Battle, National Schools Film Week and Festival of Ideas 2011

J is on half-term (which means I’m overdue a post about J being at school, but you have to start somewhere and for want of anywhere better I’m starting here) for two weeks, so we’ve been making the most of the chance to do the sort of things we used to see as routine for home ed but which have been a bit harder to do with school added into the mix.
On Friday 14th we dropped J off at school and drove to catch the tube, heading for Abracadabra at Wigmore Hall . A mixture of music and magic, it was fab and we all enjoyed it very much – the children’s only regret being that at just under an hour it was nowhere near long enough. Neil Henry was presenting/narrating (and performing little tricks along the way, such as producing eggs from various parts of the musicians) the story of the ugly duckling, with musical accompaniment from members of the Aurora Orchestra on ‘cello, violin, viola, flute, oboe/clarinet and harp – the concert began with an impromptu lesson in harp-string changing as one broke at just the wrong moment. We heard the overture to The Magic Flute, variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Arthur Bliss’s Conversations (not heard these before, but very much enjoyed them, especially the Committee Meeting!) and something else which I can’t for the life of me think of now – will have to find the programme and check! Afterwards we had some time in hand but not much so walked a short way to see the Wallace Collection, where we had a picnic outside then went in to admire some paintings, discovered that A is really rather into furniture (she remarked on all the cabinets we saw and was intrigued by how they were made) and pictures of pretty girls (no surprise there, though), while L enjoyed spotting Bible stories in pictures and K was rather taken with all the arms and armour. While we were there a lunchtime talk was announced, on the preservation and repair of old armour so we found our way to the basement for a fascinating discussion. We saw different types of chain mail, with plain round links and riveted links and found out that any new links put in when repairing chain mail are marked with a tiny HH so that future conservators won’t get confused if they have accidentally not done it the same as the originals. We also learned about enamelling, how to protect silver from tarnishing, that hippo leather is translucent and much much more 🙂

Saturday 15th was the English Heritage Battle of Hastings, although J gets very cross when you call it this and insists it was the Battle of Battle, near Hastings (apparently his History teacher is rather evangelical over this!) and since J had no school and the others no music school we decided it was time for us to finally make it to the Battle 🙂 A decided to stay at home with Bob – I think she is missing being at home and opts to stay here whenever possible now. I’m sick of driving so we caught the train, which would have been better had J actually got up in time (still, I guess it was the first day of the holidays for him 😉 ) but as it was we arrived at about midday, having aimed for 10:30. Ho hum. Rushing to get to storytelling session (which had started early and therefore finished early so we missed all but the last few words 🙁 ) we spotted the Beans and Manorborns and joined up with them (or at least the children did with their children) for a children’s battle, which was great fun 🙂
We also wandered round the Saxon encampment, and a little round the Norman one, but that was smaller and didn’t have the added draw of market stalls 😉 and found an amazing storyteller who used his own version of the Bayeux Tapestry (but not) to recount the Battle of Maldon, with K getting to wear lots of armour and carry a shield (not the linden wood one, although he did try it – close-grained enough to stop and hold a sword or axe, it’s also very heavy!), sword and spear, while L and J helped him to create a shield wall and L was given a spear she was warned was very sharp so she shouldn’t aim it at anyone unless she really meant it – “you’ll be in just as much trouble anyway, so you might as well have some fun out of it!”
Returned to children’s area for storytelling (a different version of the Battle of Maldon) and then back for a wander round, quick look at a Viking (?) ship, but too late for the naval battle, potter round the stalls and finding Beans and Manorborns again to sit together for battle. We thought we had a not-so-good place as the ground was sharply sloping in the wrong direction and all we could see for ages was Saxon backsides, but as it turned out we had the best seats in the house when it came to the end of the battle, as it all happened right in front of us 🙂
Normans victorious (C, J and I were trying to think of things we could have shouted at them in French to parry the things they were shouting at us), the children asked to go round stalls and encampment alone while grown-ups drank tea. We eventually caught up with them sitting outside a Saxon tent, absolutely entranced by tablet weaving, which a kind re-enactor was teaching them to do. Lots of atmospheric photo opportunities as the evening drew in 🙂 but that also meant it was time for us to be taking our leave, back to the station and home.

Sunday 16th – Operatunity for K and L, while J and I hunted for a new watch for him, since he managed to lose his at school 🙄

Monday 17th – a History session followed by a play in one of the many parks we seem to go past without ever having time to stop and play. It was good 🙂 Monday night is judo night, and for once J, K and L all managed to make it – generally K has Cubs now, and J is often too tired, then L doesn’t want to go on her own.

Tuesday 18th – our weekly mostly-at-home day, minus ‘cello as teacher busy, but with violin as usual, then swimming and Brownies. Not really at home much then 🙁

Wednesday 19th – Historyetc 🙂 Lovely day, with masses of activities and nearly enough time to chat with friends. We were enjoying it all so much we stayed a bit too long and ended up making K late for his book group… Then spent an hour in the library waiting for him – my children’s idea of heaven and something we don’t do nearly enough!

Thursday 20th – finally we had a day free to make the most of National Schools Film Week, with a trip to see Gnomeo and Juliet. We took E and S with us, and all the children really enjoyed it, as did I – much more than I had expected. Lots of fun allusions for older children/adults/Shakespeare scholars to pick up on, and lots of slapstick humour too. Sad bits too – very poignant when the flamingo tells of how his love was destroyed by the hate of others (how sad is it to have to admit that I cried at a story told by a pink plastic garden ornament? 😆 ) – but the requisite happy ending, complete with song and dance number 😉
Then we went on to HE sport, the first time we’ve made it since new coaches started. J was very pleased to be able to make it (and wants to know if it will always be on in his holidays – sadly I think not) and even L was able to join in, as they needed one extra to make up numbers for a team.
In the evening I had a BF support team meeting, which was good – interesting discussion on the necessity or otherwise of vitamin supplements for BF babies and a grant to spend on resources – any ideas welcome 😉

Friday 21st had an early start, with ‘cello lesson at 9, then 10:30 found us at the cinema again, this time to see Kirikou et les Betes Sauvages which was… interesting. It was in French with subtitles, which was a bonus, but it was odd seeing things which supposedly happened in the middle of the events of the previous film (Kirikou et la Sorciere, which we saw last year) and that took a bit of getting your head round. A was particularly confused as to why the witch was still bad, when we knew that Kirikou had made her good…

Then we dashed across town to see (hear?) Peter and the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals, along with hordes of rather noisy school children. Still good though 🙂

Saturday was to have been a trombone lesson for J (with his old teacher as lessons at school haven’t really happened yet) and then straight on to the Festival of Ideas, but sadly the car wouldn’t start when we tried to move on form the trombone teacher’s house, so we went in for a chat and a drink while Bob came to the rescue. Quick exchange of children, J and A opting for home instead, and K, L and I went on to a circus skills workshop, which was great – K learned two new tricks on diablo and I can now spin plates 😀 When that ended we moved on to Prehistory, including painting with pigments made from ground up chalks, earth and so forth, investigating (by candlelight) cave paintings, having a “tattoo” done, watching tanners and smelters at work, grinding flour, making bread (but missing out on eating it as we weren’t quick enough when it came out of the oven) and throwing a spear with and without a spear thrower. We could have stayed longer (and would have liked to, as friends were there too) but really wanted to get to see Anglo-Saxons and Egyptians too. As it worked out, we could have gone on a tour which would have told us about Roman and Anglo-Saxon bodies found in the grounds but that would have meant very little time for anything else so opted instead for making shabtis and masks, whilst learning about Egyptian culture from the very friendly and knowledgeable students running the activities. We didn’t make it into the museum, though, so will have to look into doing that another time.

Sunday 23rd was October Plenty which I have wanted to do for a while, so J, L, A and I went there, while K stayed with Bob to do normal Sunday things: church and operatunity rehearsal (he felt that if L was not going then he needed to, so he could tell her what she had missed). Lots of photos should shortly be available to tell the October Plenty story for themselves, but in short we wore strange clothes, processed, watched a play, sold programmes, listened to stories (and I ended up telling one too, as there were children waiting and the storyteller was not around), tried lots of different types of apple, listened to some fab music, chatted with friends, J entered an apple peeling competition and got a prize (despite having thought the aim was speed rather than length of peel; he says he’ll do better next year now he knows what he’s meant to be doing!) and we came home with a leek and a small sheaf of wheat from the dismantling of the Corn Queene – which L and A then very much enjoyed giving out to strangers on the way home, explaining that they were sharing the Plenty and spreading the harvest 🙂

On Monday (today – phew!) we had fun at a Play with Maths session – a long way away but worth the journey, I think – and then dashed back in another direction entirely to meet up with an old friend, the French assistante from a school I taught at. We went to a couple more Festival of Ideas things, firstly an interesting display about coral, which included a (video) performance by David Bower, a deaf actor incredibly adept at using facial expressions. The children were spellbound for ages! A cup of tea and some macaroons later we met up with Bob and handed over the three youngest children, leaving J, Marie-Laure and me to go to Adventures of a Palaeolinguist, an excellent talk from James Clackson (who incidentally finds the term “palaeolinguist” a bit annoying as it mixes Greek and Latin) about how linguists/historians can begin to work out what ancient languages mean and where to even begin when faced with a piece of script you know nothing about. I was surprised but pleased when J asked a question (about pronunciation) and there was lots more I would have loved to have heard. Loads of information on screen though – handouts would have been good, as once it had gone I couldn’t remember it 🙁
Cheeky chips on the way home 😉

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