Monthly Archives: April 2007


Well, that’s yet another trial service under my belt. I now have a preach-free month to luxuriate in (and try and get back into my studying somehow) before the next batch of three services including another trial.

This morning was lovely, actually. For a start, the service didn’t start until 11 which meant I had an unaccustomed lie in. Then it’s in a little church on the other side of the Island, a beautiful drive through woods and country lanes, with the most stunning view of the sea right across to England on the other side. The design of the 100-year-old church is such that when you stand at the front, the building seems to hug you and smile at you. I know that sounds odd, but it really is the only way to describe it. And the elderly and rather diminished congregation of 9 were incredibly welcoming, supportive and appreciative. Another delight was that, for the first time since I’ve been preaching, I took my Smudgelets with me and they helped me by doing two readings and a sketch, much to the delight of the congregation who mourn the lack of children in their church (they selflessly encouraged all their children to boost the Sunday School at the local Anglican church).

My biggest worry, as always, was the timing. I was fairly confident that I’d planned about an hour’s worth but you never can tell, can you, especially as you don’t know what might happen to lengthen or shorten it (e.g. the organist starting to play a familiar hymn to a totally unknown tune and having to be stopped half way through the first verse and educated in the ways of methodism!). I don’t tend to wear a watch – I think it’s because of my dermographia – so I was a bit taken aback to discover there wasn’t a clock in my line of sight. Quick and desperate arrow prayer “Dear God, please don’t let me overrun by too much”!

The service began. My boys did me proud and the sermons were well received. We managed the hymns remarkably well considering the small number of people gathered there… and I remembered to move away from the microphone for the bits that were too high for me to sing with any degree of confidence!!! The service progressed, and eventually I reached the final prayer and we all joined together to say the Grace. Then I sat myself down in the front pew as the church fell silent…… and with impressive timing, the church clock on the Anglican church opposite began to chime twelve, the first stroke just on the final syllable of our last Amen! How perfect was that???!!!

The afternoon continued perfect – the boys and I went, still attired in Sunday best, straight on to Fort Victoria which is one of our favourite places. We had lunch then bought a kite. Not that it was windy enough for a kite, as we soon found out, but it was fun trying! We sat in the sun and ate expensive and extravagent icecreams (oooooh, clotted cream icecream….. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!) , and were fascinated when someone from the planetarium invited us to look through a telescope with a special filter which allowed you to look straight at the sun. There was a sunspot on there – a tiny speck of black on this huge orange orb – which were were absolutely amazed to learn was seven times the size of earth!

And you’ll never guess what…. I’ve nearly run out of ironing!


Mine has been troublesome all day. No, not the one at work – the one on top of my shoulders. I hate those womanly headaches where someone gradually tightens an iron band around the top of your head and it feels as though your eyes are about to pop out unless you shut them really tightly. But I have been a brave girl and soldiered on. I just hope it’s not like this tomorrow as I have a long drive (well, long by Island standards) and then a trial service.

On the other hand, Tiddles seems to be reaping the benefits of Cranio-sacral therapy. The osteopath is reaping the benefits of my hard-earned cash, it has to be said, and I have to admit to feeling a mixture of scepticism (as she lays her hands on his head and seems to sit there in a trance, doing nothing perceptible at all) and envy (how come he gets to lie on a couch being de-stressed and I get to sit on a hard chair watching and paying for it?) but she is lovely and certainly it seems to be having a beneficial effect as he’s far calmer all round and showing signs of increased concentration.

It may be short lived, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

He’s even doing a reading and a short sketch for me at church tomorrow. He and his brother will woo all the old ladies, like they usually do. Then all I have to do is somehow pull something out of the hat to content the person doing my appraisal.

My calendar for yesterday says “Salvation guaranteed… or your sins cheerfully refunded” 🙂


I am amazed to find I have not blogged about the other interesting incident which happened at church last Sunday. Amazing considering the impact it had, especially on Smudgelet. Our church lunch – a combined “family lunch to reward us for enduring an interminably long and excessively uninteresting Annual Church Meeting” and an 80th birthday party for a lovely old lady in our congregation and paid for by her family – was invaded by two people who simply walked in and began to shower us with verbal abuse in a very aggressive manner. They were decidedly unpleasant, to say the least (though I had to suppress the giggles when they commented that our minister was an abomination to the Lord as he had a belly like a six-month pregnant woman!). They told our old ladies – one of whom celebrated her 100th birthday in January – that they were on their way to Hell very soon. When Smudgelet began to cry in terror, they declared it good as he was obviously on his way there too, there was no hope for him as he ate his fill while other children starved. (I did not hit them – Good job I was too busy comforting my child to get any closer to them at the time – my Christian charity was sorely tested!)

I was caught on the hop a bit as during the preceeding meeting I had raised the issue of how we welcome and meet the needs of the people off the street who come into our church services from time to time, how we could reach out to them though not necessarily by giving them money. (A frequently used approach from them is to say they’re stranded on the Island and need money to get back to the mainland – our new response to this is to make them a coffee and biscuits, have a bit of a chat, and then when they’re ready we take them to the ferry and buy them a ticket and wave them off!).

It was a real dilemma for me. Do I take my terrified child to safety or do I stay to help protect the others, our mostly elderly congregation. I managed a compromise, taking my son into a neighbouring room with glass walls where I could keep an eye on proceedings while I comforted him and then, when the twosome walked out, taking him for a walk through the town to see if we could spot the local policeman while we talked together and calmed down. “Who do you trust and believe most, Smudgelet – them or Jesus? So if Jesus said he had a room waiting for us in God’s house in Heaven and if those rude and aggressive people said we are going to Hell, which one do you think might be right?” Less easy to answer with conviction, though, was the question “If they can just burst into church like that, what’s to stop it happening again? What’s to stop them bursting in our house or into my school? What if you hadn’t been with me?”

As Smudgelet and I walked back to church we discovered the police had been and gone and were off on the couple’s trail to arrest them. And what consternation did we find in the church? I guess you don’t get to be 100 by being frightened by every little thing – everyone was talking merrily and tucking into their apple pie and cream and their cups of coffee!

Still, we made front page of the local paper!

Oh, the embarrassment…

… of setting a class of children off to do a multiplication test against the clock in total silence.. only to discover that the older class on the other side of the partition wall are watching a rather loud video on….. sex education!

Second only to

in the same lesson

alternating between writing on the Smart board (an interactive computer touch-screen as big as a normal blackboard) and writing on the ordinary whiteboard and finding not only that you’ve written on the whiteboard in smartboard pen – an extremely futile exercise as they work in the same way as writing with your finger – but you’ve also written on the smartboard in marker pen! The children’s faces were a picture. I have a feeling mine was too!

Now, should I feel guilty that my son has had stomach ache all day after I fed him on sausages that, although they were just (though only just) within use-by date, had a rather … erm… “fermentation” aroma.

Please avert your gaze while I swear

Oh bother it.

I’m feeling pretty fed up. I ought to go and sort the gerbils out (must remember to leave the bungalow next door tidy for the estate agent going in tomorrow – a fact which probably isn’t helping at the moment) but I reckon I’ll just blather a bit on my wiblog first and get things off my chest, not having anyone I can moan at without bursting into tears, and knowing I’m quite safe here as you won’t be able know unless a teardrop lands on the keyboard and electrocutes me forthwizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Ha! Fooled you!

I think I’m more angry than anything, but having to suppress how angry I feel is diverting it into fedduptitude.

Two sources of anger, both work connected. One personal, one more general.

Personal first: I am feeling undervalued. This is combined with feeling guilty for being proud and needing to feel valued. But undervalued is the biggy. The thing is, I’m good at what I do. I know I am – when you’ve been teaching for eighteen years you get to know the things you do well and feel confident with and the things you’re hopeless at. Put me on a games field and ask me to teach PE and I’d be a total gibbering wreck within five minutes. Stick me in a reception class or a high school and I’d be whimpering for my mum within three. But ask me to teach “remedial” maths to middle school children and I’m in my element and have a good stock of approaches which have been proven (by test results, kids comments, parents comments) to improve their confidence and their ability and stop them fearing maths. I’ve honed my techniques and skills until I am pretty competant.
First I get back from compassionate leave to discover that they’ve moved me from my classroom to another one – one I don’t like at all and find difficult to teach in, seeing as it’s the corridor between four other classrooms, and which has no storage and is shared with two other teachers. I am told “There isn’t room for all the rubbish from your other classroom so we’ve just piled it up in a corner of the room for you to sort out”. Thanks. Eighteen years’ worth of accumulated maths resources, most of which I’ve bought myself because the budget for maths is so tight that I can’t even get eight A4 sheets of cardboard without begging for it and getting a cold reception (you may think I’m exaggerating here – I’m not!), all shoved into a huge pile in a corner of a room waiting for me to sort it out into a room with no storage. Needless to say, in the five weeks I’ve been back in work, I haven’t yet had chance to sort it… so what happens? On the last Friday of half term, when I was out all day on a school trip (voluntarily, as I am only paid to teach four lessons that day and two of those were my non-contact lessons for the week), they bundled everything up into ten bin bags and dumped it in my room to await me on my return after the holidays.
Add to this the fact that they have introduced a new “teaching approach” to my classes in my absence, one which I am “expected to continue”. Today the consultant (a lovely woman who’s great to work with) was in for the morning and I had to specify how I was going to use her expertise to improve my teaching. I tried to explain my difficulty to the Head – the new teaching approach is actually the approach I use anyway – even my teaching assistant had commented that it was no different at all. I suggested that there might be other teachers in the school who would benefit more from her time, especially as I was teaching all morning, and was told that this new method would stop the children I teach from being afraid of maths and hating number work… and the Head couldn’t see what a huge insult this was to me as their teacher. I know that what it was is that they’d lost their confidence a bit by having a series of supply teachers while I was off, but they’re certainly all involved, interested, and learning really well and I have to admit I resent being told they’re not!

I can’t be that good a teacher, mind. I’m sure it’s not really the done thing to have a row with your boss and then burst into tears in front of your Year sevens!

On top of that, I find myself wondering how long I can stay in a profession which is turning so sour, yet I can’t imagine doing anything different. I love what I do, working with the special needs kids and trying to enthuse them into learning some maths. But I don’t love the increasing swing in attitude where the announcement that a child is absent at the moment because their mother’s having a life-threatening operation provokes a discussion about “this child could get a level four in SATs so we need either to get him in for that week or get them to take him off roll so he doesn’t affect our statistics adversely – let’s write to the family and tell them”

I feel sick just typing it.

prediction: it’ll all end in tears

conclusion: goodness, Smudgie, you’re good at this predicting lark.

One son strode off, declaring that it couldn’t be done except using metal and the people who set the challenge were stupid. He proceeded to play alone, loudly, in front of us, changing activity every three minutes as nothing seemed to satisfy.
One son persevered, determined to work it out, and came fairly close although still not quite moving the one notch forward in his thinking that would enable him to solve the problem successfully. This son plans to continue tomorrow, having slept on it and thought it through.
No prizes for guessing which was which.

Meanwhile I am re-reading “Next Steps in Parenting the Child who Hurts” which is a fabulous book. Today’s stuff is just typical teenage stuff and live-with-able, but it’s nice to read this book and find that for the other stuff I’m mostly doing the right thing, and it acknowledges that often doing the right thing just isn’t enough. It acknowledges the feelings of guilt and talks you through them, which is also good, especially after someone at church who was really well meaning showed intense lack of understanding of the situation by saying, as is so often said, “Oh, he’s a teenage boy… they’re all the same.. I’ve had boys too but they’ve grown up now and I’ve got grandchildren too. It’s no different”. It’s also good to read something which explains why children with attachment disorder behave the way they do and realise that neither he nor I are to blame… and it was particularly good to discover that considering residential school is in fact a GOOD THING TO DO!!!

Your continued prayers for a place at this school would be wonderful. This morning I caught myself, like Arti, thinking “And God, please make it soon!”

(Since I typed that my old son has come back – he apologised to me and to his brother and has been delightful all evening)

How does my garden grow?

Blasted blackbirds! I had my patio pot looking all smart and ready to go and the bloomin’ birds decided they didn’t like the flowers I’d planted and pulled them up roots and all, leaving them in a neat line on the lawn. Pah!

My lovely friend M (currently totally crippled with arthritis) arrived unexpectedly this morning. Well, it was expected really, seeing as I’d just got into a scrumptiously warm bath with expensive bubbles and a good book and this is the time she always arrives at the door. Fortunately she’s well trained and went straight into the kitchen to put the kettle on while she waited for me to emerge. She came with a wonderful idea – a trip out to our favourite nursery to get a new clematis for by my hedge. I’d been wondering whether buying a more established one might have a better chance of success. Mind you, remembering to water it might help too!

So here I am with a beautiful Silver Moon clematis waiting to be transferred into the pot. I was tempted by another lovely flower too, related to a mesambrianthemum (one of my favourite flowers) but different. I’d tell you the name if I could be bothered to go in the garden and look at the label. Anyway, it’ll look great in my patio pots. The whole garden is beginning to gather steam and be a really lovely place to sit out, despite the lack of grass! And you should see the bluebells (I think I may have to have a wander outside with a camera in a moment).

My brother commented on my sudden enthusiasm for the garden. It’s threefold, of course. Firstly it’s a bit like the urge (easily subdued!) to do spring cleaning – a nesting-style celebration of the good weather and lighter nights after the depression of the winter. Secondly I now find myself with time to spend in the garden just relaxing and enjoying my environment – something I haven’t done in ages. And thirdly, the one that I only realised this morning, is that I seriously miss my Dad’s garden. I find myself wanted to invest in plants which are more lasting than your standard bedding plants which give instant colour but when they’re gone, they’re gone. I want to watch something develop and suddenly burst into flower like my Dad’s peach tree, camelia and jasmine – each year coming anew like an old established friend and giving a cause for celebration. This may sound odd but.. plants you can actually build a relationship with, just as I have with my beautiful old oak tree.

My fingers may not be turning green, but my fingernails are developing a much more earthy tinge!

It’ll all end in tears

It’s a beautiful day here today, so in order to prevent g.b.h occurring as Tiddles and Smudgelet re-enact William Tell without the apple (Tiddles firing tent poles very impressive distances with his home-made bow straight at Smudgelet’s head), I thought they could have a go at the first proper challenge on the Science scheme. It’s a fun one. Using five pieces of A4 paper and 50cm of sellotape they’re to try to construct a platform which will hold a dinosaur (or at least a house brick) 5cm off the ground. The ultimate, of course, is to progress to building one which will hold a person 5cm off the ground too!

This is how it is progressing: Tiddles is lying on the blanket on the lawn with his sunhat over his eyes, barking out orders at Smudgelet. Smudgelet is ignoring him and doing his own thing, which is not yet succeeding. Tiddles is having a paddy because Smudgelet won’t do as he’s told or listen to him. I reminded them that they are supposed to be keeping a record of what they try and how they modify it. Smudgelet asks if he can do the writing. “What, and leave me to make it?” came the reply. “Then you do the writing.” “I’m not doing the writing – you’re the one that likes writing!”

May I make a prediction at this point? And do I need to do a fair test to test out my prediction? I think not….

Playing house

Just had to show you these. Smudgelet came home from school charged with the task of building a model shelter out of sticks, leaves, string and/or paper so the two of us sat together on the patio and tackled the challenge (parental help was encouraged – which is just as well as he just couldn’t get going to start with).

A little house New inhabitants

Meanwhile Tiddles started on the first of his Science experiments. Although we are still working on the KS3 science syllabus, for a bit of fun I have enrolled him on the British Association’s Young Investigators Award for which he has to carry out ten investigative Science challenges by July. They’re intended for Primary schools, but the BA have said that he is welcome to do them and he is quite keen. At least they might serve to promote his motivation, especially if we can do them outside on the patio as he’s baulking at the thought of studying when the weather is fine. (Me too!)

He’s filled in his form for the school and is keeping his fingers crossed. I had to laugh when he said one of his reasons for wanting to go to the school was that they get to have their own patch of garden. At long last one of his courgette plants has sprouted, but it’s mainly because Smudgelet took over watering them while he was away!!! Meanwhile Smudgelet’s sunflowers are going great guns. We will have to repot them and relocate them somewhere out of the greenhouse or they’ll be shooting up through the roof.