Weekend at grandparents

Lfish had gymnastics, and 7 people descending on my parents would have stretched their ability to put up people, so K and Lfish stayed at home while I took everyone else to my parents. The drive up was long but uneventful, nice food, then bed.

I pulled the children way from the TV, and I drove us plus Dad to Alderley Edge (the hill, not the village). Dad knows a lot about it, including the links to the Weirdstone of Brisingamen. He knows the author, and pointed out places that are mentioned in the books. It was a lovely walk in the woods, with bonus history (bronze age onwards), literary links, scrambling over a simple but very good mini-adventure playground made from logs, and searching for treasure. The treasure was little bits of ore left over from the mining – azurite (blue), malachite (green) and cobalt (surprisingly, black). The view from Stormy Point was, as ever, fantastic. Ice creams when we got back to the car park, from the regular van – Dad’s friendly with the owner and gets a discount!

Back home, more lovely food, then out to Widnes. Dad has a radio-controlled battleship, and knows where there’s a boating lake in Widnes. The battleship was not as fast and flashy as a radio-controlled speedboat a father and son were playing with, but still excellent fun and I think the ducks put up with it. Afish and Mum played on some swings while us blokes took turns – fortunately we didn’t need to use the wellies or boat hook that Dad had brought just in case.

We went on to Catalyst, which is a Chemistry-themed science museum. It was small and poorly lit, but a good place for a couple of hours. The favourite exhibit seemed to be the large column of viscous liquid that you could pump air bubbles into. You could create different sizes of bubbles, and big ones rose faster than small ones, so you could get bubbles to engulf each other. There was also a fairly decent playground outside – Mum stayed with the children there while Dad took me to see a bit of local and family history. Our ancestors used to run barges on the Mersey, and near the museum is a post from a barge that used to hold the rudder. It was about 10 feet tall, so it was easy to imagine how vast the barges were – they were the juggernauts of their day.

On Sunday we stayed at my parents’ home – TV and then helping in the garden. This was joining in the battle against leaves, harvesting tomatoes, admiring the pond and waterfall and generally mooching about. Afish spotted an interesting stripey-shelled snail on a bucket, and then impressed Dad by recognising the herbs he was growing (the results of spending time at Kentwell talking to the right people).

More lovely food, then we hit the road. K had borrowed some story CDs from the library, and we got through most of Einstein’s Underpants and How They Saved the World. It was daft and good.

Bare Bones!

Monday 20th October – cello, football, Guides
Tuesday – History. T41 collected Suma. Lots of trampolining. Brownies
Wednesday – Flag Fen, choir
Thursday – KB and Aprilia visiting. Gym; no trombone, no judo
Friday – KB and Aprilia here morning, violin; no music, no choir. Tadcu here late afternoon/evening
Saturday – Festival of Ideas. Tall ships. J home from Netherlands.
Sunday – Tall ships. Evensong.
Monday 27th October – Dentist. Tadcu. Trombone.
Tuesday – Baking. Classical archaeology, Greek mythology and saxophone repairs.
Wednesday – Decorating yesterday’s baking. Welwyn Roman baths with T41 and C and G and family.


Music school has a long half-term break this term, so we had the luxury of a late start, then Kfish, L, Afish and I headed off to Cambridge for the Castle Hill open day, leaving Lfish with Bob so she oculd get to gym in the afternoon – she’s missed or will miss so many this term that we have to make sure she gets to the ones she can!
We parked near Castle Street Methodist church and popped in for a chat with old friends. It’s their centenary so the newly refurbished building was all open for viewing – it’s looking lovely 🙂
Then we went across the road to Castle Mound, where we found another old friend, Marion Leeper was about to begin a storytelling session, so the boys ran up the mound a couple of times and then we settled down on picnic rugs to hear some of the stories of Cambridge’s past.
There was an ideal climbing tree, so after another foray up the mound to imagine how it might have looked with a wooden fort on top (the first castle was built there in 1068 but the Romans had used it before then too so it has a long history) the children all did some climbing. I had promised that we would go on to the Biology day at Hills Road Sixth form college afterwards and our parking was about to run out, so we went quickly to the cold war bunker where Kfish gave L a whistlestop tour before dashing back to our car, only to sit in hideous traffic most of the way across the city 🙁
We managed to park nearby and decided to go to the zoobus first, as it was by the entrance and was the number one thing on Kfish’s list. Having looked at various insects and reptiles downstairs we mounted to the upper level, where the boys both handled a small constrictor, while Afish watched in horror and was just about inveigled by a very friendly assistant into touching the snake’s scales with the very tips of her fingers…
Inside the main building we were spoilt for choice, but since we were also a little short of time (the information we had read online said the day finished at 18:00 but it turned out that 4pm was the actual end time) we just chose the nearest hall as a start point. We each had a go at drawing a star whilst looking in a mirror – vertical lines are fairly easy; horizontal ones ridiculously hard! The children also played various games and did various challenges, such as matching up plants with items made from them, then we moved into the next hall where they did some more hands-on activities. They each had a go with a pipette, then tried the challenge of dispensing exactly 1g of water three times in a row. They made up slides and looked at them under a microscope, experimented with the waterproofness of leaves, counted the rings on slices of tree, played a game to do with the immune system and organs in the body and generally had fun.
On the way home we popped to Castle Street again, to meet up with Bob and Lfish, climb the castle mound again and chat more with old friends.
Then we came home for tea and a film – a relaxing end to a busy but pleasant day 🙂

Sunday was bookended for me by Eucharist with Kfish and Evensong with Lfish. The Evensong was particularly lovely, with an anthem by Byrd for four voices which was performed by the girls and adults. Meanwhile Bob took the others to our local church in the morning and we all spent the beginning of the afternoon having a general tidy-up and housework session, which I then continued alongside cooking dinner while Bob took the children to Wood Green to fall in love with the animals 😉


Friday was a day of deliveries: first of all J had to be back at school by 4am, which meant a very early start for him and for Bob, but also for me as official waker-upper! At least leaving at 3:15 means traffic is generally not an issue, so he was soon safely delivered 🙂 He’s going to the Netherlands on an orchestra trip with his old school, so he’ll get to play his trombone lots even if it’s not direct exam practice. It may not help his recorder playing much though…

We were expecting a delivery at about 9:30, after which we could leave for conservation.Then we found out that another delivery, which we had been expecting in the afternoon, was due at about 10. This meant our plan of Bob coming home for the afternoon would no longer work. Since I had already warned people that we might be late if L was feeling rough again this was not a problem -leaving at 10 would still get us there in plenty of time to help with conservation tasks and cooking. The first delivery came nice and early, then we all got ready and waited for the second, but there was no sign of it. Eventually Bob phoned and was told it was about twenty minutes away, so we carried on waiting. Finally it arrived at about 11:20, then we did the fastest turnaround ever, sorting out the Beans’ stuff to take with us and still managing to leave by 11:30. We arrived just in time to add our (pre-cooked) veg to the pot and eat! No Conservation for us then 🙁 although we did get chilli and chat, and we helped to clear away 😉

Beans’ Suma safely delivered, we dropped the boys off near the library and went on to violin, where we discovered that Lfish’s violin has a buzz which needs attention before her exam, so our next port of call was to the string shop where she tried new bows (and thankfully decided they’re not better enough to be worth it – phew!) and we were asked to leave the violin for the luthier to look at. I then dropped Lfish off at choir, left Afish with her friend Z, reminded Kfish not to be late, collected L and took him to music, then returned to find that Bob had picked up the girls and Kfish was still singing. Friday logistics take some planning!

Modroc, chlorophyll and music; Multisport, more music and other sports

Bob took Afish, Lfish and L to HH’s and we met them there, once we’d got away from hospital. In fact we arrived not long after them, as Bob had let L sleep in after a restless night thanks to a nasty cold.

Activities this week included ensemble (prioritised this time, as it’s been missed a couple of times now), making the armatures and beginning the modroc wrapping for our Degas-inspired sculptures, collecting, colour-sorting and then crushing leaves for a chromatography experiment, some Maths for J and SB, saxophone lesson for L and lots of chatting and socialising.
TheBabs gave L and A a lift back (thank you!) and collected a chest of drawers for their new En Famille guest at the same time, which meant I could take K, Lfish and J off for choir, Italian and more choir without having to go home first.

On Thursday we had another late start/lie-in then L felt recovered enough for Multisport. They were in the hall and garden today, rather than down at the park, which made it an easier session fortunately. We came back via trombone and then A had gym. In the evening L decided judo would be one step too far, so opted for an early night instead, while K debated how much his heart monitor might get in the way and decided to go anyway 🙂
I spent every spare moment making sure J was up to date with work and helping him to pack – sometimes I think it would be easier to just do it all myself 🙄

Metabolic Research

A while ago we saw a request for children to volunteer for research in an attempt to establish a metabolic baseline. It took a while to negotiate dates which would work for an overnight stay for all four children but finally settled on two different dates, one in October and one in November. J and K went first, going in on Tuesday and staying overnight. Since it was WedEd on Wednesday we asked to have as much as possible done on Tuesday and the research team almost managed it – they were thwarted by some compulsory training which meant they had to finish early, leaving a couple of tests for Wednesday morning. We were still away not long after ten, and at HH’s not long after ten thirty, so it wasn’t disastrous!

It was really interesting. J bottled the MRI (he had thought he might) and decided he couldn’t cope with being sealed into the Bod Pod (which measures body volume by air displacement) or the calorimeter room (totally sealed bedroom unit so gas exchange can be measured) but managed the hood to measure rested morning gases, heavy water drink and subsequent saliva samples (chewing on cotton wool every two hours, then every hour until supper time), urine samples, bloods, two DEXA scans (they’re comparing a new machine with the old one), ecg, Actiheart calibration (8 minutes of step exercise), fitness test (20 minutes on the treadmill with a gas mask thing on and a heart rate monitor), ultrasound scan (to assess abdominal fat – they both have less than 1cm, which the researchers are assuming is a good thing, but we don’t know where they fit in terms of centiles because there aren’t any yet!). K sailed through everything like a pro 🙂 and they both now have Actiheart monitors attached for the next three days which we then have to post back to the unit, cool pictures of their skeletons and body fat distribution, lots of data about themselves – and £20 of amazon vouchers for taking part, plus another £20 for K for the MRI.

The girls are booked in for a similar stay in a couple of weeks time 🙂

The whole idea is to gather data on the metabolism and measurements of normal healthy children (aged 6 – 16) so that they have something to compare against when children with e.g. thyroid problems present – there is currently no reliable baseline to measure against.

Harvest, audition day and a christening

We received an invitation to a christening in London on a day we were already quadruple booked 🙁
Considerable logistics wrangling later we worked out that with a little juggling I could go, even if none of the others could. This meant that our Sunday started early (especially as most major roads in the city were closed for a race) with Bob taking four out of five children to the harvest festival eucharist where K and Lfish were singing. After that Afish had choir and Lfish mattins. Meanwhile I took J to the county music audition day and then went from there to a different railway station to usual, where I had just enough time to catch a train to London, leaving Bob to pick him up once all the singing and playing was done.
R’s christening was lovely, a much-longed-for and eagerly-awaited babe, who is and will be cherished by not only his parents but a whole family of friends and family 🙂 Afterwards his mother T asked if I’d like to stay and go with her to the Taize service she was helping with in the evening so after a quick phone call to check that Bob had everything under control I did, and it was a beautiful oasis in a busy life 😀
Even before the service began it was raining (one lady had arrived early and decided to pass the time while she waited for the service to start in walking in the rain; she was from California where they have had no rain for three years) and by the end it was really bucketing down. Fortunately a very charming musician was walking the same way as I was and had an umbrella to share so we dropped T off at the end of her road and continued companionably together.In fact, although I know Lfish in particular would have liked to have come, I must admit it was very pleasant to have a few hours out by myself 😉


Monday was the beginning of our quiet week this fortnight, and started with a bit of a lie-in all round – I think as the weather gets worse the urge to hibernate increases!
Maths and English happened, and so did a bit of house-tidying since the weekend had been too busy (again!). History, spread through the week but starting on Monday, took the form of writing up our Kentwell trip and putting it into the back of the folders as a point to aim for and then watching this documentary on Celtic Britain, which was very good but long enough to merit breaking up into manageable chunks – easily done as there are four separate programmes within the one video. This week’s History will be to write up the Celts so that we can move on to the transition to Roman Britain – already covered a little by the last of the four programmes. If the weather permits, we’ll also head off to Flag Fen to see the Iron Age camp there; otherwise we may have to backtrack later.
On Monday afternoon K and A had cello and then we got back to find that a couple of HE families I had agreed to do some French with were already here so I came straight in to a lesson while the children sorted themselves out for half an hour. Then K and L went to football, which was slightly damp but not enough to merit using “the cage” rather than the grass, apparently, so that’s an experience yet to come. L wore a pair of J’s old football boots, which were better than trainers for grip but turned out to be not completely waterproof so he got one damp sock!
Meanwhile Bob was at a meeting about J’s forthcoming orchestra trip and J was doing his online English course and somehow in amongst everything else Lfish’s Guides got completely forgotten until about half an hour before it was due to end, by which time she was in pyjamas and curled up on the settee with the others watching something lighthearted… Ho hum.

Tuesday began with a visit from the social worker (and her student) for L, just to check that all is well. She looked at some of his English work with him and chatted a bit and then declared him happy and healthy and left, with an appointment to return in just under six weeks for the next check. Phew! Flag Fen had been on the menu but we decided to watch more of the documentary instead, with brief forays out to the garden when weather permitted, as well as the usual everyday bookwork and music practices, making the most of a quiet week 😉 Kfish wanted to try making soap and found a kit in the annexe waiting to be used, so we made a basic start, with a view to trying more fancy things later on. Afish had Brownies, but other than that there was no reason for anyone to go anywhere – a nice change for us this term!

Wednesday was another quiet day; I think we all needed this week of calm! Bob was working from home, so I was able to leave L and Afish here when I took Kfish and Lfish to choir and Jfish to Italian. We had intended to leave with enough time to take K’s cello and bow to the strings shop and ask for advice about his recent loss of tone but somehow that didn’t happen. Lfish and I went in to talk to them anyway, while K was at choir, and arranged to go back in on Friday for him to try bows.

On Thursday we thought about trying the Cambourne multisport but staying at home won out in the end. In fact, since trombone was cancelled it was another day with no need to go anywhere until Afish’s gym class at 5 🙂 I recently bought the What Your Child Needs to Know books for year 3 and year 6 for Lfish and Afish, who both love reading them – so much so that I think I might pick up the other years too, just so they have more to look at when they’ve finished 😀 A’s current chapter suggested soap carving as an activity (to make a frieze) which she thought sounded a really good idea, so we decided to do some practical History. The weather being better again we took ourselves outside and did some cave art with read paint (to be ochre) – fingerpainting, blowing and splattering. Then we took a bar of soap each and pretended it was bone, to be carved like the artifacts we saw at Cresswell Crags.Even J came and joined in the fun. It started to rain so we had to bring everything indoors in a big hurry, and the carving took so much time and effort that it stayed as an ongoing project for several days – in fact some are still not quite finished. We also have a little bowl of soap shavings to try to melt down and mould back into a bar 🙂 The rain got harder and led to lots of playing in the rain and getting very wet – then hot baths and showers to warm up again.

Friday began too late to allow us to get back to the multisport session we had optimistically thought might be good every other week. Ah well. In the afternoon Lfish had violin and we were somehow running so late by then that we ended up taking lunch with us to eat in the car (I think it was all the soap carving that slowed us down :lol:) and all going to violin rather than having time for a library drop-off first. The strings shop is close to where I often drop the boys off for the library anyway so we all went there and K showed the owner his old bow. The man asked if he had been given a medal as well as a distinction for his grade 5, for using such an elderly and decrepit bow, and proffered a new one which he said was not really a grade 6 bow but was cheap, miles better than the old one and would see him through until he goes up a cello size anyway. Very nice man 😀
Choir, library, music hub, choir… and home 🙂

Saturday was a shopping day for J and me – once his English was finally done. Procrastination rules! The others had music school, then L had gym and then we all did some housework and gardening, so it felt like quite a productive afternoon 🙂 We finished the day with Great British Bake Off and home-made pizza 🙂

Saturday, Sunday…

Hmm, actually I spent most of Saturday buried under a duvet with my laptop so Bob was in charge while I got a service together ready for Sunday.
Music school happened for 4 out of 5 children. I think the 5th was planning a lie-in, but I’m afraid I thwarted that by getting him up to do some English course work, which was due in the afternoon and had been promised all week. Sigh.
Perhaps Bob can add what else happened? You never know… :frog:

On Sunday K should have been singing at Eucharist, but since I was preaching at exactly the same time but in the opposite direction we decided life was going to be much easier if he came with us instead, especially as the afternoon and evening were to be full of choir stuff anyway. The service went well, then we were offered the chance to climb the bell tower – who could resist? The Methodist church in the village is now a private house and the Methodist and Anglican congregations share the parish church, which is an old traditional one (and cold with it!) complete with bells and spire 🙂 As we went up the churchwarden pointed out to us the parts of the tower and spire which were held up with wooden scaffolding in the late 19th century while the stonework below was repaired. It must have been an incredibly tricky operation! We didn’t go right to the very top, as the stairs were getting more and more worn as we got further away from the new, repaired part, but we did go high enough to see the bells from above, which was very cool, and we had a good view of the surrounding countryside.

One advantage of an early service is that we were back in time for the church council meeting at our home church. More importantly for the children we were back in time for tea and biscuits, having already had round at the church where I was preaching 😆 Our church is having large amounts of refurbishment done, in the course of which it became clear that there was structural damage (caused largely by pigeons!) to the tune of nearly £50000. We’ve been having lots of meetings (actually technically one long meeting, frequently adjourned, in order to avoid having to give lengthy notice periods for each one) to discuss what to do next and keep up to date with emergency repairs as they happen. The older children decided to walk home rather than wait through the meeting (they’d had their biscuits by then, after all!) so they set off while Bob and Afish chatted to other church members also waiting for the council meeting to be finished.

Once we’d made it home and had lunch there was not long before choristers and I had to head off again, ready for choir photos, all choirs evensong and then the choir bring and share party. Photos were about as painful as could be expected, but I had a secret weapon against boredom in the form of some books K said I needed to read – his new favourite series (Fabled Beast series; Wolf notes and other musical mishaps kept me busy for a while 🙂 ). Evensong was beautiful and included one of my favourite anthems: Todd’s Call of Wisdom. Then we gathered at the back of the church for a feast of random food items 😉 It was easy to see I was a Methodist at an Anglican party – I was gasping for a cup of tea while all that was offered was a choice of wine with or without fizz. I had to go to the children’s drinks table and make do with orangeade, but a cup of tea was definitely what was needed!

Conservation and music

Last week being our busy week, it was Conservation on Friday. Unfortunately two of the main organising families weren’t there, which left us with not really enough adults to go out and do the work we had planned. Instead I supervised cooking while a small team of older children collected and sawed firewood so that we have plenty for the next couple of sessions and only need to top up. Meanwhile the new younger group got going with some craft activities, mostly making conker creatures and teasel hedgehogs, which looked such fun that several of the older ones went and joined them… The weather was gorgeous and they were all unhappy about being dragged away, but placated by the promise of time in the library if we got away on time (as opposed to an hour working in the car if we didn’t 😉 ).
Having dropped off the boys the girls and I went on to Lfish’s violin lesson. She’s starting to feel more at home with Simon, and is getting the hang of deciding for herself what they’ll cover, so this time she asked him to go over a scale with her and then help with some purple patches in one of her exam pieces. The lessons always seem to whizz by before they’ve done much, though; I think there’s a lot of “try this here and then apply it everywhere else for yourself” type learning going on. I hope so anyway! Afish did some Maths with me during the lesson and then we went to a nearby school to meet up with Z, who had invited her round to watch Frozen. This involved a ride on a tagalong, which she found rather daunting but managed and I think may even have enjoyed in the end 😉
I walked Lfish to choir and then went to find J and L and take them to their music session, leaving K in the library with his friend A to walk themselves to choir at the right time. I’ve no idea what they really do in music – it’s very much a drop them and come back later session – but they seem to be getting enough out of it to think it worthwhile so we’ll do it for this term and then see if J wants to carry on. L will probably not be here for enough sessions next term to merit doing it, but we’ll see how it goes and how flexible they are.
Lfish and I have been clashing a fair bit lately so I walked back via M&S and picked up some cream cakes for us to share, forgetting that her friend (A’s sister and also A) would be there too – as it happens she doesn’t like cream cakes (what!) so Lfish’s offer to share hers was appreciated but not taken up. K and A got carried away in the comics section and only just arrived in time – dashing through the door just as we were trying to ring them and ask where they were and then legging it up the aisle as the choir master was starting the warm-up.
K and A had been asked to stay behind after choir and help with the recording of an exam piece composed by one of the chamber choir girls, but when Sam saw that A and Lfish were still there too he asked if they’d like to help too, which they were very happy to do. It sounded lovely – a really good piece, for which I hope she will do well. Then the A’s dad arrived to collect them, bringing with him our A, and it was time to go home 🙂 Bob collected the boys from music so that we’d have some time to get back and make tea as well as giving me a little extra time for service preparation and that worked well; I think I might ask him to do that again 😉