washed up over and over again and made a banana cake. I also found time to read 160 pages of a book of short stories I’d picked up at the library. I’ve never read anything by the author before but I really like his stories – a bit dark and twisted. I also managed to have a little snooze on the sofa, while P trundled up and down the street on wheels and Leo painted at the kitchen table.


My way to work

It was a lovely day yesterday, so I thought I'd photograph my journey to work.

This is the smelly corner at the bus stop. People wee here. People smoke here. Low point of journey.

I don't usually have long to wait for one of these.

I often get off a stop or two early to walk some of this. There's a horrid A road on the other side of the bushes, but I try to tune it out.

I cross these tracks. I love this station. It is originally from the 1860s but was re-built in the 1890s. It has a Victorian post box set in the wall and an old signal room with tea towels drying on the levers.

I often meet rabbits about here.

This is the field where they are planning to build a football stadium. Don't ask...

This is the view from my office window.

The view from upstairs in the library. Excellent for day dreaming.

Aaaah! Smell the knowledge... Lots of my work is based on the use of electronic resources now, of course, but you can't beat a row of books, or, in this case, journals...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Countryside adventures, park and Tenko

On Monday, Dani and the kids set off to an event at The Sussex Wildlife Trust headquarters organised by a fellow home edder. They got two buses out into the country and Dani got time to chat with other adults while the kids were taken off by the workers to do things like pond dipping. It sounds like it was a great place. Leo was chatting to me in the bath that night about the lava of the Caddis Fly, which makes itself a little portable case out of shells and stones. They also saw frogs, toads, newts and fish. In the afternoon they were shown how to make things with nettles and elder. Leo made a piece of nettle string to adorn his hat and Pearlie made a nettle and elder bracelet. They were exhausted that night as it was another busy day after the hectic weekend. I was no less tired after a morning of unpacking and sorting and an afternoon at work.

Yesterday, the kids' Squeezebox session was cancelled, so we got a morning at home. I spent this trying to catch up on some more tidying and washing. Pearlie is happily engrossed in the new Roman Mysteries book and Leo was working on a long story he started at his writing group. I did a very stupid thing and brought in one of the recycling boxes to clean in the hallway. People chuck things in our boxes if we leave them out and someone had kindly donated a beer bottle that had dribbled dregs all over the place. I was moving very fast and plonked the box on the carpet before filling it up with hot water and Flash. It was only when I picked it up that I realised that it has four, quite large, holes in the bottom! So, the hallway carpet got a soaking in hot soapy water and I realised I’d get more done if I slowed down a bit...

In the afternoon we went up to the park, where the kids disappeared for four hours with friends and I drank tea and chatted with other parents. Two exciting things happened which were reported to me by a breathless Pearlie. First, she saw a heron on the park pond. Second she and friends saw some kids smashing up a bass guitar. This was very dramatic and involved hurling it out of trees, and so on. Most bizarre... A sort of rock star, hotel bedroom moment, in the local park!

Dani’s knitting group came round in the evening and I watched Bonekickers with the kids. They are really enjoying this but I think it is rather *cough* far-fetched and silly! Dani and I stayed up too late once the knitters had gone, watching Tenko. We got another video cheap on Ebay. I am struck by how slow moving it seems, when compared to modern tv programmes. There are also no whizzing camera shots or flashbacks. It’s rather like watching a play, a genuine ensemble piece too, where the story unfolds and you’re gripped by that. The acting is a bit patchy but there are some excellent performances, especially Stephanie Cole as the doctor. I’m loving seeing it again. It is far more interesting to watch than pretty much anything I see on tv today. It is thought provoking too. Dani and I ended the day looking at our Schofield and Sims history timeline poster, trying to understand why there were Dutch prisoners as well as British ones.

Right, got to go and pack a bag for the kids and Dani to use this afternoon. They’re off across town to an outdoor party. I’ve got to go to work.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tolpuddle and home again

On Friday we set off for the Tolpuddle Festival and we got back yesterday (Sunday) evening. The kids and Dani were up early this morning to go to a nature event out in mid-Sussex and I’m contemplating the laundry heap, which is out-of-hand, and planning to unpack and check all the camping gear. This is probably why I’m blogging!

The Tolpuddle event was quite a journey for us. The camping field was on a slope, which meant we didn’t get very good sleep. On the second night I woke to find every muscle in my back screaming – probably trying to stop me falling, which we did each night, into a grumpy heap at the bottom of the tent. Speaking of the tent, I am in love with our Vango Force Ten. It is true that it is rather snug, and I suspect that in a year or two the kids may start to spill out into pop-up tents, but the sheer quality and orangeness of our family tent is so comforting. Every bit of it is well stitched, thick and soft. Most modern tents seem to be made of super-light material which, though it obviously has its advantages, never looks very reliable. Peg it too tight or slide a pole a bit wonky and stitching splits. Our Force Ten was certainly expensive (though we did get a good deal - more than a hundred off the price quoted on the vango site) but it feels like the tents of my childhood, the sort you bought once and kept for a generation.

It was good to see family at Tolpuddle. We travelled with my brother J and his son D, who were snug in their little two person tent. It certainly helped to travel together, especially yesterday when we ended up on a very over-crowded train. This was ok, as we had managed to get everyone seated, but then they announced that only the front five carriages would open at Clapham Junction, so we had to walk through packed train with kids and hefty backpacks. I must say that the kids were brilliant. Pearlie carried all her own stuff – sleeping bag and mat included. Leo carried his sleeping back and pjs etc. Little cousin D remained stoical – even when feeling sick – and we held it all together.

It was also great to see K and N with cousins S and G, from Leicestershire. They’ve been to Tolpuddle for ever and so were able to give us tips, like getting up early enough for cooked breakfasts provided by the local WI, who stand in a row with camping cookers and dole out fried eggs.

Sadly, Pearlie cut her foot on the Sunday morning. This was the most bizarre accident really. She was walking along, carrying toast, with her sandals undone. There was a pencil lying on the grass which she somehow flipped up under her foot and then stood down on. The tip was quite blunt but the pressure enough to split the sole of her foot. She was very brave and is determined that it will not stop her. She’s gone off today hobbling and declaring,

“it only hurts when I stand on it.”

It is quite clean and covered but I hope it heals ok. Injuries on feet are always a bit worrying, aren’t they?

When we got in last night, P eager to get her sore foot sorted with clean plaster, Leo suddenly had one of the sudden, nauseous (migraine like) headaches he’s had before. This seemed to resolve with throwing up, as it has before. But after four hours on hot trains and two nights with little sleep, we were all struggling to cope. I can’t really believe they were still keen to get up early for this event today. I hope they’re all ok and don’t just dissolve into a little heap somewhere.

On the Saturday evening, at Tolpuddle, Mark Steel performed. He was very funny. Leo took the opportunity to veg out on my lap during the performance but Pearlie listened avidly and seemed to really enjoy it. He was tormented by kids with whistles, which I found very amusing.

On the Sunday there was a short procession, with banners, down to the Methodist chapel in the village. This included lots of conversation with P, who was surrounded by plenty of information about a range of isms. She is very interested in this stuff at the moment and was able to quiz a young man wrapped in a Communist Party flag. I only got a bit irritated at one point when the kids were picking up free stickers from Class War. I didn’t mind the swearing but insisted they put back the ‘mug a yuppie’ stickers, complete with man covered in blood. They did this with some “yes, er, YUK” type comments when it was pointed out to them. The sheer volume of freebie stuff available meant that they got a bit crazed with acquisition. I found this very hard to deal with. It seems to me that the mass of plastic tat has no place in the legacy of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. I can’t help but feel that Trade Unions with so much money to burn on rubbish should just lower their subs, or donate their bounty to organisations in parts of the world where people are still labouring for poverty wages. At demos and such when I was a kid you just got leaflets, by the hundred, not free Frisbees and sunglasses...

Leo wasn’t that interested in the Tolpuddle Martyrs themselves, but P came to the museum with me and Dani and we all enjoyed that. I was also quite happy to enjoy so many free apples from the NUT stall (a rather useful freebie if you must have them) and smirk a little to myself ;-)

I have to say that I struggled with portaloos. They are the most vile things, aren’t they? I can’t help but wonder if screened holes in the ground wouldn’t be less unpleasant to use. Living with them for a weekend made me appreciate the luxury of the decent toilets and showers at Hesfes. I was very glad of a little bottle of hand sanitiser that we had with us, as it wasn’t always possible to wash hands after using the portaloos.

Right, washing machine has stopped and I have procrastinated enough. To work!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Without Canada Clauses

This week, I have been thinking rather a lot about my maternal grandmother. She lived in our family home when I was a small child and my few memories of her centre around how different she was to the other adults. This difference was the result of a massive stroke that had paralysed one side of her body and badly damaged her power of speech. The stroke had happened when I was a baby and my mum worked hard to care for her mother and her own four children. My mum fought for speech therapy and helped her mum re-learn to read. My grandmother had extremely short-sight which degenerated in her final years and she was registered blind by the time she died – when I was four. She was only sixty-seven when she died – of a heart attack in her own bed, in the back bedroom of our house.

Nearly all the family tales of this grandmother have a laugh in them – whether they are funny or not. She was a heavy smoker to the end, insisting on wedging her fag between the fingers of her paralysed hand and burning holes in the chair arms. She’d go the local paper shop, where she was well known and my mum had briefed the shopkeeper not to just hand over the cigarettes but to get her to attempt to ask for them. One of her best attempts at Players Number Six, or perhaps just cigarettes, was “blue cabbages”. She declared the weather “a bit bailey!” when it was chilly and this was thought to refer to some next-door neighbours of that name who were, indeed, somewhat frosty. There are plenty of other tales that pre-date me – the family walk across the Downs when she fell, climbing under a gate, and got her face in a cowpat or the time she set fire to the living room while my mum was lying upstairs with a new baby. There was no harm done as she, apparently, put it out and got the room re-decorated before my dad was home from work. She was a demon for ‘drawing the fire’ with a bit of paper or cardboard – something my mum taught me as a kid. The trick is to create a draught of air up against the fire but not let the flames catch the paper!

I remember my mum telling me, when I was a teenager, how, as a young woman, my grandmother had had a ‘breakdown’. I guess this was in the early 1920s. Her husband did enough to keep her out of the clutches of the hospitals, or I guess in those days, the asylum. There was even a laugh in that story too, though, as one evening she made a cup of tea for her husband (a promising sign?) but then proceeded to pour it into his ear. I wondered why she’d gone through this time and my mum explained that it was probably partly to do with her upbringing, in the care of Doctor Barnardos.

I always knew my grandmother had been “in Barnardos” but I never thought much about it. This week, I’ve been typing out a few notes that someone in the family got from Doctor Barnardos, some years ago. My mum can’t see the print very well as she’s having some post-op complications after her cataract surgery. Some of these notes have had me rather tearful, alternately wondering how people in such circumstances survived with their humanity intact and feeling so damn lucky to have been born a couple of generations later.

There is a page of facts, based on medical examination at the time of my grandmother’s admission to Barnardos, in 1909. She was admitted with two of her sisters and one of her brothers. She was the youngest, at one year and eleven months. Her mother had died when she was five months old so I guess it is a testament to the care her family managed that she was alive at all – and a fairly respectable 23lbs in weight. Her brother (aged twelve) was vermin bitten with a mouth full of rotten teeth. He was immediately separated from his sisters and soon sent to naval training school in Norfolk.

The page of report that tells the tale of their family’s descent into what is called “dire straits” makes for painful reading. My grandmother was the youngest of eight children and her father had left the navy to work as a labourer. He couldn’t get regular work and her mother earned what she could as a char. She was “never strong”, which is no surprise seeing as she bore eight children in about fifteen years on a poor diet and worked outside the home as well as in it. She died of bronchitis – leaving her husband with eight children to care for and no regular wage coming in. One of the children (a great-aunt of mine, I think) had died already, by the time he handed over the care of his youngest four to Barnardos. This part is the bit that hit me hardest,

“The father is described as a good, hardworking man, and an affectionate father, and it was only his inability to get work that induced him to part with his children.”

The choice was give up his children or watch them all suffer and, possibly, starve. The report makes it clear that they have only just been kept from starving (thanks to help from family, the former mistress of his late wife and a local coffee house keeper) and were on the point of eviction from their home. Thankfully, their father was strong enough to resist the pressure to let the charity send his children overseas and the report reads,

“As the father much objected to emigration the Canadian clause has been struck out of the agreements.”

This was probably the saving of the family, as a family, because the children were never abandoned, in spite of their admission. Their father died but the family (especially the two older sisters who hadn’t been admitted) never really let those children go. They were young (only thirteen and fifteen) when their siblings went away, but there are records, over the years, of their visits to their sisters. Some of those made me want to scream. Here’s one,

“15.12.1914 (more than five years after their admission) Sister (name) asks for a visiting order on Sunday. Informed regret unable to accede to request as visits on Sunday not allowed in accordance with rules.”

Yes, they had to get visiting orders to see their sisters and it is clear that Barnardos would only allow continuing access if they approved of the family members – and only if they played by the rules.

My grandmother spent most her time “boarded out” with foster families. The family in which she and her sisters spent their earlier years was very near here – in Lewes. From what I have read, families had to live in pretty rural areas to be deemed suitable. The mother of that family would send them to the pub to buy jugs of brandy (no doubt funded by Barnardos!) but there wasn’t much food around. The girls used to eat raw veg from gardens and allotments - carefully removing the baby white cauliflowers and re-arranging the leaves. That was another tale told with a laugh in my childhood.

It was only when reading these notes that I realised that, of course, as her sisters grew up they had to leave Barnardos and my grandmother spent nearly four years boarded out on her own. That must have been a lonely time. But she survived. She got out and lived with a sister and met her husband and raised her own children. She knew how to love those children and they loved her back – and her grandchildren when they came along. She made me the most enormous pink, furry rabbit, when she went to the daycentre. She always had Smarties in a pot in her room. She could still play hand sandwiches, even if she was a bit slow at it. She never had to go back in an institution or be a stranger in someone else’s home. She had more rough than smooth but she died where she belonged, thanks to these words on the record sheet, “Agreement, without Canada Clauses, signed by father.”

Monday, July 14, 2008


by Dani

We are both on leave from work this week, but not going away until the weekend, so we’ve got a bit more breathing space than usual.

We all went to town on Saturday, on a quest for Pearlie’s next book group book. One of the last remaining independent bookshops in town came up trumps in the end, after the library, Borders, Waterstones, WH Smiths and Sussex Stationers had all failed.

We ended up doing a lot of walking, encountering massed choirs outside the library, registering our protest at their decision to apply age ranges to their children’s fiction shelves, and acquiring books, computer games, and watermelons on the way.

We were thrilled to discover Leo’s story on display in the window of Waterstones, as one of the local winners of their What’s Your Story competition. If you’re local, do go and have a look – I think there are several other young authors from Little Green Pig featured there as well.

The book group is meeting here tonight, so we spent most of yesterday tidying and cleaning in the children’s bedrooms. Leo’s room in particular had reached bombsite proportions, but is now lovely and tidy, if somewhat overstocked. We bit the bullet and passed on a few old picture books to the family next door, who have a 6 month old baby. Some of the best picture books we had when P and L were little were donations from our neighbours on the other side, so it’s lovely to be able to maintain a tradition there. We also pulled out a bag full of dressing up clothes to donate to our favourite crèche (if they want them).

Allie and I have ruthlessly weeded our clothes in preparation for buying some that are not grey. I now have no t-shirts, but at least there is room in the chest of drawers.

As you may have noticed, we’ve done a bit of tidying up here as well – just fancied a change, really. We think it looks quite clean and fresh now, but we may continue to fiddle around with it – any requests or comments, just let us know!

Other things that have happened include:

  • The kids and I went on a butterfly spotting walk in and around one of our local parks yesterday. We met David Bellamy at the end, as it was part of a city wide initiative to involve local people in a biodiversity survey of butterflies, and he was helping to promote it. The kids, of course, had no idea who he was, but I think they enjoyed the event.
  • Duck Rock are busy working on a new song, and Pearlie has written some lyrics with minimal support from Allie.
  • Leo has been working in a very focused way through the levels of various games on the CBBC website. At first he seemed to find this a very frustrating process, and there was lots of cursing and complaining when things didn’t go his way in the game. But he seems now to have settled into a “try, try again” kind of mindset, and is having quite a lot of success.
  • I helped on the rota at Kids Club on Thursday, and was privileged to witness the whole group cooperating together in a game of crossing a space without letting their feet touch the ground (using some old carpet squares as stepping stones)
  • We finished our respective bed time books and swapped over mums. I’m now reading the Prisoner of Zenda to Leo, and Allie is reading The Growing Summer to Pearlie.
  • Pearlie saw two foxes on our back wall on Friday evening, and managed to photograph them in the gloom.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


OK, so I said I’d blog conversation. Here are a couple of recent examples.

The other night, Pearlie said, “why is there a credit crunch?” One of the main things she learned then is that her mothers are rather ill-informed when it comes to economics! But I did tell her she can always ask her uncle who understands economics properly, in a real, joined up way. But we talked a bit about related things – supply and demand, value, and so on. Here’s a bit that I can remember.

Pearlie: “So, if oil prices are high then countries that produce oil should be doing well, yes?”

Allie: “Erm...”

Pearlie: “But they have oil in Egypt, don’t they?”

Allie: “Yes.”

Pearlie: “So why have there been food riots in Egypt then?”

Allie: “Well, just because some people in a country may be wealthy that doesn’t mean everyone is, does it?”

Pearlie: “No, that’s right. I guess it’s rich people, shareholders, who’d benefit, isn’t it?”

In this kind of conversation, Pearlie gets the opportunity to check things out that she’s read and seen and fit it together. She knows about shareholders mainly from conversation, I think, and food riots from news reports. I have to say that our subscription to First News is money very well spent too. It always gets read and I think that it does a reasonable job at giving background for the news stories that P sees on the tv, and so on.

One day when we were at HESFES, Leo suddenly asked Dani,

“If you’ve got two eyes, how come you only see one image?”

Dani explained the role of the brain in sight and Leo said,

“How can a brain be made? How did the first human brain grow?”

This led on to a discussion about evolution (which Leo knows about from fossils and dinosaurs) and how this process might have happened. Leo wondered if one day a creature who was not herself human gave birth to the first human child. This was just a quick conversation as they walked between the tent and the main marquee.

Tonight, however, Pearlie got a bit of a monologue from me! We were watching a programme about the digital enhancement of photographs in glossy magazines. A young girl was having her breasts slit and lumps of plastic put in. Now, I’m of the opinion that breasts of all shapes and sizes are beautiful and so wish that women could believe that. I burbled on in this vein (as I tend to when I see such things) and then grabbed our poor, unsuspecting daughter and hugged her tight and said,

“Don’t ever do that, will you Pearlie?”

But I think that’s a worry I won’t dwell on as it turns out that P is really hard line and reckons that cosmetic surgery should be banned except in cases of medical need! I can’t think where she gets this tendency towards strong opinions ;-)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Back to the trundle

I think I really benefitted from a quiet weekend as my cold has become just a bit of a husky voice. I love spending aimless time at home and very rarely get to do it. Anyway, today was back to full-on mode. Dani went to work this morning and I was on the rota at Kids’ Club. It was a good session with one new child starting and one old hand leaving. Unfortunately, it was raining so hard that there wasn’t any opportunity for the kids to play outside. I chatted with M (age seven, I think) who told me all about his interest in electronics and very quickly lost me!

After Kids’ Club, Pearlie went over to the grandmothers’ house and I took Leo down to the home ed art session. The kids worked on a big, collaborative picture of a cityscape, I believe. I went off to work.

Dani finished work in time to collect Leo from art and they spent some time at home. Leo made some things from fimo (he’s quite into fimo at the mo), watched tv and pottered in the garden. Dani knitted and made phone calls.

Quick aside – I have been denying that I’d ever seen the film Dani is watching on tv in this room and then, all of a sudden:

Me: Oh, does someone get impaled on a huge pair of scissors at the end?

Dani: I think you have seen it then...

Pearlie popped home from the grandmothers’, just long enough to eat, before she went out again to her book group. Meanwhile, Dani and Leo had a quick visit from cousin D, who had to hang out at our place while his mum got the bus across town to collect his sister.

I got home from work and ate the end of a very yummy risotto that Dani had cooked, then Ocado brought the shopping and Pearlie came home.

Since listening to Alan Thomas at Hesfes, and reading his new book, I’ve been feeling very inspired again about our home ed life. In the book, Thomas quotes lots of parents of children who have learned autonomously (UK terminology) or naturally (Australian terminology) and there was so much there to recognise. It is that very simple thing of feeling validated by a representation of some aspect of your life. Probably the aspect of our lives that I blog the least, but which is possibly the most rich in learning terms (for us all) is conversation. What I love most is the way that conversation just bubbles up and how it takes us off in unexpected directions. Sometimes it is as simple as question and answer, but often it is much more rambling than that. Anyway, I think I’ll try to blog a bit more of it over the next few days.

Another blogworthy thing is how brilliantly Pearlie negotiates independent life these days. Recently, she had to get a bus quite a long way (about a 20 minute ride) and managed all the following:

She got to the stop, checked the printed timetable to confirm the bus time and realised that another bus would come first. She wasn’t sure if this bus went to the stop she needed, so she hailed it, got on and asked the driver. Driver told her it didn’t so she got off and waited for the right one. When this one ‘disappeared’ off the real-time indicator board, she phoned Dani who looked on the online real-time service to check it was still on its way. Bus then appeared so P got on and travelled to the stop she needed, where she got off and waited for her lift to arrive. I reckon that’s damn confident travelling. Part of what helps P manage is her fab memory for place. She had a complete mental picture of the route the bus would take and that helps!

Right, off to watch the rest of this film. Luckily, though I can remember the giant scissors, I can’t remember anything else!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

End of the road for my story - this time at least

The results of the competition came out tonight and my story wasn't placed. But I'm encouraged by reaching the short list. I am rather fond of the story I entered and am thinking of giving it a bit of a dust down and entering it elsewhere. I've got two or three others ready to go too.

I've spent much of the day flopping about and blowing my nose. I'm reading Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, which is a very absorbing read. It have borrowed it from my friend, K, and I suspect that she'll have to wait until Dani's read it before she gets it back!

The kids have had a good day. Pearlie devised a short general knowledge quiz for us. Leo won, which pleased him. I was impressed that he knew who had been defeated in the London Mayoral election. I lost as I forgot the chemical symbol for silver. I just went to double check it on our poster and found she'd stuck a slip of paper over it so I couldn't cheat! Typing up the quiz involved P in quite a bit of learning of Word 2007. She made a beautiful job of it - all in different colours. P is very into rainbow things at the moment.

Leo has been very happy to find himself re-united with paper, pens, tape and scissors. His large picture map is coming along and he's also dismantled an old mobile phone to make a time machine, as well as numerous cardboard creations.

Dani has spent some time planning a new knitting project for a wedding in the autumn. I think she's so clever, the way things emerge from the needles...

I made cheese scones for lunch and a yummy borlotti bean, tomato and pesto pasta sauce for tea. The kids are both eating loads - making up for the rather lean fare available at hesfes!

We had a quick game of Taboo tonight during which Dani made a somewhat wild guess of marshmallow when the word was, in fact, cigar. That led to a lot of laughter.

I finished reading Treasure Island to Leo tonight and his next request is The Prisoner of Zenda. We're reading our way through a boxed set of children's classics that he pleaded for in a charity shop one day and I felt unable to deny him. Treasure Island was great fun to read as I got to do rough, sinister, pirate voices!

Right, off for cup of tea and biccy before bed. Busy day tomorrow with lots of commitments and this cold is making me a bit foggy. Oh, yeah, and we all liked Doctor Who. Great fun to get everyone in for a collective flying of the Tardis!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Home from Hesfes

We got home from Hesfes last night and I think it’s fair to say that we’re all pretty tired still. I seem to have a bit of a cold too, so I’m not at my best.

Hesfes was much easier going than last year, mainly because the weather was so much better. We had an electric hook up and so we could make tea easily (always important!) and use our sandwich toaster. I don’t think I’ll want another toasted sandwich for months, mind you. We were quite experimental and found that banana and Nutella was good, and that you could make toast by just pressing a slice of bread onto the hot surface for a while. Our new tent proved itself in a couple of hefty showers and stayed far cooler than most of the tents made of modern fabrics. The best thing was seeing a tent there, of the same make, that looked like it had done decades and was still going strong. It is a Vango force ten and is the sort that youth groups like Woodies tend to own.

This was out little encampment. The pop up tent was great for holding all our stuff and the orange tent was fine for the four of us at night. I wouldn't want to rely on one of those pop up tents for actually sleeping in as they really have a feel of play tents!

Breakfast in the sun one morning. Leo demanded that most of his food came in a form that he could run about with!

Here we are packed up and ready to go home. Journeys were fine, except for a silly argument with an ill-informed gate attendant at Farringdon. Next year we plan to brave the tube and avoid the 4o min walk across centra London with all the luggage. That bit really isn't much fun. I kept nearly tripping posh men in suits with our trailer! We were very grateful to friends who carried some bits and pieces for us.

The kids had a fantastic week. Pearlie had her new Dahon bike to buzz about on and spent a lot of time chatting with friends and going to the pool. Leo was engaged in almost constant water fights and lots of games involving chasing, maps, treasure and general rampaging. Both the kids went to the music workshops for three of the afternoons and played in the end of week show.

Leo in the end of week show. he shared a big keyboard with another player.

Pearlie playing at the end of week show. She is concentraing very hard here.

The kids’ band, Duck Rock, played in the children’s cabaret too. They performed their new song – their first original composition – and it went down very well indeed.

Duck Rock playing in the children's cabaret. We seem destined never to get a decent shot of P behind the drum kit!

Because the kids were busy and happy at the workshops, we were able to go to some of the conference sessions. I particularly enjoyed listening to Alan Thomas talk about his new book, which we bought. I also managed to read a four hundred page thriller in two days. This wouldn’t have been my top choice of reading matter but it was the best I could get in the camp site shop! We did sitting by camp fires chatting and singing and enjoyed a fabulous communal meal in the Sussex field on the last night. We entered the family quiz and managed to win. On the last night, Andy told us we’d won tickets for next year’s Hesfes, which was rather cool. I suspect that there will be rather more entrants next year, now people now what the prize is!

Hesfes is great and I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to go. But it is also an exhausting way to spend a week. I think that’s because it is so full-on. The days start early, because there are so many little kids, and end late. There is little space to be had and that gets me a bit ragged by the end of the week. I did manage a couple of hours chilling on the beach, while Leo looked for crabs and I read my book.

The kids have come back very bubbly, though. Pearlie rushed off to a bead shop this morning to get things to make rainbow jewellery and Leo is working on a big picture map. We’re very excited about tonight’s Doctor Who too. I am also in a fever of excitement as I returned home to find that the story I have in a competition, that had made it onto the long list, is now on the short list. The short list is eleven stories and from that there will be three winners. The winners get cash but, more exciting for me, is the prospect of getting published in the magazine. Please keep your fingers crossed for me!