Adding an H

J has wanted to do another exchange for a while now and decided that German was probably a more sensible option than Spanish, since he already has excellent French and a fair bit of Italian so Romance is fairly well covered. En Famille came up trumps. A little compromise was needed to determine the exchange length (H wanted a little longer and J a little shorter than we’ve ended up planning) and it will make J’s exam year… interesting… but we are very happy to welcome H into our family.

H arrived with his parents on 24th July and they all stayed here until 27th, when his parents headed home via a day in Cambridge. Just as they arrived the weather turned so we weren’t sure we’d manage punting but there was enough of a dry spell on Saturday afternoon to squeeze in a leisurely jaunt on the river and a picnic tea, then Bob and H’s parents went to see the Merry Wives of Windsor while all the children opted for going home to watch Celebrity Masterchef. On Sunday the girls and I went to church while Bob stayed at home with those who were rather later risers – it seems H shares J’s views on what constitutes a good time to get up! The intention had been to go to a big sports day at the local park, but torrential rain meant they baled soon after arriving and well before we could join them. We played indoor games and watched the rain instead.

On Monday, while H’s parents enjoyed their day in Cambridge en route to their flight home, the rest of us (eventually) went over to the Beans, where SB has also just started hosting an En Famille visitor. The children took swimmers in hopes of good weather, but it wasn’t great so we enjoyed pleasant company instead. In fact we spent Monday, Wednesday and Friday with the Beans, thanks to WedEd and then a HE teen meet and swim which didn’t quite happen as planned, for various reasons. In between we had a quiet Tuesday and Thursday, with the beginnings of some work (H was rather put out to find that we’re not in full holiday mode as he expected, since we spread our HE fairly evenly through the year and take holidays at random times as they happen; we started him off gently 😉 ) and a trip into town to return some books and sign the girls up for the library Summer reading challenge. I had hoped that H might like to take a couple of books out, but apparently he hates reading. We’ll see if we can change that while he’s here 😉

WedEd this week included Art (cubist cats, led by SB), Chemistry (working out Avagadro’s constant by burning stuff – always a winner!), Maths, cooking (monster marshmallows and cinder toffee) and, for the more hardy souls, swimming – with a side order of silliness, flirting and/or splashing for the too-cool-to-swim teens 😉 Toasting marshmallows round the fire was a good way to warm up again, apparently 🙂

At the weekend we went to a house-warming party for the Babs and co. which meant a Saturday afternoon and evening filled with games, chat and fun, then a stayover (I hesitate to call it a sleepover 😉 ) and another day of more of the same. Boris the dog being there too gave a good opportunity for a bit of extra fresh air and exercise, which was a Good Thing 😉

Starting the Lasts and Last-for-nows

Mon 26th January brought a break from routine in the form of two Christopher Lloyd talks back-to-back: What on Earth Happened? History and Science. He started by telling us about the development of the What on Earth series, which came out of his own experience of home educating and wanting to join up topics. As a presenter he was really good and very engaging and the children particularly liked his coats of many pockets with visual and physical clues to the next topic. We bought a Shakespeare sticker book for Afish as her choice of birthday present and then went down the road to the excellent toyshop run by a local home educating family and spent rather too much money on a birthday present for Kfish and some for the presents cupboard. Home in time for a French lesson, then the usual Monday evening English, football, Guides.

Tues 27th began with normal and another saxophone lesson, then Lfish, Afish and I went to the local hospital where Afish had an appointment to check that the odd results from the ECG she had as part of the metabolism study a few months ago were nothing serious. She was pronounced to be a perfectly healthy example of the “tall skinny variety” 🙂

On Wed 28th Kfish had his first piano lesson with a new teacher we are hoping will get him started with some music to take to France and practise, ready for moving on when he comes back. It went well and it looks as though he and this teacher will work well together, but it will be a question of finding a regular slot in two very busy timetables so we’ll have to wait and see how well it works in the long run. The afternoon and evening had the usual choir, Italian, choir sandwich.

Thurs 29th found us driving to one of my least favourite places for navigation so that we could go ice skating. Fortunately getting lost only delayed us by a few minutes and the skating session started late anyway so we were fine. It was the first time we’ve had any contact with a teaching for skating and it made an immediate difference, most noticeably for Afish. The teacher made them practise falling over and getting up, which dealt with one of her greatest fears and the thing which has been most holding her back, so that was an excellent start! Hopefully this will become a regular session and we’ll be able to attend fortnightly when multisport isn’t on. We were back safely in time for trombone, gym, judo and band – although we then found we should have been there at 6:30 rather than 7 but an email gone astray meant we hadn’t known. Timings are going to be really tight! Lfish was a bit thrown at first by being presented with music in treble clef when she’s been learning in bass, too, but has decided it will be worth the mental gymnastics to be (eventually) able to play trombone in both orchestras and brass bands.

Fri 30th was Kfish’s birthday – a teenager but fortunately no Kevin transformation! He was not overly impressed to have a cello lesson, moved from Monday, but Gill only gave him nice scales as a concession to the occasion 😉 The afternoon was the usual library, violin, choir, music, choir combination, but with added cake.

Sat 31st had the usual music school and gym, but in the evening we celebrated Kfish’s birthday with a visit to a pizza restaurant – thank goodness for Clubcard vouchers!

On the Sunday I took Kfish to eucharist but the rest of the day is largely a blur thanks to a nasty migraine. At Bob’s suggestion I cleared the following day to allow for extra recovery time, so we cancelled XYZ and moved cello, which turned out to have been a good move because I was distinctly wobbly and groggy in the morning. Jfish and I drove to the next village to collect the euphonium and bass trombone he is renting from county music, which gave me a chance to gauge pain vs grogginess vs driving and after a rest and some lunch we decided that it was probably safe to drive gently to rollerskating, which gave L and Kfish a chance to see some more distant friends to say goodbye. We were back in time for football, English and Guides, but I was pretty much wiped out despite just sitting quietly nursing a cuppa while they skated.

Tues 3rd was a rush of music in the morning: the postponed cello lessons and then L’s last sax lesson with Stephanie. She showed him her collection of different saxophones and he tried lots of different sizes, particularly enjoying the larger ones. She also gave him copies of the music he’s done from her books and a saxophone and clarinet magazine to which she regularly contributes, so he’ll have some interesting things to show his teacher back in France. The most important thing about Tuesday, though, was the SNOW! Kfish had an eye test booked, which was handily near to one of the few hills in the area, so we called to collect his friend B and his mum on the way then spent some time sledging down hills and were able to leave the other children with B and his mum while Kfish and I went for his eye test (which was all fine, no glasses needed).

This has been a week of lasts, or last-for-nows and Wed 4th was the last(-for-now) WedEd. It was HH’s turn to have a migraine so we started with Art – or perhaps more properly literature, as we learned about Apollinaire and his Calligrammes then had a go at making our own word pictures. SB and Jfish did some maths with theBabs, then joined us and did their Calligrammes in French for an added challenge 🙂 Em led an ensemble of recorders and flutes, giving L, Afish and BB a chance to play in the remaining snow, then for Science they made atoms from wire and beads (a hot glue gun opportunity not to be missed!) and by the time I left with the choir and Italian contingent L was busy with what he likes to call the Minecraft party.

Thursday 5th should have started early with Kate History, but it was cancelled so we did History at home instead, trying to get up to the Norman Conquest before L goes home (I’m not sure we’re quite going to make it, but if we do then it will bridge the gap between the early stuff we’ve done at home and what we’ve been doing with Kate). Multisport was indoors, thanks to heavy rain, then the afternoon and evening was a hither and thither dash of trombone/euphonium lessons, gym, band and judo.

Bob worked from home on Friday 6th, which meant that after a morning of good solid normals, L and Afish able to stay at home with him while we did violin and choir/music/choir run. We experimented with fudgy aduki bean brownies (no gluten, dairy or eggs!) – but sadly Bob forgot about them in the five minutes between our leaving and their needing to come out of the oven, so they were a little burnt. Still tasty though, and worth another try, I think.

Last music school on Saturday (with added biscuits as a goodbye gift) while Jfish went to visit an old schoolfriend for the day using the guided bus and the train. He came back rather late and tired, having apparently got lost between L’s house and the station – oops!


Centerparcs – On the 19th January we set off, not quite as bright and early as it might have been, for Elveden to go on what has become an annual holiday to Centerparcs. The benefit of going in January is that it costs less than ¼ of what it would cost in school holiday times and is much quieter and correspondingly more pleasant too. Our chalet was only a few doors from the Beans and Em, so very convenient for planning trips to the pool together – and a surprise birthday celebration for Kfish too 😉

There was much wetness, swimming, splashing, whooshing down flumes, defying gravity with the Cyclone and for the slightly fainter-hearted the rapids presented enough of a challenge in themselves – Jfish took a few days to succumb and then was hooked!

My sister was able to join us for the second half of our stay, much to her nieces’ and nephews’ joy; she’s much more fun than Bob and I are! She arrived pretty much as Jfish and Bob were leaving to get to Italian and do our turn on the choir supervision rota. Auntie P’s Christmas present to all of us was a treat at the Pancake House on the last day, which made things even more exciting, as that’s something they’ve often wanted to do. To be honest, it may well be something we never bother to do again, as the pancakes looked impressive but actually tasted slightly soapy (definitely American style puffy pancakes rather than what they had been expecting) and were far too sweet for anybody to finish their serving. Mine apparently got lost through a hole in the space time continuum and had to be rescued from the Palaeolithic by a brave cook, so it took a few minutes extra to arrive!

The day after we got back should have been Music School, but everybody was far too tired, and some rather full of cold, so we decided a lie-in was more appropriate. L still made it to gym and the choristers were all up to various services and choir practices on Sunday, so by the following week we were more or less back to normal again.

London by Design

Sunday 11th was a preaching Sunday for me, while the children went to Sunday school and got regaled with chocolate. In the afternoon Kfish and Jfish had Call Me Ceilidh and then Kfish had Evensong.

Monday 12th was a day of normals, with cello, football, English, Guides.

On Tuesday 13th L had a saxophone lesson with Stephanie, who happily indulges his love of jazz and has lent him some music to be working on. Afish had Brownies and apart from that it too was a day of normals.

On Wed 14th we took the train into London for a trip to the Design museum, which I have to admit I did not know existed until a few weeks ago! We took the underground and came out right by the shard for a walk through some of the interesting newly developed parts of London, with a backdrop of some of the most historic parts. We walked through Shad Thames and onto Tower Bridge for a good look up and down the river, trying to imagine how it might have been a few hundred years ago. On the bridge we also met up with HH, SB and BB and then made our way to the museum together… and waited forty-five minutes to be allowed in because the visit organiser was running late and they wouldn’t let us in until she got there. Sigh. At least there were some benches to sit on while we shivered and ate our lunch! Once we eventually got in and warmed up we had a very interesting walk round the shop until they were ready to let us up into the museum itself. It’s a very small museum, with two exhibition spaces and a workshop space, so they change the exhibitions frequently. When we were there the keynote in the main space was women and fashion, with the emphasis on power-dressing through the ages. The other space had displays from five guest designers working to different briefs. One had been working on redesigning housing and communal living spaces, another rethinking how banks work and so on. The children’s favourite was the amazingly simple but effective construction toys made out of layers of cardboard and capable of being built into a variety of structures – there was a set out to play with, so they were able to have a go for themselves. The workshop itself, when we got to that part of the day, was excellent: they were put in pairs and given a different item per pair to draw and write a spec, then decide what they thought it was for and critique the design. Some were iconic, others simply weird! The workshop ended late so we had to rush for the tube and annoyingly just missed the train we had been hoping to catch, which meant that we caught more traffic on the roads so Kfish missed choir and Jfish was late for Italian, but not disastrously so.

Thurs 15th started gently with a morning at home, then an afternoon of trombone lessons and gym, followed by a big evening rush as Kfish and L went to judo, Lfish, Afish and Jfish had a junior brass band trial session and I had a local preachers’ meeting to rush to as soon as I could.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were full of the usual things: library, violin, choir, music school, gym, services (with added choir lunch) – and lots of packing and getting ready for our holiday…

Seeing in the new

2015 actually started for us with cake and candles at the Beans’ party (thank you SB and Lfish) and then finishing off games before going home for a few hours of sleep. At a more sensible time in the morning we got up and ready to go ice skating, meeting with the same folk as the night before for fun at the temporary rink. Ice skating is definitely something it would be good to do more often, but cost and distance make it difficult 🙁 I took advantage of the cookware sale to treat myself to a rather nice little omelette pan and some new baking sheets and then we went back to the Beans’ for pancakes and party leftovers – and ended up staying for much of the rest of the day. All in all it was a very relaxed and pleasant way to spend a birthday 🙂

Back to Holiday orchestra for Friday and Saturday, with presentations so we could see what they’d all been up to 😉 then a relaxing Sunday catching up on rest and recuperation. The RI Christmas lectures came to the rescue combining education and entertainment.

It’s been far too long since we saw Rodena, and on Monday her older children had an Inset day so we drove down with K and L map-reading for practice, and spent a long afternoon with them. Ikea ice-creams kept us going on the way back, as well as giving an excuse for a bit of running around to break up a lot of driving.

Tuesday was History catch-up. Having visited Sutton Hoo and made a start on Anglo-Saxons we really needed to polish off the Romans by making sure everything was stuck in, written up and understood. L pointed out that they hadn’t finished watching the Roman Mysteries yet, so there’s been a fair bit of that happening too. Fortunately for A there was no Brownies so she didn’t need to tear herself away from the exciting storyline!

7/1 was the first Wed Ed of the new year. We started with Winter haiku, based around melting snowmen, and recorder ensemble. HH carried on with genetics, using coloured pompoms, forks and chopsticks to show some of the principles of evolution and fitness. J’s Italian hasn’t started yet so he and L were able to stay longer, but A opted to come along to choir with K and Lfish. We spent most of the time in the library as I had lots of service prep to do and A is always up for a quiet hour or two with a book 🙂

Multisport started again on the 8th, despite foul weather. L hurt his finger but carried on without telling anyone until after the end of the session, by which time we couldn’t get back into the building for a cold pack. J had trombone – and got his exam result (merit) – and then we went home for more Roman Mysteries while A had gym.

Friday 9th January started dramatically with L showing me a rather bruised looking finger which he thought might be broken. It hadn’t hurt on Thursday afternoon or evening, and only twinged when he lay on it in the night, so we strapped it to the next door finger and he decided it would be okay for a day in London rather than needing instant attention. We had a fantastic day, meeting the Beans at the station to catch the train together (which was a lot more fun than travelling alone, even if it did mean we didn’t get any History reading done) and then going to the Opera at Covent Garden. Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera was excellent – all of the children enjoyed it and I couldn’t believe how quickly the time passed. During the interval it was lovely to catch up, albeit briefly, with T41 and C. After the opera we gave L the option of going home or staying longer and he opted for staying so we mooched around Covent Garden a bit and then realised that the London Transport Museum was open until 6 so went there. An hour and a half in the museum and then another twenty minutes or so in the gift shop filled in the time nicely so that we arrived at Kings Cross with ten minutes to spare before our train. Once home we got children headed bedwards and took another look at L’s finger. It was looking much better, but still not fully bending or straightening so Bob took him to A&E just in case it was broken. Fortunately their wait was not too long and it was pronounced to be soft tissue damage rather than a break so they were back a couple of hours later with instructions to keep it moving and sleep with it raised. Phew! No need to take a break from saxophone practice then 😉

Seeing out the old year

7/12 K had eucharist, then Michelle and Chris visited – Lfish’s godparents – we had a lovely day with them, including play-testing the boys’ secret Santa creations with several rounds of Hnefetafl and chess and taking us out for a very tasty lunch – with irresistible desserts 😀
In the afternoon Lfish and K had rehearsals for the evening’s carol concert, while the rest of us loaded the car up ready for a late departure to to Christmas camp. It felt like a long drive, particularly with such a late start, and the not-exactly-joyous discovery that various major roads on our route were closed for night-time maintenance, but we finally made it to find that our beds had already been made up for us (so grateful for that!) and it was good to be there!

8/12 – 12/12 we spent our time at Coalbrookedale youth hostel, mostly chatting and playing with friends, but with added Christmas day celebrations (including the giving and receiving of secret Santa presents), sweet science (making molecules from sweets and icing), learning about the science of pastry (and incidentally making some very tasty quiche, pies and Norfolk shortbread), board games, video games, walks, music…

12/12 On the way back from camp we detoured a little to visit Coventry. Our whistlestop tour mostly encompassed the old cathedral and was enough to convince us that we should return for a longer visit another time.

13/12 Music school was reduced to a singing rehearsal, ready for the concerts on Sunday. Lfish had gym and the rest of the day was spent unpacking and generally catching up on rest.

14/12 K had eucharist and mattins and A choir, so it was a busy morning for them, then K, L, L and A had an afternoon of rehearsals followed by a double helping of concerts, singing with Prime Brass. Bob went to one and I to the other and both were excellent – a really lovely fun and festive occasion.

15/12 XYZ – more Christmas crafts, white chocolate ganache snowballs, non-Newtonian fluids experiments using corn flour and water, including testing its properties as body army by dropping a raw egg without it breaking. J had his grade 5 trombone exam – which would perhaps have gone more smoothly had Bob taken him to the right exam centre…, K and A cello, K and L football, J English online

17/12 WeEd, choir, Italian

18/12 The morning was mostly spent watching a fantastic performance of Around the world in 80 days, with a minimal cast doing amazing things with minimal props and lots of imagination. After a quick picnic lunch the four older children then had a Multisport bowling session, while A and I watched and chatted. A was slightly thrown by her gym being in a different place to usual, but enjoyed it nevertheless.

21/12 was one of our favourite service of the whole year: Carols by candlelight. K and Lfish sang beautifully and also enjoyed a fine choir tea, while A had a play date with Z and just came along for the concert. Meanwhile J had CCYO rehearsals all day and then a quick dash to our local church so that he and L could play in the band for their candlelit carol service. It’s such a shame these two services always coincide, as both are great and it means we always end up missing one or the other or dividing to get to both.

J had CCYO on 22/12 too, so after dropping him off we collected K’s choir friend A and brought him home with us for a day of playing with L and K. They spent a lot of time either playing or discussing computer games, while the girls rolled their eyes and did craft things 😉

For various reasons it’s been a while since L managed to have a sax lesson with Em, so we decided to arrange a few with another, more local, teacher and the first of these happened on 23/12. We dropped J off at his CCYO rehearsal and then came home via Stephanie’s. The lesson went well and she lent him a book (jazz, obviously 😉 ) with some new music to try 🙂 Back home and we had just a short while before it was time to go and collect Fortune for her Christmas stay with us, buy some lunch and then go and meet Gran-gran and Grandad ready for J’s CCYO concert. Another excellent festive concert 🙂

This Christmas Eve we decided to break with tradition and postpone meeting up with Bob’s family until Boxing Day (which until this year was when we visited my aunt). This meant we had a leisurely day before the annual crib service, where A’s choir were singing and all the children taking part in the nativity story telling. It was, as ever, a lovely service, full of fun and joy.

Christmas day started bright and early, not only because of eagerness to open stockings but also because both K and Lfish were singing in morning services. A, J, L and Fortune opted for our local church and a rather later service, so Bob took them to that while I took the others to Eucharist and Mattins. Home for snacks to stave off hunger until our usual mid-afternoon Christmas dinner – more time to get all those trimmings ready 😉 Having banned screen-based games for the day we enjoyed several different games, most of which were Christmas presents for someone or other: Fast Flowing Forest Fellers, Fool, Quelf…

On Boxing Day we headed over to Colchester to spend the day with Pippa and co, taking two cars to accommodate our extra family members this year. It was a fun day and nice to be able to stay later rather than having to dash back for services 😀

By the 28th we were feeling rested again and unexpectedly nice weather gave us the idea of a trip to Sutton Hoo to get our Anglo-Saxon studies off to a good start. We met up with Em and boys there (girls away) and enjoyed doing a trail round the museum and then a good walk round the burial mounds and general site.

The following day J’s godparents came to visit on their way home from Christmas with family, which gave us a good reason for a bit of house tidying before the busy-ness of holiday orchestra.

30/12 Holiday orchestra, L sleepover with SB, JBiff sleepover with us.
J: recorders, intermediate band, upper band, orchestra
K: trombone taster, 10+ choir, upper strings, orchestra
L: jazz workshop, intermediate band, percussion games
Lfish: training strings (helper), gamelan, upper strings
A: training strings, 7+ choir, percussion games

31/12 Holiday orchestra, then New year party at the Beans’ – L, Lfish and A got there early thanks to a lift home from holiday orchestra; the rest of us followed later. We had a really fun evening of games, chat, good food and good company, saw in the new year and then went home for not quite enough sleep…

So much to say!

In fact, I think we need to go right back to 19th November – oops!

So, 19th November was Wed Ed, where HH led a fun Science session of chromatography using Smarties, in Art we finished our Degas sculptures by adding clothes, theBabs did some Maths with those who wanted to do it and we played various games, but sadly Em was away so there were no ensembles and no sax lesson. As usual Kfish, Lfish, Jfish and I had to disappear off early to get to choir, Italian and then choir again.

Thursday was an active day with Multisport, trombone, gym and judo.

On Friday we went to the Wild Place for conservation (orchard clearing and curry), then the usual violin, library, ARU music, choir…

Saturday music school for Lfish, Kfish and Afish, but this time not for L as he and Jfish were at a county music day. Lfish had gym and bonus extra gym (a teaching exam in need of gymnasts to teach!) while I had an Usborne stall at a Christmas fair. After that we went along to wwhat I think was the highlight of the month for the boys especially: BB’s Minecraft party! Lots of fun, chat, playing together, tasty food – and a very very late night spending time with friends 🙂

Sunday had no plans – a very rare occurrence just now! This meant we could be slightly cheeky and invite ourselves back to the Beans to continue the party with those who had stayed overnight. Bonus party 😀

On Monday the second session of XYZ featured games, cup cakes to be made and decorated, Christmas decorations sewn and no hurry to finish as no cello this time. In the afternoon I taught a French lesson, then Kfish and L went to football. Jfish had no English lesson because of Thanksgiving. Lfish had Guides.

On Tuesday the older children and I had a trip to London to the cartoon museum for a workshop on WWI posters, leaving Afish at home with Bob. We started by visiting their exhibition on Hogarth (the Rake’s Progress, the Harlot’s Progress etc – the first use of the cartoon strip format, with a new picture in the sequence every few months, engraved and printed to make them affordable), then moved on to the general and political cartoons section in preparation for looking at some political cartoons from WWI. The workshop itself was with a cartoonist and art teacher, who talked about how caricature works and then walked the children through drawing their own caricature of Kaiser William. After that he showed us several cartoons of soldiers, both German and British, at the Front and the children again had a chance to draw their own. The museum was also housing a temporary manga exhibition so we looked at that and then had plenty of time to sit and read cartoon books.
Since we were in the area anyway it seemed silly not to go to the British Museum to see their exhibits on Roman Britain. We went via the ancient Greek and Roman galleries, since both Kfish and SB wanted to see those, then on to admire in the flesh, as it were, many of the artefacts we’d seen in various documentaries on early British History – quite cool! I had hoped to also get to the British Library, which is open late on Tuesdays, but the children were tired and opted for an early train home instead.

On Wednesday I went to Littlefoot with my Usborne books again, while Bob worked from home with the children. Jfish had his grade 5 treble recorder exam in the afternoon, fortunately over in time for Italian, so we dropped the other boys at the library to work/read/have computer time there and then went on to choir with Lfish.

Thursday saw Bob off to London for work, while the rest of us had a quiet morning and then trombone, gym, cello and violin exam rehearsals and finally judo – so not such a quiet second half of the day!

Kfish and Afish’s postponed cello lesson was on Friday morning, so we left the others still working on Secret Santa gifts – lots of woodwork, sanding and measuring! In the afternoon the boys went to the library again (two trips in one week!) while Lfish had violin and Jfish took the train back to his old school for a Christmas show rehearsal. There was no county hub music session so after Lfish’s choir I took the girls and L home, leaving Bob to collect Kfish from choir and Jfish from the station.

Saturday music school is currently full of concert preparations. They’re going to be singing in a fairly big concert with a few other local music groups – even L, who has opted out of all other singing and choir possibilities with a horrified expression! Jfish and I went to man a stall at yet another Christmas fair (it’s that time of year!) in the morning, then Bob took Jfish and L home while Lfish and Kfish had a string orchestra afternoon and informal concert and Afish had a playdate with Z.

Sunday was one of the days which makes me wish I had managed to persuade L to do choir, so that he would be more involved in the social circle Kfish has there. The boys’ choir were singing Eucharist and Mattins and Afish had choir, while Lfish had a violin exam and then she and Jfish had a flute and recorder day, in hopes of reigniting Lfish’s love of flute (apparently it worked as she really enjoyed the day and wants to start playing more again with hopes of working her way on to piccolo!) and giving Jfish something to get his teeth into recorder-wise (which again worked; he discovered that Irish folk music is fun to play and also did some six-part ensemble playing which he found distinctly challenging and enjoyed a great deal). I dropped Bob and the choir contingent (including L who ended up going along to the services to hear Kfish’s choir in action) and then took Lfish (with Jfish as hanger-on) to her exam (9 o’clock on a Sunday morning!) and then on to the flute and recorder day, doubled back to go to Mattins, dropped Afish off at Z’s for another playdate and took everyone else home for a quick lunch before an afternoon of yet more Secret Santa gift making – and more driving for me as I collected Afish, dropped Z’s mum in the city centre and went on to pick up Lfish and Jfish. A triumph of logistical planning!

Music exam #3 of 4 on Monday with Kfish’s cello exam, followed by celebratory roller skating and soft play. This is a HE activity which happens monthly but we normally can’t get to as it’s quite far away and clashes with cello lessons. We decided an exam meant no need for a lesson on the same day and that fun with friends won out this time. It was good. Home in time for football, English and Guides.

Tuesday was a much-needed catch-up day, with a very late start and then lots of Secret Santa preparation and a little work. Afish had Brownies.

WedEd Science this time was on DNA, while Art was Klimt (golden period, tree of life), unfortunately Em was ill so again no ensembles and no sax (we hope to make up for this lack at Christmas camp, when Em will be there and two more friends are bringing saxes and want to do lots of playing together) so we played board games and computer games to fill the extra time, while Jfish and SB did some maths, dashed off as usual to choir, Italian, choir, leaving Afish and L to play for longer and have a lift back from the lovely Babs.

Thursday started with a cross-country drive to avoid standstill traffic on our usual route, which got us to the monthly History session very late. It was on medieval towns and the power of the guilds, so we have lots of information now to put into History folders a few hundred years in the future from the Romans we’re currently working on. Thursday timings are always a bit tight, so having been late for History we were also late for Multisport – in the hall this time due to wet ground underfoot – and again for trombone. Our local A road is starting to suffer the usual winter delays and problems so things will only get worse for the next few months, I fear. Home again and Afish had gym; L and Kfish judo. Meanwhile Jfish and I were on our way to the first performance of his old school Christmas show.

Friday Conservation was again work on clearing the orchard, with soup to eat. From there we went on to drop boys at the library, while Lfish had violin, Jfish caught a train to the station nearest Bob’s office in preparation for a lift to his old school for the Christmas show part 2, Lfish and Kfish had choir and then it was time for pizza! Kfish, L and Jfish had all been invited to a birthday party at a local pizza restaurant by E, a lad they know through music. In a masterful stroke of party organisation E’s mum had also booked a second table for parents and siblings so that we could be there but not there. Tesco vouchers came to the rescue in paying for our meal and we had a lovely time – but a late night! When we got home there was just time to put out clean shoes for St Nicholas, brush teeth and get to sleep as quickly as possible, ready for a music school earlyish start.

Sunday, Monday

I was taking an all-age worship service on Sunday, so Lfish decided to miss Eucharist and Mattins and come along to that with the rest of us instead, coincidentally (but not!) getting an extra hour or two in bed 😉 Having worried about a service which I had had relatively little time to prepare (given a shockingly busy time beforehand!) it was fine and we stayed for tea, biscuits and chat afterwards before returning via a supermarket (naughty, I know, but sometimes needs must) to buy burgers to go with the buns we already had at home. We dropped the older children off at the playground near our house for a quick burst of letting off steam and had a big cooked lunch ready for them when they got in. A quiet afternoon of pottering, dozing and writing newspaper articles (Lfish and Afish have both been doing this as part of their English work this term) and then Jfish was back from his weekend away and it was time for a quick tea and bed.

This morning we had a bit of rushing around and last minute prepping then some HE friends arrived for the first session of a new club we’re trying out. One family were already well-known to us, but the other two are fairly new. It was good to have the chance to get to know them better and do things together. The idea is one the girls came up with, that we should have a few different activities going on and make it half social and half educational, but hopefully all fun. We’re calling it the XYZ club, to reflect the fact that there are different things to choose from, and hoping that some older children might want to come along and that we can build up a little peer group of children to grow up together. My ideal would be to have enough friends nearby to keep all four children from feeling that they need to go to school for companionship. There are many good reasons to go, but that shouldn’t need to be one of them. I’d also like them to get to do things with other parents and to learn with other children – we do some of that already but it’s a thing I can’t imagine having too much of, really! Today we made Roman libum (having first made the ricotta) and also shaped lots of bread dough (cheatily made in the bread maker before everyone arrived), played a number of different board games, made Suffolk puffs with Christmas buttons sewn on the front, wove little paper heart baskets and talked about what direction the group might go in future. We’ll see how it develops…


Lfish being on the small side (for our family at least) when a film company needed a child over 9 to play the role of a child under 8 she seemed a good candidate, especially as she comes with her own costume. We had to go through the various steps of applying for a performance licence and I had to go along with her as chaperone, with the added advantage that this meant I could also be an extra and play the role of her nursemaid, which she found very reassuring. We had a very early start (especially after a not-very-early night!) as we had to be on the road shortly after 4:30. Partway there we hit heavy fog which meant that we arrived a little later than planned, but it seemed not to be a problem – and in fact since I had travelled in kit and Lfish is used to getting in and out of hers quickly we made up the time very quickly – and then sat and waited for a few hours before the filming (due to start at 7:30 to catch the first of the daylight) began at about 10. “Should be over by lunchtime” which we had interpreted as “lunch might be late” proved to be overly hopeful, even with our proviso 😆 as the first scene we did involved both animals and children and took several takes, but things got faster after that and the afternoon all went very smoothly – helped along by the fading daylight! The film is of the life of John Wilbye; I had to look him up, but Lfish recognised the name immediately and said that they had sung some of his work at choir, including the madrigal which gives the film its title: Draw On, Sweet Night – which Lfish describes as “It’s lovely music but the words – he’s basically saying he wants the night to come so he can curl up in a ball under the duvet and whinge.” 😆
We got home just after tea and both retired to bed almost immediately after a long and full day. It was fun though, and I think both of us would happily do it again – as, I’m sure, would any of the other children given half a chance!

And the days go by…

Monday 3rd November: more research – Lfish and Afish’s turn this time. Slightly worryingly Afish’s ECG had some issues which meant that she was not cleared for the exercise elements of the research, and that we are now awaiting a referral to a cardiologist. Everyone was very reassuring and we’re told that it is most likely to be a mismatch in timings which means that the trace just didn’t pick up the details they were looking for, but a repeat ECG repeated the problem so it’s all about being on the safe side…
Other than that, all went well and both girls got a lot out of the experience. Both went into the MRI, although Afish came out early, and both had their calorimeter room doors sealed, although Afish asked for hers to be opened later in the evening and then came in with me from about midnight. Good effort though 😉

We collected L’s saxophone from the repair shop on the way home. It now has lovely new pads and has been realigned so everything works nicely 🙂

Meanwhile Bob was in charge at home, doing usual Monday evening things (football for L and Kfish and English online for Jfish) and then setting them off on a Dyson challenge card on Tuesday morning, which the girls and I joined in with once home. It proved to be beyond our capabilities to build a cardboard and sellotape marble run which would keep a marble moving for at least 60 seconds, at least for that day – the parts are still sitting in the annexe waiting for attempt #2!

WedEd on 5th was rather smaller than usual, as Em and family were busy elsewhere. This meant that Science, Maths and Art happened, but sadly no music and no saxophone lesson for L. Hopefully we’ll find some time to catch up later in the term. TheBabs had to leave early too, so no lift for L and Afish this week. Bob’s car was in for a service so he couldn’t collect them either; we left early and dropped them at home on the way to choir and Italian.

On Thursday we had a free films for schools (or rather their new guise “Into Film”) viewing of The Boxtrolls, which was very good. We dashed from there to multisport and thence to trombone (where Jfish discovered that it is a Good Thing to have a sister who also plays trombone – his instrument case was empty but hers, fortunately, was not!), paused briefly for breath before Afish’s gym session, then had a quick tea before judo.

Friday was Conservation. We woke up to heavy rain but by the time we left it was clearing up and in fact it then stayed more or less dry so cooking lunch and orchard clearing were not the unpleasant chores they might have been. I attribute this to the fact that I took a large umbrella with me 😉 The usual Friday afternoon and evening ensued: library for the boys, violin then choir for Lfish (with Afish as a hanger-on), quick yomp across town to music for Jfish and L, then choir for Kfish. This time things were slightly enlivened by the arrival of my sister, so we had a bed to make up and some catching up to do.

On Saturday Bob was again in charge (it has felt rather as though life is rushing past for me and he’s having to pick up the pieces these last few weeks :/ ) and took music scholars to music school then Lfish to gym while my sister and I drove across to my aunt’s house, where we were to meet my cousin and a friend to go through my aunt’s things and decide, as per her will, which we would each like to have. It was not an easy day.

Sadly Polly had to rush back to Wales on Saturday so we only had her company for a short while. Sunday was a day of Remembrance Sunday parades and music, though, so I guess we’d not have seen all that much of her anyway. Lfish decided to parade with the local Guides and Brownies rather than travelling to be with her new brigade (because of times and days of meetings her Guides are not very local) and Afish to go choir rather than to Brownie parade. The boys all came and supported the local parade and we attended the service at the memorial together. I do wish they could find a way to avoid having cars driving right through the middle of the service – it doesn’t quite spoil it, but it doesn’t help with the atmosphere.

In the afternoon Jfish had a recorder lesson – with an exam this term he could probably do with more than one lesson a month but we’re very grateful for what we can fit in, given how busy both his teacher and his family are! Meanwhile Kfish was playing his cello and then practising his reading ready for a special Remembrance evensong. It was a lovely service and he read beautifully 🙂

Busy week over it was time for a (relatively) quiet one. At least it started that way…

Monday and Tuesday were filled with nothing much (football, Guides, Brownies and general pottering, along with a bit of tidying) apart from social worker visit to check that L is still okay and happy with us. Apparently he is 🙂 On Wednesday Bob worked from home as usual, which meant that I could pop to a toddler group with Afish and some Usborne books – it’s that books for Christmas presents time of year again, or at least I hope so! After that we went round to a neighbour’s house and picked some of the last of her bumper crop of very tasty apples. One huge pot of stewed apple later it was time to head off for choir and Italian again – that week went past like lightning!

Thursday was largely taken up with Tudor cooking. L and the girls all helped, with Kfish and Jfish occasionally lending a hand. We made pottage, eggadouce, cheese farce, frumenty, gingered bread, sod lentil, buttered peppered peasen and a spelt loaf. In the evening I was doing a WI talk on being a Tudor housewife, hence the orgy of cooking. Last time I did one I promised Lfish that she could come along next time, so she did, in full kit – we got a round of applause for demonstrating how her hair is fastened under her coif! This left Jfish in charge of his littler sister while Bob took Kfish and L to judo – it is so handy having an old enough and sensible enough child to leave in charge!

Friday found most of us quietly getting on with work while others were frantically packing! Jfish had a NMYBB weekend, which he was going to late in order to be able to babysit so Bob and I could go to Bob’s work early Christmas party, while Lfish and I were to be extras in some filming at Kentwell and needed to take full kit and possible changes (so we could fit with whatever corporate look the costume designer had decided upon). Alongside all this I had a service to prepare for Sunday and we still had violin to fit in (exam in two weeks – eep!) as well as getting ready to go out and making sure that there was a suitably easy tea for Jfish to organise (pizza, coleslaw and chocolate eclairs!) We decided it was just not practical to get the children to all their usual music commitments as well, and Bob talked me out of even trying, since this was to be our first evening out together in quite literally years. Pizza, an old favourite film and chocolate cream cakes seem to have been adequate compensation though!

Having been uncertain about going out – I think it’s just been too long and I’m out of the habit! – I actually really enjoyed the evening. It was lovely to meet Bob’s colleagues and to chat with other grown-ups about all sorts of different things as Bob’s wife rather than as J/K/L/A’s mum. We actually ended up staying rather longer than we had originally planned (we took the car so we could leave early, but in the end the taxis were at the door by the time we were) which made getting up the next day harder, but it was worth it 🙂