This week, our lot are taking part in the Cambridge Heidelberg Montpellier Youth Orchestra... A third of the orchestra comes from each country and each year they visit a different city in turn. Last Year A1 went to Montpellier for a week - this year all of them are involved, and D is hosting 5 students. Two french boys (one was A's host last year), and 3 german girls.... (I think the latter were a later addition when the organisers needed extra bed spaces).

Apparently last year, Alistair ended up playing lots of games of Monopoly with the French family he was staying with.... As you can imagine, games that are universal, or can be played without needing to be extremely fluent in a language are good activities... The French boys are a little younger and less confident in English, but most of us can speak it a bit to help explain things - fortunately the German girls are a bit older, and have pretty good English (and French!).

So yesterday, I went over for dinner and the visitors were introduced to FLUX... the only complaint coming from R, who despite the game lasting about 14 turns, did not get to play at all (8 players and a reverse order of play coming just before her turn!)

and some of them played the children's version of Apples to Apples... (so the language was not too tricky) but lots of fun was had trying to explain some stereotypically British things.. (raking leaves seemed to be unknown for the French? yet they understood the Blarney Stone quite quickly and they now know what a Dalek is!). We joked that people who knew each other well usually pass the play to and fro - as a german girl and french boy seemed to be doing just that! (and surprisingly, our lot did not do as well as usual - A1 and R were the only ones not on 4 apples by the end - though eventually A2 won).

I gather from A2's facebook status that having 10 people in a house with 2 bathrooms has its problems,.... but for promoting entente cordiale between different nationalities, D's house this week seems to be working well.

A bit damp

Jun. 5th, 2011 09:33 pm
I got through two pairs of trousers today... and before you say TMI (though it's pretty mundane)... Firstly there was a "picnic and wet games" thing at church, and I ended up sitting next to the tap, filling balloons to be waterbombs... Most of that dampness then was due to accidental overfilling of balloons, or dropping a full balloon before getting it tied and into the collection bucket, but later involved a few incidents of being hit by a stray bomb thrown by one of the other sunday school leaders (the kids were more polite, and mostly just hit each other!) Fortunately I'd taken a change of clothes, so no problem.

The second time was this evening - my car is in the garage and knowing I have to return the courtesy car I've been borrowing, I had assumed I would take the bus that conveniently runs from outside the garage to 5mins walk from work... but I hadn't checked the bus times until this evening. I discovered the last bus that would get me to work on time leaves the village just before the garage opens in the morning - so instead I need to cycle - but I'd left my bike at D's house - and silly me, refused her help in getting it home yesterday... So I have just walked across to her house, and cycled back - can you guess when it started raining?
They're back... not too cold, but incredibly muddy... part of it was I gather unavoidable, but the girls have admitted to deliberatly playing in some of the deeper mud puddles when they got bored of waiting in queues for activities!

There was also a rather sweet story of big brother A accompanying little sister A around for a while when she got split up from her group (the younger scouts were not allowed to go around the site alone, so she had been stranded in their camping area waiting for someone to return - the older ones could do what they liked)

Second load of washing now on, probably 4, maybe 5 to go, and a kitchen full of walking boots, wellies, rucksacks and bags that need to have the mud wiped off before they can be put away.

Starting on this was somewhat delayed when we decided that younger A's finger that had got a burn on camp might be more seriously damaged than initially thought. It had been treated appropriately at the time, but didn't appear quite right for a "normal" burn.

2.5 hours in A&E concluded that it was probably a deepish but superficial burn rather than a small full thickness one - though they could understand what led us to take her to have it checked out - and gave her some cream to help with the healing.
I've just dropped the kids off at Winter Camp, an annual camp for hundreds or maybe thousands of Scouts/Explorers held in Epping Forest.

Their leaders gave them lots of advice on how to keep warm, wearing layers etc.... and I think they took it to heart - I was asked to turn the heat in the car down as we were travelling there!

As they headed off for the meeting point at the start of the camp, they were all wearing two pairs of trousers (with waterproof trousers ready if the rain returned), thermal top, short and long sleeved T shirts, thin jumper, thick jumper/sweatshirt, coat and raincoat, plus hats and gloves, two pairs of socks and walking boots. Oh, and somewhere in the layers they had their scout shirts, because they were told they had to come in uniform.... (though how anyone will see anything other than their scarves I don't know!)

I'm not entirely sure how they were managing to walk with that much clothing on... however, I'm pretty sure that they won't come home complaining of cold!
A was nearly in tears as he left Scouts tonight... this is not completely unheard of - usually as a result of being injured in some over-boisterous Scout game, so I carefully enquired what happened this time... However, on this occasion he was smiling too....

He explained that tonight was his last ever Scout meeting as a Scout. I knew he needed to leave by Christmas when he would be too old, but he had intended to keep going to the end of December, until a message arrived about a compulsory meeting at school next Monday.

He therefore made a snap decision to make a break with Scouts now, saying proper goodbyes to the leaders and the Scouts who have grown up with him, rather than risking something coming up on the following weeks and not getting to say goodbye at all.

By the end of his explanation, I was quite emotional too... I remember him joining Scouts 4 years ago, knowing nothing about Scouting,... and then in my mind I fast forward to two weeks ago to the ceremony when he was awarded his Chief Scout badge.

It's not really the end - he'll be able to get officially enrolled in the Explorer Scout group, he has lots of friends there already - and some of the leaders help with both groups, so he won't lose touch with them.

But it is the end of a very important part of his life...


Nov. 6th, 2010 11:48 am
I inadvertently found an efficient way to "enjoy" the Midsummer Common fireworks (huge free firework display in the middle of Cambridge for anyone not familiar with it). I parked at D's house and the kids and I joined the throngs of other people walking down to the common. Just as we entered the common, I stopped to drop some coins in the collection bucket, looked up - and could not see any of the children!

Fortunately, I'd already said to them that if we get split up, they were to watch the display then return to D's house afterwards, so I hoped it would be OK, even though I felt like a bad mother. A(eldest) and R had already agreed to stay together (and had a mobile with them, even though I did not), and I later discovered that they had walked straight through the common, crossed the river and found the place where they had watched the fireworks with D the previous year with a good view.

A (younger) was in a bit of a mood - she didn't really want to come at all, and I had been intending to stay pretty close to her to be on the safe side (and she didn't have a mobile either)... It later turned out that she had wandered all the way down to the front of the crowd, and ended up in the row second from the front, with a great view.

I'd stayed in the middle of the common, on a path right underneath a streetlight, in the hopes that if anyone had been looking for me they might have been able to spot me. I saw the firework display, but nothing of the firedancers that I gather were doing a display beforehand - the children all had a good view!

After the display, I rushed back to D's house, and phoned A&R on their mobile (mine was flat, so had to wait until I could use D's landline) - they were a few minutes behind me. About 5 minutes after they arrived, I decided to try to walk back to the common to look for the remaining one... and as I walked out of the door, she was walking up the road... still in a bad mood!

We were all pretty damp, but after some warming soup or hot chocolate with marshmallows floating in it, we all felt fine (and A cheered up).

So, all ended up fine, but next year I'm going to make sure we all have charged mobiles - then I can enjoy the display properly.

Fortunately the weather forecast for the village fireworks is rather better, just as well, since the kids are helping out with the Scout Troop.

Who knew?

Apr. 29th, 2010 10:11 pm
According to recent evidence, the way to cheer up a 12 year old is.....

To dunk her in some muddy river water!

No I am not being a BAD MUMMY! (Well not for that reason.)

First kayaking lesson with Scouts yesterday - her group had an activity where they walked along the kayaks of the rest of the group... Most of them walked along then deliberately jumped in at the end... However, A walked across the first two, slipped and fell in... and due to the surprise, she also got a mouth full of river (so we need to watch for leptospirosis, but I'm not that worried)...

She came out of the river at the end of the lesson with a massive grin on her face as I commented she looked a bit damp!

For some reason the groups that "tall A" and R were in did not play any of the games that resulted in immersion, and came home merely a bit splashed! (I am assured that when the weather gets better they will all get very wet most weeks!
I'd just assumed this was one of A's hypothetical science questions that punctuate my life, so I gave my best guess answer ("Well, maybe the squirrel would think it was a nut and try....") and then asked "Why?" (just in case he was planning to quote my answer to his science teacher or something).

His answer:
A squirrel ran away with my tennis ball in PE today!

Apparently a couple of the tennis balls being used by his group got "accidentally" hit out of the tennis court by another pupil, and A went to collect them. One was in plain sight, the other had gone into a hedge at the edge of the field. When he went to collect it, he saw a squirrel next to the (bright orange) ball... and as he approached, the squirrel ran off WITH THE BALL!

My first reaction: It's a joke...but no, he's serious, and he explains more as I ask more detailed questions. He doesn't normally make up stories - or at least he does, but readily admits when they are jokes or he is deliberately telling a fantastical story.

He says that some of the boys in the group waiting for the return of the tennis balls saw the squirrel running up the tree, and another thinks he saw a flash of orange in the tree, so they have been able to vouch for the truth of what he saw!

The teacher didn't seem surprised when the loss of a ball was reported - but it's not clear whether it was because it has happened every lesson this week, or because appearing unsurprised is a survival technique for PE teachers.

So my question is...

Is this the first indication that squirrels are cleverer than we have so far noticed - and are collecting tennis balls as ammunition for when they take over the world? or are they thicker than we realise - and are actually trying to eat them?
I think I've just successfully filled in my Tax Return... its been kind of hanging over me, but now it is done - just the tax bill for tutoring to pay, and I was planning to go to the post office this afternoon anyway...

Another good thing... my hairdresser admitted that he had slightly changed my hair colour today. It is very close to my usual colour, but with a very slight reddish tinge and I really like it!

Now for a cup of tea.
They won! They're a bit tired now...
I've just dropped the kids off in Cottenham for an overnight hike/sleepover with scouts... Nothing too extraordinary - they got there just after 6pm, ready for a 6.30 departure... They're getting a lot faster at packing, which is just as well, since A and A spent the day at a rehearsal for the school talent show - finishing at 5pm on the other side of town... Fortunately R was able to help with a lot of the locating of kit and packed her own stuff early..., but it was a bit stressful getting everything to happen in time (hopefully without forgetting anything important).

This comes at the end of a busy week... the school had Ofsted in... We were told on Monday, so it was 3 days of frantic work... (marking all of the books - I usually mark every third lesson, so I had some due anyway, but I also had to do the ones that had two or only one lesson outstanding, that I'd usually leave), and writing up official plans for the lessons I was teaching. Fortunately the inspector came to see me very early on the first day, and the class I had was beautifully behaved and he liked the activities I'd planned. I was very glad they didn't come into any of my lessons on the second day, since behaviour was much worse than normal.

Hopefully things will calm down now for a bit!


Jul. 18th, 2009 08:02 am
It's been a busy week.

The end of year production at the junior school, the girls leavers party and now they are all off to scout and guide camps respectively...

Last night we had to take the girls main bags to the scout hut ready for packing into a van... (having not had any spare evenings this week to do the packing, it took quite a lot of effort to get them packed in time...). The scouts were packing their tents and stoves into a trailer at the same time, so A helped with that, (but fortunately they didn't have to get their personal kit ready until the morning) so we came home to finish getting A's rucksack packed - he's getting much faster at doing this now - lots of practice.

The scouts are going to Devon, so they all had to bring their kit this morning - at 6am! Amazingly they left on the coach on time at 6.30. I didn't want to risk going back to sleep when I got home, since I have to get the girls back to the scout hut for 9.30 to get on their coach. However, I'm starting to realise how tired I'm feeling.

At least I have a week of quiet evenings, (though I've volunteered to help with the village holiday club in the mornings all week, so I can't get any very long lie ins)!


Jul. 2nd, 2009 04:55 pm
No I haven't succumbed myself... but the children have...
A has put his on his scout patrol web page, but he hasn't got many clicks... so in an effort to help a bit..... if anyone would like to go to and do a bit of clicking, he would be very grateful...

also for daughter A

and for daughter R

who would also be very grateful for help!



Jun. 20th, 2009 01:52 pm
A is out on a scout hike today - the 5 eldest boys in the troop (13 and 12 year olds) have planned the entire hike together - route, food, everything... They are carrying their tent and will be camping overnight at a campsite... cooking an evening meal and breakfast and hopefully arriving home sometime tomorrow afternoon...

Things not to discover on the morning of a hike -
1. He no longer fits his walking boots... No problem, I was expecting that to happen soon - mine are a size bigger... but he doesn't fit those either! (fortunately his school PE trainers are fine to walk in... just have to hope it doesn't rain too much)
2. He was missed off the list for the email about bringing lunch for *both* days ... fortunately they'll be passing through some villages, so he's going to buy something en route.

I know that the scout leaders intend to visit the campsite tonight to check they've managed to pitch the tent and get some hot food sorted, and they all have mobile phones for emergencies, but it's odd to think that neither of his parents will know exactly where he is for more than 24 hours.
Well, A survived the weekend... It turned out that yes, they did have a hut booked... however, the scout leaders decided that the boys should sleep under canvas just outside the hut, with the adults indoors! A was a bit miffed, but admitted that he was fine, apart from cold feet (I asked him how many socks he had been wearing inside his sleeping bag - answer None... so it's not that surprising!)

He didn't even get really snowed on... they had just struck the tent when it started, so they just drove through light snow back home.

This morning, the snow was not too bad... I'm lucky - or maybe unlucky that the road outside is normally gritted since it is a main route between my village and the next... so I only had about 5 metres of snow to drive through before the clear road. The snow was coming down quite heavily for the start of the journey to work, until half way there... and then it turned into a light dusting... When I arrived at work, I was the fourth (of 10) to make it in our department... most of the others made it in during the first lesson or two... Meanwhile A, A &R's schools were all announced on the radio to be closed... and so they stayed with D, making a snowman (not quite) in front of D's car!

A few hours into the day, an announcement went round school that with the snow getting worse and the forecast implying even more, pupils should contact their parents because the school was being shut after lunch. So I headed homewards... and collected the kids from D, so that she could go into work. We made a snowman in my garden - and then had a couple of hours tidying bedrooms. Guess what we found! The other missing library books! On the shelf in the girls bedroom - more or less where the should have been all along.


Jan. 31st, 2009 10:31 pm
This afternoon, I have discovered the long lost library book ... Yes that one I mentioned several months ago! Fortunately the library have not been running up late charges - but I was getting very close to the ultimate deadline at which point I would have to pay for the book.

Where was it? under the girl's bunk beds... where I thought I had checked long ago. I'm still not going to let the children go back to the library yet... there are two further books that have been missing since about October... I have agreed with the librarians that I will return all of our books before I let them borrow any more --- and there will be NEW RULES about library books, in an effort to avoid this kind of game again in future!

The librarians are very good about this... and when I get frustrated with the children losing books ... they comment that at least they are enjoying reading!
Last year, A went for a weekend scout camp in the early spring, with a forecast of snow... The snow didn't happen, but he got very cold, and ended up coming home early...

This year, a small group of scouts are away again this weekend. It's early in the year, so cold is to be expected, but snow is forecast for tomorrow (for the camp site and here). Fortunately, they are sleeping in a hut rather than under canvas, and his scout leader knows that I have supplied extra layers if A is complaining of cold.... it should be interesting to see how he copes!
We're missing a library book - so no surprises there... The children often borrow right up to their full quota, and I often borrow a few, so out of the 20-40 books we might have out at a time, one or two often get mislaid for a few weeks. But usually they turn up after a while - with a child opening a drawer or a bag and making a comment along the lines of "Oh that's good, I'd wondered where that went". Of course, with two houses to keep their stuff in, there are quite a lot of places to mislay things.

The local library are very good - they see us coming and know the procedure, I hand over the pile of books we are returning this time, and they take all the cards and renew anything else on the cards.. (I know I can do this online, but they have a nice laser reader... I'd have to type all 4 sets of card numbers in myself). If anything has reached its renewal limit they tell us what it is, and give me an extra few days to locate and return the required book. All works fine...

Until we can't find the book. Last time this happened, they were really nice and put a hold on the charges because we still had more places to look.. The book eventually turned up in the junior school library - we don't know which of them accidentally handed it in at school, but A spotted it on the shelf during a library lesson, and brought it home!

However, R borrowed a book back in June, and we can't find it... We've checked both school libraries (and discovered that the secondary school has a sequel she can investigate when she gets there), but no sign of the right book. I have this horrible feeling I did spot it at some point in the summer, and since she was elsewhere at the time I moved it to "somewhere she was more likely to find it" since I thought she had finished reading it... but we can't find it anywhere... I know it is supposed to be her problem... (there is a house rule that library books are supposed to stay in the bag for library books unless you are actually reading it - but I haven't been very good at upholding that one) however, if we can't find it soon, I'll be paying for a new copy. :(

Its a paperback, slightly shorter than average, called something like Because I'm the Goddess... with Manga style drawings on the front and back, and I seem to recall it was mostly black, white and purple coloured. Any suggestions for where else I can look? ....
I know, no posts for months, then two in one day!

I can change a bike tyre!

Ever since I have been responsible for my own bike I've avoided taking the wheels off... It always seemed to be so tricky when I watched anyone else do it. When I was riding a lot I got very good at mending punctures in situ, and when it was absolutely necessary I found someone else (normally D or a bike shop) to take the wheel off and put it back on again (particularly the back one).

On Wednesday A came home from school with a flat back tyre, and he needed to cycle again on Thursday morning. My puncture repair kit is very elderly now, and the last few punctures I have tried to fix have taken several attempts - time I didn't have. So I decided the risk of taking the back wheel off was less than the risk of him discovering the tyre still flat in the morning.

The main problem was actually getting the wheel off... A looked a bit worried for the safety of his bike when I brought out a hammer, but the extra leverage it gave to the spanner did the trick. We managed to change the inner tube - taking the opportunity to get A to help and understand what I was doing all the way (the sooner I can get him fixing his own bike the better!). The gears seemed to go back quite easily, with only a slight adjustment... I had been expecting this to be a really tricky bit, but I was lucky... A quick oil of the chain, and A was extremely happy! (and as a side effect this has sorted the issues that had been reported at Scouts as needing fixing before their bike ride next week).

Edit: A spotted this entry and wanted to remind me that actually I left him to finish off the gear adjustment on his own (because he had been lecturing me about how to do it with no actual knowledge - and he was wrong). I told him what needed to be done, and how, and that the punishment for being rude was to finish it himself - that way he learns something either way!) I was watching and saw that fortunately it only needed one extra tweak anyway!
Came downstairs this morning to discover A frantically typing at the computer... with a programme he had written largely by himself. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, he's been talking about this program since August... but I hadn't actually seen him writing code until yesterday.

Cue fond memories of programming the families ZX81, and look where I ended up! (Well I know I'm not in computing now, but it was a good career at the time).
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