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.

Monday 30 November 2009

Sunshine !

Not a drop of rain today but it was brrr cold with the wind blowing directly down from the North Pole. It was so good to see the sun today that I took some pictures at lunchtime. Looking across to the junior school.
There are still plenty of flowers around the school,

and down in the Secret Garden.

Hopefully the bug houses will provide winter shelter for ladybirds and solitary bees.
It was play rehearsal again today and we are getting all the costumes ready for Friday's dress rehearsal. At the moment most of my class are in school though the tedium of sitting through the rehearsal produces a lot of headaches and tummy aches which all get miraculously better when it is time to go out to play. It will be another late day tomorrow as we help set up the Christmas Fayre which will take place on Wednesday. I'd better get off and have an early-ish night.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Braving The Floods.

The weather was really bad today but I was desperate to try out the new camera so we togged up and went down to Barricane Beach. The roads were quite deeply flooded in several places and cars had to take turns driving through the shallower sides of the floods. I did get a bit concerned when the engine developed a little judder after going through all that water especially as I had left my RAC card and mobile phone at home. Luckily there were no further problems with the car. At the beach rain and hail were lashing down so the camera remained safely zipped up inside my coat. Eventually there was a lull in the rain and I snatched a few shots before the rain resumed.

The new zoom is definitely impressive even though at this point I hadn't put the camera onto high res which is what I normally use.

This family were braving the elements much to the delight of their 2 youngsters who were very amused when Granddad's boots were filled with water by the advancing waves.

The rough weather of the last few days had brought many shells onto the beach.

I couldn't resist collecting these lovely purple shells.

I might even get round to making them into some jewellery ............ one day.
The rest of the day has flown by. I've brought down decorations from the loft to take into school and now there is just time to do some tidying up before we have a supper of a warming cheese, onion, potato and cabbage casserole (with added spicy sausage), that Peter has made. It's a dish that my mother's vegetarian friends used to make in the days when they were all poor artists though we do add some bacon or smoked sausage for extra flavour.

Saturday 28 November 2009

New Camera.

I finally went out and bought myself a new camera. it's a Nikon P90, not an SLR but it has all the features that I want - 24X zoom, manual focus and exposure options and can take movies. Just a bit of a sour taste because when I got home I discovered I could have got a better price online. Still I have got somewhere to go to if there are any problems and at less than £300 it wasn't a bad price that I paid. I'm looking forward to trying it out, hopefully we'll be able to get down to the beach tomorrow.
On the way into town we had to wait for the hunt to let us pass. It was a good thing they couldn't hear the things I was saying as I have no respect for people who get pleasure from killing things. It has been a cold and fairly wet day but town was full of people doing their Christmas shopping. I bought a few things (can't say what as some of the recipients do read this blog), and now the bulk of my Christmas presents are sorted. It's just going to be such a change with only 4 of us at home.

Friday 27 November 2009

Decoration Time.

6.00 and pitch black as I drive home. We have had some torrential downpours today. One shower just before school started soaked children in a matter of minutes and some of my children could not resist playing in the puddles at playtimes. My classroom had a long washing line of trousers, socks and tights hanging up to dry . It was such a shame because today was a non-uniform day and of course the children had all dressed up in their favourite clothes and ended up wearing their pe kit. The temperature has plummeted and some of the showers were hail showers. We've got our heating on at home but the radiators in the sitting room have never worked. Peter has got someone lined up to give them a good blow out which would be good as we don't have much wood for burning at the moment.
Back at school we've started putting up Christmas displays etc. I wasn't going to decorate the class until after school on 30thbut as everyone else was putting up Advent calendars and decorations this evening I thought I'd follow their lead. I'll have to climb up into the loft this week-end and find the big bag of tinsel that I bought for school when our local cheap store was selling it off at 10p a strand.

Thursday 26 November 2009

School Stuff.

I am reduced to snatching evening photos as I scurry across the playground between my classroom and the staff room. By the time I get home it is just too dark.
On the top of the main building can be seen the domes of our sun lights which are very good at catching the light and directing it down into the corridor below which has no natural light. One of the nice things about being in a hut is that with windows down both long sides there is lots of light. My classroom overlooks the junior school playing field and several very large trees. An excellent resource when as today I was trying to steer my children away from drawing 'lollipop' trees. No matter how many times we go out and sketch living trees when the children are asked to draw a tree they produce a lollipop or at best something like a palm tree.
We had another play rehearsal this morning, improving - though it didn't help when I got lost with my own choreography because I forgot which verse we were on! There was a bit of messing about from my class and I even marched one rather naughty child off the stage area before the dance started. At the same time I had another child going greener and greener with a tummy bug so I had to phone home for her mum to come and collect her. It will be rehearsals every day until the dress rehearsal next Friday. Hopefully I'll be able to remember our star dance by then.
We had a long staff meeting about APP (assessing pupil progress) mainly to co-ordinate how we are all doing it. I can see the validity but it will take more time and need a lot more organising especially at the start. We noticed that the guidelines recommend working with groups of 3 - 6 children, ha-ha very workable when you have a class of 30 and groups of 8 children. Maybe the government would like to throw a little more money our way to provide for more teaching assistants or smaller class sizes. I think not.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Costumes Galore.

It rained a bit today! My class had walked to the local secondary school for a PE festival but I had to remain in school for a multi agency annual review of a child in my class. By the time we were ready to walk over there was a loud thunderstorm and very heavy rain. Somehow, hailstones were being blown in through the 'sun' (sky) lights, water was building up by the kitchen door threatening to flood the building and it would have been ridiculous to venture out.
Luckily the rain did ease off and we were able to walk over having first kitted out the child with us in wellington boots. Over at Chaddiford Lane 300+ 5 & 6 year olds were doing all sorts of PE activities in a large echoing sports hall supervised by the older school children. Our children had a very enjoyable time and it is good to have links with the school most of them will be going to in 5 years time.
Being Wednesday it was PPA time again for Chris and myself. There is not so much planning to do as we move towards the end of term so I took the opportunity to make 15 rats' tails for my dancers. There was much debate in the staff room whether rats' tails should be pink or black. Even consulting google images did not give a definitive answer. I decided to stick with my original fabric which was a little too pink, and drew black felt pen lines on the tails to make them look more ratty. The whole school is in costume mode as we always make the costumes and accessories rather than ask the parents and only ask the parents to provide some basic clothing eg my stars need white t-shirts and shorts and the rats need black shorts, ( we have a costume stock of black leotards and t-shirts). That way no child is left out if the parents are unable or unwilling to make a costume.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Dark, Dark, Dark.

It's dark when I leave and dark when I return home. The only upside in the weather at the moment is how mild it is for the time of year. We had a lot of rain last night but at least the roads weren't flooded this morning. Yesterday I had to drive through 2 small flooded areas. I wasn't expecting the second one and so drove into it a little faster than I should have. I didn't dare slow down so I just to keep my foot on the accelerator and hope for the best.
Having been back up to full numbers by the end of last week my class seem to be fading away again and today I had 5 away with 1 more having to be sent home at lunchtime. It was another play rehearsal this morning which is not that exciting for the kids as they had to sit for an hour and just join in with the songs. It is very hard when you are doing a play with all 120 children in. We are also practising our dances in class and they do seem to be improving.

Monday 23 November 2009

Rock Or Elephant ?

I had a lovely lie-in this morning, all warm and cosy in bed listening first to the rain hammering down and then the wind blowing wildly. I wasn't having a day off work, it was just that I woke at 4.15 and my head was so full of plans and ideas that by 5.00 I gave up any thought of going back to sleep and simply decided to enjoy my 'lie-in'. Apart from the tedious process of collating material for APP, (Assessing Pupil Progress), so that numerous forms can be filled in to show the bureaucrats how well the children are doing, there is the juggling act we have to do at this time of year balancing curriculum requirements vs fun stuff like making Christmas cards and presents. The trick is to combine the 2 but that isn't always possible especially when there is a Christmas play to rehearse. I'm amazed we ever learnt anything at all in the days before there was a national curriculum. I'm not saying that there wasn't poor teaching back in those days but we have gone too far the other way and now there is such pressure for the children to achieve high SATs results that we daren't spend extended time developing the children's creativity and
interests. The government is so obsessed with tracking children's progress that there are 'milestones' laid down from 6 months and any child going to child care (more pressure from the government to get mothers back to work asap), has to have its milestones recorded in more paperwork. Even re-reading that has made me feel stressed so to chill the timbre of this post here are some calming rock forms from yesterday's walk.

Is it rock or is it an elephant?

Have a good week.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Wandering Anemones.

We were lucky enough to catch a dry spell for our walk by the sea though we missed the brief spell of morning sunshine. It was really windy and at times we were almost blown off the cliff as we walked along. The surf was completely blown out with some massive waves out at sea. We headed out to the same seat as last week passing the dead snake which is still occupying its bench.
The wind had whipped the sea spay into foam which was blowing inland like extra light snowballs.

Down on Barricane Beach it was more sheltered though out on the rocks were 2 big floats which normally mark the line of the waste water outfall. They had obviously broken their chains in the stormy weather. There were a couple of chaps there with metal detectors and several families all well wrapped up against the wind and rain.

I went over and checked out the same rocks where I had seen the beadlet anemones 2 weeks ago. I was quite surprised to see a group of snakelocks anemones, I was sure I would have seen them last time. Looking up some information about them I discovered that although they cannot retract their tentacles they are fairly mobile and hide in crevasses or under seaweed. The green colour is due to algae that live inside the anemone. Also they have a noticeable sting.

It was a good blowy walk , we were about 10ft away from the car when the heavy rain started and by the time we got in it was pelting down. They are still having serious rain up in Cumbria, the worst since records began, and 7 bridges have been washed away. Outside the window I can see the tree branches waving madly in the wind but it has stopped raining for the moment.

Saturday 21 November 2009

One Step Nearer To A New Camera.

I nearly left it too late to take photos today. The rain started just after I had fed the hens in the morning and continued unabated all day. Nothing like the rain that caused such dreadful flooding in Cumbria 2 days ago. In Cockermouth some streets were suddenly flooded up to a depth of 8ft and a policeman sadly lost his life when a bridge collapsed while he was making sure that the public were safe.

It was a grey wet day and I've been indoors apart from a brief meander round the garden . A few roses are still hanging on and the ever useful hardy geraniums are providing splashes of colour.
These dirt dams may not look effective but they help to divert a lot of the water away onto the fields and when really heavy rain is forecast we put the wooden beams out as well.

The rest of the day has been very relaxed. A lie in, some tidying and lots of time at the pc. Peter gave me a list of possible options for my new camera and I've narrowed them down to several models which I need to check out at the camera shop and then depending where I can get the best price I'll buy my new toy.

Friday 20 November 2009

Getting Ready For Christmas.

Time ran away with me again at school and the moon was out when I left. This rather shaky shot was taken in the school carpark where I was the last to leave. It is a lovely clear night and when I got home the sky was a mass of stars with the Milky Way clearly visible. It was a shame that the sky was totally overcast for the Leonid meteor shower 3 nights ago. We always try and watch the Perseids in the summer but I had been keeping a check on the conditions as the Leonids were forecast to be spectacular this year. Despite my interest in meteors and the lack of light pollution here, I'm not very good with the constellations. I can recognise Orion's belt but mainly because it is part of the saucepan. From then on it's all a bit hazy.
I finally got all the choreography for our 2 dances worked out, it's rather sedate but I've played safe and not relied on children being in specific formations, they're just allocated to rows and as long as they watch me gesticulating wildly in the audience in front of them, we should be fine. Now all I have to do is keep practising and organise 31 costumes. From next week the school timetable is taken up with rehearsals for one event or another. As far as school goes Christmas is nearly here. This morning I nearly overslept dreaming & worrying about putting up decorations in my class, I have a large stash of tinsel that I keep just for school - I'm a firm believer in making my classroom a winter wonderland. This afternoon in class the children were making masks to wear at an afternoon children's parade in town on Sunday before the evening official Lighting The Lights parade and the turning on of the Christmas Lights. One year when my boys were at school the school children made enormous withy and tissue paper sea-creature lanterns, Vytas' (and friends ) effort was 6ft long. They carried these, lit by candles, in the evening parade. Much excitement when some went up in flames or blew away. I enjoyed being in the parade with the samba band and other bands but I can't see myself going into town to watch it on my own this year.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Home Early.

For the past week there has been a buzzard either sitting on the fence or walking around on the road as I go up the drive. As generally I am driving around in the dark I'm not seeing quite so many buzzards around at the moment.
It has been very windy today but much, much warmer. We even had a few moments of sun and at one point as I walked across the playground it felt positively balmy. This very pretty acer in the school garden is shedding its leaves like golden showers. The ladies who run the school gardening club wanted to cut it down because it overshadows some of the children's vegetable plots but I think that would be a terrible shame.

The single red branch stands out against the cheery yellow that shines out even on the greyest day.
I left school early tonight to get up to the hospital for a physio appointment so for once it wasn't dark for my journey home. There was a hint of pink and gold in the rather grey sunset at around 5.00. I was also treated to some melodious birdsong as I went out to check on the hens. Normally it is just the silly laughing of the call ducks or the hooting of the owls. Peter isn't home yet, I expect they are making him work extra hours for having the temerity to go to the hospital for an appointment with the consultant.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

An Average Day.

I did take some pictures today but they were of some of my classroom displays for my portfolio and not that exciting. There was a lively flock of wagtails zooming around outside the Tescos store when I went up for a dental appointment but none of my pictures were in focus. The dentist can't find anything too drastic apart from receding gums, (part of ageing) and has suggested that I get a couple of crowns replaced. Fine by me , just a shame I can't have an appointment till January.
There was a storm blowing first thing this morning, I could hear windchimes gently clanging outside even through the double glazing. Lots of rain all day though we did manage to get the children outside for their playtimes. My class got very excited when we closed all the blinds, turned off the lights and I lit one small tea light to demonstrate that fire is a source of light. I had to do the safety thing and stress the danger of matches but then we got into an interesting discussion about stars and planets and stuff.
Peter has a hospital check up tomorrow at our local hospital. They are so considerate at his work, he has to drive 60 miles to be in at work for 8.30, leave again at 10.00 to drive the 60 miles back up here and then return to work for probably 1 hour in the afternoon. Certain members of management are making life as hard as possible for him at every turn. It is very demoralising. I'm so glad I work with a group of people who all support each other because we know how hard the job is for all of us. I did get a reality check when I was listening to the radio on my way home. There was an article about the education system in Malawi. There it is normal to have 100 children in a class and not uncommon to have 200 students with 1 teacher. And children of 7 years old are walking 2 hours each way to get an education. That certainly puts things in perspective. We just don't know how lucky we are.
Some sunshine from Sunday.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

No Camera Today.

Shock horror this morning, I managed to leave my camera at home. I realised I'd left it at home just as I was driving up the hill and it was hard to resist the temptation to turn back to pick it up, after all who knows what photo opportunities might present themselves throughout the day? being practical, it is dark for my homeward journey and I didn't want to spend time going home again. It was hard because I'm so used to having the camera with me at all times. There were a couple of times today when I missed it but I decided there were some pictures from Sunday that I wanted to post anyway.
First, some of the flowers that are still blooming in the garden.
The winter flowering jasmine started flowering some weeks ago and the cheery yellow brightens up the front of the house. It used to share the space with a passion flower but sadly last winter's snow finished that off.

More subtle are the blue and lilac flowers of a mop head hydrangea. This is the first year that it flowered and the bright blue inner flowers are like little patches of blue sky trying to emerge between the ever present clouds.

Finally, not flowers but some autumn raspberries growing by the chickens' run. A tasty snack that I share with the wild birds.
A different view on the bench we sat on to watch the waves, not the one with the snake. There are plenty of benches on this piece of clifftop for less strenuous wave watching. Although this is a coastal area most of the towns are set inland and it is quite hard to find good, easily accessible places to watch the sea.

Many of the benches at Woolacombe have been placed there in memory of someone who loved the area and I did like the verse that was on our bench.
School didn't seem so frantic today, I was better organised and had more sleep and that certainly helped. Only 4 children off today, I think we'll be back up to the full 31 soon. It was a fun art afternoon with clay coil pots (presents for home), started and painting of snow scenes in anticipation of colder weather. The rat dance is choreographed, flexible numbers because you never know who is going to be ill, and the star dance is nearly there. We will start whole school rehearsals soon and that is not so enjoyable for the children as they have to wait patiently, (and quietly), for their spot in the play. I saw 2 more parents after school who weren't able to make the parents' evenings and there are just 2 more who would still like to see me, probably next week as I'm rather busy this week.

Monday 16 November 2009

Too Tired.

This was the scene this evening as the children who had been doing golf club left for home. Somewhere along the line I was volunteered to supervise the golf club once a fortnight instead of going to the staff meeting. I don't have to do anything, just be a member of staff present in the hall, and this time I was able to take some of my classroom work with me so at least my time wasn't wasted. Today has been one of those days that seems full of a multitude of little problems. Probably because I did not get a proper night's sleep last night. I still feel like I am running to stay in one place. I'm keeping this post short so that I can double check that I am fully prepared for tomorrow.

Sunday 15 November 2009

"This Bench Is Occupied."

Back down to cliff above Barricane beach to blow away the cobwebs with some sea air. We decided to head for this bench, handily placed for wave watching. I didn't notice the occupant of the bench until I had walked round it and yes, I did let out a girlie scream, (only a little one).
Closed inspection showed that this adder, (Britain's only poisonous snake) , was rather flattened and somewhat motionless. I guess it had been run over on the road and someone had put it on the bench for a joke. Well it fooled me.

Fortunately there was another bench just below the cliff edge. I was happily snapping away and exactly as happened the week before, my batteries ran out and I had to trek back up to the car to put my spare ones in, must remember to put the batteries in the charger tonight.

The wind wasn't as strong this week and the waves were coming in cleaner but as the tide was going out they didn't look that good for surfing.

Still there were some pretty waves.

Being by the sea is always so refreshing. After our walk we had a nice beef curry waiting for us at home. I'd bought a reduced joint of beef which Peter and Linas had prepared the night before and left cooking in the slow cooker. My job was to cook the rice and heat up the dal and naan. Then we headed into town to see 2012. We thoroughly enjoyed the film as the CGI was excellent and it was a good, well acted disaster movie.