Mostly sailing

Monday is usually an E and S day so when a level one sailing course was mooted I checked with Gina and as it happened E wanted to do it too. Fortunately there was a spare space for 6 too, so we headed over to Gina’s a little earlier than usual, took J to the station and met Dave there to collect E and S from him and take them across to the Stanborough Lakes where the sailing was to happen.
The weather was not great, but could have been far worse. Apparently everyone capsized at some point except 6 (who has the advantage of having sailed before) but at least there was some sun and it wasn’t TOO cold πŸ˜‰ While they were busy learning to stay upright in a boat I took A and S to Go Wild in Hatfield Galleria, only to find when we got there that A had forgotten her socks. Fortunately, M&S outlet had some tights which would do the trick, so we were soon back on track. I fished out my sewing, only to find that I had left my pincushion and needles at home. I had everything else I needed, but without a needle it was all in vain, and having already trawled round a couple of shops to look for socks or tights I hadn’t the heart to drag the children away again to look for a needle, so just enjoyed doing nothing but watch children play. As soft play places go, it’s not too bad – at least it’s open so doesn’t have the nasty warehouse feel many do. We stayed for rather longer then the hour our session should have lasted – they weren’t busy so the man at the gate told us there was no need to worry about timings πŸ™‚
We got back to the lake with enough time for a trip to the cafe before the sailors came in, all happy to have passed but definitely ready for a hot shower! Unfortunately the boys shower seemed to be utterly irresistible, with the result that those of us with boys were waiting around rather longer than those with girls – in the end we stood outside the boys’ changing room and shouted until K came out! The traffic on the way back was not too awful, considering we were later leaving than hoped, but slowed us down enough that we had to rush at the far end to drop E and S and get across town ready for K and L to be on time for their Gamelan dress rehearsal, while Bob collected J and met us there. Chips, noodles and spring rolls made for an eclectic but speedy tea and then we went in to listen to the concert, which was really good and included not just Gamelan music but also Javanese dancers. It was also short – a definite bonus on a school night!


Sunday was an interesting day, logistically speaking. J had a recorders day rather too many miles in the wrong direction, while L and 6 were singing Eucharist, A had a choir rehearsal and gym and K an invitation to a birthday party. In addition, we had all been invited to a punting party, which realistically only 6, L and one adult could attend since it fitted after Eucharist but not after or with any of the other commitments. The icing on the cake was when I got to Eucharist with the girls and realised (from the notice sheet) that K was supposed to be singing Mattins as well – cue some hasty messaging to Bob to get him there in time, with or without a cassock!

In the end it all worked out, more or less. J had a good time remembering how much he likes playing the recorder (each time he does a recorder session he comes away enthused and bubbling over with ideas πŸ˜€ which gradually fade once he’s back at school where nobody cares about recorders πŸ™ ), K made it to Mattins and sang, despite having the wrong shoes and no cassock, then was collected and taken to the birthday party, A enjoyed her choir and then gym and didn’t mind the long drive to collect J, with bonus concert to listen to when they got there, and 6 and L sang Eucharist, sat out an unusually long service (not much we could do as they were at the front in the choir stalls so we couldn’t leave any earlier than we did!) then ran to get to the punts just in time before everyone loaded up and left. I started the punting off, then gave 6 a quick lesson and L a short turn too, before handing over to the birthday girl, R. A party of four punts, we got down to Grantchester, ate a rather lovely shared picnic and made it back just in time to be off the river before the rain started. In fact, the timing was perfect, as the girls and I then had just enough time to go and collect K, meaning Bob didn’t have to and could make it to J’s concert. Sometimes things just work out right πŸ˜‰

Quiet Thursday; restful Friday; split up Saturday

On Thursday K had a very early start, with an Ascension Day service at the top of Great St Mary’s Tower. Sadly, getting J to his train meant that I couldn’t stay to watch but apparently it went well – and they made the local paper πŸ™‚ He then went home with his friend, partly to be a distraction before a nasty dental appointment and partly to be company for the rest of the day – which he and his friend both enjoyed so much that I’m told they want to do it again as soon as possible πŸ˜‰
Meanwhile A and I dropped J at the station and went to Gina’s to spend a quiet day with E and S. 6 and L opted to stay at home and work through a job list, meaning they could have a lie-in after a late night at choir, rather than an early morning. It also meant that Bob could drop them at the gym and dash off for a talk by Hermann Hauser while I waited for J and then went to collect the girls once back, rather than having to drive to J’s school and rush back in order not to miss gym – it’s much easier when Bob can take L.

Friday had been planned as a Latin day but Michelle didn’t want to drive to us and knowing how much driving our week and weekend looked likely to contain I didn’t offer to drive to them. K spent much of the day making a powerpoint presentation about what a groma was and how it was used. Our plans to make and use one were stymied by poor weather though, so we may try that next week instead. Maths happened, music practice happened, lots of sewing and playing and pottering happened. We made sushi for lunch – a new experience for 6, who says she has eaten it but never made it before. Top Trumps fever seems to have hit, particularly with A and 6, so lots of games of that happened too, using various sets of cards πŸ™‚ 6 is now starting to talk much more, and gaining confidence in using English and in making mistakes and having them corrected so she can communicate without feeling it has to be perfect or not said. It’s lovely to see her petals unfurling πŸ™‚
The girls had choir first in the evening, so I took everyone in then we met up with Bob (who’d been to a coffee and chat meeting at 11 and not left until 4!) and he took A while K and I went and bought music theory past papers (grade 3 for L and grade 5 for K). J was staying for Big Band so Bob took the girls home while I went to meet J, leaving K to get to choir with tea for while he waited. Boys choir was sweet, but mercifully short – we were all tired and knew Saturday was going to be an early start!

Logistics for Saturday meant that J had to miss the Kentwell open day for school and that being so, an adult had to miss the open day to get him there. Since an adult was already taking J to school, they may as well also take K and L to music school and make sure they got to their gamelan rehearsal on time (not a given if they came to Kentwell). However 6 had not yet been to an open day so needed to go, while I had been asked to facilitate a workshop so also had to go. A came with us, mostly to keep 6 company as I knew I would be doing lots of finding people and filling in paperwork. The day finished earlier than expected, partly due to dodgy weather in an outdoor venue, and in fact we could probably have got K and L to their rehearsal, but it was better to know they were already there.
My dad came back with us from Kentwell and stayed the night; it’s always a pleasure to see him and he’s a very easy and undemanding house guest πŸ™‚

Eastern Europe, Quentin Blake and an Overrunning Interview

Wednesday was 8-11s Geography, covering Eastern Europe this time. We looked at how many different countries are covered by this description and how many of them used to be different countries, with different boundaries and/or part of the USSR, yet still managed to retain unique identities, music and languages underneath a layer of sovietism. We matched capital cities to countries (tricky now there are so many new ones!), looked in more detail at the Baltic States and then played a game matching countries with their flags. All good stuff, and hopefully not too confusing for 6; I am aware as we do it that the HE group way of learning is probably harder to follow than a textbook in a classroom, but I suspect in the long run it may be more rewarding too.
Recorders for A, lunch and a play in the park and then we headed off to the Fitzwilliam to see their Quentin Blake exhibition before it finishes. We met up with one of K’s friends from choir and his mum – he was having a week off school because his class were away on a camp he was unable to attend, so more spare time to meet up, which make K very happy. The exhibition was small and not quite what we had expected. We have several books by QB or with QB illustrations and probably associate him most with Roald Dahl, but those featured were mostly more recent: various by David Walliams, Russell Hoban’s Rosie’s Magic Horse – which L now wants us to buy – a rather gruesome (yet also comedic) illustration from Voltaire and also some of the works he has done for various hospitals and clinics around the world.
Quentin Blake: Drawn by Hand looks at individual works Quentin has produced in the past few years: book illustrations, etchings, lithographs, drawings and works done for hospitals in various and contrasting media.
The exhibition includes an original in watercolour pastel from the sequence The Life of Birds, donated to the Fitzwilliam by Alice Fleet; as well as originals, drawn in reed-pen and watercolour, from two series of pictures of mothers and their babies swimming underwater which decorate the maternity unit of Angers Hospital and the Rosie Birth Centre at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
This work is accompanied by a display of pens, brochures, inks, watercolours, etching plates and other materials from the artist’s studio.
Quentin Blake comments: “Over the past few years I have produced, in addition to book illustration, a large number of works to appear in museums, hospitals and other public spaces; a sort of odyssey on the drawing-board which I recount in the book Beyond the Page. I was delighted to think that an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam gave me the opportunity to allow the spectators to see a diversity of these works and their techniques at close quarters.”

The tools of his trade displayed in the central cases were especially interesting when we started to look at which pictures might have been done with which techniques. We’ve decided to have a go at one of the styles there: a bold outline in a single colour filled in with strokes of assorted bright colours, almost like a rainbow. We were also very taken with the black outline and monochrome colour wash style which used density of colour rather than change of colour to show shade and light – might have a go at that too πŸ˜‰
After the Fitz visit things started to get more complicated. K and his friend walked to choir while the girls and I looked round a bit more, then walked back to the car. I tried to phone Bob, who should have just been finishing an interview but there was no answer, so we popped to a supermarket to get some bits for tea. Still no answer – then a text to say he was still in the interview and would be for some time. By now he should have been meeting J’s train and collecting A from me, leaving us to pick up K and wait for girls’ choir. Fortuitously, just as I was wondering what to do K’s choir friend phoned to ask if we had plans for between choirs and on hearing the problem offered to take the girls while I collected J and to arrange for the lift her child was getting home from choir to be extended to include K as well. The prospect of playing with a friend (K’s choir friend has a sister in L’s choir and another in A’s choir – how perfect is that?!) reconciled A to the prospect of missing Rainbows and I was only about 20 minutes late getting to J – who had a book so didn’t mind πŸ˜‰
Bob joined us there once his interview was finally over so J, K and A were able to go home with him while I took L and 6 back in for their choir – in St Catharine’s college chapel this time; they’re really getting to see some lovely places!


I so much want to put “wrote Mr Kipling” in there, but it probably would mean little to those who didn’t love a series of adverts way back when πŸ˜‰

Quiet morning planned, with lots of jobs and work, but then an unexpected message from some Rainedrops had us heading over in completely the wrong direction, lured by the promise of swimming, lunch and, most of all, a chance to see friends we’ve not seen for far too long! I took sewing with me (and even managed to do some sewing) and the children took swimmers (and definitely managed to do some swimming!) and enjoyed the luxury of a personal tour and house viewing, a lovely chat and a delicious lunch served in the conservatory while the children ate at a lower table on the patio – then dashed off to try out the climbing tree which might almost have been purpose-built for children πŸ™‚
I felt awful dragging them away (and wanted to know the result of a certain job interview – happy news later πŸ˜€ ) but we had music lessons to get to… A had ‘cello, K, L and 6 played Maths games again, then K had ‘cello while we nipped down the road to violin. Fortunately Christina was amenable to splitting off a chunk of L’s lesson for 6 so she watched and then had a chance to play – and there’s now another music practice to fit in each day πŸ˜‰
After music we set off again, this time to visit a friend who had promised me old linen sheets – and then went further with an offer of hand-sewing; talk about an offer I couldn’t refuse! We stayed there long enough to need to rush back and do a “one minute and counting” style change of clothes for Brownie uniform but the traffic was on our side and not only did K get to gym with minutes to spare but 6 and L got to Brownies on time too πŸ™‚

Kentwell Initiation

We had hoped to all go to Kentwell for the May mini-recreation, but in the end J couldn’t get his act together about homework, so Katy had to stay behind with him and I took everyone else. The weather was unusually nice for a bank holiday, particularly so for a Kentwell mini (there has been snow at these before).

I popped up to the office on the way in to hand S’s form over – she’s officially in the system now. The vote for the first port of call was the still room to see if we could bump into KW and home ed friend A. On the way up the front sward we stopped at the decorated well, and I tried (and probably failed) to explain to S what a ha-ha was. More success explaining sun dials (from the one up by the house where you stand in the right place to be the gnomon yourself).

A quick go in the stocks (obligatory photos taken), back bridge sotlers, camera obscura (which worked well, despite it being a bit cloudy) and finally we were near. However, to honour the one-way system, you have to go in via the brew house first and then upstairs to the still room. We didn’t go directly in to the brew house as I wanted to show S the bake house first, a chat to the baker (who I didn’t know), then into the brew house to talk to an idle brewer teaching visitors games (who I did know), then finally up to the still room. I think this counts as fairly quick and direct in Kentwell terms!

Unfortunately A wasn’t there, but we had a look around, on to the seamstresses and I tied a favour to their trinity tree. Next vote was for the alchemists, but as we were heading back (via the camera obscura again), one of the back bridge sotlers advised us to go to the barn sward for a mini fayre, so a change of plan and direction. On the way we were overtaken by A who was running with some lads to get to the fayre, said hello to two lovely enormous horses, and arrived at the barn sward in time for the gentry and others to arrive for the fayre. I showed S the Cotte, where she’s likely to be, had a nice chat to some Kentwellies I knew, and then left the children at the barn sward while I sneaked to the Butts to talk to archers.

They were very busy – the new approach of letting the public shoot is very popular. Earlier in the weekend they had a queue of 40 people waiting to shoot. While this is great at experiencing archery, all the Kentwellies had time for was very rapid schooling of the next person so they could shoot their three or so arrows. So, no talking about bows, arrows, practicing, how rubbish muskets are and so on.

When I got back to the fayre it was still just about going. I had a nice chat with some visitors about the main event, and they had enjoyed themselves and were thinking about bringing their respective mums back in the summer.

By this time we were starting to flag, so while K continued to play with some Kentwellie friends, the girls and I went back to the car for something to eat. On the way back I tried to buy some ice cream from the gatehouse shop, but they had sold out (unsurprising as it was near the end of a hot day, and the last day of the event). They said they had also sold out at the stableyard cafe – cue unhappiness from A. After that the big girls went off to the alchemists, A and I picked K up, and then we headed off as it was closing time.

On the way home I stopped off at the first petrol station and bought ice cream lollies, so happiness was restored. I think that S enjoyed herself, and that she isn’t too scared by the prospect of being a Tudor over the summer.

Long weekend

No music school, thanks to bank holiday weekend, so lots of sewing for me, music for children (6 finished trying all the potential instruments and decided on violin, which didn’t surprise me as she had been transfixed by L’s lesson) and general pottering. K and L had a gamelan rehearsal in the afternoon, which everyone else declined attending so we went in to join them afterwards, intending to swap parents so I could go and babysit at a ceilidh. Instead we decided at the last minute to all go along to the ceilidh, especially as it included an interval with the Gog Magog Molly, which we thought fitted very well with the Mayday theme we’d been following this week. Not sure what 6 made of the Molly, but she certainly seemed to enjoy dancing. Meanwhile I tramped the streets with a small boy until discovering that the Corpus clock has apparently magical soporific qualities for babies πŸ˜‰

A late night on Saturday meant a very slow start to Sunday and we only just made it to church. It was packed because of a dedication – lots and lots of children so Sunday School was very busy! Then Anna had gym and the girls’ choir Evensong to fill the rest of the day. We hadn’t been sure whether 6 should be singing or just in the congregation, but Sam told her to join the choir and gave her a cassock – sadly the only ones left are enormous so she’s a bit swamped but it does make her an official probationer πŸ™‚

Bank holiday Monday and I thought we should get 6 to Kentwell so she could see it before being in it – there is a special magic to that first visit and it’s not quite the same once you know the behind the scenes bits. Unfortunately the morning’s quick activities dragged out and eventually J announced that he had too much prep to do so I sent Bob and the four who were keen and stayed home with J and lots of black wool. Hopefully Bob will blog their trip, but I may need to nudge him…


If that’s not a word, it should be πŸ˜‰

Thursday found us at Gina’s, as usual, including the fortnightly Multisport session which all three older children enjoyed, while S and A scootered, coloured, chatted and watched Magic Schoolbus. A quick piano lesson for K and then we set off to collect J from school so we could dash back in time for gym. Since 6 hasn’t been able to join in with the regular class I booked her a half term class; hopefully that will help to fill the gap at least a little.
Friday was a quiet at home catching up kind of day, finishing off the lapbooks from Wednesday, pottering and so forth, then Bob took the choir posse out while I carried on sewing. L and K had a research interview to do for a Psychology student looking at HE children, then choir for L and 6, before collecting J from the station and bringing them all home. Quick turnaround of adults and I headed back with K for his choir. We had thought to go dancing, but I was too tired and knew I had a late night planned for Saturday so decided to be sensible instead.

Mayday mayhem

Wednesday was the first of May and an ideal time to learn about some of the customs and traditions associated with the month of May πŸ™‚ It was a busy HE group session, starting with a lapbook, which we brought home to finish, and then looking at a few other May highlights, including Christian Aid week, Morris dancing and bees.
Much of the afternoon was spent in the playground, then we headed off to choir, where L and 6 did some Maths and then each sewed an edge of 6’s kirtle skirts while K was singing. A quick dash to Sainsbury’s for food, which we ate sitting in the sun, then a library visit and it was time to make our way to Caius for the girls’ rehearsal. It’s the first time I’ve been to Caius chapel and it is beautiful. K did some music theory and I sewed in lovely surroundings whilst listening to young voices raised in song – an excellent way to spend an evening πŸ™‚


Tuesday was the long-awaited trip to Pizza Express to make pizza πŸ™‚ We did this several years ago – I think possibly even before A was born – and it proved to be a very memorable, exciting and interesting trip, so the children were keen to go again and see if the giant fridge was really as cool in real life as it was in their memories. Sadly, our time there proved underwhelming. The description of what should have happened already promised less than we experienced on our last visit: the kitchens were not mentioned and nor were giant fridges; instead there was to be an ingredients tasting session and a quiz. Presumably health and safety now has something to say about taking hordes of children into restaurant kitchen. We were prepared for this, however, so the children all knew not to expect the heady excitement of seeing pizza ovens and fridge emergency buttons πŸ˜‰
What we got, though, was less again. We were greeted warmly enough, and the guy who showed them how to make pizza was excellent both at making them himself and at helping the children to do it. He was in control and fun at the same time and that part went well. Only having margarita as an option was a little disappointing (last time we had bowls of toppings we could choose from) but not unexpected, thanks to that outline we’d been sent. Then the pizzas were whisked away for cooking, jugs of squash were brought out and we waited for someone to come and lead the next part of the session. We waited a bit longer. Some of the younger children started to get a bit tired of waiting. We played I spy. We chatted. We waited a bit more. No sign of any tasting session. No quiz. Finally a waitress appeared, looking a bit uncertain what to say to all these children. She dumped a pile of pizza boxes, asked if they’d washed their hands and disappeared again. I psyched myself up to ask about the quiz when she came back – if she was too nervous but had a sheet or some info I could do it for her, I thought. She came back, but before I could speak to her she called out to the children to come and get their pizza, then suggested they put their coats on first. Clearly it was time to go, although we had been there for rather less time than any of us had allowed, given the information we’d had earlier. We took our pizzas and filed out, all a bit bewildered.
They were very tasty though – we ate them in the park, holding off a marauding duck, and I got a slice from each child’s and some bonus bits of A’s once she was full πŸ˜‰
After a mid-morning snack of pizza and a play in the park, what could be better than doughnuts and another play in the park? So that’s what we did while we waited for it to be time for ‘cello πŸ™‚

6, L and K played a maths game while A had her ‘cello lesson, then we left K there for his and went down the road to L’s violin lesson. More maths games, for 6 and A this time, but I noticed that 6 was transfixed by the violin lesson, so suggested that she try a few different instruments to see if there was anything she fancied taking a little further. I’m not sure when we could squeeze anything in, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Home again for a trampolining interval, then K had gym and L and 6 had Brownies. I meant to take a picture to show the uniform, but it will have to wait until next week; we ran out of time!