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 June 2011

Strike Day.

My whole blog just disappeared into the ether so here's a precis: sunny, teachers on strike, not me - can't afford to loose the pay. Rich privately educated government with personal fortunes, untouched generous pensions and fat consultancy fees to look forward to have decided to recoup some of the money lost by their banker pals by making public servants work until they are 68, pay more into their pensions and loose up to half the expected pension. Spent 5 hours sat at a PC in my classroom working on my reports. Nearly but not quite finished. Small cat spent day at vets being castrated. Happily playing at my feet now.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Settling In.

Lots of bright sunny spells today, warm in the sun but rather chilly when the clouds took over. The children were fairly quiet today after such an active time at the beach yesterday. In the afternoon it was the second of our shuffle-up days when my class went over to the junior school and I had next year's class for a relaxed afternoon of choosing activities and a bit of painting with watercolours. I will be teaching those children 1 or 2 afternoons each week (depending if it is week 1 or week 2), so it was good to have a chance to get to know them.
The new cat is still very scared of the other cats who keep looking at him through the windows which sets him off into a panic. At the moment I am only letting Squeaky, who is the lowest ranking of our cats, stay in the house with him. There has been some growling and tail lashing and a few slashes with the claws as they approach each other but that is to be expected. I am now typing one-handed because one small loudly purring cat is curled up in my lap.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Beach Day.

Although yesterday was the hottest day of the year (33C) in the south-east it was cooler here with rain in the afternoon and a little thunder in the evening. (Hence no Internet as everything was unplugged.) There were reports of strange tidal surges all around the south west including up some rivers. This is being put down to a mini tsunami caused not by an earthquake but by an undersea landslide off the continental shelf.
Today we were back to sunny weather, perfect for our whole school trip to the beach. It was sunny but with a cooling breeze and we had a wonderful time. All except for a very unpleasant couple who own/rent the line of beach huts. We had put all our stuff down not close to but in front of these huts. First the man and then his partner came and very rudely demanded that we move away from the huts as we were costing them business. I tried to explain that we hadn't wanted to go much further down the beach as we had to walk back to the car park for the toilets, which children always need, we couldn't have gone in the other direction because the cliffs and rocks were a safety hazard and that we would be going down onto the wet sand for all sorts of activities anyway. They were rude to the parents, to me and then to the head teacher while only having 2 beach huts occupied as there were very few other people on the beach and it is a public beach over which they had no juristriction. We did move along so that we weren't directly in front of the huts but I think that some of the parents will be writing to the local paper about how local school children were rudely ordered off that part of the beach. We took plenty of activities for the children to do but they had the most fun simply building sandcastles and jumping off sand dunes. This time we even went into the water, only to paddle but it was still fun.
And this is from yesterday, the latest addition to our menagerie. As yet unnamed cat, was taken in as a stray by a work mate of Pete's but needed a new home. Peter overcame his usual (or supposed) aversion to cats and asked me if I wanted him as an early birthday present. Ever the softie I sad yes and he arrived here yesterday. He's young, very friendly with people but scared of cats (& hens). He's booked in at the vets on Thursday that is if he is old enough so my 'present' is going to cost me money but I don't mind.

Sunday 26 June 2011


Summer has arrived, for one day at least with the temp going up to 27C. The change in weather is not due to last but perhaps we appreciate it all the more when we have just had a cool wet week and we know we could return to that at any time. It was so nice to find the air lovely and warm at 8.00 in the morning. We went out for an earlier walk than usual as Peter was rowing in the afternoon. (They got stuck on a sandbank!)
The cliff path was very busy as there was a marathon being run along it. Not good to be running in such heat and we could see lots of sweaty faces as they pounded their way up the steep path. We were sitting on a bench enjoying a cup of coffee when a friend ran past. He didn't notice us but we shouted some encouraging phrases as he went past which made him smile.
The sea was an amazing colour and far below we could see (centre of the photo) a fat seal watching all the people up on the cliff.
When Peter went rowing I conscientiously worked on some reports (we have to fill in 13 individual sections for each child as well as the class comments) before deciding the day was too special to waste sitting indoors. Instead I picked 3lbs of juicy blackcurrants and mowed all the grass before ending the day with another of Peter's barbecues.

Saturday 25 June 2011

The Rain Continues.

The clouds were down low and it was generally wet as I left home this morning for a few hours in town, meeting up with a friend and then wandering around the shops. It was dry in town and though overcast, fairly warm. As I returned home however I hit the cloud layer once more and found the garden rather damp. So even if I had stayed home I wouldn't have been too tempted to get outside and garden. I didn't buy very much in town but I checked out the prices of feather duvets, super-king size, as the double duvet we currently have is a little lost on the new bed and if we didn't have a snugly throw as well there might be a few disagreements about who ends up with the duvet in the night. It turns out that the Internet is the best place and I've already ordered a new duvet and I am also checking out new covers which we need to get as well.
I am now about to start filling in the official end of year school reports through our on-line pupil tracker which is supposed to make everything easier. Listening to colleagues who have started using it, that doesn't seem to be the case. I've worked on the personal statements first on a word document on a pen drive so that I wasn't dependent on the Internet but I nearly had a heart attack earlier today when my lap top informed me that there were no files on my pen drive !!!!! Luckily my good old PC can read the pen drive and now I've copied everything onto my hard drive just in case the pen drive goes squit. Now I've got to copy the statements onto the report documents which are 7 pages long. Hmm, I better get started right now if I don't want to have to work through the nights in the week before the deadline.

Friday 24 June 2011

Festival Time.

Typical Glastonbury weather - pouring with rain, so for once I'm glad that I'm at home watching it on tv with the sound turned right up, and not trying to set up a tent on the mud. One day I'll get there. This year there are over 15,000 people there who are over 50 so it isn't just for the young. I was watching some interviews and one of the people interviewed was there for the first time .... and in her 70s. It's not on next year so maybe the year after. I won't even be going to the LLAMA festival this year. Last year there was an illegal rave and illegal camping at the same time as the festival. The local council tried to make the festival organisers responsible for this (it's a mainly free festival run by volunteers) even though the festival is estimated to bring in £9 million to the area with the result that the festival is off for this year.
It was all fun and games in class today. As we are learning about Greece I thought I would be very up to date and call one of my lessons 'citizenship' which is one of the latest educational buzz words. I decided to do a 'hot seating' activity where, after having to leave the class because of a spurious message from another teacher, I did a quick change and banged on the back door dressed as King Bossus. The children are used to hot-seating where we or they take on the persona of a character and answer questions from the rest of the children. Usually the costume is only token or might even just be a label but today I dressed in a full length cloak, put on a wild black wig and a quickly made beard and moustache and weilded a decorated staff. I told them I was going to pull down the school to build myself a palace and they would all be my slaves and generally acted in a dictatorial manner. When I returned as myself the children were quite indignant about the 'Greece king' which led to a good discussion about democracy, being fair and misuse of power. Most of them thought it was me but weren't quite sure and for the rest of the day they kept trying to get me to admit that it was me. At one point in the day as we decorated Hoplite shields one of my boys said with great feeling "I didn't know maths could be so much fun," but hey symmetry and repeating patterns are part of maths too.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Cif Orcs ?

Great fun today in school as we spent the day marking the children's long writing task about Night and Day. Who would have thought that  'cif  orcs' was the latest way to spell Guy Fawkes ? or that firemen need to work at night to stop houses being blown up by 'torists' ? Plenty of laughter as sometimes even with 3 of us it was hard to interpret our children's spelling. Overall the levelling corresponded with our teacher assessment and the children have made good progress.
It has been a dry day ending in sunshine so I had a pleasant stroll around the garden when I got home and then walked up to say hello to the ponies. I climbed up into the loft to bring down an amphora, possibly ancient but probably a modern repro to take into school for our Greek display. Just time for a bit of school work before I bottle the latest elderflower champagne and then off to bed.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

A Bit Blowy.

It was grey and very windy today but at least it didn't rain. All round the garden coloured petals lie like scattered confetti. As I look through the window I can see the trees swaying with their branches being shaken by the wind. This evening I made another 10L of elder flower champagne which is brewing gently in a bucket ready to be bottled tomorrow. Then I hope to have a try at the cordial as the citric acid arrived in the post today. After that I shall reward the elder tree by cutting most of it down because it is hanging over the driveway. I shall save any branches for the fire as it is supposed to burn well and the name is said to derive from the Saxon word for kindling.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

The First Day Of Summer.

I find it hard to equate the longest day of the year with the first day of summer but that is what it officially is here. Maybe we'll get some better weather now.We had a lot of rain in the morning but it cleared up the afternoon which was wonderful for me as I spent most of the time out of doors. It was the first of our shuffle up afternoons today and my class went off to spend the afternoon in their new classes in the junior school. The new teacher who will be teaching Year 2 next year came into my class to work with her future class for the afternoon. I then volunteered to work in the Year 1 class that I will be teaching several afternoons a week next year so that I could get to know them. My job was to mingle with the children doing 'outdoor learning activities' and make sure that they were able to take turns on the 4 colourful scooters. That meant a lot of cheery "Shall we let some one else have a go now because you've had a lovely long turn?" and similar phrases. By that time it was lovely and sunny so I was more than happy to stay outside for my playground duty. And when that playtime was over the Year 2 children returned from the junior school and I let them have their playtime. It was such a hard afternoon!
On the way home I stopped to take in the view. There are now at least 14 wind turbines striding across the skyline.

The position of the veg plot means that I have a great view when I drive into the garden and even when the weather is not good I can check out the progress of my produce every day. I picked a first bowl of blackcurrants and put them in the freezer and then when they are all picked I'll have a jam making session.

Monday 20 June 2011

Is It Really Summer ?

Once again we had to cancel Sports Day due to a wet field and a very wet afternoon. It rained on and off all day with as usual the heaviest rain just as we were sending the children home. This was the view coming down the drive at 6.00 this evening with the distant valleys shrouded in rain. Romantic but damp.
It's a bit depressing to think that tomorrow is the longest day and after that the nights will be drawing in.
So instead let's cheer ourselves up with some photos from Romas and Vicky's recent trip to Jamaica. I think any depression would lift immediately I set foot on such a beach, or indeed lay back and watched that lovely sky.
They went out and about visiting Vicky's friends as Vicky has spent quite a lot of time in Jamaica over the years.

And one of Romas' favourite pastimes, enjoying good food.  Romas also got his diving qualification, lucky lad.

Sunday 19 June 2011

A Warm Afternoon.

Much better weather today unlike yesterday when 6-8ft waves and 35mph gusts of wind (not ideal sea going conditions) caused the Ilfracombe Regatta to be cancelled. This morning Peter went out rowing on the Taw nice and early to catch the tide. He was full of energy when he got home and cut up the leylandii trees with his new chainsaw while I did the carrying. There were a few showers in the morning but it was dry enough when Fred came round so that he and Peter could finally put the oil tank on some concrete slabs. The wooden supports were getting rather soggy and the oil delivery man was rather unhappy the last time he brought oil. The tank is too close to the stream, it was put in before the regulations were brought in but if we were to pollute the water we would be liable for massive fines so we have to make sure it is secure.

The sun came out in force in the afternoon and after a week of wet days I was able to get out and mow all the grass. Later we had a pleasant meal outside and I basked in the sun for an hour before bottling a dozen bottles of elderflower champagne. The hardest part of making the champagne was taking off the labels from the wine bottles I had been given. (I don't drink myself but elderflower champagne is only mildly alcoholic just very fizzy.)

Saturday 18 June 2011

Anyone for champagne ?

Woke this morning to torrential rain. Looking out of the window and seeing all the water rushing down the drive had me rushing into waterproofs and outside to limit the damage. Simply putting some wood and soil across part of the road higher up diverted 95% of the water onto the field. All I had to do then was clear the small ditch in the yard and rake the gravel back up the drive to fill in the holes that were beginning to form. The rain had stopped by then so I was able to plant out the sweet pea and beetroot seedlings in the veg plot. That's as much as I can fit in my tiny plot. The beans don't look too good but everything else is growing well and in the conservatory the first green tomatoes are beginning to appear.
There were a few dryish spells and during one of those I loaded up the car with old plastic chairs and moss covered body boards and took them down to the dump. On the way back from the dump I called in at the supermarket and bought a new plastic bucket to make my elderflower champagne in. I'll bottle the first 10L tomorrow and start another batch so hopefully I'll have 20L if I can avoid the exploding bottle scenario that happened last time I made elderflower champagne. I'm also going to try and make some elderflower cordial but I had to buy the citric acid on-line as I couldn't get any in Ilfracombe. I also made a tray of flapjacks and a large pot of warming chicken soup.  
Finally, our new toy. Peter part exchanged our ttemperamental heavy duty chainsaw for this much lighter and easier to handle model. Gone are the days when Peter would be out cutting down trees for other people and now we only need to use a chainsaw occasionally so this smaller one should be more suitable.

Friday 17 June 2011

More Rain.

It has been a wet, wet day. There were some dry spells as well and we managed to get the kids outside but now it is raining and looks set for the weekend. I got the PCs back working in my classroom, hooray! The remote IT people did something to the server to adjust the log-in details and now there isn't even a password, you just press enter to get in. And then in the afternoon, Sue, our school secretary (actually she's the school administrator) came and fiddled with my reluctant printer. She opened lids, shook anything that was loose and generally had an intuitive poke around and bingo! the machine now works. Mine was the 3rd one she fixed today. She doesn't claim to know about printers but she must have the magic touch. Half the class did their long writing task in the morning so we had Golden Time in the afternoon. It was quite pleasing to see that some of them chose to do more Greek based art from this week's topic work. Half of the children went out to do some gardening with our Gardening Club parents and they returned a little muddy clutching mint, garlic and spinach to take home.

At home it was too wet to do anything outside so I shall make a start on next week's planning. We are hoping to have our sports day on Monday but not if the field is too wet. We are now entering the time of year when the diary is filling up with special events, days out, visits to their new classrooms etc. I'm looking forward to Arts' Week (or in my case weeks) when we can immerse ourselves in art activities. Each class has been asked to base their art work on a familiar book so I've opted for Greek Myths and Legends because they contain a wealth of inspiration.

Thursday 16 June 2011

*&%$ !

At school the PC situation has worsened to the point where I can only laugh. The solution to my dead main PC is simply to replace it with a new one, fair enough by me. I got my interactive whiteboard up and running by plugging in my (work) laptop so at least I can access the Internet with the children though I don't have the interactive software on my laptop. My classroom printer was no better after a night's rest, (that sometimes works), the printer in another classroom wouldn't work and I even tried emailing my document to myself but that wouldn't open on the staffroom PC. I resorted to retyping my document in word and still the staffroom PC wouldn't print on either our super duper absolutely useless printer or through the photocopier. The school secretary got onto the company that looks after our server and the rest of the IT and they did something with the server. First all the icons on the children's PCs disappeared and now they can't be turned on at all as the man on the phone says we have to log in with unknown names and passwords. My laptop was linked to the system at the time so I haven't tried turning it back on to see if that has been affected. It's a good thing that I have hung onto my (old fashioned ) whiteboard. You can't go wrong with that and a marker.

I'm not going to get to eat many of the redcurrants. The birds are stripping them off before they even have a chance to ripen.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

IT Irritations.

I thought I was having a good day at school. Half my class had done their maths SATs in the morning and I was happily marking their papers when I was called back to my classroom. The main PC which runs the interactive white board was blank. Despite flicking of switches, twiddling and even replacement of cables it remains as dead as a dodo. The power supply has probably blown up. Then after school I was attempting to print some photos of my class dressed in a sheet and wearing the Grecian victor's wreaths that they had made. We have had trouble with all the printers recently. Sometimes they take up to 3 hours to churn out a print and I have to watch my printer like a hawk because if you do not remove the sheet of paper immediately it emerges it sometimes gets snatched back into the bowels of the beast and then jams the workings. I made the mistake of putting more paper in the tray and that stopped everything. I tried taking out the paper and putting less in, then just one sheet, then a few more but no, all it will do is grind and make other horrible noises. Even at home the Internet seems to be on a go-slow. Oh and the 100% cloud cover means that there is no chance of seeing the lunar eclipse that is happening right now. I think I had better just have an early night.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

A Misty Morning.

This morning was one of those days where the sun was shining up in the hills and the valleys were shrouded in mist.
Everything to the south was hidden from view.
Zoom into this picture and you will see several of those enormous wind turbines marching across the sky line.
It hasn't been a bad day in school today even though I was on my own with the class for most of the day and my voice is still pretty croaky. I always feel so much more cheerful when the sun is shining. This evening when I got home I took a few photos and was sitting outside enjoying the evening sun. Peter arrived home and I walked down to the house to see 2 dogs, Fred the Dalmatian and the hound puppy, running out of our kitchen door. Bad dogs! Luckily no damage was done except to the cats' nerves but I'll have to start closing the bottom half of the front or kitchen door to keep out intruders. During the summer our front door is normally wide open day long.

Monday 13 June 2011

No Sports Day.

The fact that yesterday we had 1/3 of the average June rainfall for Devon in just 1 day had left the playing field too wet to use so our Sports Day had to be postponed. That was a shame as the sun was shining brightly this afternoon. If the weather stays fine we will attempt to have our Sports Day next Monday. Instead we had a day of normal lessons though some of my class felt they should have had choosing time instead. It was a little hard to teach today with my croaky voice, it's at times like these that you realise how much of a tool a teacher's voice is. I don't shout very much but a sharp tone can stop silly behaviour in an instant and a directed question can refocus wandering attention. I gave up by the end of the day and asked my teaching assistant to read the story, something I love doing, while I listened to children read.

Back home those potato plants are coming on a treat. I've got too much school work to do to spend time working in the garden but I managed to fit in a quick walk around to take a few pictures.

Sunday 12 June 2011

Number 1000.

This is post 1000! That's nearly 3 years of putting my thoughts out into the blog sphere. A lot has happened in those 3 years. Our plans to move to New Zealand sadly came to naught but new plans for our future are emerging. Our health has been up and down though Peter's arthritis is now under control and I am waiting to be seen again by a back specialist 5 months after first seeing him. Peter retired from his job with the NHS and is happily working for an engineering firm. I went from teaching full-time, to part-time, back to full-time and will be back to part-time after the summer, all at the same school. Our boys have moved on with their own lives and for the moment we live a contented peaceful life here in sunny Devon.
Did I say sunny Devon? As the forecasters predicted the heavy rain arrived making for a day to be spent indoors. I've used the day to get on with writing the personal comments for my reports. That's the hardest part as I want to be positive but also truthful. If I write too many in one go they all start to look the same. I woke this morning with a sore throat and a runny nose. Oh joy, another cold starting up. Peter went into town to go rowing so he brought me back some throat sweets and ice cream to soothe my poor throat. My throat wasn't helped by my joining in with Songs of Praise which was featuring hymns and songs to celebrate Pentecost.

Here's to the next 1000 posts ....... and onwards.

Saturday 11 June 2011

A Busy Bee.

The rain held off today so I have been able to spend plenty of time working outside. I did my usual thing of walking up in the night (I sleep badly these days), and because I had lots of school plans whizzing through my head I ended up getting up at 4.30 to work on the PC. Then I remembered that Peter had plans to give the Rayburn burner a clean which involves turning it off for the day so I put a large chicken (which I had bought reduced yesterday), into the oven at 5.45. After that I decided not to go back to bed and instead did more school work before making an early start outside.

When Peter eventually dismantled the Rayburn burner he was absolutely furious with the man we had called in last time when Peter's wrists were too bad for him to do the job himself. We used a local firm who are normally very good but an older chap came and apparently did a really bad job which caused damage to the burner. He cut the wicks too long and folded them instead of cutting the right shape. This allowed the flame to get down into the burner tray and the pipes clogging them up with carbon (solid soot). Luckily Peter got someone at his firm to make some tailored tools that can be fitted into a drill which made the job of grinding out the carbon a little easier. The chap also bent the oil feed pipe but Peter has sorted that. All these parts would cost hundreds to replace so it is vital to look after them properly.
I planted out more seedlings today, all that is left are the beetroot and the sweet peas which look a little too vulnerable at the moment. This orchid flowered for many weeks last autumn and is now delighting me with a new set of blooms as I sit and add the odd piece to my giant puzzle.

Friday 10 June 2011

A Rainy Friday.

It hasn't been a good day for my colleague. It started well with the Year 2 team (that's 3 of us) in the staff room marking SATs papers, chortling over mis-spelt words and amusing answers when my friend started to feel unwell. As she has a history of serious medical problems my other team member drove her to the nearby hospital where they decided to keep her in for tests and observations. I went to see her in the hospital straight after school where she was waiting in the MAU to find out if she had to stay in overnight for observation. Not a nice way for her to end the day.
The day itself started with torrential rain outside while the news reporter on the TV talked of drought conditions in the east of the country. The day was mostly rainy which made the occasional sunny spell even more welcome. Gardening club, run by some parents, continued in the rain and I had to smile at a group of Year 1 children whose 'outdoor learning' seemed to consist of skipping in the biggest puddles they could find without even a jumper on. In the afternoon I had been struggling with the Year 3 split as we always shuffle the Year 2 classes together before they move to the junior school. The children need to stay in their friendship groups but there also needs to be an even mix of boys/girls, abilities and children from each class. Factor in also some behavioural problems and 2 sets of twins who need to be in different classes. We did the main split on Wednesday but every time I double checked through the friendship requests I ended up with one child who didn't have any requested friends in their class. I finally got it sorted, printed out letters to give to the children and went and told my class which children they will be with next year. There are usually 1 or 2 parents who are not happy with the split but we do our best.  I will find out on Monday morning if anyone is not happy.

It's still sunny for the moment but we are forecast a LOT of rain this weekend. I need to keep on with my reports anyway.