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.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015


Another early start but not such a dramatic sunrise. I was back in the Year 2 class again in the morning. We had a good maths lesson (thankfully so, as there was a chap in observing one of the children with special needs) before heading off for swimming at the Leisure Centre. This year the children get a full hour in the water as only one class goes each morning where previously they had to fit 2 classes into a morning session. 
In the afternoon I was back with the reception children, this time listening to readers. I did have the headteacher do an unannounced drop-in observation of my phonics lesson. At least I think she was observing me or maybe she was observing the children. 
Our staff meeting has been moved to Thursday this week so once I had spoken to the teacher whose class I'm teaching tomorrow I thought I would drive across town to do some shopping. The other day I'd caught the tail end of a gardening programme which mentioned it was time to plant prepare d hyacinths if you want them to flower for Christmas so I went to BJ's and bought blue, cream and white hyacinth bulbs. Then over to Tesco's for cat food and a few other things and finally home in the evening sun.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015


One advantage of getting up early was seeing the orange sun rising up through a red and orange streaked sky as I drove to work. I didn't stop to take any photos as I had a lot to get ready in school and I needed to drop the car off at the garage for its MOT first. It was a hectic morning partly due to my over estimation of the children's ability with doubles and halves so that we had to give a lot of support to some children. It's quite a hard concept getting your head around doubles, halves, 2x and twice but we will have some time to go over it tomorrow morning. (Yes, I have to get up early again.)
At lunchtime I went to collect the car which had passed its MOT but then, just as I was about to do some marking one of the children from the morning class had bumped into another child and not only had a nose bleed but had a noticeable bump on his forehead. We don't take any chances in such cases so I had to leave a message for his mum to ring the school. It wasn't a dire emergency or I would have rung some of the other contact numbers and by then the lad was skipping in for his lunch. When his mother rang back it was decided that we would just keep an eye on him and as it turned out he was fine. All this took time and then I realised I had to write in the reading diaries and find some homework for the children who had read to me first thing. I ended up with 5 mins to drink my coffee before going down to spend the afternoon with the reception class. That was mainly a fun afternoon except when one child painted her hand with pva glue and then wiped it down the front of her school uniform. For some reason they don't seem to have brought in any painting aprons but luckily I was able to clean the glue off with a wet cloth because it is nasty stuff when it dries.
Once the children had gone home I spent a happy hour marking 60 books from the morning before driving home.
It has been mainly sunny with quite a lot of high cloud about. The ponies were out enjoying the long grass in their field.
I had a quick photo walk around the garden before coming in to do a bit of preparation for school.

Monday, 28 September 2015


Yes, I did get up at 3.30 to take lots of photos of the 'Blood Moon'. Because it was an eclipse the light levels were lower than usual so the photos were not that sharp even though I had the camera on a tripod. It was a lovely clear night with a sky full of stars. I tried taking some photos of the stars but they just look like a couple of dots on each shot.
Luckily I wasn't working until the afternoon so I didn't have to get up early.
Today has been another gloriously warm and sunny autumn day. I had just enough time to cut back the purple loosestrife that is staying. The other plants are due to be pulled up and possibly replanted in the hen run. 
The Year 2 children are learning about space and guess what? We had some space debris land in our field. (Amazing what you can do with old washing machine parts.) The army turned up in a military vehicle and full NBC suits to  check the debris and remove the dangerous bits. A great inspiration for the children's writing.
After work I went into town to change my library books and do a little shopping. Back home there was the rubbish to take up and that's my day done. 

Sunday, 27 September 2015

A Little Cloudier.

There were a lot more clouds in the sky today but it was still pleasantly warm in the sunshine. We had the treat of 2 Archers' omnibuses  to listen to  which made for a restful morning.
I still had some school work to do so planning the Year 1 music for the rest of the half term was my first job. The main planning was already done but I needed to print out the lesson plans and assessment sheets.  That's one more job out of the way.
The rest of the afternoon was spent cutting the second bit of the wild meadow. Usually I try and find a sunny spot to work in but that bit (on the left of the photo above) won't be getting any sun until next year so I just got on with it. It's a very wet corner and I was glad I had my new non-leaking wellies on as I splodged about on the soggy ground. The clump of purple loosestrife on the left needs to be cut back to the ground but the other ones need pulling out so they don't take over.
Even though it's happening in the early hours I'm planning to get up for the lunar eclipse. My camera is  now fitted on to a tripod so hopefully I will get some decent photos.

Saturday, 26 September 2015


Once more we've had a lovely sunny day, more warm than hot but definitely a day for shorts and flip-flops. However once I had done my morning chores including the daily task of picking up windfall apples, cleaning them and starting them stewing with some sultanas, I had a 'restful' time working at my pc. I completed one document for RE assessment, some space themed maths for my Year 2 class on Tuesday and nearly finished a lesson on the Solar System.
For a while I contemplated doing the mowing but to my relief the grass stayed too wet all day. I'm learning that I have to work out ways to get around my, hopefully temporary, disabilities. Using the long handled shears doesn't involve any bending and I was able to make a start on the annual cutting back of the wild meadow area. I would cut a swathe of grass then take a break with a cup of tea and my book followed by some mending of my old garden coat. The cats spent their time sprawled in the sun. Speedy lay on top of the table gently snoring and occasionally stretching his toes. He failed to notice the dragonfly that was sunning itself about 6" away from him.
The butterflies and bees were also making the most of the sun. 

I had an audience as I clipped away with the shears. I suppose I could have done the job with the electric strimmer but it makes such a mess and I worry about all the small creatures in the grass. With the shears I push the grass over so that it makes a sausage shaped bale which is easy to roll out of the way. I only had to bend down twice, once to move a toad and once for a frog. 
For me the wild meadow areas are the perfect solution to a wet clay patch where it would be hard to grow grass or many of the usual garden plants. Instead I have the pleasure of watching all the wildlife and only have to cut it once a year.

Friday, 25 September 2015


My back has been somewhat delicate today but I am so very grateful that it wasn't worse. I have been careful not to bend or twist and not done any gardening. I spent the morning working on those SIPs then left them for a while before reading them through for a final time and sending them off to my Headteacher. 
It has been lovely and sunny  today. One clump of sedum had half a dozen butterflies on it and 2 or 3 times that number of bees and flies.
This poor speckled wood was still surviving despite its damaged wing and the fluttery moth finally stayed in place long enough for me to identify it as a Silver Y moth.   
I had some buttermilk left so I baked some brown velvet cup cakes. (The same as red velvet but without the red food colouring and some extra chocolate.) I didn't have any of the standard chocolate bars (good continental chocolate from Lidl's) that I usually use for cooking so I chopped up one of my bars of extra dark chocolate with raspberry pieces instead. While the cakes were baking I sat outside in the sun and finished off my winter slippers. At £40- £80 for a new pair it's worth sewing on new soles each year. It's hard going on the fingers though. Even with plasters and a special bladed leather needle it's still tough at times to get the needle through several layers of sheepskin.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Sunshine and Showers.

A sunny spell this morning enticed me out into the garden. 
A small tortoiseshell butterfly.
First with my camera to record the visitors to the sedum and marjoram bed. There were lots of bees and flies pretending to be bees as well as some speckled wood butterflies and even a red dragonfly.
 A blue damselfly.
Then I took myself up to the hens' run to finish cutting the 12ft tree trunk that was lying across the flower bed. After a bit of work with the bow saw I then thought I could use the length of the trunk to somehow lever it off the soil. Inch by inch I dragged it over the ground which even then I thought was extremely foolhardy especially with my back when there was a horrible crack from my lower spine, like when people crack their knuckles. In panic I sank to my knees hanging onto the trunk praying with all my might that I had not done something horrible to my back. That it was a good crunch as when the chiropractor works on you.  When the shock had subsided I knelt on the ground and rolled myself up to stretch the spine in the correct position. After a while I got up and things seemed to be working fairly normally. Then I assessed the situation with the trunk. It was far enough onto the concrete that I could use one of the branch stumps as a pivot and swing the whole trunk onto the concrete. A couple of cuts with the bow saw completed the cut I had started and the job was done. At that point I took myself indoors and applied plenty of anti-inflammatory gel to my back. Then I sat with an ice pack and watched a bit of tv. I spent the rest of the afternoon sewing new soles onto the bottom of my cosy sheepskin slipper bootees. It's getting too chilly to be in flip-flops all the time and my feet are starting to get cold in the evening.
My day was not over as I had a dentist appointment at 5.00 for the first fitting of my upper plate. I was there 15 mins early so I popped into Lidl's to get a few things. For once I didn't have to queue but as I drove out of their car park I realised I had forgotten black bin bags which we did need. So after my appointment I went back to Lidl's and this time was stuck behind several people queuing including somebody with an overflowing trolley. Lidl's are having a Greek promotion and I bought a box of assorted baklava to put away for a special occasion. My back is holding up though I am having to be careful and bend from my knees and be cautious when turning. All my own silly fault.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


This morning I got a bit more done on the SIP. At least I know what I'm aiming for now. I haven't looked at the art curriculum yet but I'm sure that once I've done one it won't be so daunting. I was at school before 11.00 again to spend some relaxed time with the reception class. At lunchtime I held a meeting for the new School Council members which mainly consisted of taking their photos then showing them where the School Council display is. Then a very rushed registration of the reception class before getting them to put on their coats, collect their drinks bottles and book bags before sending them home at 1.30. I had volunteered to make some work sheets for the guided reading books in the afternoon but in fact my whole afternoon was taken up with printing off the School Council photos and updating the corridor display. I just had time to work out a sheet for the class teachers to show their children's progression in RE and it was time for the after school staff meeting. That was all about recording and tracking the children's progress in maths and English. Now that we have a new curriculum and new ways to assess and teach there are no clear guidelines as to how the children are assessed. One thing the Ofsted need is a record of the children's progress and evidence to back up your assessments. I am relieved that I'm no longer a class teacher and responsible for all that though I am required to make assessments as I'm teaching.
It had been overcast all day and on my homeward journey once I got up into the hills I drove into fine drizzle. Very different to yesterday.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015


There is an autumn chill in the air these days. The swallows left last week and the green of the trees is now tinged with brown and yellow.  It rained heavily last night and when I went up to clear the run-offs by the dams one had brown tinged foam in it indicating that the water had poured down the road with great force. I carried on with my school improvement plans and was produced a draft RE SIP. This I took to school and showed to one of the teachers on the senior management team for her input. I'm on the right lines and she gave me a couple of pointers as to where I could add more detail. It will be a relief once that is done and passed by the Headteacher. 
I went in to work early today so that I could spend the last hour of the morning session in the Reception classroom getting to know the children. This week they are staying for lunch and lunchtime play. Then I had the class for afternoon registration after which we sent them home. There weren't any jobs to do down in Reception so I spent the rest of the afternoon researching and printing off art ideas for the Year 1 and 2 classes for the RE /Arts week.
There was some sun in the afternoon and as it was fairly nice when I got home I did go out and do some gardening. Peter bought the bits he needed for the chainsaw but as he is now laid up or at least resting his knee I thought I had better get on with sawing up the last big branch with the bow saw. That's only so that I can reduce it to pieces I can haul off the flower bed.  Today I cut off 3 big branches and half-way through a fourth. Once that is done I might just be able to move the last branch so that I can plant up the newly cleared area.

Monday, 21 September 2015

A New Week.

Last week was 'Cake Decorating Week' while this week needs to be 'Paperwork Week'. I didn't mind too much that it was pouring with rain this morning as it encouraged me to get on with work for school that is hanging over my head. I spent the morning completing a set of resources for the other teachers to use when planning their RE/Arts' week. Then it was the dreaded school improvement plans. I've never done one before and now I have 2 to do. I've pulled up some guidelines and looked at similar documents produced by other schools. All I can say is that if I had to do everything on those documents I'd need to be at school 5 days a week working until 9 at night! It's a matter of writing plans that are acceptable to Ofsted but also do-able in 0.3 of a week, sorry half of that as I have 2 subjects to cover.
At school a new supply teacher was teaching the other Year 1 class and it didn't seem sensible to do the usual swap. Instead I gave him my music plans and I taught music and PE to the same class. I've had to come down a bit hard on them as their listening and following instructions skills leave a lot to be desired.
When I got home I picked up all the windfall apples that had been blown down on the weekend. After giving them all a good wash I sorted out those that had any damage, cut out the bad bits and I'm now stewing the good bits with some sultanas and cinnamon. 
Peter has just returned home having gone to the doctor's. It's his ligament (old age) not a cartilage in his knee and he needs to rest it for a week. 
A few more photos from Newbury.
 A beautiful red acer.
 A quiet back road.
 When we passed this church again on our return a wedding party was gathered outside.
A stall in the market selling steam-punk jewellery.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

A Visit To Newbury.

The mist was lying in the valleys as we set off for our trip on Saturday morning. Ahead was the long trip, 4.5 hrs according to Vytas, eastwards to the town of Newbury where Vytas and Sally are currently living.  We made good time so whiled away half an hour at a service station and then when we were less than a mile from our destination proceeded to take several false left turns. This was due to the route-finder directions I had written down being not quite accurate on the last 3 instructions. I guess a sat-nav would have come in handy. The first time Peter looked at his smart phone and then when we went wrong again we pulled in at the familiar Mole Valley shop (it's called Mole Country Store there) and asked a local for directions.
4 hours in a hot car had caused the cake to slump a little but it was well received both for looks and taste. The real cake will travel in the boot of the car, possibly with ice packs and as it will be the end of November should be cool enough. 
It was a beautiful day so after a bite to eat we walked through the bustling town of Newbury with lots of old buildings made with distinctive red bricks. The main square and streets are pedestrianised during the day and there is a thriving outdoor market as well as many independent shops.
A canal and other small waterways run through the town and as we crossed the bridge we could see some narrowboats in the lock.
It didn't take long to walk through the town and out to Donnington Castle. A medieval castle built in 1386. We have been there many years ago to a memorial service for a member of our regiment. 
It was a lovely place to visit and once we were up the hill there were fantastic views to Newbury and across the countryside.  
Coming down the hill, Peter's knee which is prone to having loose bits of cartilage floating around, began to give him problems and he is finding it difficult to walk today. It might be time for another arthroscopy. 
Walking back we called in at a couple of pubs to try the local beers, (not me) and at our first stop we sat by this shallow waterway. There were some rainbow trout lazily swimming underneath a sign that said 'No Fishing'.
This is the same waterway a little further away bordering a beautiful private garden. I did notice that even the older buildings had solid brickwork for the first few feet that looked like flood defenses. 

When we got back to the flat Sally's parents arrived. This was our first meeting with our future in-law relatives but unsurprisingly, seeing as children to a degree are a reflection of their parent's attitudes, we all got on well. We walked back into town, over the railway bridge as the sun was setting, for a meal at a pub that offers a variety of pies. It was a lively pub but Vytas had booked a table and we enjoyed a hearty meal while occasionally glancing a the tv screen in the outdoor area that was showing the rugby match. 
Our evening was still not finished and once Sally's parents had left we went to Greenham Common. It was only a mile away but I drove us there as we had Sally's 5" telescope so that we could have a look at the stars. Unfortunately the planets were below the horizon (they have been able to see Saturn's rings with that telescope) and some cloud was coming in. However I love being out in the countryside at night and the Peace Camp is iconic for the end of the last century. Also I recently read a novel about a young girl going off to join the Peace camp.
Today after a good night's sleep we were treated to a super brunch cooked by Sally and looked at the photos from their recent trip to Rome before driving back home. This time, as we knew the way it only took 2 hours 45 minutes to return to the peace and quiet of our little valley. The thing that struck us most about Newbury, and both the motorways we traveled along, was just how busy the roads were. In Newbury as we inched along the busy clogged roads the car's fan kept turning on to cool down the engine. Here we hardly ever have to wait more than a few minutes in busy traffic so the engine doesn't get hot.