Monthly Archives: April 2005

Can you believe it’s a year since the Bikeathon?

I’ve just updated the link at the side of the page which takes you to the Smudgelets’ fundraising page for the Bikeathon. They’re really keen to do it again after last year’s success and a mug I know well has offered to ride with them, as long as they raise the princely sum of £100 to make it worth her while. So if you’re feeling particularly supportive of the Smudgelets and of Leukaemia research or sufficiently vindictive towards their exceedingly overweight and unfit mother (unfit exercise-wise rather than an unfit mother…. I hope!), then maybe you’d like to click on the link and make a donation.

Goodness, that photo doesn’t do justice to my sylphlike figure at all!

testing times

Deeleea, next time you come to the Oisle o’ Woight I’ll definitely take you to the falconry centre. In fact, bring enough pennies with you and I’ll book us into a day’s workshop learning to fly the falcons there. That’s Tiddles’ aim at the moment too.

It’s funny, I’d been planning to entitle this wiblog entry “testing times” before this evening. This evening’s been a bit testing, though. My word, when my Dad gets one on him, he’s more than my patience can bear!!!! He’s worked up, of course, because he’s got to go to my sister’s. Not that he shows any actual appreciation of the fact that he’s going there instead of into respite. Oh no, that’d be far too easy!!! And he’s had a few digs about me “putting him in the workhouse while I go swanning off on holiday”. What he doesn’t quite realise is that it looks now as though our long weekend’s holiday is going to be camping in the garden. UGH! Well, I can either afford the ferry fare for the car to go over to the New Forest or I can afford the new school shoes to replace the ones which BOTH boys have decided to rip the soles off this week, but I can’t afford both. I bit back the temptation simply to send them both to school in their slippers!

But no, my testing times are not my father’s tantrums. No, I’ve finally got to that stage in my massage course. Tuesday afternoon was the first of two practical assessments. I have to do a full body massage on a willing volunteer and be assessed as I do it. My good friend E reluctantly 😉 volunteered to come over from Winchester so I could practise on her on Monday and then pummel her for real on Tuesday afternoon. A bit strange massaging a friend for the first time – so far I’d practised on family and on fellow students – but it went extremely well and I didn’t forget a thing. Passed with flying colours – so I hope I can do as well next time in a fortnight’s time.

E stayed on to babysit for me in the evening while I went back into college to do my written exam. I’d been revising madly – Smudgelet had been testing me and is now extremely knowledgeable about the functions of the blood! I was tempted to send him in in my place to take the exam. The paper was very fair – not too hard and, thank goodness, not too easy. I’m not sure what I think about the method used, though. The pass mark, apparently, is 100%. Hmmm, I though…. quite a challenge! But maybe not. The way it works is that you do the exam, you get your mark and they tell you which questions you got wrong. You then resit the exam, just doing the questions you didn’t pass on, and if you get them wrong again they tell you and send you away to revise some more before resitting the same questions again the following week. And so on, and so forth. So ultimately, everyone passes. You know, I could have saved myself a lot of hard work by not revising at all, taking the test so that I knew precisely what questions they were going to ask, and then doing my revision ready for the resit instead of learning things which I turned out not to need at all. My reckoning is that I got three questions wrong. One was a “kickself” question where I knew the right answer and wrote down the wrong one. Idiot! The other two I don’t know whether I missed some details or added some extra details or whether they mark it fairly leniently. But at least I know in the long run that I’ll pass. Needless to say, I passed the Health and Safety one – you’d have to try really really hard to fail that one.

The following day I went off to work, leaving E just getting up. She was going to have her breakfast, lock up, have a coffee with my Dad and then get the bus back to the ferry. (Did I miss out “get dressed” somewhere in there?). It seemed quite strange coming home to an empty house, with just her dirty breakfast dishes sitting in the dishwasher pile, even though she’d only been here a couple of nights. I decided to do a cooked dinner for Dad – ham and cheese omelettes with chips and salad so I bustled around and got it ready then took it round to eat with him at his place. He was quite disappointed to tell me that E had not been for her coffee and he’d phoned my house twice so she’d obviously dashed off and forgotten him. 🙁 Seemed unlike her to be so inconsiderate as he’d stayed in all morning to wait for her, but there we go… she’d probably suddenly realised the time and raced to get her bus.

At three I nipped home to load the dishwasher before going to collect the Smudgelet and nearly jumped out of my skin. There was E just emerging from my bedroom. She’d just lain down for a few minutes on the bed after her breakfast and had sunk into a deep sleep for six hours!!! Goodness, that massage must have been good!

High days and holidays

I can’t believe how quickly the fortnight’s holiday has receded into the far distant corner of my memory. Is it really only five days that we’ve been back at school? Only another six weeks to go until the next break then… thank goodness. It won’t come a moment too soon!

I am not quite sure where the holiday days went. One day was a trip to the mainland, of course, to have my Dad glow radioactive. I’ve mentioned Smudgelet’s special day, well Tiddles had his special day last Saturday.

It started with Smudgelet, though, seeing as this worthy soul had his swimming lesson at 9.00 am. It was badge day and he is now the proud owner of an Angelfish 1 certificate and badge which has has proudly taken into school today to have presented in assembly. Not that he deserves it. How on earth can they justify giving him a certificate for which one of the pass criteria was “can swim 15 metres on his front using a recognised stroke with correct breathing”? This child doesn’t know the meaning of “close your mouth”! He swims with an inane open-mouthed grin which remains intact when he puts his head in the water. Thus within three strokes a third of the contents of the swimming pool have flooded his lungs and he is choking for England.

We deposited Smudgelet at the rendezvous site with his carer for the day – the local cinema. (The rendezvous, that is, not the carer!) Hmmm… bad news. The carer has been invited to a party and can only have him until 3pm ! Not good. The only good thing is that I’d decided against taking Tiddles to London for the day, which had been my first thought… and the film I’d planned to take him to see at the cinema in the afternoon is not being screened until the end of May, so I’d had to abandon that plan too. Thus it was, with a heavy heart, that I had to agree that it would be possible for me to have my youngest son returned to me at 2.45 and cut my special day with Tiddles short by about four hours.

Our venue for the day was Appuldurcombe House. It was delightful. The weather was just perfect, if a little too cold. Tiddles is mad about history and was delighted to discover where we were going as he’s always wanted to explore this shell of a mansion, ever since it was used as the backdrop to a performance of Treasure Island we saw last summer. He commented wistfully that he always feels a little strange visiting places from the past, as though there’s a sort of sadness there. He’s incredibly sensitive like that. He may not be able to remember dates and factual details, but he can “feel” a place and his empathy is amazing. But we were not just there to get a taste of the past, we were there to solve a mystery. So it was on with the thinking caps and off to work.

Appuldurcombe House hosts a Cluedo game through the summer, based on a rather salacious period of its own history, although as far as I know no real murder took place there. We were sent first of all into the cellars to examine the “body” – a cardboard cut out of Lady Bordsley who had sadly been murdered. We were to solve the mystery of whodunnit, by examining all the clues, thinking about all the alibis of the people in the household at the time, and exploring the layout of the house to decide who, how and where. It was great fun. Taxing enough to have us running back and forth between different sources of information (and sniffing the body to see if it smelt of woodsmoke or bath oils) and deliberating between the different options. “If it was the butler, then I reckon he’d have used a candlestick… but it’s more likely to have been her husband’s lover…. after all, she carried a pistol….. but would she have been strong enough to have moved the body?…….. ”

Our sleuthing paid off. We worked out whodunnit and how, and were only slightly out about where, simply because we were being too darned clever. We got a prize anyhow – a creme egg. Worthy reward for our endeavours.

Next on the agenda was lunch and a lovely film about the wild birds of prey that live on the estate – barn owls and kestrels and little owls aplenty. The perfect preparation for what was to follow. Because fairly recently Appuldurcombe has been gaining a reputation as an excellent centre for falconry. We toured the aviaries, talking to the vultures, bobbing at the harris hawks, and being screeched at most impressively by Vivienne the owl whose beak appeared tiny but whose open mouth seemed to cut her head in half! (A bit like Smudgelet, really). Then came the flying display – a breathtaking performance by several of the birds… apart from Chester that is. He didn’t really…well… how can I put this? It was the highlight of the show, watching the falconer (a rather lovely chap, and really quite fanciable to boot!) trying valiently to persuade Chester that, actually, American Bald Eagles are expert fishermen and take their food from the surface of the water in an elegant and powerful swoop. They are. And they do. Apparently…. unless they’re afraid of the water, that is. Yes, good old Chester is afraid of the water and refuses to take any food from there, no matter how hungry he is or how much his keeper tempts him. He studiously ignored all attempts to encourage him or entice him, just looked the other way and feigned total disinterest… until the falconer accidentally dropped a piece of food on the grass next to the pond when he was perfectly alert enough to swoop down and pounce on it before it could be thrown back into the water.

To be honest, our early end to the day wasn’t too much of a disappointment as both Tiddles and I were so exhausted from all that fresh air and enjoying ourselves that we were glad to come home and collapse in a crumpled heap in front of the telly. And we know we owe ourselves half a day… we just have to wait until Star Wars is released at the cinema!

Writing reports

That’s what I’m doing right now. It may look as though I am squandering time on my wiblog, but actually I am industriously writing reports while my Year Five class are busy online playing maths games. I love it when they get a “reward lesson” for doing so well and meeting their targets.

Targets are, of course, the buzz word in education. Along with redundancy and league tables and lettting the special needs kids sink or swim. Sorry, little rant slipping in there 😉 And no, the redundancy isn’t mine, although it looks as though my teaching commitment is going to change somewhat radically next year, with bottom set children amalgamated into big classes and most of the support assistants taken away so that the money can be invested where it will be of more benefit. But I’m not going to rant about that right now. The sun is shining, my little ones are playing “splat” and “moneywise” and it’s Friday. Oh, and tonight my sister’s arriving 🙂 and taking Dad to stay with her for a fortnight 😀

Bad news is that the boys need new shoes. Both of them. For fourteen weeks more of school. The timing couldn’t have been worse actually as I was planning to take them on a surprise long-weekend’s holiday in the New Forest next weekend. Good job I hadn’t paid a deposit or booked the ferry!!! Still, we’re getting an extra unexpected holiday in the summer when we go up North for my nephew’s wedding at Culzean Castle. I’ve booked a cottage for the week. When dad complained that he didn’t want to go, I smiled sweetly and said “That’s fine, Dad. Shall I ring the nursing home and see if they’ve got a room free for the week?” Strange to tell, he suddenly experienced a huge change of mind and is quite enthusiastic about a week on holiday with his daughter and grandsons 😉

Life has been a bit hectic but very pleasant just lately. I shall blog separately about the two great events of the last week…. especially for Deeleea!

Verdiphobic

I am, I have to admit, an antivegetarian. In fact, many of my friends are vegetarians and we have found it quite convenient to exchange our food half and half when eating out – I get twice the meat and they get twice the green stuff. I am one of the people who are definitely “supertasters” and can taste the bitterness in green vegetables so strongly that I cannot bear to have them in my mouth – indeed, quite often the smell alone can make me nauseous. But today I was a good girl – I ate my peas! Well, I couldn’t for shame not, seeing as Smudgelet ate his… and they were all jumbled up in a delicious but strong tasting fish pasta which quite nicely masked the taste. But don’t go expecting me to greet a brussels sprout with an expression of delight!

Two thirds of my “to do” list is now complete. One item on my list, now completed, was to make crystals with the Smudgelets. Well, not with them precisely. With salt solutions and soda solutions and a piece of string. But with the able assistance of the Smudgelets. Tiddles was none-too-impressed when he arrived home from the shop, whither he had been sent for supplies, to discover that baking SODA is NOT the same thing as baking POWDER and he was dispatched back to exchange it. Smudgelet’s enthusiastic stirring was responsible for my lounge table now resembling a brine baths, while my mantlepiece is a veritable laboratory bench right now, with pieces of string dangling over soda solutions, pipe cleaners stood awaiting the development of crystal “snowflakes” on their surface and, most exciting of all, three pennies in salt/vinegar solution waiting to be covered in blue crystals when the vinegar evaporates. Will we remember to keep pouring the solution over the stalactite-forming piece of string, though? I can remember even now the bitter disappointment when I tried this experiment myself as a child and was rewarded with a soggy piece of string and no crystal. I think it’s a con, myself.

to do or not to do, that is the question

Wow – it’s a rather satisfying feeling to look at one’s “to-do” list and see over half the things crossed off. Now doesn’t that sound like the definition of a rather successful day? We won’t look too closely and see that the things that are ticked off are the nice things like “Write a letter to my friend” and the quick things like “Put a cheque in the post” and the things remaining are the nasty things that take for ever to do like “Re-conquer the ironing mountain” and “Clean the bottom of the oven out again”.

Writing the letter was great fun. I used to be good friends with someone who was temporarily living on the Island (not voluntarily) and when they moved away about seven years ago we completely lost touch. Last night I returned from Southampton to find a brown envelope sitting waiting patiently on the doormat and one glance at the address label showed it came from someone in Southampton (coincidence) named Smith. Hmmm… I don’t know anyone in Southampton, Smith or otherwise, and as far as I know I have only ever known two Smiths. Surely it couldn’t be… But yes, it was! 😀 This particular Smith still owes me a lunch in a restaurant so it’s jolly good they’ve got in touch again!!!

The trip to the hospital yesterday went really quite easily. A good friend (thanks Emma) played chauffeur and transported us from the ferry and back again at the end of the day. Dad was very nervous (of course) but we both decided to enjoy the day in each other’s company – the ride on the boat, seeing Arcadia and Oriana in the port at Southampton (oooh, dreams!), coffee and cakes in the cafe together with Emma, chatting, doing The Puzzler together, drinking yet more coffee and eating yet more cakes, browsing round Smiths, and panicking about how on earth I was going to contact Emma to tell her we were ready when my mobile was suddenly out of credit and I couldn’t remember the number to dial to top it up again!

Dad was thrilled to bits with the message Tiddles sent him. “Please tell Grandad it’s just a needle – he’ll just feel a little scratch on his arm and then it’ll be all over, he just has to be brave and look away”. Dad told the nurse, and was pleased to find the advice worked 😉 He came home radioactive but we were all disappointed to find he doesn’t glow in the dark!

Have you ever noticed how incredibly annoying the sound of a Scalextric is when you’re not the one playing with it?

Sunshine or clouds?

I thought it quite typical of my gruesome twosome on Sunday morning. We looked up at the sky and immediately Tiddles commented on the beautiful sunshine while Smudgelet noticed the big black cloud. Talk about glass half full or half empty. I tend to err on rejoicing in the sunshine side of the sky while keeping a weather eye on the black cloud and making wet-weather plans at the back of my mind just in case. A pessimistic optimist or an optimistic pessimist, I can’t quite tell.

Today is a case in point as we are going over to the mainland for my dad’s bone scan. I caught sight of him from behind as he dressed the other day, and the weight is simply dropping from him, which isn’t really a good sign. And this morning he has yet another water infection which is going to make sitting around all day a bit of an ordeal. I’m trying to keep the immensity of the possible outcome of the scan firmly in its rightful place and simply enjoy a day out with Dad, although it might not be the venue we’d have chosen for preference! It’s at least a nice day for a boat trip.

Yesterday was another case in point, although this time it was my Smudgelet who was dealing with the black clouds. I am so proud of him – he handled them so well. I had declared my intention at the start of the holidays of keeping one day as special for each of the children – just him and me – and yesterday was Smudgelet’s. The day’s events were a simple choice as I knew precisely what would make his day. A trip on the hovercraft! And was it exciting!!! I had only been on twice before, so I found it almost as exciting as he did, and certainly the massive grin on his face was infectious. (Although, of course, he had to find something to moan about and decided that it would be the fact that he could never again get sympathy from his friends for not having been on the hovercraft!)

We found ourselves in Portsmouth. It was great to have the whole day at our disposal. Although I nearly managed to persuade him to take me clothes shopping…. I gave in in the end and we went to the aquarium. It was brilliant. Taking him on his own means I get to go again with Tiddles too 🙂 Smudgelet loved it and is full of tales of our adventures. How we saw real live sharks and their egg cases. How we saw a flat fish that was completely invisible against the sandy bed of the tank until it moved its tail just a fragment and we suddenly realised it was there. How we walked through a tunnel through a massive tank full of tropical fish and watched them being fed – our favourite was the yellow and white pyjama-striped Pork Fish, so called because it tastes like sausages (apparently) and oinks like a pig! How we watched the most playful otters having a whale of a time playing hide and seek and how we saw the most poisonous frogs in the world – and also the most ugly ones. Oh, and how mummy pinched his strawberry icecream milkshake when he wasn’t looking, and how the bubble-blowing fish he bought with his pocket money simply blew a spattering of bubble mix over anyone within range!

He was transformed, too, for the day. He never once said how he already knew everything and was really engaged with the exhibits, listening and reading and learning a lot. He was a delight to be with. And for once his money didn’t burn a hole in his pocket either. But what made me most proud was how he dealt with things yesterday.

I hadn’t wanted to break bad news to him yesterday of all days, although a time that was just for him and me was maybe the best in many ways. The news was fairly devastating – a (temporary hopefully) end of all contact with someone who means the world to him. A burden far too heavy for any seven year old to handle, let alone one who’s been through as much as he has. But he was amazing. He cried, then he “put his tears away” while he enjoyed, then took time out to have another cry and cuddle again. He explained that he was going to try to keep the happy and the sad in separate areas of his mind because both were important. Understandably he’s very clingy now – I feel awful leaving him for the day while I take Dad to the hospital, but I have no choice. But he’s a brave lad and he’s finding his own ways of dealing with it and keeping those clouds firmly in their place.

As for me, my tumult of feelings is staying tucked away in a corner until I get some time on my own tonight.

Lodgers

The trouble with lodgers is that some of them eat you out of house and home.
I have two esconced in my bedroom at the moment, though I don’t think they’ll be with us long, such is the nature of nature.

Their arrival was announced rather loudly this morning. I entered the kitchen to make breakfast and was greeted by a chirrupping baby blackbird with a big smile. He happily nestled into my hands as I relocated him to a handy shoebox with holes in the top and put him safely in my bedroom out of Charlie’s still-fascinated reach. No use returning him to the wild – the blackbird, that is – as he’s too young to fly and Charlie would have him again within minutes. He’ll die in my tender care, I know, but in the meantime I have to do the best for him I can.

I was surprised at the volume of his chirps. Although he was in a box in the bedroom, doors closed, I could still hear him loud as ever in the kitchen…. until I peeped behind the boiler and found his little brother! So I’m temporarily mother-blackbird to two hungry babies who are taking food nicely and looking strong and perky…. so hard to stop myself getting attached to them.

Meanwhile, I won the bet. I had a visit from my mentor yesterday and had a bet with M on how long Smudgelet would be able to manage without my attention while my mentor was here. She reckoned fifteen minutes, I reckoned between five and seven. I was spot on! People who see just a snapshot of my interactions with my son must wonder what sort of a mother I am as his attachment disorder isn’t that noticeable until you spend long periods of time with him… but then he begins to drive you slowly insane!!! I love him to bits, mind!

Talk about a shock – my mentor decided that we could bypass all the whiffling around getting used to being at the front of a church by doing readings and prayers as part of her services… my first “appearance” as a local preacher on note is to be writing and preaching the sermon at the end of May!!! Shall I mention the word “shell shock”? Her argument was that a) I am perfectly accustomed to doing the rest of the service and b) as I have to write a sermon at this stage of the training, I might as well use it while it’s still fresh. And I can’t think of a single argument against it!

Other news: Remind me never to fall for the con where they sell you a 24 exposure film with 27 exposures on it for the same price. What they omit to tell you is that this film will fall into the “36” catagory when you come to pay for them to be developed!

A moment of peace

..from the middle of the Wightmeet. About seventeen visitors occupied a small space on the floor of my lounge last night to watch the recorded episode of Doctor Who. They reacted surprisingly calmly when I informed them that, while the time and date were set correctly on the video recorder, I’d had a little difficulty with setting the channel and hoped they wouldn’t mind watching half an hour of some inane rubbish off the other side. I think I had them quite convinced 😉

It’s been an absolutely lovely weekend so far, and the sun graced us with its presence too. Dad joined us for the morning on Saturday and it was lovely to know he was happily enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful setting of Calbourne Mill (a favourite place of the family) rather than sitting at home stewing about being neglected! And the Smudgelets had a whale of a time punting on the mill pond and flinging frisbees into the trees.

Tiddles found it all a bit much and I ended up carrying him kicking and screaming out of Blackgang Chine… all because he’d lost 50p out of his purse. He’s still clearly not 100% and was extremely tired from the excitement and fresh air. He tantrummed quite magnificently on the carpark. I sat behind him on the floor in the middle of the carpark as he kicked and screamed and threw stones at himself, holding his wrists across his body and quietly repeating “When you’re ready to get calmly into the car, tell me and I will let go. Until then I will hold you tight because I love you”…. and secretly thinking “Please hurry up, it’s rather embarrassing sitting here like this and we’ve been here half an hour already and I want to go home”. But I have to admit it was fairly difficult to keep a straight face when a father came over and asked me if I needed any help. I replied, over the shouts and screams of my toddler-cum-teenager, that it was OK as he was just having a tantrum and would calm down eventually…. to which Tiddles replied indignantly “That’s right. Tell the world, why don’t you?” I hadn’t quite realised he was trying to keep it secret! 🙂

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Dad’s clinic appointment on Thursday did not sound too promising. The cancer is far more aggresive, apparently, and I think the doctor suspects that it may have spread to the bones. Certainly that would come as no surprise to my sisters and me. I don’t know whether Dad actually took in the implications of being sent to the mainland for a full-body bone scan…although he seemed not to and hopefully he didn’t (indeed, he came out of the clinic thinking it was the diabetic clinic rather than the cancer one, so obviously wasn’t completely sure of what was going on at all!). Needless to say, he reassured the doctor of how well he was doing and how little discomfort he was in.

We have given way over the respite as he was getting so worked up about it. Yesterday he suddenly declared that “It’s not so bad, I could manage a week there if I had to. If you have any difficulty cancelling, I’d rather go “. But as, true to form for our family, the retirement home is in disarray due to the disappearance (did she jump or was she pushed?) of the manager, it’s probably as well to let him go to my sister’s instead – especially as she’s arranged to have him for a fortnight instead of a long weekend..and thinks she can have him in August too.

Aha.. I think my visitor may be a-stirring. Peace is shattered! At least they sleep in later than the boys, and make their own breakfast! And I haven’t noticed any of them having a tantrum…… yet!