Goodness and Mercy

Monday 7th would normally have found us at gym, but this time there was a Chris Lloyd What On Earth workshop to attend instead, which was just as good as anticipated – I think we’ve now seen all but two of his presentations :) L had Guides in the evening and the rest of the day was mostly spent catching up on some Arts Award work ready for Tuesday’s session.

I’d been looking forward to Wednesday, when the children and I were going together to a school to run a book fair. Unfortunately when we got there it was to discover that we’d been put in a tiny space miles from anywhere, the children were not allowed to visit during the day to look at the books and nobody seemed to know we were there at all. In fact, despite it being a large school, only two families stopped by at all, one of those by accident because they were looking for some lost property. Not the way to run a successful book fair, people!

Thursday was a day of great excitement :) Bob and the children left at sparrowfart to drive to a service station some distance away and meet the dog rescue centre representative who was bringing our puppy (and several others) over from Ireland to start new lives with loving family over here. All went smoothly, apart from a slight weather-induced delay to the ferry, and soon little Shirley was home :)
Why Shirley, you ask? Well, there’s a story my grandfather used to tell about a little boy who once asked his Sunday school teacher whether David, as a shepherd, had any dogs to help him. The teacher, of course, had no idea, so did what teachers are wont to do and suggested the lad find out for himself and report back. The following week, much to the teacher’s surprise, he announced that he had done exactly that and the answer was yes, David did have dogs. Three of them, in fact. Oh, and the boy knew their names, because they were mentioned in the Bible: Goodness, Mercy and Shirley – and they followed him all his life 😀

Junior band had a concert that evening, so that was Shirley’s first big outing – wandering the outside stalls with one of us while the other watched the children play Christmas tunes and then we switched partway through. Her second big outing was, of course, to choir the next day, where she met the church administrator’s dog and was made much of by all the choristers :)

Saturday 12th December was rather a special morning for K and L and especially for me. They had heard about a Messiah workshop with a period instrument group and asked to go and then when I took them I found myself singing too. It was lovely; I don’t think I’d realised how much I miss proper singing, and I was surprised by how well I was able to join in, given that I was singing (and sightreading) the alto part when I’ve only ever sung the soprano one. Something I should perhaps do more often :)

Farewell to H and lots of Christmas

November 25th was the end of H’s adventure with us and the start of J’s time in Germany. Bob took the boys to the airport while the rest of us went to a small local school to run an Usborne book stall at their Christmas fair. In fact it was somewhat of an Usborne week, with a party on the Monday, a playgroup (thankfully passed on to a team member) on Tuesday, a Christmas fair on Wednesday, school book fairs on both Thursday and Friday and yet more Christmas fair stalls on both Friday and Saturday!

After all that, you’d have thought a quiet, restful Sunday would be in order, followed by a peaceful week, but instead we chose to spend Sunday helping at the Olde Melford Christmas event being organised by a Kentwell friend – dressed in Victorianesque with a smattering of Tudorish, we handed out fliers, told stories, sold fairy wands and generally added to the atmosphere of a very picturesque afternoon, complete with “snow” from numerous machines around the place, the Great Edmundo’s magic show and amazing fairy dresses with layers of tulle and fairy lights :)

From there we went on to Christmas camp, this year in Sheringham. Working on the basis that a change is as good as a rest, this was just what we all needed 😉 Five days chatting with friends,cooking together, playing board games both new and familiar, walking on the beach, enjoying the sea (including a paddle for some) and the sites – magic! The children and I managed to spend some time with my aunt and uncle too, and even a few minutes with one of my favourite cousins :) Christmas day was lovely too, with a fair dinner, poor ovens and overzealous smoke alarms notwithstanding!

Somehow, while we were at Sheringham, we found ourselves arranging to adopt a puppy…

We got back from Sheringham just in time for choir and then yet another Usborne fair – and an early night for me because on Saturday I was to speak at a women’s breakfast meeting in full Tudor housewyfe mode :) Besides that, the girls had music school, K and L had string orchestra and the afternoon held yet another Usborne stall at a fair – such a good chance to reduce my stock levels!

December 6th was a busy day too (thank goodness for that week away at camp to catch our breath somewhat!) as I was preaching in the morning and L had a fencing competition. K and the girls should also have been singing, but only two parents and three places to be meant something had to give, so they came with me instead. Since they then spent much of the afternoon and evening rehearsing and then singing in choir for the carol concert their day still held plenty of music :)

Band, films and celebrating at Centerparcs

After choir on Friday 13th November, J and I set off to Storrington for a NMYBB weekend. He could have taken the train as usual, but the church they were staying at just happened to be close to where a really good friend lives, of whom I see far too little, so I took advantage of that for a weekend with her :) We chatted and caught up – but our plan to watch back-to-back vintage films was thwarted by the Paris terrorist attacks, which left us hanging on for news and trying to make sense of what had happened and what might be a reasonable response.
We also went to the band concert, which was excellent (we both bought CDs :) ) and the service the next day, which was equally good – I can thoroughly recommend looking out for NMYBB next time they’re anywhere near you 😉

Belle et Sebastien on Tuesday was fab (yay for free films!) and was followed by a little light lunchtime opera (Mozart’s Bastien et Bastienne) before dashing across town to get L and K to Arts Award. Phew! WedEd on Wednesday and then Princess Bride and multisport on Thursday made for a busy week, but Friday was mostly given over to packing and travelling – to Centerparcs for a celebratory weekend with Bob’s parents, sister and family. We’ve been to Centerparcs many times now, but always in the cheapest possible way, so this was quite a different experience! Bob’s parents had decided to opt for rather posher accommodation than is our wont, including a games room, wine fridge, coffee machine, towels folded into elephants, daily cleaners and even a sauna (which I’m afraid we didn’t use)! It was lovely for the children to spend time with their cousins and for us all to eat together as one large family – a really special way to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary :)

Screams and songs, fun, fireworks and remembrance

L and K set off early on Friday morning for choir tour, which stretched from 23rd October to 26th and encompassed singing, sightseeing and even a service at the Menin Gate, where L was chosen to lay a wreath. While they were away the rest of us carried on much as normal. J and H volunteered at the cafe on Saturday and on Monday H joined a group of others to go to a non-Scaresville haunted house event (thanks for taking him galoka!) which he declared to be far less good :)

Once the tourers were back we headed off to Kentwell, this time with several tents (which we put up inside one another for extra warmth) where we spent the next few days taking part in Scaresville at night (H, J, K and me, while Bob stayed in the tent with the girls) and Hallowe’enies by day (L, A and me, with the boys joining in for some sessions – enough to get lunch at least 😉 ) and generally had lots of fun. The weather was unexpectedly mild, to the extent that we were, if anything, too warm rather than too cold, but lots of rain meant it was wet and muddy underfoot, which occasionally added a new level of difficulty to creeping up on people in the dark!

Hallowe’en safely navigated (and Scaresville hoodies, torches, beanies and similar goodies earned and chosen) normality was next enlivened by Bonfire Night. We had fires and fireworks at the Beans (complete with amazing pumpkins) and also a family evening with church which included fireworks, lanterns and fun activities.

Remembrance Sunday brought parades for the girls (L joined in with her old Brownie pack as a helper, rather than us having to be in two places at once by adding Guides in as well), which the rest of us supported too. Monday was rollerskating/soft play and then we were back to a Remembrance theme with The Sound of music at the cinema on Tuesday.

Parliament

I took our younger 3, H and C (the Beans’ Spanish daughter) on a trip to Parliament that the local Home Ed group had organised. I think one of the highlights was A saying “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be”, which was nice.

We got down to Embankment on the train and Tube, then walked along the river to Parliament. We passed the Battle of Britain memorial, and stopped to talk about it. Lunch was in the grass that’s in the middle of the roundabout thing just outside Parliament, with statues of leaders around two edges (Peel, Mandela, Gandhi etc.) and lots of flags on another. A short stroll to the education centre at the other end of the building, and we met up with the rest of the group – going past a statue of Richard I, and meeting by a statue of Emeline Pankhurst (lots of statues). Airport security, although we didn’t have to take off our shoes, and then onto the tour.

We couldn’t get into the chambers themselves, as they were busy being used by politicians (who’d have thought it). It actually turned out quite well, as the education centre has a room where they have lots of projectors and can make it look like you’re in the middle of the chamber. The guide had an iPad that controlled it all, and could play clips of the Speaker saying “Order, order” etc, and he put silhouettes of the PM etc and other explanations on top of the photos. He was very good – informative, engaged the children and seemed to be glad that we were there. After that we were led around the public bits of the building that weren’t in use, and at the end we got back to the education centre and I thought that was it.

No! We were handed over to another person in another room, who said “I’ll be with you for the next hour”. I thought that this might drag, but she was really good too, and I think the children got quite a lot out of it. She had the children divided up among tables, with a rosette each on it. There tables were constituencies, and the rosettes were parties. Each child picked a rosette, then had to get together with the rest of their party to choose a manifesto.

There was a menu of 10 or so points from which they had to pick 3. Each had a price – up to 50p – and the total price had to have 50p added on for contingency. This was a good exercise in presenting a case to convince people, choosing things fairly and so on. These were then presented to the whole group and put up on the screen – it was interesting that all 5 parties had chosen to increase foreign aid.

Then back to your constituencies to vote. You couldn’t vote for yourself. The red party got 3 MPs and the others 1 each. H was one of the red MPs – none of the others with me got elected. A and her fellow not-elected-red candidate got to chose which of the elected red MPs got to be Prime Minister, who was a girl I didn’t know.

All enjoyable and educational, then outside for refuelling and running about for a bit. We walked back to the Tube, and by popular request went to Harrods rather than a museum – I thought they’d done plenty of educational stuff and should have some fun. We went up the Egyptian escalator to the toy and technology departments. The demonstrators in the toy department were excellent, as were some of the toys. It was interesting to see a couple of augmented reality toys, plus a toy that blended a scalextric-type track and cars with a racing app on a smart phone.

Back to the Tube, which was quite a crush for a few stops, for a brief visit to Coram’s Fields – one of my favourite places in London. Unfortunately we only had a short time before it closed, but it was still good.

No more Tube, as King’s Cross was walkable. We stopped for chips to add to sausages K had packed for us, then had to wait aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaages at the station for our train’s platform to be announced. Chocolate biscuits to revive flagging spirits, and then back home.

Films, dancing, camp… but not much sleep!

On Saturday the girls had music school and then L gym, as usual, while the boys pottered and J and H packed for a week away and an immediate night of scaring on return. A, K and I went to a Re-enactors’ fair to help a friend choose wool for a future kirtle and to catch up with friends a little, then picked up L and took her with us to a family barn dance and dinner at our old church. It was fun, especially as we had the chance to meet up with old friends from Uni days, from church and also from Kentwell (over for the fair, then barn dancing on their way home).
At the same time, Bob was taking H and J down to London for a film festival as the start point of a youth camp promoting intercultural relations between Spain, Slovakia and England whilst looking at environmental issues. H stayed over afterwards for a bushcraft day on Sunday but J had to come back for a music day, then Bob drove him down to rejoin the other camp teens and young people for the rest of the week. They were staying in the South London Scout Centre so had proper beds (although apparently rather short?) with sleeping bags rather than having to actually camp, fortunately.
On Monday the day started for them with films and facts about the ocean and pollution, and some poetry writing, followed by a trip to the Horniman Museum. Tuesday was a watersports and activity day, including kayaking, swimming and orienteering round the Olympic Park. Wednesday should have been a press call at the Houses of Parliament, but since nobody turned up to answer or ask questions was a bit of a disappointment. They did still get the chance to take part in a gamelan session, though – less exciting for J than it might have been if he didn’t get to do it at Holiday Orchestra 😉 In the evening they filmed video diaries. Thursday was the last day the English young people were there so they had a celebratory meal at a Turkish restaurant then J and H caught the train to the station near Bob’s office, so that I could hand the girls over to Bob and go on with the boys to Scaresville for another night of scaring. It was a little bit of a surprise to see J crossing the bridge from the other platform with a white blond lad; H having decided to go along with the small crowd of boys who were bleaching their hair! How it survives the chlorine of his frequent swims remains to be seen, as does the school’s reaction when he goes back – I think he had forgotten that it is only a matter of weeks now, as he confidently told me it would be fine because it would grow out in three months!

Meanwhile, after a day of music on Sunday L, K and A had gym on Monday and then Guides for L. Tuesday was an introductory Bronze Arts Award session for L and K, where they began to decide what to do and got an outline sheet for how their work could be spread through the year, and then Brownies for A, but no fencing for L this week. On Wednesday they had a very gentle self-guided morning while I took an Usborne stall to a local toddler group (and booked a party – yay!) and then we headed off to choir. Thursday should have started early with History, but I couldn’t rouse any of the children so left them to sleep in peace while I had a quiet cup of tea 😉 They were all up and about in time for Multisport, then Bob and I juggled children so the boys and I could get to Scaresville. A shortage of scarers meant that J, K and I did the same scare as last time but H was needed elsewhere, so he got to dress as a clown (which had been one of his requests) and be a living painting. I think he enjoyed it less than he had expected, partly because it required a fair bit of sitting still and partly because he was utterly exhausted from staying up every night at camp to play cards – and then to play tricks on other campers in the wee small hours! He was asleep almost by the time we got to the end of the drive on the way home and still stayed in bed until noon the next day!
K, on the other hand, had to be up in time for cello on Friday, but at least had less of a backlog of sleep to make up! Choir was only for those going on tour, so A was excused and I left her with J and H while I took L to violin and K to the library, then dropped L at choir for Bob to pick up later. That meant I could take J to the station with his stuff for a NMYBB weekend – walking a mile with bags is not so bad, but with bags and trombone perhaps asking a little too much! Unfortunately he was clearly not quite himself as he discovered first that he had forgotten his sleeping bag and then that he was on a train in the wrong direction, both things he has never done before but fortunately both easily remedied with a little help from his NMYBB friends. On Saturday he went on to have a severe migraine, which may explain his unaccustomed discombobulation :(

L had her first ever fencing competition on Sunday, having been persuaded that it would be a good thing to start competing while she was still an under 11 (the age being based on the 1st of January of each year) and everything was informal and gentle. Then 2 weeks before the competition somebody decided that for this competition a different date would be used, which put her into the under 13s, with far more experienced opponents and less leeway for error! Under the circumstances, she did very well – she won one bout, lost six and came bottom of the board after the round robin, but only one point behind the next last. Then in the knockout round she faced the overall winner and took him to 10-8 😀 It was a good ending to the morning for her and gave her more confidence than the result might have done without that boost.
We dropped A at church for eucharist and K at his friend A’s house on the way, then stopped on our way back to pick them both up and somehow ended up staying for lunch and several hours of the afternoon – a lovely little oasis of friendship and chat and a chance for me to revisit both crochet and German as the girls wanted to learn and the book they had was a gift from Oma!
Meanwhile Bob and H went to our home church and then did a bit of helpful housework (it’s been sadly neglected of late) before H went swimming to try and catch another club session. J got home in the early evening and took himself pretty much straight to bed, to sleep off the remains of the migraine.

Today Bob was to have taken all five children to London for a workshop and tour of the Houses of Parliament, but given J’s poorliness over the weekend we decided to offer his place to the Beans’ Spanish daughter instead, so J and I have had a quiet day at home, punctuated only by a French lesosn this afternoon, while Bob does the HE and negotiates the Capital.

Can you see me in the dark?

More training on Monday morning – I’m in Elite for four months and want to make the most of every opportunity while I can, even if I don’t have time to put it all into practice right now!
Gym was good – and while the others got their exercise J helped me to get a bit more clued up on how to create and maintain an online presence for my Usborne business. I’m still not quite sure what I’m doing or how much it can help, but it’s exciting to be doing something and I’m hoping to get together with Jax at Live Otherwise and do more soon 😀
I took some books along with me which I’d sold via facebook to another HE mum I met years ago and hadn’t seen in person since, and she came along to gym with her boys to collect them. It was lovely to see her again and to catch up a bit – a definite bonus of having done a Not Back To School sale!
We had to hurry back because I was teaching a French lesson in the afternoon – the first for a few months so we did lots of revision and getting back into the swing of things.

Tuesday was the big day for J, K, H and me! I started everyone off with lapbook work in the morning, then popped off to visit a nursery and talk about Ready Steady Read, following that up with a charity shops trawl to find black clothes… Then we were off, leaving Bob to get the girls to fencing and Brownies as best he could. Scaresville Dress Rehearsal turned out to involve actually experiencing some of the scares ourselves, which was somewhat outwith J’s comfort zone (and mine too, if I’m honest) but was useful in letting us see how they work. We finished by having the opportunity to list three scares we’d most like to operate – although both J and I felt we’d rather have said which ones we’d like to avoid. He found three to list, but I ended up saying I didn’t mind which so long as no strobes or exceptionally loud noises were involved – the last thing I need at the end of a long night with a fair old drive home is a migraine.

After such a late finish, and with another late night to come, Wednesday was very quiet 😆 The boys and I made it back to Kentwell in time for food before briefing and found that we were to be followers on the gallows walk, which suited all of us quite nicely. We collected costumes (big black cloak and mask with attached hood) and emergency kit (whistle and torch) then made our way to the walk while it was still light enough to set up and work out who would be where. We had a fab night – I’d been very unsure about the whole thing, really, but it was much better than I’d feared it might be. Wearing a mask really helps, as does being in a place you already know well, and being there early enough to feel at home before it gets dark. Everyone coming round had chosen to be there and from all sides the fits of giggles and gales of laughter outweighed the screams by a long way. Not that there weren’t screams – there were plenty and it was a fantastic feeling to creep up round the side of a group of people and take someone by surprise by appearing as if from nowhere! My favourite trick was to make my way to the front of a group, gaining a scream on the way. The leaders of the group would turn to see what was going on, giving me just enough time to nip in front of them so that when they turned back, nonplussed, it was to come face-to-face with a hooded figure they had no idea was there. Surprisingly fun for a timid soul like me 😀

Sluggish Thursday, not surprisingly 😆 Everybody was on top form again for band though, fortunately :) J stayed for senior band, but I didn’t manage my usual quick supermarket trip (and vulch ;)) whilst waiting for him because another band member had an accident as she was arriving and I ended up waiting with her for her car to be recovered – it was in the middle of the road and she 20 weeks pregnant so understandably feeling rather vulnerable.

On Friday we were up bright and early so that children could fit in music practices before we left for a visit to Sizewell B. This was because I was singularly unimpressed that not one of them had managed to get any done the day before… We had a two hour drive, including a rather dodgy bit at the end where the roads were unmarked and unclear. K’s superb map-reading and my bump of direction together saved the day, fortunately, and we arrived in plenty of time. There was only time for a quick scout through the interactive displays (and I must admit I spent that time catching up with friends so left the children to it) before the introductory talk began. J is now considering an apprenticeship with EDF – it’s nice to have options 😉 Then we donned protective gear (lots of it!), emptied our pockets into a locker and followed our guide through some serious security control to enter the site itself. It was a very interesting tour and our guide was informative and helpful, but it would have been nice to have seen a bit more of the processes involved, even if that was only possible via video links or a video and live expert. About twenty years ago I was lucky enough to go on a tour of the COGEMA facility near Cherbourg and it felt as though we saw much more and were able to be far more involved with what was going on. Perhaps that set my expectations too high.
I had hoped that we might be able to get to the beach and spend a little more time with friends whilst there, and the glorious weather made that a very tempting prospect indeed, but H was very keen to get back for his swimming session so we reluctantly left straight after the tour ended, only to get caught up in very bad traffic as a result of road closures, accidents and fires! In the end we arrived home at about the time he should have been at the pool, so he rushed in and grabbed his stuff and I gave him a lift down there instead of him walking as usual.

Cut my hair? No way!

SB has been trying very hard to sell air cadets to K, which wasn’t a hard task given that he was already interested anyway. On Saturday there was an open day, so he cut short his sleepover to go to that, with Bob taking him. It was very impressive and he’s even more interested now (as is Bob, I think!) but the major sticking point is still a major sticking point – he would have to cut his hair and he is simply not prepared to do that. He did have it cut a year or so ago, and sent off a 12″ length to the Little Princess Trust, but hated having it short and has been growing it back ever since. SB had rather optimistically suggested that he might be able to keep it long and still join, but staff at the open day gave an unequivocal no to that idea. So air cadets has been shelved as a plan, to be revisited later when perhaps length of hair will no longer be an issue to one or other of the affected parties.

While K and Bob were off finding out about opportunities with the RAF, I was collecting the girls in a rather more leisurely way, with tea and chat involved 😉 L had gym so we headed back in time for that, then enjoyed a quiet Saturday afternoon.

Sunday was a church sandwich: eucharist and mattins for the girls, evensong for the boys and an added special service in the afternoon at our home church, to celebrate and rededicate the refurbished church halls. L was reading at that, while K was singing at evensong, so we took him in early with the girls and left him with friends for the day – a happy solution in all ways other than the early morning, he felt 😉

J and H were due back from Oop North on Monday, by train to the same town where we do gym on Mondays, but a little too late to join in with the session, so we collected them afterwards, then stopped for food because they were as hungry as might have been expected for two teenaged lads who’d spent the morning travelling! They appear to have had a fantastic time, including visits to MOSI, Old Trafford and Alderley Edge, playing with Grandad’s remote controlled boat, watching the rugby and being well and truly stuffed in true grandmotherly style by Gran-gran!

On the way home we got stuck in terrible traffic, but fortunately Bob was working from home, thanks to office redecoration, so he was able to get everything ready and immediately take K and L to string orchestra (and fit in a bit of extra work whilst there) while I sent H off to the swimming pool (“I’ve been sitting down in a train or a car all day” not being a good enough excuse, after a week off, to get out of it in my eyes – we had words :roll:) and the rest of us pottered and got dinner ready.

Tuesday was a quiet catching up day (including some last minute work ready for WedEd the next day – nothing like a deadline to keep things moving!). I had a training call from my business support mentor at Usborne, which was really helpful in making some decisions clearer for me and Bob was still working from home, which I suspect is nicer for us than it is for him! A had Brownies in the evening, while L had fencing, which she is really enjoying.

Bonus WedEd on Wednesday :) We went to TheBabs’ for a change, so swimming was added to the curriculum – or at least playing in water 😛 Science happened, as did Maths for those who wanted to do it, but lapbooks remained unopened since we were a little short of time and a new venue meant it was all just too exciting! We left J and H there and came back for choir, then HH kindly gave them a lift home. This could have meant extra time for maths, but I think actually led to extra computer gaming. Ah well.

On Thursday I was helping to test a new website for ICE, which involved using remote meeting software for video conferencing. I had to get J up to help me set it up – it’s so helpful to have a choice of computer whizz in the family 😉 It all took a little longer than expected (apparently I was the very first tester and there were a few issues to work through) so the children had to rush around and get themselves ready to go out while I finished off, then we dashed to multisport and made it in time to meet the others as they walked to the park. Phew! It was such a lovely day that the parents and hangers-on decided to sit in the park too, and we had a very interesting discussion about societal expectations and similar highbrow topics – it’s been a while since I did that and it was good :) Trombone hasn’t got going yet, so we were able to stay and chat for a while at the end, unusually, but not as long as the children would have liked, I fear, before having to get A to gym and starting the quick turnaround of dinner and car-packing before collecting A again and going to band. K and H were both in junior band this week, rather than in lessons. They’re progressing well :)

Early cello on Friday, but no violin because L was getting more and more snuffly through the day and when I asked her teacher if he’d rather she didn’t come he said yes. Usual choirs and swimming to fill the evening and self-propelled work to fill the day. Saturday was another day of poddling along, with music school for the girls in the morning and gym for L in the afternoon, while Sunday was similarly quiet. The boys and I did start to get ready for Scaresville though, finding black clothes and dark shoes and working out what layers we could wear so I could see what gaps still needed filling.

Travel (time and otherwise)

Kentwell Michaelmas was a little curtailed for us this year, partly because it threw me by being early so I’d booked the Have Your Say day without realising it clashed and partly because not enough schools booked for it be the several day long event it has usually been. We had fun though, despite the weather, and H learned about being a pedlar this time, including handling Tudor coinage and actually having to deal with the public rather than just being seen from a distance with a bow. In fact we were all pedlars except Bob, who was on the gate for the weekend days and back at work during the week, and L, who was making music in the house. K spent one day as a page and two as a pedlar and J went home with SB on Monday night so that he could get to an art class on Tuesday. We had signed up to do Tuesday morning, but more schools booked than first anticipated, then a couple moved their booking from Monday to Tuesday once they’d seen the weather forecast (Monday was not pretty!) so we ended up with two very long school days in a row. Since the market was the very last station before the exit there was nothing we could do but smile and carry on while others slipped away around us. We had got the tents down first thing so just needed to get the last bits and pieces into the car and go and had therefore hoped to make it back in time for A’s Brownies and L’s fencing but when 4 o’clock had been and gone and we still hadn’t seen the last two school groups anywhere near I hid away with my phone and asked Bob to meet us there with L’s kit. In the end we didn’t leave for another hour and a half after that, and arrived at fencing almost at the end of L’s session. She fitted in one fight before the others left, then the coach asked her if she’d mind staying and working with the next group for a few minutes as well so she gritted her teeth against the tiredness and did. One speed test and several fights later she finally gave in to extreme tiredness and burst into tears when a stray foil hurt more than she could cope with, which reminded the coach that she was only 11 and in the 13+ group! Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

Bob’s parents asked a while ago if H and J would like to go and stay with them and for various reasons this week was the best choice, so on Wednesday Bob took them to the station and put them on a train North so they could experience the delights of Manchester :) Meanwhile I was up and about early to get a lift with my mentor Sophie to a rather lovely hotel for two days of training with Usborne – a definite incentive to do well and get into the Elite/leadership academy group again! Bob worked from home and rearranged his days a little so that K, L and A could get to their usual activities (choir, gym, band) and keep themselves busy the rest of the time.

Training was excellent but tiring, so it was a relief to find that violin was not on (L’s teacher was preparing for a marathon!) although cello still meant an earlyish start. Between the two choirs we had the now-traditional birthday celebration of pizza in the graveyard for L’s friend A, then all three children went for a sleepover with A, A and Z, leaving Bob and me with a lovely quiet companionable night in by ourselves :)

Making friends and influencing people

Sunday brought us a church sandwich, with preaching in the morning and singing in the evening. Between the two Bob and H went off to a WWII event while J, L and I did some delivering and K and A stayed at home and did ‘cello, amongst other things. Hopefully Bob will put pictures up on flickr so we can find out what the event was like 😉

On Monday we missed gym in order to get to the (nominally monthly) HE rollerskating meet up. This was preceded by a talk about engineering, at which we had arranged to meet up with another German lad who is staying with a family from our old church and was hoping to spend some time with other teens. The talk was good, but the audience rather younger than expected, on the whole (a surprise to the speaker as much as to us, but he did well to hold everything together) so J was very happy to be told he can contact them whenever he likes for more ideas and help with projects he has planned :) We spent some time admiring and handling an array of mobile phones through the ages, seeing how their size has reduced and reduced and is now increasing again.
Our plan to picnic in the park between talk and skate was scuppered by a sudden shower just as we pulled up at the park. We abandoned the idea and instead drove to our destination and ate in the car – not nearly as exciting even if the girls and I did discover some nice hidden paths between the buildings to explore. The skating was good though, and A enjoyed soft play with Jax’s littler ones while Jax and I did some Usborne planning :)

Tuesday was a quiet recovery kind of day, with lots of pottering and catching up, Brownies for A and L’s second session of fencing, which went well enough that they’ve asked her to continue and she’s agreed.

Wednesday was WedEd, where we designed and then played a board game based on a TEFL activity to get the Beans’ Spanish daughter and H to talk lots of good English. We also did some more on the Shakespeare lapbook (starting with a reminder of what we know about Shakespeare’s life, writing epitaphs using his as an example, then looking at what life was like for an Elizabethan actor and comparing that to actors nowadays) and those who wanted to do Maths with theBabs had the chance to do that too (J and K did and I had hoped that H would in the time he had left after I’d taken the K, L and A to choir, but I think he opted out). SB led a rather lovely art activity, drawing and colouring owls, and HH worked through experiments and conclusions with two different groups of chemists. It felt like a very useful and productive session, even though I had to drag three of my children away early!
K is now spending Weds library time (while the girls have choir) teaching his friend A music theory, with the incentive of an offer of payment by results when A passes his grade 5. This seems to be working well and he’s setting goals and targets like a pro 😉

Multisport started again on Thursday, which made a second day of extra time with other teens this week :) The coaches were late getting there, thanks to bad traffic, so the session ran late – fortunately no trombone lesson to rush to afterwards meant this wasn’t a problem. The church have started laying on a coffee morning type thing for parents, which is lovely; we all sit and chat while the children do their sport and it’s been great to get to know a few people better, as well as to have some interesting chats with the church ladies too :) Plus there are usually good biscuits 😉 This week I spent a fair bit of time chatting about Usborne, so it’s been feeling like an Usborne-chat kind of week – you never know, perhaps I’ll end up with the HE team I’ve been daydreaming about!
We got back in good time for A to get to gym while the others rushed around getting ready for band. It’s always a bit stressful trying to fit everything in with the added factor of traffic, but we’ve warned people at band that we’ll usually be late and it’s still worth going, if only because there’s nowhere else they’d get the same experience. H’s teacher is happy with his progress; K has now joined him for lessons and both boys should be able to move into band in a few weeks :) J had a bit of a headache on the way over and took painkillers but unfortunately by the end of junior band he was a very odd colour and having visual disturbances as well, with what was clearly a migraine developing. Senior band didn’t seem a good plan, all in all, so he went home with the others to get an early night in a nice quiet, dark room.

Fridays start just a little too early most weeks, given the late-ish finish on Thursdays, with ‘cello lessons for A and K. The others usually get to take their time more though, as there’s not really time for me to crack the whip before we go 😉 L has violin in the afternoon, then L and A have choir, with K’s choir after that. This means H and J have the choice of coming in with us and working in the library or staying at home to do their own thing. So far they’ve always opted for the latter. I hope this means they’re working… I left a to do list on the board, because there was packing and sorting to be done as well as the usual work. I think I need a board which shouts reminders at people as they walk past!

This week has mostly been about getting an HTML 101 course done, which H, J, K and L have all been working through online. Once it’s completed they can sign up for the next one, which moves on to rather more advanced programming, apparently.

One of the reasons packing needed to be done early was that on Saturday Bob headed over to Kentwell with tents and his Tudor stuff while I took the children to a Have Your Say day at Addenbrooke’s. They were invited because of the research stuff we did there some months ago, and H was welcome too. While they discussed, debated and learned I rushed back home and loaded the car up with everything Bob hadn’t taken. If I’d known T41 would be there I’d have done that the night before so I could have spent a day with her :( We did manage a nice chat over a cuppa though. The day ended at 3:30 with presentations and goody bags (rather impressive ones really – they were all pleased :) ) and then we drove to Kentwell, aiming to get there at flagdown ready for unpacking, tea and then Scare Academy. Mission accomplished, with success :)