1. Over half term J-next-door (age 15) spent nine days in Bulgaria with a group of older teens from her church youth group, working with gypsy families and street children. Two things in particular that she told us have stuck in my mind. They were able to give meals to the children, which were badly needed - many of them had not eaten for two or three days because wet weather meant they were unable to rummage through the garbage for scraps as they usually do. They also took some of the girls to buy sweets - the children would pick one small sweet, because they simply couldn't believe anyone would buy them a whole bag. A lot of the children are sent by their families to beg on the streets, and are not allowed to return until they have a certain amount of money (which is then often used for drink or drugs, not to feed the kids). Please pray for these children who have so very little, and also for the youngsters who were prepared to give up their time and money to travel across Europe and do what they could to help.
2. On a lighter note, the World Cup starts tonight. I rarely watch football these days, but I'll be following it for the next few weeks. And I'm excited that South Africa is the host country ... who would have predicted that when Nelson Mandela was released 20 years ago? Tevye visited family in Cape Town many years ago and says it is the most beautiful place he has ever been.
3. My World Cup prediction? Brazil to win, England to be knocked out in the quarter-finals. We got off to our usual luckless start with captain Rio Ferdinand injured in the first training session and out of the tournament. I expect this tournament to be another in which the English team demonstrates its usual capacity for misfortune. But please, please ... not another defeat on penalties.
4. More World Cup ... I'm sorry USA, but much as I love my American friends, tomorrow night you are toast! I hope. I'll be watching the England-USA match at a village pub, where the brass band have been roped in to play before the match and during half time. I'm kind of bemused that what began with Angel wanting to learn the trumpet, has led to me playing the trombone in a pub car park in return for free beer and pies.
5. Something that becomes more apparent every time a big international sporting event like the World Cup comes round is how patriotism here is now focused on England rather than the United Kingdom. As a child I never saw the English flag of St George (red cross on a white background), only the Union Jack. Now red and white is everywhere. The same applies to any other flag-waving event - more and more English flags, less and less Union Jacks. While the Scots and Welsh have always flown their own flag, the English didn't. I'm not sure whether the change is down to a more specifically English patriotism, or whether it has happened because the Union Jack has been tarnished by the way it is used by unsavoury, racist political parties.
6. Cherub loved her introduction to school on Wednesday. The current theme for the four to five year olds is pirates and mermaids, so there were lots of pirate and sea related toys. She spent quite a time playing with pirate boats and figures, did a sea painting and a beach picture (glue and sand for the beach), played in the "seaside shop", tried out one of the computers, and complained when it was time to go home. She wasn't ready to speak to the teachers yet, though. When Miss L spoke to her she hid behind me. There are three more taster sessions to come, so that should give her time to overcome her shyness.
7. One of Cherub's favourite birthday presents is a Playmobil circus band that plays music (ironically one of the reasons I like Playmobil is that it doesn't make electronic noises!). She has decided it is the right sort of music for what she calls "Eilish" dancing, and is practicing kicking her way across the room while trying to keep her arms by her sides. Her face as she tries to concentrate on both feet and arms simultaneously is a picture.
Read more quick takes at Conversion Diary