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.

Thursday 30 September 2010

Whoo Hoo.

Another staff meeting tonight a good part of which was about tracking and paperwork. Not good - terrifying. I'm at the point where thinking about an OFSTED inspection makes me quake with fear. By the time I got home everything was grey and miserable again. I'd left home in a heavy fog in the morning so for once there were no views to soothe my fevered mind. We took the children swimming in the morning which is fine as an activity but with having to travel there by coach it takes a good chunk out of their working time and it is hard to squeeze in everything we need to do.
Last night the garden was so full of owl noises I ended up going out to have a look. There was the hooting of the tawny owl which is the standard whoo hoo but that was accompanied by the persistent high screech of the much larger barn owl. When I stood in the garden I could just make out the ghostly shape of the barn owl as it flew out of the tree next to the house. I wonder if it was trying to communicate with the plastic horned owl that we put up to deter (unsuccessfully) the jackdaws.
It was a clear night and our lack of light pollution gave a fantastic view of the stars in the night sky. I'm not good on the constellations, can't find more than the saucepan - Orion's belt but Venus was shining and the Milky Way was spread out above me. I stood in the cold taking in the beauty of the night sky before scampering back up to bed.

One plastic owl staring across the farm buildings.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Work, Work, Work.

The weather did a complete flip today, pouring with rain in the morning and sunny on the way home. I'm not too sure when the sun started to shine because it's been really busy at school, what a surprise. I've come to the realisation that yes, the level of input we do does make our teaching better but it's far too much for any one person and eventually you get burnt out. But the government doesn't care because then you shouldn't be teaching and they can employ some other eager candidate. At the moment there are about 100 applicants for each teaching job in this area. I was in school until 6.15 as I was putting up a large jungle display in my classroom which involved tearing lots of paper into strips and then pinning/ stapling them to the wall. That took ages and then I hid their paintings of tiger and leopard patterns in the foliage to look as if there were a couple of big cats hiding there. I selected 3 of the most life-like of the animal faces they had painted (not the ones with big smiles) to finish off the animals and also added some of the very good pastel drawings of jungle plants they had done today using both photographs and an orchid which I had bought for the classroom simply because it is so beautiful. I've craftily incorporated it into the India theme with a fancy label.
I often stop at one particular gateway on the way home to check out the sunset over the sea. Originally it was to see if there a good photo opportunity but recently I just stop to look at the view for a few minutes. Sometimes the sea is silver and at other times gold. I can't see Lundy from there but can look across to Appledore and Hartland.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Changing Weather.

It is gently raining from a uniformly grey sky this evening. A complete contrast to this morning when the sun made a spectacular entrance onto an almost cloudless sky. The sun appeared as a golden globe that seared my eyes even through my beloved wrap-around sunglasses. Out over the sea a line of fluffy clouds were catching the light and looking unreal. To have that view beside me as I drive to work is such a blessing.It's been the usual busy day at school with a succession of visitors ,well 2 groups, being brought around the school and into the classroom. Luckily they came at times when everything was going as it should with children busying away at a variety of activities including using the web for research. Good thing they didn't come in when I was berating the children , mainly one child, whose over active pressing of the print button had resulted in 53 un-needed colour pages being printed. We have to incorporate ict into every lesson so the children do need to know how to operate the computers sensibly, no wild 'typing' on the keyboard or closing them down by switching off the box!

I went to my doctor after school and she seemed unsurprised by my request to be seen at Exeter hospital, she must know what a dreadful reputation our local hospital has even though it does quite well in government league tables. So now I'll phone and cancel my operation date which had finally come through and wait to start the whole process again at Exeter. Don't want to take chances when they're carving bits off my spine.

Monday 27 September 2010

Where Did The Day Go ?

Gosh the day has flown by. Our days at school are so hectic that it all rushes by with hardly a minute to sit down. Our classrooms were extra cold this morning as there is some hold up about getting our heaters working. I think someone said their hut was about 6C. Luckily I had my gloves as well as my fluffy top. By the afternoon some of the huts were noticeably colder than the playground and people were leaving the doors open to let the warmth in. I hope it is sorted by tomorrow. Coming home this evening I had to stop for a group of riders to go down the hill so I got out and took some pictures of our valley. Quite a pleasant evening but with all the planning to do I only had time for a quick stroll in the garden before heading back to the pc.

Looking North. The brown hills in the distance are rough moorland along the edge of the cliffs.

The ground slopes away on the other side of the ridge then drops suddenly to form the North Devon cliffs. We don't walk there that often because you are so high above the sea and Morte Point to the west is much nicer.

Only 1 lb lost this week. I'm getting a bit too relaxed over the diet and it just goes to show that eating chocolate biscuits at school is not a good idea. I've put a couple of apples in the oven to have as a treat tonight. Oh and I didn't enjoy The 300 last night, not my sort of film, too comic book but as Peter often sits through my choices including ANTM I watched and did sudoku at the same time.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Oops No Battery.

We've been out for a good walk around Morte Point today. I took one slightly blurry picture of Lundy before my battery gave up which was doubly annoying as I had swapped over batteries before leaving home not realising that for once my system had failed and the spare wasn't charged. We did have some very good views of a sparrow hawk hovering close by while hunting. It stayed in one spot for a very long time and I could have got some good pictures if ........... . The sun was shining and it was quite warm once out of the chill wind. Next time I must remember to take a container to pick blackberries as there are still plenty around. We watched a couple who had picked lots into a carrier bag which is something I wouldn't recomend, squashed berries dripping out of the bottom would be my concern. The usual seals were sunning themselves out on the rocks being watched by people up on the cliffs. It was so clear looking across to Lundy we could make out all the main buildings, the church, pub, lighthouses and even the buildings at the base of the old lighthouse but having given my 40x binoculars to Peter (because I can't get both eyes working together with them) my 25x binoculars didn't quite show Stoney Croft against the lighthouse buildings. Can't wait to go back.

As promised me in my shalwar kameez. It's really comfortable to wear and I can imagine how practical it would be in a hot climate. I'll wear it to school on Friday as part of out India topic. I've just turned our central heating on and I've realised that my fingers are getting very cold. Time for the fingerless gloves when I'm on my pc in this cold sitting room. I spent a couple of hours sorting out my planning for the week this afternoon, result - 17 pages, not all mine but I need to know everything that's on them and I still need to do 2 pages of daily plans each day for me and my TA (part time teaching assistant).
Off now for a relaxing evening watching The 300.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Wedding Bells.

It's been a lovely day today. As I drove into town the sun was shining which was especially good as my work colleague's daughter was getting married at mid-day. At work we've been able to share many a laugh with Sue over the dramas of organising a traditional wedding, from the wild hen week-end at a spa in Cornwall to the tension of delays over the dress and would Lisa be walking down the aisle with her leg in plaster or not ( not- for the day anyway). I met up with friends outside Pilton Church to see everyone arrive, and then we ended up going into the church anyway. Weddings are nice to share. A family moment before the pre-ceremony photographs.

Entering the church for the Bridal walk down the aisle.

(Out of sequence) The imposing gateway that leads into the churchyard makes an excellent background for the wedding photos.

And finally, after the ceremony , posing in a shower of confetti. I'm so glad the sun shone for Lisa. It's still sunny now so I'm sure they had a wonderful reception at Berrynarbour and are probably still partying now.
Not only did I have an enjoyable time watching Lisa's wedding with other work colleagues and meeting up with some old friends but I also had a relaxed shopping day. I don't like having to rush when I'm shopping either to get back to the car park before my ticket runs out or because other people want to go home and it was never fun shopping with children in tow. But today I wandered round, went into all the shops and eventually found 2 pairs of trousers for work in a charity shop. We can't wear jeans to school and there is a limit to the number of times I can wear my (smart) nike track suit trousers. In theory we should wear PE kit every day as we have to do PE daily and the guidelines say we should be appropriately dressed for PE. Besides 2 pairs of trousers (one pair size 12 ,US 10) I bought another fake fur body warmer, charity shop again and the star buy was a extra soft fluffy fleece hoody from a trendy/sports shop. I'd been hankering after one of these for at least 5 years after I saw some of these very fluffy tops in a surf shop at Woolacombe. But at over £60 I wouldn't even consider them, just had them in the back of my mind. One shop stocking Weird Fish had several styles in that fabric last year but they were too tight and pretty expensive. Now that I'm a bit smaller the shop has stopped selling Weird Fish so I was pretty happy to find a black zip up (much cheaper) version in another shop today. It's just so cuddly and I'm a sucker for fluffy things (and sparkly or shiny). I did resist a pair of wellies in Evans (a bigger ladies' shop). They do extra wide fittings so the boots fitted but I couldn't think of when I would actually wear them, I've got builder's steel toe cap wellies for in the garden and out walking I wear proper footwear, so I was sensible and put them back. And why did I like them so much ? - they were pale grey with enormous white polka dots all over which appealed to my sense of fun.
Peter's out today doing all sorts of boy things, shooting at the club in the morning followed by a session at the gym and the gig club's installing the Odessa into the new premises in Barnstaple. http://www.barnstaplepilotgigclub.co.uk/ for more information.

Friday 24 September 2010

All Work And No Pay.

I didn't have many pictures to choose from today as I came home rather tired having stayed at school until 6.00 trying to set up my classroom for our new topic - India. For once I left without setting up my classroom ready for the next morning , just put the chairs down but not set out the boxes of reading books or redone the date and all the other little things that need doing each morning. Early morning view of the moon still out.
Also I was a bit put out when the pay slips appeared. Nothing has been done about my contract and although I work my guts out for 9 hours every day I've only been paid for 3 afternoons a week! The Head and the school administrator were out today so I couldn't even query it. I know that it will be sorted out but it is rather annoying. I'm too tired to think about next week's planning so that will have to be done tomorrow and I'll have an early night instead.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Autumn Begins.

It's now officially autumn and the weather is taking a turn for the worse. The weather man was advising us to get our jumpers out. Today we had a little of everything, a misty morning, bright sunshine and quick showers but generally warm. Last night we had some very heavy rain, it sounded as if gravel was being poured onto the conservatory roof, and the drive suffered a bit with a large pile of gravel and rocks ending up in the yard. I've been out this evening raking and shovelling because if you don't repair the damage straight away the effects of the next heavy rain are much greater. There is some colour up in the scree garden as the last of the sedums comes into flower complimenting the various other varieties that are already flowering up there.
I took this shot during yet another shower simply to show how drab parts of the garden are getting. It won't be long before I finally decide to dump the hanging baskets and replace them with some large wind chimes. By a stroke of luck I got one of the autumn jobs done easily last Saturday. When I returned home from my shopping morning it was to find the builder standing on the roof ridge repairing the last of our chimneys. I took advantage of his roof ladders which were in just the right spot for me to get to the climbing rose which always needs a major trim in the autumn. We do have long ladders but I find them hard to move around so I usually settle for my lighter decorating ladder but it only reaches about 10ft and I end up stretching dangerously and half climbing out of windows to reach the roses. With the full length ladder going right up to the roof I had the job done in no time and even got the builder move the ladders over a bit so I could reach over the porch. The builder also went round and sorted out all the guttering which had been leaking and letting water run down the walls. Hopefully now the damp will clear from those walls.
Friday tomorrow - Hooray!

Wednesday 22 September 2010

New Clothes.

It was a bit foggy this morning. I wasn't as early as I wanted to be but I still had to stop and take some pictures of the misty hills. The sun was still behind the clouds and making a very interesting effect on the clouds.
It has been quite warm for the rest of the day. We had a few spots of rain in the afternoon and the roads on the way home were wet so there must have been more rain up in the hills.
School has been ok. I had a planning afternoon but the changed format (as my year group partners work part time and will only be joining me once a fortnight) means I can't really get on with the actual planning for next week unlike last year where by the end of our ppa afternoon I usually had the forthcoming week's plan done and most of the daily plans. Instead I concentrated on sorting out display material for the change to the 'India' topic. That's not made easy by the temperamental IT system where bits won't talk to each other. The brick nearly got used on the staffroom pc when it froze up on me.
My recent Ebay spree makes coming home exciting with parcels waiting to be opened each day. Today the shalwar kameez arrived. It is really lovely, comfortable and also quite flattering. Peter's out at the gym so I can't get him to take a photo yet but will post one soon.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Fair-ly Good.

We are having the most glorious September. August is obviously not the best time for the school holidays as it invariably has the worst weather of the summer months.
I've had a really satisfying day in school today. Going with the latest plan of following the children's interests I continued on the 'Fair' theme. First thing in the morning, after looking at a photos of fairground rides I let them use anything we had in the classroom to make their own models of fairground rides. They all worked really well together and came up with some imaginative ideas. Lots of problem solving and teamwork. Later they drew maps of fairgrounds and the literacy task of labelling everything just flowed along. I love it when they are all happily engrossed and eager. That's what school should be about.
Going home this evening the setting sun turned the sea silver. Last night Peter was out with the gig club rowing out by Appledore (just out of sight on the left hand side of the photo). He said it was so nice watching the sun setting over the sea. Once my back is sorted I'll be down there like a shot.
At the moment the gigs are kept down at Appledore but next weekend they will be moving into this building, an old boat shed right by the river in Barnstaple. (Photo taken late after the fair last weekend.) They had been negotiating with the sea cadets to share their premises which are also on this tributary but better situated right next to a slipway but the gigs are too big and would have filled their boat yard. From this building , at Mermaid Cross, they will have to walk the gigs up to the roundabout (where I was standing to take the photo) and down Rolle Quay to the slipway. The exterior of the building has been completely restored by someone who was going to turn it into a cafe but that plan has fallen through. I don't know if it was just a lack of funds or if the building regulations for a cafe were incompatible with the regulations for a historic building but it does benefit the gig club.

Monday 20 September 2010


The weather has been lovely again today, I know because I kept walking across a sunny playground on my frequent trips between my classroom (a hut) and the staffroom ( another hut). By the time I get home our valley is in shadow so I'm not tempted to do any work in the garden but get stuck into my school work straight away. We had a staff meeting this evening to share ideas for our next topic - India. I've been doing some mad late night shopping on eBay and may well turn up at school in a shalwar kamiz. That'll be a laugh. Barnstaple has hardly any people from other cultures living here so it will all be new to the children. I think the highest minority ethnic group in this area is probably the Lithuanians and Poles (recent temporary economic migrants) and there are no more than a handful of non-white children in any of the schools. A little different to the boys' school when we lived in London where the balance was the other way. So at least they weren't brought up in a total monoculture at that formative age. As promised a few more shots from Saturday's fireworks. This view is from the Leisure centre/Fairground side of the river looking across to Ladies' Mile and the old town buildings.
And some of the fireworks. I wanted to see what effect I would get with stills rather than simply shooting a little video.

Nothing terribly special but the background makes up for it.

And finally the diet. Even 1 lb lost is a victory at this stage so I'm happy but I really hope I don't have to print off another page to fill in.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Saturday Evening.

We had a really good time down in town yesterday. We didn't go to watch the carnival as it is more for kids and really not Peter's thing but there were unreal sights around as we walked from the car (we parked in Pilton because Peter was worried about parking spaces) to the other side of town. First there was a beautifully restored US army jeep complete with large flag parked on one side of the road while a boy in military uniform sat on the pavement (very unusual for Barnstaple) eating fish & chips. Later we passed an adult Bo Peep resplendent in pink, tennis players swinging rackets and a man with a green face. Crossing the library car park was a witch carrying a large drum. I love these evenings when the whole town is out walking about. Some were returning home after the carnival but most were heading towards the bridge and fun fair beyond. We both saw various people we knew and exchanged a few words but one of my class who I said hello to at the fair looked totally shocked to see his teacher out of school. A lot of people were gathering on the public space that runs alongside the river. From here they would have a good view of the fireworks which would be set off from a defunct factory across the river.
We got ourselves up onto the bridge. The bridge and the main road had been closed to traffic all afternoon but most people preferred to lean on the stone walls of the bridge. It is such a relaxed and friendly time. Everyone is there from family groups with kids waving lighted sticks & granny and grandad to young people parading in their idea of high fashion. It was a beautiful evening , not cold and the clouds making a good backdrop for the fireworks which were excellent. I am a sucker for the bangs and flashes of fireworks and I thought this year's were pretty good, (photos tomorrow or this post will be pages long). I don't know if this happens anywhere else but there is always a delayed boom as the sound bounces off the high town buildings.
Then it was down to the the fair. Once past the sellers of lighted items there is the walk down 'torture alley' as we call it. On either side are stalls selling all food; sweets (candy), chocolate coated apples and marshmallow, crepes, a whole stall of different kinds of liquorice, fresh coffee, hot dogs and burgers, chips, candyfloss, and roast pork to name but some. If I wasn't on a diet and didn't mind paying the high prices I would have settled for chicken & noodles,£5 with prawn crackers £2.

Then you hit the main fair. From the numbers and duplication of rides there must have been at least 2 if not 3 travelling fairs gathered together. I hadn't thought that there would be many young children at the fair in the night but there were plenty around. Being at the fair is a pleasant assault on the senses, the smell of the food, the bright lights, the music so loud that it shakes your body and the general excitement. There were many stalls where you could try your luck, ha ha, at throwing darts, hooking ducks, or aiming at tin cans. The prizes of course being tacky rubbish. Goldfish are still offered as prizes but due to RSPCA pressure they have fish bowls to buy should you win one. But of course the main attraction is the many noisy brightly coloured rides .

We stood for a while and watched some dodgems. I'm sure that when we were younger there weren't any signs pointing which way to go, you simply aimed at as many people as you could. It was fun to watch the roustabouts skipping through the cars, clambering on the fronts and spinning the steering wheels to release people from their traffic jams.

Great photo opportunities and here I went to 1/2 sec exposure to get a feel of the movement.

There were many rides where you could be spun,bounced or suspended upside down 50ft above the ground and generally get your adrenalin flying and your brain rattling but I actually like the old fashioned Merry Go Round. While we were watching I noticed several ladies at least 10 years older than me enjoying riding the colourful horses.

That did it, I paid my £2, cunningly sat next to a child so that it looked as if I was simply accompanying her and had a wonderful time. It was great, rising and falling predictably with the wind blowing through my hair as we spun round to the sound of an old fashioned carousel organ.
Can't wait till next year!
Today not so good, I've had a rotten sinus headache all day but we did manage a short walk at Morte Point before I got stuck into school planning and Peter into his OU work. He's now gone off for a pool competition at the Reform and I'll be winding down with a little browsing and some tv.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Barnstaple Fair.

It's Fair time again, a tradition that goes back many hundreds of years. Originally the fair was a 'hiring' fair and a livestock show spread over 4 days. Nowadays we have a carnival, fun fair and fireworks. The appearance of a white kid glove on a pole emerging from a window of the guild hall signifies that the Fair is officially open. We still have a lot of pomp and circumstance with the presence of the Mayor and other dignitaries having their chance to parade around in their chains of office.
The doorway below the glove is decorated with fresh flowers for the occasion. The fun fair opens in the week and all my children will visit the fair at least once. Today, being Saturday, there is a large carnival which is happening as I type. I have been part of the carnival several times when my boys were part of the sea cadets who always enter the carnival with a tableau on the back of an extremely large lorry. I used to be one of the volunteers who walked along collecting money in a bucket. It is traditional for the spectators to throw money at the carnival lorries as well as depositing coins in the collecting buckets. Peter and I will be going back into town shortly so that we can walk over to the fun fair and watch people enjoying themselves on the rides. Apart from the dodgems we're a bit too fragile to go on the rides and they are horrendously expensive anyway. It is just fun to people watch and of course I'll have my trusty camera and spare battery. When it gets dark there will be a fireworks display which everyone gathers on the bridge to watch. After that families tend to take their tired children home and the fair becomes the haunt of the youngsters.

Butchers' Row, on the left is the side of the Pannier Market and on the right a line of shops which were converted from stables many years ago. In the 19th C these were all fresh meat shops but now there are several bakeries, delicatessens, green grocers and whole-food shops as well as some butchers. Despite not going to bed till 5.00 (silly me) I was in town by 9.00 this morning for a relaxed time browsing the shops. I needed to have some chill out time and it was lovely to meet up with my friend for cappuccinos and cheesecake (raspberry & white chocolate this time), at our favourite patisserie. I tried on trousers, shorts and shoes (shame your feet don't get smaller) but only bought bits and pieces. I liked the fact that I still keep picking up the wrong size clothes and have to come out and get a smaller size.

Friday 17 September 2010

Being Thankful.

I've got into the habit of watching tv late in the evening and generally that means some sort of crime drama set in British cities. This has brought home to me how lucky I am to be living here - simply in visual terms. I lived for many years in the heart of London and the lack of beauty in the environment was one of the things I found so depressing. You could if you narrowed your focus find beautiful things to see but you had to look really hard and develop tunnel vision to filter out all the crap around. There are magnificent buildings but for the most part everything is drab and dirty and the sky is generally only glimpsed above a nondescript sky line. And out in suburbia (which thank goodness I only passed through) there is the added unremitting monotony. Here I am fortunate enough to have beauty at every turn. Tonight the sky was that lovely mix of high cirrus clouds with lower fluffy cumulus clouds.
I wasn't too pleased with the blurry foreground in these shots when I saw them on the pc so I grabbed the camera and took a walk up the hill.

And was rewarded with yet more fascinating skyscapes,

and far reaching views. I love the way the light is constantly changing and only minutes later the sun was dropping and the pink tinge had gone from the clouds.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Squished !

Not a bad day today both work and weather wise. I had the morning working on my own in the staffroom to get to grips with producing a science coordinator's file. The hardest part was working on my new school lap top which has windows 7 but won't print from the staffroom printer. I had to copy everything and make it compatible for 2003. Haven't attempted printing the final copies of the header pages but I have another morning scheduled next week which should see the job done. Anything after that is in my own time. We had a staff meeting after school which had us all groaning in anticipation of the dreaded APP (assessing pupil progress with 200 forms to fill in all day long) in maths but my lovely colleague had got right back to the basics and has produced a pared down very workable system which still provides all the things that OFSTED want, targets, assessing, levelling and moderation. We will trial it for the moment but it looks much more manageable The sun was shining on the way home so I stopped to take more photos.
I had been out of school at lunchtime for my routine mammogram. In the UK we only get one every 3 years once you reach 50 (nothing before). They say that yearly might be more risky but who are they kidding? It's obviously to save money. Have to say that losing weight especially in that area, I've gone from a DD to a B, made the whole procedure inconsequential. It was only slightly uncomfortable last time and not at all this time. A few weeks before the result come through but it's not something that worries me even though 2 friends are awaiting surgery. Need an early night as I lay awake last night with too many ideas for the next topic - India, whirling through my head.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Good Morning.

The sky was looking good as I went up the drive this morning on my way to work so I stopped and took a few photos. It's good to start the day with a lovely view even if it is only through the car windows.
It seems to be the season for repair men. Yesterday at school it was the door person to fix my classroom door and an IT man to attempt (unsuccessfully) to get my classroom printer working. Today there was a more senior IT man who still failed to link my children's pcs with the classroom printer. It all seems to be down to a massive print job from last term - so not me - that can't be deleted or cleared. The caretaker was also attempting to fix (again unsuccessfully) the heater in my room which he wanted to turn on for a bit to chase away the morning chill. At home yet more repair men. This week a plumber has replaced several rusted out radiators and flushed through the central heating. He'll be back on Friday to check everything and put back some boards. We've also had a builder in to organise some repairs on the outside guttering. And Peter's Rav had some minor repairs and a service. It's a good thing that I'm working full time so that we can get all this basic maintenance done before winter.