Daily Archives: March 11, 2006

Wonderful day

Dad really not too bad today – ate quite a considerable meal (and was most surprised when his tummy was taken by surprise) – though he’s gone slightly confused with overtiredness tonight and has had a disaster with his catheter which needed sorting out at just before 11. Good job I was still awake and busy nattering to my nephew.

It is just so unbelievably wonderful to see him. My sister being quite a bit older than me, my nephews and I grew up more like brothers and sister than aunt and nephews and I am incredibly fond of them. I rarely get to see them these days and communication is never that brilliant, them being men and me being slightly busy, but news is invariably passed between us via their mum and it’s always great to see them and catch up directly with how they are doing. And, of course, in a life fairly devoid of social life, it’s been really great this evening to chat endlessly with someone of my own age, or thereabout….. even if he resolutely refuses to take my advice that teaching is NOT THE JOB to go into! He seemed almost willing to help me tackle laying the new flooring in my hall, but seemed even more relieved when I said I was only joking. Shame.

Dad’s face when he arrived was a treat. I hadn’t told anyone he was coming, just surreptitiously made the bed up and nipped off smartish to collect him from the ferry.

This afternoon held an additional treat for me and the Smudgelets. Finally a month has passed since the last time a Saturday fell on the 11th of the month. This may mean nothing to you, but to me it was quite significant. It meant that this time when I took the boys to the church for a Living History day it was actually the correct day for it! It was absolutely fantastic and the boys are full of it. It was an 18th century day. They got to hold a musket and learn how to fire it; to use flint and a steel to create a spark and light a fire; they had their teeth pulled by a surgeon’s apprentice, an arm amputated and blood let; they watched spinning and hat making and fan painting and talked with an agricultural labourer. But two bits were a dream. One was getting to write with an authentic quill pen, to sand the wet ink with ground cuttlefish bone and to seal their letter with gum arabic in order to bring it home. And best of all was being allowed to churn butter. The milkmaid was brilliant and taught them the whole process – a process they are both keen to experiment with at home with some creamy milk in a jamjar – and the resultant butter pat looked extremely tempting. (Sadly blooming health and safety rules prevented us testing it… that and the lack of piping hot toast!). It was a fantastic afternoon out and it was all I could do to drag them away. What a way to learn history! And how proud I was of the interest they took and the way they spoke to and questioned the living history team who were demonstrating. I think the team has two pending new members!

What did I learn? That the most successful surgical operation, which dates back to before Christ, was trepanning – cutting out a piece of fractured skull which is pressing on the brain, covering the hole over with a flattened and pliable silver coin and sewing the skin over the top. That you can make charcoal for your tinder box by putting rags in a tin with a tiny hole top and bottom and putting the tin in the fire, watching the smoke gush out and then, when it turns to flame, removing the tin from the fire and extinguishing the flame by blocking the air holes. That you can get the buttermilk out of butter by washing it with very cold water. That it was not sand that they used to blot the ink when writing with a quill but ground cuttlefish. And, as I already knew, that two small boys will learn far more by doing than by reading about it!