Thursday, August 28, 2008

Farewell from the Greenhouse

After more than three and a half years on this blog, we have been feeling it's time for a change. As the children get older, it feels more and more strange to be blogging about them. If they want to blog what they're up to then they both have blogs of their own.

We have decided to set up a new blog for airing opinions and it is likely that this will have a home ed slant. So, do join us at Reflections in the Greenhouse.

Thanks to all for reading over the years!

Monday, August 25, 2008

We got our girl back

and we have been a tad busy since. We went to two different parties yesterday and didn’t get home from the second until nearly midnight. The kids slept in this morning and we haven’t managed to make it further than the corner shop. I have just made some cheese scones for tea and I anticipate a quiet evening. We have managed to unpack P’s bags and I helped her tidy her room. Leo and I have done a bit of work on reading music. He has been playing from memory so far. We also dug out an old video of a BBC adaptation of Five Children and It, which was lovely.

Pearlie had a great time at camp. She got her Folk name, which is just for others in the Folk to know, apparently. She did kayaking, played a wide game, stayed up very late and so on. She also did various craft things and made a lovely clay face. I am so impressed with the way she looks after herself at camp (though she has a lovely group leader there too). She set up a line to dry her stuff (though the rain foiled that!) and told us she’d worn her Dani-made wool socks for campfire times, to keep her feet warm. It is a lovely feeling to see her growing up and having such fun without us. But it’s still wonderful to have her home!

Friday was our last day without P and I took Leo for a brief swim at the local pool. I’m not that much fun for playing with in the pool. I can’t even dive to the bottom. I blame this on my own, which is very buoyant... But Leo swam some lengths with me - using his own special stroke. He moves each limb in turn and is quite uninterested in learning a more orthodox stroke.

Dani is knitting Pearlie a beautiful rainbow cardigan. P is very much into rainbow things at the moment – and colour generally. She made a gorgeous tie-dye t-shirt at camp.

Right, we have a nice week ahead. Dani will be taking the kids on a day trip to visit cousins D and S, who are staying at a fairly local caravan park. Pearlie has a one day girls’ football day to go to as well. I am hoping to get a bit of writing time – editing some stories to submit to competitions. Leo has suddenly become very fond of moths (a creature I am a bit silly about!) and is reading books, printing pictures off the internet and seeking live specimens around the house. I will not shudder...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What have we been up to this week?

On Monday Leo went across town to play at a friend’s house and had a fine time. I went to work for a few hours and then on to my writing group. Dani bought some lovely buttons for a creation.

Tuesday was busy. Dani was at work all day. I took Leo into town where his writing group was holding a workshop at an art gallery. The children were encouraged to lie underneath the beautiful exhibit and then write something. Leo wrote a lovely piece but he doesn’t want me to blog it. We had a quick lunch at Spud-u-Like where Leo was appalled at the suggested “Kids’ Meal” – “Half a potato!” – and devoured a spud with cottage cheese. Then he went to Squeezebox for a band session and an individual lesson. We went to the park for a play afterwards. Leo played with a little posse of kids who are a few years younger than him.

On Wednesday Leo and I did some of a maths book we’ve had in the drawer this year. We haven’t done much of it but it’s all much easier for him than it was six months ago. That magic thing called growing up, I guess. I went to work for the afternoon and Dani and Leo went out to ride their bikes for a bit. But the weather was unreliable, as it has been all week.

Today we all (me, D and Leo) went to Lewes where there was a tour of an archaeological dig that is happening near the library. They had some finds on display and we got to see the site. We all thought it was good. I learned how they decide where to dig when they are looking at the stripped site. I had no idea really – just thought they dug a hopeful hole! Then we headed back to Brighton for some cake and bought a board game we really can’t afford but have been wondering about for years! We’re saving it for when Pearlie gets home.

Pearlie is having a fine time. It is very strange here without her but as long as she’s having fun then that’s what matters.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


P is off at Woodcraft camp, so we’re just three this week.

I’m sure I’m missing all sorts of stuff that’s been happening here, so let’s see if I can do a catch-up.

Leo is mostly making field guides to faerie creatures. I can’t post you any pictures owing to the unfortunate departure of the camera. They are very lovely. He works on them for days, if not weeks, at a time and they include many pictures. He draws the pictures with pencil or thin black pen and then paints in the colour using his sketchers pocket box. This little paint box was a present for his seventh birthday, from wise friends. We can buy little colour blocks to replace as they get used up. Because they are real paints, as opposed to kiddy paints, the colours are very rich and they blend well. Yesterday he got a reservation notification from the library so we rushed down to pick up The Care and Feeding of Sprites, which has inspired a whole new burst of art. He also presses flowers and includes them in the field guides, as examples of sprite clothing, and so on.

Pearlie has been spending a lot of time pottering about. She met a friend to go shopping in town and got herself a new skirt and hair band. She went to a one day event at the museum, on pom pom and tassle making. I think this was quite good fun, if not exactly exciting! They were a bit reluctant to let her go at the end. I had, rather stupidly, not thought to give her a note telling the people that she was fine to leave by herself. It is rather silly really as she is eleven and would have to travel across town if she were to go to secondary school. She sorted out nearly all of her packing for camp and managed the inevitable wobbles very well. One of her main pre-occupations at the mo is humour, as well as current affairs. She watches Mock the Week, often several times, so she can get all the jokes and references. I was amused the other day when P wanted to check the meaning of satire with us. We were slightly questioning of her definition and so I checked what our Collins dictionary had to say. Its definition matched hers far better than ours... She also watches a lot of videos on YouTube.

We all enjoyed having cousin D around for a week and we managed to fit in some park trips where P, L and cousin D played involved games in the bushes. Leo and cousin D also made some superhero comics together. At the end of the week we went to see cousin S perform in the show at the end of her drama week. This was over two hours - twenty five pieces - in a hot hall. But it was great and we were very proud of cousin S.

Dani is knitting away on a gift for some people. I cannot say more! She is also paying close attention to the CME consultation – far more than I can bear to. We’ve both completed some funding application for Kids’ Club, so fingers crossed for us please.

I have been watching lots of the Olympics. I know that some people are not doing that as a protest against the Chinese regime. But I can’t really see how that will help... So, I’m indulging myself with women’s diving and so on. You will understand that I do not have an athletic bone in my body and have virtually no interest in all team sports. But I can appreciate spectacle, even if I think it is probably a bad idea to train children up as top athletes from infancy. I have also been writing and pulling up bindweed in the garden. The first of those was great – I got a story finished today. Pulling up bindweed was horrid but necessary as we have neighbours who care about their gardens. We used to garden but seem to have just forgotten that in recent years.

Dani, Leo and I seem to be having a rather gluttonous weekend here. Yesterday I made a veg lasagne – layers of home-made cheese sauce, red lentil, courgette and tomato sauce, and lots of yummy mature cheddar on top. Dani made a spiced apple crumble and custard. This afternoon I made a chocolate sponge cake – to eat while lying on the sofa watching gymnastics.

Leo and Dani went across town to a bike riding park today. They came home tired but happy.

Oh yes, and I should mention that one side-effect of watching the Olympics has been an increased interest, on Leo’s part, in countries, continents and world affairs. I made a flippant remark that a gymnast from North Korea was possibly looking terrified because her family’s welfare might depend on her performance. This led to conversation about repressive regimes. Leo spent some time with the globe this morning, finding the locations of participating countries.

Oh yes, and a bit about books. We have been reading Leo more books from the children’s classics set he owns. He and Dani had a go at the Prisoner of Zenda, which was quite hard going. I am reading him The Phoenix and the Carpet. This led to a conversation about racism the other night. I loved reading Pearlie The Growing Summer by Noel Streatfeild, which was mine when I was about her age. She and Dani are now reading Tolpuddle Boy, which P says is a bit patronising. The kids are reading various things to themselves. I think P has taken a Morpurgo away to camp and Leo is rather into Barnaby Grimes. Dani recently finished The Book Thief, as recommended by Girl One. I’m having a pause from the delights of Patrick Gale to read a Carol O’Connell that my mum has leant me.

Right, off to eat more food. P phoned today and I was glad to hear that she was neither cold nor hungry – always my main worries if she is away. Mind you, she had several packs of biscuits and a woolly hat in her luggage, so she should be fine!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer busy stuff

This will have to be a quick catchup as *the sun is currently shining* and I want to get children to the park before it decides to rain again.

We’ve been having a busy week here. Having cousin D with us has been lovely and yesterday we did a grand day out with my mum. The party was: Dani, me, my mum, Pearl, Leo , cousin B (8) and cousin D(6). The weather was unreliable so we abandoned the rough plan to go to the wetlands place at Arundel and settled on the Science Museum. It seemed that half the population of the south, plus many tourists from all over the world, had decided on the same!

Travel was fine but perhaps presented particular challenges as we had three small people who are all beyond being grabbed by the hand on the crowded tube, but still perfectly able to distract each other and wander slightly. There was a fair bit of sneaky adult holding of rucksack straps and hoods!

Once we were in the museum, we ate an early lunch and went up to the launchpad. We hadn’t seen this since it had all been expanded and relocated. The children fell on the Big Machine with determination and put in a long session there. Then we all explored and enjoyed magnets and hearing things through our teeth and other such things. There was a minor falling out at one point, during which poor L decided that I had probably abandoned him! I was, in fact, pursuing cousin D through the crowd to a corner where he was being cross. It was so busy that the noise levels alone made it quite a challenging environment. My mum hadn’t been to the Science Museum for about thirty years, so she was rather stunned by all the exciting stuff to do.

After the boys had played various games in the In Future gallery (on those big table things...) and Pearlie had mislaid herself in Marine Engineering, we took a break for a cup of tea and other drinks. Then Dani and Pearl went off for some quiet time together looking at the maths bit and then wandering off to a bookshop, while my mum and I (and my brother who had appeared after work) went to the IMAX with the boys, to see a 3D movie about prehistoric sea creatures. The boys loved it and my mum coped admirably with the strange visual experience. Having had one cataract done and then some treatment for post-op swelling, she is in a rather strange state at the mo. It’s looking like the other eye will be treated by Christmas, which should be good.

After a quick stop off with pocket money at the gift shop, we headed for Victoria. Pearlie in the lead and she managed to grab us eight free seats on the train, so we got to sit, which was a relief. The children got hysterical with laughter while playing, “I went to the shops...” and everyone finished off the remains of the picnic food. We found a bus back to our part of town and got in at about 7.30pm. That was quite a long day for everyone as we’d set off at 9am, so perhaps it’s no surprise that we’re tired today. I had to wake Leo before cousin D arrived and it took a lot!

I seem to have a bit of a cold, which is irritating. I feel like I could sleep all day. Instead, I have two boys this morning and then we’re off to see cousin S (10) perform in her end of week show. She’s been in a drama workshop all week. Reaching for the painkillers to cut through the sinus headache...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Youtube memories

Blimey, Youtube is terrible for eating time, isn't it? Here is a song that I listened to a great deal in 1991 - the year that D and I count as the start of our relationship. Just the look of the band makes me realise that was a LONG time ago!

Right, washing up...

Monday, August 11, 2008


We had a full-on trip to our beach hut yesterday with five kids (all the Brighton cousins), three adults and big waves. Sadly, I seem to have lost the camera... It is either in the beach hut, or on the beach. Well, actually, of course, it isn’t on the beach now as the tide will have taken it. In which case it could be anywhere between here and France, I guess.

The beach was wonderfully wild. The kids didn’t really paddle as much as run shrieking from the waves. Pearlie would have liked to swim but she felt she needed an adult to go in with her and none of us had swimming gear. I do love to swim in the sea but only on hot days and it certainly wasn’t hot. The air was quite chilly and it rained a bit here and there.

After the kids were all blasted enough by the wind we went along to the play area and paddling pool, where they played sardines and other games. We huddled and drank tea and so on. We kept thinking that it would soon be time to go but actually stayed about five hours or so. Two buses home and the kids were really quite over-excited and tired by then...

We’re entertaining cousin D (6) this week. He’s with us instead of going to a summer playscheme. Somehow I feel the need to call the children and offer to set out all the painting materials.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Lovely London

We had a great day out in London today, just the four of us. The day got off to a wobbly start as Leo was having something of a footwear crisis but we all perked up once we got on the train.

We started with a little stroll along the South bank

to the Hayward Gallery where we saw this wonderful crocheted coral reef.

It was more than a little overwhelming to read about the plastic rubbish patch in the North Pacific. I felt like I was surrounded by plastic for the rest of the day.

Then we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. We’d never really been there before and I think we have probably been wise to wait until people were a bit older. It certainly isn’t jammed full of buttons to press and such like, but both the kids are now of an age to really enjoy looking at beautiful things and reading the info. Leo was in his element, sketching things in a little note book and glorying in all the treasure. He told me he could happily live there! He liked the sacred silver best and we spent quite a while looking at reliquaries and so on. Pearlie mostly explored on her own and was very taken with the jewellery gallery. Leo bought himself a ring with ‘an emerald’ in it and Pearlie bought some bright pink boot laces. We spent a hideous amount on some snacks and drinks but enjoyed them in the garden, where the sun had finally come out.

We travelled home on a rather crowded commuter train and ate cheese on toast when we got in. A good day.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Can't Read, Can't Write

I’ve already done a blog post on Can’t Read, Can’t Write, which got too rambly to put out in the world. So, after watching the last part yesterday evening, I’m having another go.

First, I need a mini-rant on the fact that the ‘reality format’ has invaded just about every type of programme. Not only is it virtually impossible to find any decent drama on the TV, but there are also hardly any documentaries. Every topic deemed worthy of enquiry has to be explored through a group of ‘real people’ on ’a journey’, which we follow without this having the slightest impact on their behaviour, of course... So, we get lots of engineered little showdowns and unnecessary intrusions into the lives of the participants. I felt this particularly keenly with this series. I also felt that the ‘students’ were expected to reveal far more than the ‘teacher’. We didn’t follow him home to watch him have a row with his mum, did we?

While the programme did have some interesting moments, did anyone else want to scream when it was announced that the participants would all be sitting exams? What a lack of imagination! There was nothing to stop that teacher suggesting a performance or an anthology – something that everyone could have contributed to in their own way. They could have chosen something to bring the participants together, to celebrate all they had achieved. Instead, the programme went with tense exam room and sorting the sheep from the goats – yet again. I could have cheered when Linda refused to do the exams or come to the award ceremony. At least they didn’t get everyone playing the game.

I felt this series was a real missed opportunity to actually look, in some depth, at different learning styles or explore techniques that have worked for people with dyslexia. Yes, some people made incredible progress and the world of the written word opened up for them. But, I wanted the details – and I wasn’t going to get them from this. Ho hum.

What did other people make of this programme? Come on people, it's getting lonely here at Greenhouse with no comments...

Monday, August 04, 2008

We heart kd

Dani and I went to see kd Lang last night. We had a wonderful time. As Dani said, if you only get to go out for the evening a few times a year, that was certainly the right choice. She sang a range of her stuff (and a couple of other people’s – including Hallelujah (Hallelujah!) - to a wildly appreciate crowd. It was a fairly mixed crowd too, in terms of ages and sexuality, though not too many youngsters. It was a shock to realise that the fond memories I have of seeing her in 1992/3 were so very long ago.

My mum was there too, while her partner babysat for us. Two of my mum’s friends were there, who walked home with her while D and I wandered up our hill, chatting. I find it amazing that someone’s voice can make all the hairs on my arms and legs stand on end. How?? We talked about music and humanity and sensuality. Then we talked a bit about religion and how perhaps it is no surprise if religions are sometimes anxious or disapproving about certain (sometimes virtually all) music when it has such power. In my atheist day dreams of heaven I’ve always imagined it as a nest of fluffy white clouds where I’d get to roll about naked and angelic versions of my favourite singers would drift by on big feathery wings to croon to me. No offence to anyone for whom such things are more real – this is just a non-believer story telling.

Anyway, apart from our lovely evening out, we’ve been pottering about. Pride was huge but certainly dented, in numbers and spirit, by the weather. Yesterday we were in town eating bagels in a window, watching rather subdued Pride tourists traipsing around the shops trying to have fun in the chilly wind and occasional showers. We were in town so the kids could browse around and we could get a new ironing board cover. I am putting off trying to fit it as, in my experience, they are horrid things when free from the packet and tend to develop lumps and pucker up and otherwise fail to be a flat surface. The kids bought bits and bobs. Pearlie’s favourite shop is currently Paper Chase, which is rather lovely. Leo likes to spend a lot of time in bookshops so that’s no hardship either. But, we were all a bit tired and fed up with the chilly wind. Today looks beautiful but we have a mum change-over at lunchtime and a supermarket shop arriving this morning, so we’re indoors.

While we were out last night, the kids were creating – Leo was painting and Pearlie making bracelets – and playing story consequences with the babysitting grandmother. I’ve got to go and read the stories now and then I think we’ll play some board games and other such relaxing stuff.

Friday, August 01, 2008

We are still here

By Dani

I was just going to post a quick update yesterday lunchtime, but I discovered that our blog had been locked by Blogger's spam detection robots!

Anyway, now that is sorted out, our news is not hugely exciting. Groups have generally stopped, but work hasn't, so there has been more aimless/productive time in the house and slightly less busy rushing to get to the next thing.

Leo is back in the grip of the Spiderwick Chronicles, and has been spending a lot of time drawing and painting and otherwise creating. He made a balsa wood sword the other day and half painted it. He is also working on a new comic series, called 'The Stick Men'. He is excited at the prospect of visiting a real archaeological dig later in the month.

Pearlie is very pleased to have Zoombinis back, and has been enjoying that every couple of days. She watches Mock the Week on i-player, takes herself off to the park or local shops when she feels like it, and does secret things in her room. She is a bit out of sorts because routines have changed, and we are all a bit unsure how things will shake down in September, as there are several new options on the horizon for her in particular. She is looking forward to Woodcraft Folk camp in a couple of weeks, and a girls football day organised by the local council.

We have been watching Tenko on DVDs from ebay, but very cross that one of the set of two we bought didn't work! Also knitting, writing, drafting fundraising applications, going to meetings, etc.

That's all I had time for in my lunch hour. We went to Pride today, and are all exhausted now. It rained on the parade, so we didn't take any photos. It's all got a bit too big and commercial to be actually enjoyable, but we like to show our faces all the same. We're thinking next year we might join the Amnesty International contingent, as they seem to be the only people actually saying something.