Monday, November 30, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 30th November

Outside My Window ... Cold, grey, wet, miserable. Goodbye November. And good riddance.

I am thinking ...  I should delete this section as I can never think what to put!

From the learning rooms ... stuff I've seen over the last few days - Pythagoras theorem and tangent ratios (Angel), forces (Star), comparison of 17th and 20th century love poetry (Angel), World War I poetry (Star) 

I am thankful ... that I managed to get Star + ingredients for cookery lesson + PE kit + cleaned trainers + ballet gear + lunch + money for chips on the way to ballet together and off to school on time without anyone melting down.

From the kitchen ... pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs for dinner.

I am wearing ... purple long-sleeved t-shirt, jeans, warm socks.

I am creating ... knitted Christmas ornament for a swap, along with the same list as last week.

I am going ... to dig out my collection of Christmas picture books for Cherub today.

I am reading ... Reshaping Rural England: a Social History 1850-1925 by Alun Howkins.

I am hoping ... the bout of back pain Tevye has been suffering for the last few weeks clears.

I am hearing ... Christmas carols by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band. Happy place music. Check out their version of Ding Dong, Merrily on High on iTunes and try not to dance.

Around the house ... Advent wreath, Jesse tree, Advent calendars. Also dust, carpets that need hoovering, a laundry backlog, toys and clutter. Blah.

One of my favorite things ... Advent, which for me is a mix of preparation, anticipation, and appetite whetting Christmassy things (like those carols!).

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a meal at a canalside pub with our neighbours on Friday; playing carols with the brass band at local shopping centres on Saturday and Sunday

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... a very happy Star who took part in her first ever gymnastics competition (beginner level) at the weekend and won.

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, November 27, 2009

From the Records: Deaf and Dumb

I thought I'd start a series of "from the records" posts to pass on any interesting snippets I find as I trawl through the archives. Before I start, I had better give my village a name - I don't want to use the real name as it is a little too close to home, so I think I'll call it "Bucksbury" to denote a random village in Buckinghamshire. Not very imaginative, but it will do.

The 19th century census records have space to indicate whether an individual is deaf and dumb, blind, an imbecile, or insane. Today I noticed a young family living in Bucksbury in 1871 - mother, father, and two boys aged three and one, both deaf and dumb from birth. I wondered about the prognosis for a child born deaf in those days. I guessed it wasn't good.

As it turned out, I was too pessimistic. When I searched later census records for the boys I found that they both did fine. In 1881 the older boy, Arthur, was being educated at an asylum for poor deaf and dumb children at Margate in Kent - a new branch of the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, the first English charitable institution for the deaf, dating back to 1792. It is still in existence as the Royal School for Deaf Children, Margate. By 1891 Arthur was back in Bucksbury with his family and working for his father, who at that time was combining the trades of baker and carpenter.  By 1901 Arthur was a carpenter and wheelwright in a town close to Bucksbury. He was married and had a two year old son, Bernard. Like Arthur, his wife Alice was deaf and dumb; Bernard was not.

I couldn't find the second brother, William, on the 1881 census. He wasn't living at home, so my guess he was also receiving special education for the deaf. In 1891 he was lodging with a middle aged widow and her children and working as a farm labourer. By 1901 he was married with three young children, living in the same town as his brother, and working for a coach painter. His wife and children were all able to hear.

Arthur and William's parents went on to have at least eight more children, all hearing apart from the youngest, Percy, born twenty-seven years after his eldest brother and like him deaf and dumb from birth. Presumably there was a genetic reason for the three boys' deafness, though whether it appeared in other generations of the family, I don't know. None of their father William's siblings were deaf, but I couldn't trace their mother's family.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Historical Research

Realising how excited I felt about the idea of getting back to teaching history got me all enthusiastic about doing some historical research again - something I haven't done since I finished my doctoral thesis, back before Star was born. I wanted a project. Something big enough to get my teeth into, but not so big it would be overwhelming.

My background is medieval history, and my doctoral research was a study of twelfth and thirteenth century knights. When I finished I planned on starting more work in the same field, and decided to translate and edit a thirteenth century cartulary (book of charters). I even had it photocopied, at some expense. The copy has sat gathering dust, untouched for the past ten years. I thought rather guiltily about picking that up again, but decided against on two grounds: to produce an academic edition I would need to spend a fair amount of time doing research in London or Oxford-based libraries and archives, which isn't practical; and even if it was, I can't summon up the enthusiasm to immerse myself in medieval Latin.

So, back to the drawing board and a change of direction. Another interest of mine is local history, which has the advantage of being ... well ... local. Doing research in either the local library or the county records office twenty minutes away is far more manageable.  Rural history interests me more than the towns, as that is my family background - lots of Victorian farm labourers in my family tree - and I have a fair idea of what information is available from doing genealogy research. Once I started to thinking along these lines I realised I had an obvious subject - the parish where I lived in as a child, just a couple of miles away from our home. 

A few years ago I dabbled a little in house history, trying to find out what I could about the seventeenth century farmhouse where I grew up. I wasn't very successful, but in digging around at the record office I found an unusually detailed map of the area dating from the late eighteenth century. This thing is huge, measuring around six feet by four feet - table sized - and shows who farmed every single strip of land before the common fields were enclosed.  Add this map (and some other estate papers) to the more commonly available records like censuses and parish registers, and there is a lot of material to work with.

My plan is to put together a "prosopographical" study of the parish, starting in the mid-eighteenth century and ending after the First World War. Prosopography is a historical technique best explained as "group biography". It is a way of looking at the mass of people from the past for whom there simply isn't enough information to put together an individual biography. Collecting and analysing data about a defined group makes it possible to piece together a kind of collective biography that can then be used to answer particular historical questions. Similar methods can be used to look at very different groups, and it should work just as well for nineteenth century villagers as for medieval knights.

Although I am going to look at a specific local area, it isn't really local history as such, as the point of this type of study is eventually to be able to put the results into a wider historical context and answer - or at least help to answer - bigger questions. That means a ton of background reading to really understand the context. To start with, though, it means lots of nitty-gritty data collecting and organising. Which is why I have spent the past couple of weeks copying census records into spreadsheets. Although my family suspect borderline insanity, it makes me happy, in a slightly masochistic sort of way (2,500 entries down, another 1,000 to go, and that's just for starters).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 23rd November

Outside My Window ... Yes. Grey, wet and miserable again. November at its worst.

I am thinking ...

From the learning rooms ... parent-teacher meetings for Angel this week, following last week's fairly predictable report - English better than maths, graphics teacher thinks she is wonderful, science not great.  

I am thankful ... for online supermarket shopping, which has helped me out of a time crunch this week.

From the kitchen ... frozen meat pie and mashed potatoes tonight, with whatever veggie I can find. It's one of those running out of food, scrape together whatever I can days.

I am wearing ... green striped hoody, cord trousers that are meant to be "stone" but are actually more of a khaki green, brown socks (not hand-knitted).

I am creating ... the same as last week - a jumper for my brother, a long cardigan for myself and socks for Angel.

I am going ... to IKEA with an old school friend, after I collect Cherub from playgroup.

I am reading ... Reshaping Rural England: a Social History 1850-1925 by Alun Howkins.

I am hoping ... the rain stops soon, especially in the north where there is severe flooding

I am hearing ... silence, apart from a little noise from the dishwasher.

Around the house ... no tumble dryer + wet weather = laundry drying everywhere.

One of my favorite things ... Dime bars and Swedish cinnamon rolls from IKEA. Yum.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a gymnastics weekend. Star is taking part in a friendly competition on Saturday (her first), and Angel is competing on Sunday.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... found on the memory card of my dead camera

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, November 20, 2009

That Job Application

I mentioned the job application I sent in, but never got round to explaining it. I wasn't actually looking for a job, just clicking around the internet wondering about the possibilities for part time work once Cherub is at school ... and in the process I stumbled across a couple of Open University courses that looked right up my street to teach and had vacancies for tutors.

The Open University is exactly what it says. Open to anyone, of any age, to study anywhere. All its courses are taught by correspondence (and increasingly online), with occasional local face to face tutorials where possible. Until a few years ago I taught medieval history part time at a university college that only takes older students wanting to combine part time study with work or family responsibilities. All its classes were held in the evenings which meant I could both homeschool and teach. When I saw the OU vacancies listed I remembered how much I had enjoyed teaching non-traditional students and decided to send in an application. As I would be able to work from home, largely in my own time, I should be able to juggle tutoring around family responsibilities if I end up getting offered the job.

As it turns out, applying for OU tutoring appears to be a long game. Applications disappear into a database, and are only considered when or if a potential tutor's skills and location match up with student numbers and locations. This suits me fine, as my ideal would be to get work later rather than sooner - next year would be manageable, but the year after next would be much better. In theory, my experience matches the job requirements exactly, so I'm hopeful that something will come up eventually if I sit tight and wait. Watch this space ... but don't expect anything to happen quickly!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Advent? Don't Panic!

If you want to spend Advent preparing to celebrate the real reason for Christmas, go and read my friend Karen's No Panic Advent Series.


Best Friends

Cherub has a best friend. We call them the Odd Couple as they are such an unlikely combination. N is almost five and loves cars; Cherub is not quite three and a half and loves fairies and princesses. They met when Cherub first started playgroup back in January and for some reason took an instant liking to each other, despite Cherub being the youngest and smallest and N being one of the oldest and about to move on to "big" school.

This term N's mum's working hours changed and he comes to us after school on Tuesdays, which makes Cherub very happy.  It makes us very happy too as he is a lovely little boy and we enjoy watching them together. They play ... and play ... and play ... very cooperatively, apart from the occasional sharing crisis. 

Yesterday I took them to the farm, where they stroked rabbits ...

And played crazy golf ...

Sort of ...

And walked off into the sunset, holding hands ...

The cutest thing is that N is very protective of Cherub. For instance, in the car park yesterday, he heard a car engine start up, grabbed Cherub's hand and pulled her towards our car to make sure she was safe. He is also good at complimenting her pretty dresses!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 16th November

Outside My Window ... Dark. Wet. Yuck.

I am thinking ... I must write our Christmas newsletter. Tevye had a good idea for this year's theme, but I've forgotten what it was. I hope he can remember!

From the learning rooms ..."cookery" for Star today, or should I say "food preparation". They are making sandwiches. Beef salad baguettes for tomorrow's lunch is the plan.

I am thankful ... for central heating. I grew up in a house without it, so don't take it for granted. I still remember just how hard it was to force myself to get out of a nice, warm bed into an unheated bedroom. Brrrrr!

From the kitchen ... not sure what is for dinner tonight. I'm hoping inspiration will hit when I get to the supermarket. Also, Cherub is hoping to cook fairy cakes (little cupcakes) with pink icing.

I am wearing ... pink pyjamas

I am creating ...a jumper* for my brother, a long cardigan for myself and socks for Angel. I finished the shawl I was knitting for my mother but don't like the end result, so I think I will scrap it and knit her a scarf instead.
* If you are confused as to why he would be wearing a jumper, it is British English for sweater

I am going ... shopping this morning while Cherub is at playgroup. I'm almost done with Christmas shopping, but have a surprise present for the older girls to get. I also have authorisation from Santa to buy a camera. Lucky me.

I am reading ... Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson, about the "surplus women" left with no men to marry after the First World War.

I am hoping ... Tevye will forgive me for ordering that gorgeous Jesse Tree. I tried to resist, I really did, but it was just too perfect. And no, I don't know what I am going to do with the original spiral tree.

I am hearing ... CBeebies autumn jingle on the TV, which is mercifully distracting Cherub from a 20 minute whine about the injustice of being sent back to bed at 6.15. She knows she isn't allowed to get up until the "hands are at the bottom" (6.30), but thought she would push her luck this morning. Then when it was time to get up, she decided to stay in her room and sulk. Loudly. Last week was a boundary pushing week. It looks ominously as though this will be another.

Around the house ... nice new bright(er) eco lightbulbs, at ridiculous expense. They still don't come on instantly, but after a bit of effort they work their way up to something resembling a good old-fashioned 100w bulb.

One of my favorite things ... my iPod Touch. Even after two years, the novelty hasn't worn off.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a quiet week, I think. I haven't checked the calendar, though, so chances are there will be something I have forgotten!

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ...

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, November 13, 2009

Kitchen Update

Today's minor disaster ... set fire to the oven glove I was using to hold the handle of a pan. No injuries. Also no oven glove.

7 Quick Takes

This week seems to lend itself to quick takes ...

1. Tevye the Compensation King won another small skirmish in his personal war against corporate Britain. A certain large supermarket provided "seedless" grapes that weren't. He is now in possession of a letter of profuse apology and a £5 gift card. I only suggested he should try to get some free grapes.

2. Tevye gains, I lose. I got engrossed in the library and clean forgot I was out of time on my car park ticket.  Result: a £25 parking fine. Groan.

3. Kitchen disaster number 1 ... a bottle of vinegar fell out of a cupboard and into a jug of gravy, which went flying, mostly over the floor but also over my hand. Fortunately it was only a very minor scald - stung for a day or so, but that was all. Also fortunately, nobody else was in the way. Moral: be more careful about putting things away tidily and not just shoving them in any old how.

4. Kitchen disaster number 2 ... I managed to dislodge one of the door shelves in the fridge, sending an (unopened, bah!) bottle of wine crashing to the floor. Glass and wine everywhere. Then I managed to get a small splinter of glass in my hand - the other one - and bled over Henry as I hoovered up the remnants (what other vacuum could even swallow broken glass without wincing?). Moral: keep bottles of wine lower down.

5. Yesterday was one of those days. I was tired, and three year olds are hard work, especially when they are trying to assert themselves. And there was the wine disaster. And constant interruptions. Enough said. 

6. Cherub these days is very insistent that she is BIG. This despite the fact that she is still built on a very small scale, and is barely an inch taller than my friend's almost two year old. If anyone makes the mistake of calling her a little girl, she is most indignant. 

7. Cherubism of the week ... practicing hopping with much concentration but little success ... "Hopping is very difficult. I'll learn to hop when I am older. I think maybe when I am eleven-teen."

You can find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jesse Tree

Since Angel was little we have set up a Jesse Tree for Advent - not quite every year, but most. For several years we used a large branched twig sprayed silver, until it got too old and tatty. Since then we have made do with a small artificial Christmas tree, but I have wanted to find something different, something that would show up the ornaments more clearly. Finally, this year, I found this silver spiral tree in John Lewis, which I thought would work nicely. I bought it, and patted myself on the back for being ahead of the game. 

Then a couple of weeks after buying the spiral, I spotted this in the Lakeland catalogue, which would have been truly perfect! Don't you think it has "Jesse Tree" written all over it?

Ah well! Maybe next year.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 9th Novemb

Outside My Window ... grey, foggy November.

I am thinking ... of how to kill time while Tevye is at a medical appointment this afternoon. The river and park is not looking good in this weather.

From the learning rooms ... chemistry project for Angel on oil refining and petrochemicals. Not her favourite subject.

I am thankful ... Tevye took Cherub to playgroup this morning so I could whizz round the supermarket after the school run.

From the kitchen ... plans for German food for our pot luck international dinner with our neighbours on Friday. I've never cooked German food before. Should be interesting.

I am wearing ... jeans, blue striped long sleeved top, blue hand knitted socks.

I am creating ... Christmas presents. Concentrating on a shawl and socks at the moment.

I am going ... to try to teach my brother to play the trombone. This will be something of a challenge as I had never tried a trombone myself until yesterday.

I am reading ... nothing. I have hit a book hiatus. 

I am hoping ... I can transcribe lots of census records during a two week free trial with Ancestry.

I am hearing ... Cherub singing "Five little men in a baker's shop ... eating her curds and whey".  Interesting conflation of nursery rhymes

Around the house ...laundry. Again. Sometimes I think my life is dominated by laundry.

One of my favorite things ...  fresh, crusty bread

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... ophthalmologist for Tevye today (I have to drive him because of the drops they put in his eyes); dental appointments; potluck international dinner with neighbours on Friday (our turn to host); family meal at Dragon City (Chinese buffet) on Sunday.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ...

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Remembrance Day

These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colours of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.
Rupert Brooke

All the more poignant this year with so many young men dying in Afghanistan.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Bonfire Night

  • Wrapping up in winter coats and warm woollies to go out on a damp November night
  • Spending time with old friends
  • Eating hot dogs and sausages
  • A blazing bonfire
  • Ear muffs to soften the bangs for a nervous three year old
  • A three year old realising she likes fireworks ("Look! Fairy dust!")
  • Coming home to a warm house
  • Eating a large bag of hot chips (fries) in our pyjamas

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Application Forms

In the past couple of weeks I have filled in two application forms ... one to apply for a school place for Cherub, and one to apply for tutoring work with the Open University.

So, school for Cherub. We originally intended to home educate her, at least for a while, but having the older girls in school probably made it inevitable we would end up considering school for her too. And once we did start to seriously consider it, the choice was an easy one. Although I enjoyed home educating Angel and Star, homeschooling is hard work. After eight years my energy and enthusiasm were drained, and I'm not sure I could motivate myself to start over with the high level of interaction I think Cherub would need if she stayed home on her own. Balanced against that we have a very good school option, right on our doorstep.

Back in the summer, Cherub and I went to look round the school. We both loved it. The headmistress is exceptional, and over the eight years she has been there has transformed it from the run-of-the-mill, rather stodgy place it was when Angel was Cherub's age. The most recent OFSTED (government inspection) report judged it outstanding, not just overall, but in every single aspect they assessed. I could see why.

In the UK children usually start school at four, and depending on their birth date some are at school full time soon after their fourth birthday. With her summer birthday Cherub could be one of them, and being stuck in a formal classroom all day at four and a bit is not what I would want for her. The early years unit at this school is a whole different ballgame. Children are introduced to school slowly, with two terms of part time school before they start full time in the term they turn five. The way the unit works is very similar to the way I would home educate at that age, with short lessons (in small groups) slotted into lots of free play and informal learning. I'm sure Cherub will love it.

More about the other application later.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 2nd November

Outside My Window ... a beautiful, bright autumn morning.

I am thinking ... about a local history research project that is poking its way into my mind.

From the learning rooms ... playgroup for Cherub today, but the older girls have a teacher training day and are not back at school until tomorrow.

I am thankful ... for online grocery shopping with free delivery when I have been too disorganised to go to the supermarket. I'm not sure why Waitrose are currently giving me free delivery, but I'm taking advantage of it while it lasts.

From the kitchen ... cottage pie for dinner.

I am wearing ... khaki cord trousers, cream sweater and stripey handknitted socks.

I am creating ... a cardigan-coat for myself, a shawl for Mum for Christmas, and a dress for Cherub. Then I have more presents to knit for Christmas - a sweater for my brother, socks for Angel, and a penguin for Star's collection. Star also wants me to make her a knitted nail varnish bottle. Huh? 

I am going ... to enjoy getting back into our normal routine this week. School holidays are fun, but the lack of routine means grocery shopping, menu planning, laundry and housework all goes to pot.

I am reading ... still Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. 

I am hoping ... nothing else will break this week. Last week it was the phone and my camera. The week before it was Tevye's electric shaver. The gremlins have been out in force here.

I am hearing ... Angel at the computer working on homework, otherwise everything is quiet.

Around the house ... last week's autumn flowers still going strong.

One of my favorite things ... libraries. I love libraries.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a firework display on Bonfire Night (Thursday); playing at Remembrance Day services with the brass band on Sunday.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... I'm hoping that Father Christmas may manage to bring me something like this. I miss my camera.

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Fallen Off The Meme Wagon

I mention that my posting seems to be mostly Mr Linky memes and what happens? I promptly fall off the meme wagon.

I'm afraid Corner View is on hold for a while so far as I am concerned, due to circumstances beyond my control ... namely, a dead camera. It makes hopeful clicky-whirry noises when I turn it on, but the effort to push out the lens and open the lens cover is too much for it. It is old, its battery performance has been deteriorating fast, and it certainly isn't worth fixing. So no camera, no corner view. At least I know what I want Father Christmas to bring. (Are you listening, Father C?)

And when I started to write 7 Quick Takes on Friday, my brain froze. I am apparently no longer capable of seven coherent thoughts in one week. So, for the time being at least, I'm going back to random blog posts. I've been short of ideas lately, and maybe that will make me push my way past writer's block.