Welcome to family, friends and visitors. Here you will find interesting (hopefully) pictures of my part of the world, news of our household and probably, long ramblings about anything that catches my interest.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Red Deer Stag Spotted.

It's been another grey day today. When I got home from town the house felt as cold as the outside. I felt really tired and chilly but I had to pour one more drum of oil into the tank and get some wood down from the shed. Not surprisingly the activity and the bright light levels (despite the grey skies), cheered me right up and I got on with some gardening. Pete went over to our neighbours to return their oil container and he came home with the news that there were some Red Deer stags further down the valley. Off I went clutching my camera to take some photos. One stag stood there quite calmly, despite the comings and goings at the stables. I was able to take lots of photos but the distance made most of them quite blurry. Apparently there were another 3 stags there somewhere out in the gorse on the hillside.
After being revitalised by my outdoor activities I had the energy to get on with my 500 sit ups which I manage to do 6 days a week. Instead of increasing the number of sit ups I've been increasing the difficulty and even include some crunches at the end so I still have goals to aim for.
We've still got plenty of logs in the shed so I've got a nice fire roaring away and warming the place up.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Fed Up Friday.

It's Friday and I'm so tired. I always look forward to Fridays as that's when I have a planned observation time to watch the children and take notes but that usually gets wiped out by something that needs finishing off or as today the teaching assistants going on a course and no cover provided. The afternoon is my PPA time and my expectations are always too high as to the amount of work I'll get done. Though I do have to say I appreciate being able to spend time with Chris the other reception teacher and being able to share ideas as well as plan. I've got Parents' Evenings on Monday and Tuesday and as all of my parents want to come along I'll have to run a third evening to fit them all in. It's only 10 mins per child but it soon adds up. I was the last one at school and I knew it was time to go home when I photocopied a blank piece of paper. Then I had almost got out of Barnstaple when I realised I'd left my camera in school. Quick 3 point turn and a race back to school to get there before the caretaker left as there is no way I could manage a weekend without my camera by my side. Finally got home through the low clouds to find the house all cold. Our oil company had let us down badly, despite being on a top up scheme where they drop in when they are in the area and top up the tank, and promising on Monday to be with us in a few days the nearest they could offer a delivery was the 6th of March. Not only does this mean no central heating but no rayburn in the kitchen which provides us with cooking, hot water and a warm kitchen, burns oil 24/7 and has awful air lock problems if the oil runs out. Peter told our regular oil company to take a running jump for providing such poor service, hadn't they noticed it had been rather cold recently? and we are getting a delivery from another firm on Monday. In the meantime out neighbour is letting us buy some of his oil but with Peter's bad hand that meant me climbing up a ladder and pouring buckets of oil into the tank, and I'll have to do another lot tomorrow. So now the rayburn is just ticking over, the house is cold and I stink of oil. Chocolate and bed I think.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Babies, Babies, Babies.

The children were all very excited today as they knew Claire was bringing in Henry to see them. Claire gave an excellent 'Baby' talk to both of the Reception classes in the hall. Henry was a little under the weather so she didn't bathe him but after giving him a bottle (expressed) of milk she changed his nappy and dressed him in jeans and a t-shirt. Just recently another mum had brought in her baby for a 'baby' assembly. That baby had been a 2.5 lb prem baby and her first nappies had been just a few inches square. Our Headteacher had talked to the children about where the milk comes from and the consensus of opinion was from 'the lumpy bits' aka boobies or breasts.It was double baby day in our class as one of our mums had her baby, a third girl, yesterday morning. We were surprised to see her come to collect her daughter this afternoon with the new baby in a pram. Needless to say we all had to go and give our congratulations and have a little look.
I don't think the cleaner in my classroom was too happy with me today as our 'messy table' lived up to its name today. Following on from the pancakes I decided to mix some cornflour and water in the tuf spot, (a giant plastic tray), add some coloured glass blobs, plastic plates and glue spatulas and let the kids get on and have a good time. Which they did, making cakes and pancakes and lots of mess. Cornflour makes such a weird gloop. And we'll do the same tomorrow!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Mud On Road.

An uneventful day at school today. No tears or dramas, and the children were fine as well.
Signs have been placed on either side of the very muddy stretch of road that was causing the problems yesterday. The one on the other side is even more basic, just - MUD ON ROAD.
The skies were depressing grey all day today so even this tiny glimmer of pink and blue that appeared for 5 mins this evening was a welcome sight.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Pancake Day.

We had a great time with all our Pancake Day activities in my class today. I even managed to find a simple activity on the Internet where they had to flip pancakes and then move the frying pan to catch the pancakes. I had wondered how well my class would behave with just one bowl being passed round the circle of 30 while they sieved , whisked and stirred but they were fairly well behaved. After a PE lesson where we substituted racquets and bean bags for frying pans and pancakes they were able to watch some of our own pancakes being skillfully flipped before eating the results with sugar and lemon. One little lad who is scarcely higher than my knee looked at the larger piece of pancake I had been given and told me that the smallest (ie himself) should have had the biggest piece ......... so that he could grow more!

I left school fairly early as I have a bit more to do on my e-profiles and was astounded to come across a traffic jam at Okewill where normally the roads is almost empty. There were 7 cars, a van, a tractor pulling a large trailer and a laden cattle lorry. Apart from the narrowness of the lane there was one steeper bit that was very slippery with mud , that the larger vehicles had difficulty going up and everything had to reverse back so the cattle lorry could get a good run up.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Smoke Signals.

It's only the first day back and already it feels as if we've been in school forever. Only 5 weeks and 4 days to the Easter holiday. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my job but we always seem to be working at such a pace and trying to keep track of so many things. All my children, except for 1 who is ill, have returned full of energy, too much in some cases and I've had to rein a few of the boys in. Tomorrow being Shrove Tuesday we just have to make pancakes. We're going to do this as a whole class, looking at the ingredients and everyone mixing them in turn. I couldn't face the logistics of 31 children safely watching the pancakes being fried so we will do PE while my teaching assistant cooks the pancakes and then we'll all taste the results. At least I'm not planning to do what a colleague once did, (though I was tempted), her children mixed the batter, then unknown to the children she microwaved some pancakes she had made at home. The children do do proper hands-on cooking but that's in small groups of 4 with 2 parents helping.
It's been bright and sunny today and the lengthening days mean no more driving to and from work in the dark. It looked as though there was going to be a spectacular sunset but just at the crucial moment a big grey cloud bank rolled in.
When I got home Romas was outside creating smoke signals with a bonfire he had built to burn the last of the brambles he'd been pulling up for me. He's a useful garden helper , being young and strong he can get so much of the heavy or back breaking work done for me. I don't mind paying for jobs done properly and willingly.
My bonfire/ bramble dump area is actually on my neighbour's land so I like to get stuff disposed of quickly rather than let it become an eyesore and give cause for complaint.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Last Day Of The Holiday.

The bright sunshine this morning was so inviting but after opening all the doors and windows in the house to let the fresh air blow through I had a good sort out of some cupboards.

Sadly the sunshine didn't last and the rest of the day was chilly and grey. Romas did stirling plumbing work up in the loft. He followed Peter's instructions to change a ball valve in another tank and sorted out out most immediate plumbing problem ie no water to our ensuite. It was messing with the plumbing that started Pete's hand off so he certainly can't do any hands on plumbing.
It's been lovely to have the week off. I'll have to remember to go to work tomorrow morning! I've enjoyed having some peace and have been able to get on with 'housewifely' jobs, the washing has all been done and now that the hens are laying I've even been baking my easy chocolate chunk cake.

Easy Chocolate Chunk Cake.
4oz butter,
4oz sugar, (granulated is fine)
8oz self raising flour,
100gm chocolate, (I use supermarket value plain or milk chocolate)
4 eggs, (free range)
Soften butter, (a quick blast in the microwave).
Add sugar and eggs. (Warning, eggs from battery hens will cause your cake to spontaneously combust, and they're horrible and pale.)
Beat vigorously, (I use an electric hand mixer).
Throw in the flour and stir in, (no I don't bother to sift).
Chop up the chocolate ,add and mix in.
Grease a baking tin, (silicone cake tins are fantastic), and put mixture in tin.
Bake on a medium heat for 20-30 mins until done. Sorry but the Rayburn is very variable and I go with whatever heat it is giving me.
I did do a whole series of 'How to' photos but this is a really simple recipe that always works. It can be made with more chocolate or some of the flour replaced with cocoa powder to make double chocolate chunk cake. All variations go down well with my boys and their friends.
I did go up into the loft to have an initial scout around, there is so much stuff up there and I'm going to have to make a proper inventory. There is so much of my mother's art work as well as many boxes of china and glass and interesting items that she collected over the years. Nothing especially valuable but it will be hard to know what to do with it all. Oh well , step 1 get up there and start listing. I might even fing my lost folder of paperwork.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

A Varied Day.

The window on the stairs is perfect for bird watching in comfort. Just about every time I go past there is something to note. This morning a pair of chaffinches were investigating the bird feeder. The female is not so brightly marked as the male but has her own subtle charm.

Romas and I went into town this morning to get various things done including getting a student travel pass so that I can buy cheaper train tickets for his travels in the coming year. Next month he has an interview at Lancaster University which is over 300 miles away so I'm sending him up by train. There's no direct train so he's going to Leicester first to stay with Vytas and then to Lancaster the next day. The train fares will still be nearly £100 ! but it is for his future. Barnstaple station is now the end of the line but before the Beeching cuts the trains went to Bideford, Braunton and Lynton.

Here's the tacky Tarka Line train. There have been a lot of complaints about this train which is an old city shuttle on a rickety chassis that rocks and sways and is not really suitable for the 45 mins journey to Exeter.

I was thinking that the station car park was looking a lot bigger since the new road system had been installed when I realised that a whole road and railway bridge that went from the blue car on the right up to the new road behind the brown wall had completely GONE.

Tonight the tv was showing a celebrity cookery-type show which was mildly amusing when Pete started reminiscing about Linda Lusardi who was on the show. He recalls, from his days in the advertising industry how genuinely nice she was and how they had a long conversation about how women's' stomachs should be rounded and not flat as the media now tries to make us now believe. This lead to another anecdote from the time when he worked in the evenings as a stage hand for Raymond's Follies (this was more for fun than the money). Pete was rushing round a corner, bumped into a set and knocked himself senseless. He came to with a bevy of 8 stark naked (apart from glitter), ladies bending over him asking if he was alright. "Oh yes !" he replied despite the lump on his head.

Friday, 20 February 2009

A Day At Home.

Woke up to a misty morning.
The sun came out later and it was quite mild. After spending the morning searching fruitlessly for 1 file which contains the last set of certificates I need I gave myself some time off to walk up the hill to collect the recycling box. It was so lovely to be out with the sun and a breeze on my arms that I continued down the road for a walk. There are still 3 piles of snow left and yes I took photos but I shan't be inflicting them on my blog readers.

Already the spring flowers are pushing their way up through the earth. This will be a stately clump of foxgloves growing under the hedge.

The wild garlic, or Ramsons, will soon be covering large stretches along the roads. It spreads quickly with its white flowers and garlic smell .

This is a wild arum, Lords-and-Ladies.

I walked as far as Ashelford Farm. When we moved here 15 years ago this was a derelict farm that had been empty for 20 years. It has since been renovated and extended and is not a working farm but a country home with fields. That is the way of many older properties here.

Speaking of old things- I was sorting through a chest of my mother's records and found this 1898 sixpenny edition of Alice Through The Looking Glass. It's in poor condition and I'd checked some years ago and found that it isn't especially valuable but I like the adverts that are printed in the front and back.

The day finished with a flaming red sky and now I have to drive into Barnstaple to collect Romas from the bus station.

Thursday, 19 February 2009


Today the sun was shinning but I gamely spent the morning at my lap top organising paperwork for the first stages of registering as a teacher with the NZ authorities. I have to detail the hours worked in every teaching job I've ever had, and get official conformation as well as supplying other details from the dim and distant past such as the course content of my degree. Luckily I've kept most of that information, hopefully it's enough.
By the afternoon I managed to get out into the garden for some more leaf clearing. It sounds a bit sad to be spending so much effort clearing leaves but the scree garden loses its beauty if the stones are covered by dry or rotting leaves and they would only encourage the growth of weeds which otherwise are almost nonexistent. The sun and warmth are really encouraging the birds to sing from every tree and bush. There was one particular bird behind me that had an amazing repertoire, whistling, warbling, chirping and twittering. I spotted it up in a tree but it was too far away to identify by sight and I'm not that good with bird song, just the basics.

It sang heartily all the time I as out there. I could see it was too big to be a 'little brown bird' so not a warbler. I took plenty of photos and one of my blurry close ups confirmed that it was a song thrush. I had thought it might be a starling as they're very good mimics, but it wasn't.

I spent some time creeping up on the toads again and despite not being that sharp I quite like this picture with all its reflections.

Toads being toads.

No toads but reflections and the movement of the water make an interesting picture.
Peter's been at home today. he saw the doctor yesterday as his hand is still swollen and very painful. He was told not to drive, rest his hand and given stronger painkillers, a type which don't upset the digestion. Apparently these are standard on the continent but here (because of the cost ) the NHS restricts their use. He's already noticing some improvement and has been getting on with his OU work.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The Quiet Countryside ?

The daffodils on the stream bank have survived their snowy ordeal and add a splash of colour to the view from the window by the piano.
Meanwhile by the front door the luscious golden crocus (crocii?) , have started to appear. I have been completely on my own today as Romas left with Peter to catch the bus to Bude. It has been wonderfully peaceful and I feel that I have got a lot done - the morning on the laptop organising my planning for the next half-term, some tidying and cleaning and an hour or two out in the garden. It has been quite warm and the pond has been reverberating to the croaking of toads. If you creep up on them carefully you can see lots of splashing about but if one spots you they dive down to hide in the mud.

I was stealthily approaching the pond when Elwen decided to see what I was up to and scared the toads away. I just managed to take a photo of this one diving under the frogspawn. Later in the spring the toads start walking down to the lake and you have to clear them off the drive before you drive along it or there will be squished toads. The jackdaws must be starting to built their nests in the chimney as there were lots of squawks coming down the chimney as they argued over who gets the chimney and who has to make do with the loft. Early mornings the Barn Owls have started hooting up and down the valley. Who said the countryside was quiet ?

Tuesday, 17 February 2009


It has been much warmer for the last few days but still the snow lingers on by the side of the track.
As soon as the roads were clear the farmers were out , up to their favourite pastime - muck spreading. The air has been redolent with the smell of slurry, thank goodness it's cow slurry and not pig slurry which smells really BAD.

This despite appearances is not a dirt track but a proper road under all that mud. It's the result of tractors driving over wet fields. I shan't bother to wash my car until the weekend but that's what you get when you live in the country.

Dartmoor is not always visible ,( being 76 miles away) so I do enjoy seeing such a clear view.

These are some snowdrops growing in the hedge at Burridge. Although a native wildflower these were probably planted by the people living nearby.
I was able to get out and do some gardening later this afternoon, weeding and leaf clearing, but most of the day was spent doing e-profiles on my lap top. These are the detailed records covering 8 points for each of 13 aspects of learning for each child in my class. Which works out to be 3,224 bits of information !!! I probably had to look at about half that number of points as some have already been completed and some are not yet relevant but that is an awful lot of thinking about each child and box ticking. It is good to have such comprehensive records but often I feel I'm spending more time recording evidence of things the children know rather than working with them to expand their knowledge. No doubt in a few years time it will all change again. I am impressed with the latest phonics program in which the children learn 4 sounds a week. Most of my children know all the single sounds and are starting to use them in reading and writing.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Happy Birthday Vytas.

Today is Vytas' 23rd birthday and also Lithuanian Independence Day. Our national hero is Vytautas the Great and as Peter's middle name, and his Dad's name is Vytas that made the choice of name easy. So ....


I love these birthday posts as they give me an excuse to look through all the baby photos and enjoy those childhood memories.

Just 18 months old with lovely blonde curls.

Off for his first morning at nursery age 4 years and 3 months, and mums didn't stay.
He did enjoy himself though. On the home visit he refused to draw a picture of Mum or Dad telling the teacher that " I only draw rockets." which he then did. 12 years later he attended Space School at Leicester University followed by a Masters in Physics with space science so obviously he was serious about the rockets.

Age 18.

Using a tree pole to demonstrate pike techniques to his brothers. He and his fiancee Kate, are now regular members of The Sealed Knot, a re-enactment society that we took part in as a family before we moved to Devon.

Now he has long hair, (which I love), and a beard, (which I don't). He and Kate visit us in the holidays as they still live up in Leicester where Kate is doing her masters and Vytas commutes to Milton Keynes where he is doing a PhD.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

A Quiet Sunday.

A bit of snow remains along the drive and the in the distance Exmoor still shows snowy patches.

In the garden the dominant colour is green and there is nothing too exciting to be seen. The frogs were cavorting in the pond but they disappeared quickly into the weeds when I tried creeping up on them.

Daffodils are beginning to sprout in the hedgerows and as I drove into town, to collect Romas' kit and the PA system from last night's gig, I saw flowering clumps of snowdrops and early crocus along the road.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Disgusting Elwen.

Happy Valentine's Day.
Flowers, chocolate , a card and a lie in - a lovely way to start the day , and the holiday. Thanks Pete.
Still a little snow left by the road as I drove into town for some relaxing shopping. I bought a few things which all fitted at least 2 of my usual criteria, - bargains, black and sleeveless. Got an excellent furry bodywarmer from BHS reduced from £35 to £10. I keep telling myself I am buying for the future.
Back home after driving through a countryside which has returned to its usual muted winter colours of dusty greens and browns I had a little wander around the garden to see what's new. And this is what I found. Elwen being totally disgusting eating frogspawn.

Yes, definitely eating it. I had wondered why there was a pile of regurgitated frogspawn out in the yard.
Its a quiet evening in for us oldies as Romas is doing a Valentine's Day Massacre gig at the Inn on the Square.