J was on laptop duty at church on Sunday. This meant that he needed to collect the laptop from church last week, which he couldn’t do because I was preaching at a different church. Bob emailed the person on duty that week to see if we could arrange collecting it from her, then promptly went away to a place and time without internet. Usually he can at least check his messages occasionally but for some reason it didn’t work at all this time, so her messages back went unread. Since she was due to be away from Friday morning she wanted to be sure we would have the laptop from her by Thursday evening, which actually was fine for us as we could pick it up straight after the lower presentation. Unfortunately while Bob was emailing her to say this is what we would do, she was sending her husband round to another church member’s house to pass the laptop on to yet another church member to look after until we could collect it from them. This left us playing hunt the laptop until Friday evening, when it was unexpectedly dropped off at our house before we could make the last foray out to collect it. Then J had a worrying few hours while he tried to remember the password and Bob tried to email anyone who might know it and be around. Even then things did not go smoothly, as the preacher was standing in at short notice and so had not got everything together until late on Saturday. In the end J decided he had better not come with us to Kentwell but should rather stay and finish setting everything up on the laptop, since he was worried about it going badly on his first solo run. He waited and waited for the final info to come through, then gave up and went to bed, which left him having to get up in time to finish it the next morning and still get to church early (we later discovered that the steward sending it to him had sent it as soon as he got it on Saturday evening, but it had bounced so J didn’t receive it until it was resent early on Sunday) – it was all a bit of a panic! Everything went fine during the service, though, so things are feeling less stressful for next week when he does it all over again – for one thing we already have the laptop and for another the preacher has already given J most of the information he needs, more than a week ahead of time!

After church we all came home for lunch and while we ate had a bit of a family discussion, laying out a few expectations, ironing out the odd issue which has arisen and generally trying to make sure that life will run smoothly even when the children and teenagers outnumber the adults as overwhelmingly as they do now 😉 Since we finally have a month where we can expect to be at home more than we are away Bob and H walked down to the local pool to look into a monthly pass for H to go swimming whenever he likes and to pick up a timetable so he can plan when that might be. There was a club session on, which confirmed what I had suspected from earlier investigations, that although club level is where H should be it’s not possible for the relatively short time he’ll be here. He did have a chat with the coach though, and was able to watch some of the session.

Monday was a bank holiday, but Bob had work to do from last week’s Kentwell and holiday orchestra days so the children and I went out to a World War II day at Audley End. We let the boys sleep in as long as they wanted first (they’d all had a busy week, after all) so it wasn’t an early start, but at least that gave the rain a chance to be mostly over and done with by the time we got there. Both H and J were especially interested in talking with the German army re-enactors and we got an interesting viewpoint and some recommendations of which films to watch and which not to watch! Hollywood blockbusters are, not surprisingly, to be avoided if you want anything remotely resembling an accurate portrayal 😉 We saw, but decided it was too wet and muddy to do, an obstacle course such as recruits might have been required to undertake, watched a training exercise (Audley End was used to train Polish agents) and looked at the kitchens where we saw the kind of food being prepared that might have been eaten when rationing was in full force and listened to some great 40s music on the wireless. There was a great presentation, Handbags to Hand Grenades, about a woman who was chosen, almost by accident, to be trained for the special operations executive: military drill, firearms, silent killing, self defence, parachuting, and mock interrogations. Then, leaving her three small children safely in a convent school she was dropped behind enemy lines to help prepare for D-day, because if she wouldn’t do it then who would? It was very moving and quite incredible to see such a normal stay at home mum transformed into an agent who did her duty, knowing that she had an expected average life span of six weeks once in place and believing that however hard it might be for her to leave her children it was important to do what she could to keep them safe and her country free.
Another training exercise – this time an amphibian attack – and we found ourselves rather closer to the action than we had anticipated, since the spot we stood in was right by the guns and explosions! Fortunately (although much to the training officer’s disgust!) they didn’t manage to blow up the bridge, so we were all able to leave at the end of the day 🙂 We discovered as part of the talk about the exercise that there was a book about Audley End’s use as a training centre (Station 43) during the war available form the gift shop, so we made our way there afterwards, via a tent where we saw utility clothing and make do and mend and another where we could see the rations laid out and appreciate just how little food it meant was available – and even that only when it could actually be found in the shops. We also went to an interactive session about spying and the law; people were pulled out of the audience and accused of crimes, then we all had to decide whether they had actually committed an offence or the arresting officer was being overly hasty. Each time we guessed correctly the pointer moved towards Victory and each time we were wrong it moved towards Invasion. Fortunately Victory prevailed, despite J being imprisoned for smoking a cigar in a subversive manner!
Home again, to find that Bob had been wrestling with fitting the replacement manhole cover for the drain in the drive at the front of the house. The hole is a little larger than a standard size cover, so last time we replaced it we left the built-up cement and fitted a little high, with a slope of cement leading up to it. This worked okay but left it standing a little proud of the drive, so this time as well as going up one level of cover (to a slightly stronger one) Bob decided to chip away that layer and start again. Unfortunately making the cement stick to the sides of the bricks so that the hole would be small enough to mount the cover proved a tricky task, especially in drizzle, so we ended up putting containers into the hole to catch sliding wet cement before it could clog the drain, covering it and leaving it in hopes it would dry before it fell off. Since it has rained steadily all day today as well we’ve not checked it yet…
In the evening H decided to start using his swimming pass 🙂

Today has mostly been a planning day, filling in dates in the calendar, making lists of what people most want to learn, lists of resources to help them get there, lists of places we want to visit… Goodness knows how I’ll fit all of it into the next few months!
It’s also been a day of catching up on Chemistry ready for tomorrow’s WedEd and Geography ready for Thursday’s Restless Earth workshop, and of getting stuck into Memrise in hopes of learning more new words than anyone else by the end of September.
This evening H swam again, while the rest of us, more boringly, watched An Extra Slice.