Thursday, June 30, 2011

Train Update

Thank you to eveyone who commented on my Train or Car? post a week or two ago - lots of votes for the train. Well, I made a decision ...

Train. AND car.

I had decided on the train option, thinking that as a back-up if I was running late I could drive to another station which would cut out the need to change trains and so shave a bit off the travel time. That station doesn't have any station parking (expensive!), but I discovered there is a small free car park less than 100 yards away. I looked up ticket prices, and found that a season ticket from that station is half the price of a ticket from our local station - more than enough to compensate for the cost of petrol to drive there and back. Depending on traffic, it should take 10 to 15 minutes to drive there, which is about the same as the walk to our local station. This option will cut the journey time by 20 minutes each way, and I will still get an hour a day on the train to study. Best of both worlds.

Meanwhile, I still don't have a start date - the wheels of paperwork are churning slowly. I'm guessing another couple of weeks.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Random Quirkiness

There are days when I relish the quirkiness and randomness of family life, and others when I wonder how I ever manage to hold on to a thought for long enough to make it coherent. Then there are times when I just feel too OLD for all this, and long for a quiet, peaceful, predictable existence, particularly one without a constant background wail of "what can I EAT!!!!" (I knew teenage boys had big appetites. Nobody warned me about teenage girls.)

Sample randomness from yesterday morning:

  • "Look! I drew a centipede with its make up."
  • "Where's my PE kit?"
  • "Don't put the bag on the dead moth!"
  • "Where's my toothbrush?"
  • "I wish I hadn't let Star use my toothbrush, it's all icky now"
  • "Where is my flowery top?"
  • "I'd feel safer if you put your unicorn down while we are in the car."
Most of this while I was trying to shower and dress. Is it surprising I have been known to take Cherub to school wearing items of clothing inside out? (Me, not her! Well, probably her as well, though I don't remember a specific instance - though there was the day she went to school knickerless because nobody thought to check she was wearing any.)

Then at night time, just as I was about to go to sleep ... screams from Star, who had spotted a daddy longlegs in her bedroom. Tevye caught it and flushed it. Cherub was roused by the commotion, just enough to decide that there was a spider in her bed (there wasn't!) and get hysterical. Star comforted Cherub then went back to her own room, where she spotted another daddy longlegs. Cherub howled because she had been abandoned. The daddy longlegs disappeared. Star refused to sleep in a room with a bug on the loose. Cherub refused to let go of Star. In the end I pulled a mattress out for Star in Cherub's room and she slept there. By which time, of course, I was wide awake and just about clinging on to sanity.

For your delectation and delight, the centipede with its make up - eye shadow and powder, I believe (drawn on Fingerpaint on the iPad):

More random quirkiness ... Cherub just spotted this picture and was inspired to add to it. The centipede now has chicken pox:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Vile November

From the archives last week ... a law suit that could have come straight out of Jane Austen or Dickens. I listed over one hundred documents last week, and suspect there are at least as many to go - a mix of reports of court proceedings, lawyers' notes and letters.

The gist of the case was that in 1811 a certain clergyman was accused of not being resident in his parishes, contrary to a recent Act of Parliament . Given that he had two - one in Yorkshire and one in Buckinghamshire - residing simultaneously in both would have been somewhat difficult. His reason for not living in either was that the rectories of both needed too much expensive work to make them habitable for his family. He claimed that he had permission from the bishop to live away from his parishes, and had paid a vicar to perform his duties in both - there didn't seem to be any question that his parishioners were provided for spiritually. He was also working as a clergyman in another Buckinghamshire parish, without pay other than the provision of a house.

The odd thing was that it seemed he was the victim of a vindictive prosecution. I don't know enough about legal processes at the time to be sure, but I think an accuser in a lawsuit at this time could claim financial compensation from the accused even if the accuser himself had not suffered any damages. Poor Reverend Archibald was accused by a local man known to be a money-grabber, who had recently incurred costs in an unrelated lawsuit of his own and apparently spotted an opportunity to make this back and more - the amount he claimed from the clergyman ran to several thousand pounds. One pathetic letter from the Reverend told his lawyer that in the past November had been a favourite month, but that this November he could call "nothing but vile". Things were so black he was tempted to hang himself. Several months later he had passed beyond anger with his accuser to resignation and pity.

Despite Reverend Archibald's best efforts he initially lost the case, then reopened it claiming that there were errors in the legal process. This is where I left it. Presumably further down in the box will be something that describes the ultimate outcome of the case. I hope the poor clergyman won in the end!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

iPhone Ramblings

Well, that's a surprise! I had a sense that cell phones in the US are more expensive than in the UK, so I was curious about how the price of an iPhone compares. After a bit of googling, I discovered that not only are iPhone plans cheaper here, but massively cheaper. The cost of my plan is not only less than the cheapest American iPhone plan, but less than half the cost of an equivalent deal. Not only that, but I only had to pay about half as much for the actual phone - £69, or just over $100, which was conveniently almost the exact amount for which I could sell my old phone. Then for a little more than $50 a month (including tax - it looks as though US prices have to have taxes added?) I get the phone, 2000 minutes of call time, 5000 minutes of same network call time, 5000 texts and unlimited data. And I can even use the iPhone as a Wifi hotspot for my iPad, which will come in very handy for working on then train. It almost makes up for having to pay more than twice as much for petrol / gas!

My biggest success with the iPhone so far is to get my calendar synchronising wirelessly across iPhone, iPad and computers using Google Calendar and Google Sync. I have used Google Calendar off and on for years - lately it has been an off time, so I went through our paper calendar and updated my Google calendars (one for each member of the family so that I can see clearly who is doing what). I then followed the instructions from Google Sync, and ... ta da! All my Google Calendar details pull through into iCal on the iPhone and iPad, and entries I make on the phone miraculously appear on Google Calendar on the computer. So clever! I am now organised! I will never forget things - or children - again. I hope. We still need the paper calendar as the rest of the family haven't made it to the electronic calendar stage yet. For the last couple of years we have been using this Family Weekly Planner, which works beautifully for us - a week to a view, with a column for each family member plus one spare for reminders.

Oops! Here I am blogging when I should be showering and getting ready to take the girls to school! Time to go ...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Yes, I should have posted this on Sunday, but Cherub's card is too cute not to share. All her own work!

(Yes, I know their real names are in there, but while on balance I opted to use pseudonyms on the blog I can live with the occasional blip!)

I hope you and the daddies in your life had a "nis fufos da"!

Monday, June 20, 2011

This Week: 20th June 2011

The weather ... joy! It is actually looks like summer this morning and may even reach 70 degrees. If we are lucky. Showers forecast for later in the day, though.

I am wearing ... black linen trousers, black and white floral tunic top.

I am reading ... back to chugging slowly through the book on 1970s political history (it is interesting, but not gripping), and browsing The Forever Young Diet and Lifestyle (I think I saw this mentioned on Willa's blog, and downloaded it as a Kindle freebie).

I am creating ... socks. One simple cotton pair and one colourwork pair. I am procrastinating over finishing off the cotton cardigan.  (Same as last week, though progress being made on both pairs!)

I am hearing ... Angel tapping away on the computer and the washing machine whirring.

I am watching ... still Upstairs, Downstairs (nearly at the end of Series 4), but really nothing else. I watched the last episode of the latest Doctor Who series last night. Genius! A twist that I didn't see coming at all.

I am enjoying ... my new iPhone! It turned out I only had one month left on my old contract and could upgrade straight away. I now have an iPhone package with more texts and minutes a month than I could use in a year and unlimited data (much the best value deal - cost very little more than a much more restrictive package - and I like not having to worry about how much data I use). After spending some time at the weekend messing around with Google Sync and experimenting with apps I think I now have everything I need synchronising seamlessly between laptop, iPad and iPhone. Working on the train is going to be so easy! I love technology
I am planning ... can't think of anything I am planning! That doesn't happen often.

Learning notes ... Angel's GCSE's are all finished (yay!). Star has exams this week, for which she has done minimal preparation (fortunately they don't have any long term importance). Cherub's topic this half term is jungles.

Cherub ... is back in a drawing mood. I love the way small people binge on one aspect of development for a while, then move on to something else. Last spring and summer Cherub did loads of drawing, then by late summer it fizzled out. Now drawing and colouring are big again.

On the calendar ...

Today: Two orthodontist's appointments for Angel (one to have her braces removed and be measured for retainers, the second to collect the retainers)
Tuesday: An activity day for Star (kayaking and caving); silver jubilee Mass and celebration for our parish priest in the evening.
Friday: Going out for a meal with an old friend I haven't seen in a while.
Saturday: Cherub is going to a birthday party in the morning; band concert in the evening.
Sunday: Angel and I are going away for a two day spa break to celebrated her 16th birthday (belatedly!) and the end of her exams; Cherub has yet another birthday party in the afternoon (lots of her school friends have June and July birthdays).

On the menu ...

I am loving Spoonfed Suppers. Everything I have made so far has gone down well. Asterisked items are from their plan:

Monday - * sesame beef and tagliatelle
Tuesday - lazy chicken and potatoes
Wednesday - * honey mustard chicken
Thursday - lamb burgers and chips
Friday - ??
Saturday - * sun-dried tomato and olive chicken
Sunday - roast chicken

On my to-do list ... buy birthday presents for Cherub's friends; return a pair of shoes I ordered online that are too small.

A picture from last week ... playing with my phone while eating cheese and drinking wine with our neighbours on Friday

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Birthday Books

I am enjoying buying picture books while Cherub is still at an age to enjoy them, so a few found their way into her birthday presents:

Dogger (Shirley Hughes) - one of my favourite picture books, but with Angel and Star we borrowed from the library so never had our own copy. Dave's favourite toy, Dogger, gets accidentally mixed up with toys left for sale at the school fair. A little girl buys it and refuses to sell it back to Dave, but thanks to a generous big sister it all works out in the end. As it turned out, Cherub had come across Dogger at story time at school and was able to narrate the plot before we even opened the book, so this had the pull of the familiar. 


Library Lion (Michelle Knudsen) - I browsed through this in the bookshop of the British Library and it went onto my "must buy" list. What to do when there is a lion in the library? Let him stay, so long as he doesn't break the rules. But what happens when there is an accident and the lion roars, and roaring is against the rules? One of the nicest new(ish) picture books I've seen recently.

Diary of a Princess (Heather Maisner) - I bought this because Cherub loves princesses and I thought she might enjoy something a bit different. So far, it looks a bit too different to her, so it went to the bottom of the pile and we haven't read it yet.

Stone Girl, Bone Girl (Laurence Anholt) - Cherub likes fossils and I though she would enjoy this story of Mary Anning, the girl who discovered dinosaur fossils in the Dorset cliffs. So far the jury is out - we read some of the book last night, but she was in distractable mood and a bit reluctant. We ended up looking at the periodic table on the Book Depository bookmark we were using instead. Apparently hunting for the letters representing various elements was far more interesting.

The Hard to Swallow Tale of Jonah and the Whale (Joyce Denham) - a retelling of the story of Jonah (duh!) using quite complex language, with an emphasis on God's loves for everyone, even our enemies.

Monday, June 13, 2011

This Week: 13th June 2011

The weather ... cold and damp again. So much for flaming June!

I am wearing ... blue jeans, black and purple floral top, purple cardigan

I am reading ... my reading has stalled again.

I am creating ... socks. One simple cotton pair and one colourwork pair. I am procrastinating over finishing off the cotton cardigan.

I am hearing ... Star in the shower and Chuggington on the TV.

I am watching ... Doctor Who. I caught up on two episodes, and just have the last episode of the latest series to go.

I am enjoying ... salt and vinegar flavour Hula Hoops (potato rings). I need to get out of the snacking habit!

I am planning ... logistics once I start my job. It all seems to work out in theory. Let's hope it works in practice!

Learning notes ... I just spent a week bogged down in the details of data protection, freedom of information and copyright. Not my favourite part of the course! Moving on to something more interesting this week.

Cherub ... What I interpreted as tears before bedtime brought on by over excitement on her birthday turned out to be her going down with a virus. She woke up with a high temperature on Thursday, and is only now coming out the other end.

On the calendar ...

Tuesday: School sports day for Star
Thursday: Angel's last GCSE exam. Yay!!!!
Friday: Routine vision test for Cherub in the afternoon; Sociable evening with our lovely neighbours.
Saturday: First Communions
Sunday: Helping to organise a celebration for the First Communicants

On the menu ...

Spoonfed Suppers. I decided my menu planning was in a rut and needed some variety. The three menu items marked with an asterisk are from the Spoonfed Suppers. We have only tried one new recipe so far - inside out chicken Kiev, which everyone liked.

Monday - * lime and thyme chicken with sweet potato mash
Tuesday - * beef ragu with fusilli
Wednesday - eating out (to celebrate my new job)
Thursday - fishcakes and chips
Friday - ??
Saturday - * dill salmon and new potatoes
Sunday - roast beef or lamb

On my to-do list ... studying and catching up on housework. Time to get back on track with Motivated Moms again. Also my phone contract expires next month, so I want to check out upgrading to an iPhone. Swoon.

A picture from last week ... another bouncy castle picture

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Train or Car?

When I first thought about applying for the archive job I did a bit of homework and came to the conclusion it would work best to travel by train rather than car. Then I started second-guessing myself before coming full circle back to the train option.  I think. Here are the pros and cons of each option:


For ...

  • I would be able to study for about 1.5 hours a day in total on the train, using my iPad.
  • More relaxing than driving - remember the old "let the train take the strain" advert?
  • Built in daily exercise walking to and from the station (about 30-40 minutes walking each day)
  • The timing of the trains would make it quite easy to build up extra time (and therefore extra days off!).
  • The train line I would use for most of the journey is a tiny, low traffic rural line, not a nasty, crowded commuter train. 
  • The cost of the train would be about the same as the cost of petrol at current prices. As petrol is likely to go up and the train cost would be fixed for a year that should make it cheaper in the long run, even without allowing for wear and tear on the car. 
  • I can get an interest free loan for an annual train ticket (cheaper than buying weekly or monthly) as one of the perks of the job.
  • I like trains!
Against ...
  • Walking back uphill on the way home everyday. (Yes, call me lazy...)
  • Walking in the rain / cold / dark in the winter.
  • It takes two trains each way, though I would only travel one stop on the first train. 
  • Takes longer than the car - probably just over an hour a day more, total. 
  • The rural train only runs once an hour. Miss it and I will have a long wait.
  • I have a long track record of cutting it too fine and missing trains.
  • I would have to get up half an hour earlier, or stay at work later if I didn't catch the early train.

For ...
  • More flexible. A lot more flexible.
  • Quicker, especially coming home in the early afternoon.
  • I could leave a bit later in the morning, and would get home about half an hour earlier. 
  • There is a free office car park. 
Against ...
  • More expensive overall.
  • Even though the journey is shorter, I think I would find it more tiring.
  • Rush hour driving in the morning = stress.
  • Driving time would be dead time. 
  • I would have to try to cram in studying between getting home and collecting Cherub from school.
  • No incentive to get moving quickly in the morning.
So, pros and cons both ways. I think the train would work better, mainly because although the journey would be longer quite a chunk of it would be productive time.  Switching between train and car isn't really an option because if I use the train it would be more economical to buy an annual ticket.

What would you choose? Train? Or car?

Liam the Lion

Like Angel at the same age - though possibly even more so? - Cherub likes to make things. She always  has scissors, sellotape and a glue stick readily available, and will ask for PVA glue if she needs it. For materials she usually just uses paper or whatever she can find rifling through the recycling bag. Sometimes she remembers she has a plastic jar full of collage stuff and uses that. Today she asked for four clothes pegs from the washing line, added paper and sellotape, and after a bit of colouring, cutting and sticking ... ta-da!

Liam the Lion.

I asked her if she meant Leo the Lion, but no ... definitely Liam.

Friday, June 10, 2011



Which is ... I think! I hope! ... a very good thing. The oddest part is that I wasn't even looking for paid work. Full time isn't an option - I know my limits, and combining full time work, studying and caring for a family is beyond them - and part time jobs for unqualified archivists are very, very few and far between, so I had assumed that I would just work through my course, carry on volunteering in an archive and then start job hunting once I had qualified. Then I stumbled across this opportunity and it looked too good not to apply. And now, gulp, it seems I have rather unexpectedly acquired a job.

So, this is the deal ... I will be working five mornings a week at a county record office (not the one I volunteer at now, but the next nearest), cataloguing 19th century court records. From the point of view of whatever future career I have in archives it is ideal, as many jobs for qualified archivists want applicants to have some experience of cataloguing. And it is an interesting project - the documents give a good insight into the social history of Victorian England, so will be intriguing to work with. I will be job sharing with another cataloguer, and working alongside volunteers who are cleaning, sorting and packaging the documents. (This is a big plus - I have looked at the equivalent records at my current archive, and they are a mess. Filthy dirty and hard to flatten out enough to read after a century or so rolled up.)  The project lasts for two years, which is perfect timing. The job will end in June/July 2013 and I am aiming to finish my course in April 2013, so will then be in a good position to look for a job as a qualified archivist with cataloguing experience.

The working arrangements are about as good as they can get, with 26 days holiday leave each year and flexible working hours which mean I can bank extra hours and trade them for days off. I will get home in time to collect Cherub from school every day, and will be able to be home quite a lot during school holidays. Tevye and Angel between them can mostly manage getting Cherub to school in the mornings, or I can drop her at the school breakfast club on my way to work if necessary. On the days I have to work during school holidays, Tevye or Angel will be at home with her. Overall the impact on her should be minimal. The pay isn't great, but is at least a lot better than nothing!

Thursday, June 09, 2011


Birthday princess

Demure party girl

... Or not!

Monday, June 06, 2011

This Week: 6th June 2011

The weather ... lots in the media about predictions of a long hot summer. This morning? Grey, wet, miserable and cold. Should have expected that.

I am wearing ... blue jeans, black and purple floral top, purple cardigan, blue hand-knitted cotton socks.

I am reading ... When the Lights Went Out. Political history of the seventies - back to reading this after a three week break.

I am creating ... cotton cardigan done apart from turning up the hem and sewing in the ends. Have started a pair of charade socks as I need something simpler than the colourwork socks to knit while I read.

I am hearing ... the washing machine in the kitchen, and Cherub and Little Friend N scuffling around upstairs.

I am watching ... So You Think You Can Dance, and Upstairs, Downstairs Series 4 on iTunes. Have now got behind with both Doctor Who and The Apprentice.

I am enjoying ... the knowledge that I do not have to organise a small person's birthday party for another year. Mostly I do enjoy them, but I always breathe a deep sigh of relief once they are successfully over. Particularly when I make the mistake of assuming that a summer birthday means I can organise something outdoors, then have the stress of wondering if, when, and how much it will rain.  You would think I would know better by now. Yesterday the rain started at 4pm, which meant they got an hour of playing outside on the bouncy castle.

I am planning ... not planning, mostly, as things are up in the air while I wait to find out whether I get the part time job I have applied for, and if so, what hours I will be working.

Learning notes ... back to school for Star this morning, maths and graphics exams for Angel this week, and an extra day off for Cherub, who doesn't go back to school until tomorrow. Star has various day trips to look forward to before the end of term, organised for the Year 8s who are leaving to move up to Upper School next year. This week she is going to an indoor climbing centre.

Cherub ... has been quite literally quivering with excitement about her birthday party, which fortunately lived up to her (quite modest) expectations. Now quivering about her actual birthday on Wednesday.

On the calendar ...

Monday: Little Friend N over for the day to play with Cherub
Tuesday: rock climbing for Angel
Wednesday: job interview. Yikes!
Thursday: archive day
Weekend looks quite free at the moment.

On the menu ...

Monday: Cottage pie and sweetcorn
Tuesday: Cauliflower cheese
Wednesday: Birthday tea for Cherub
Thursday: Chicken and chips
Friday: Stir fry
Saturday: Pasta bake
Sunday: Roast chicken

On my to-do list ... studying and some paperwork I need to catch up on (if I don't get it done, Angel and Star will not have transport to school next year!).

A picture from last week ... collecting pebbles on Brighton beach

Saturday, June 04, 2011

A Brief Foray into Cute and Funny Animals

This may be the only cute, funny animal post you ever see on my blog - mostly I stick to cute, funny humans - but these three videos have entertained me over the last few days.

First, shamelessly copied from Karen, some surprisingly durable ducklings:

Then two more that appeared on Facebook ... a pair of puzzled penguins (try saying that fast a few times!):

And finally, a feline "aaahhh!" moment:

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

This Week: 31st May 2011

This Week ...

The weather ... the week started badly with a nasty, cold, damp bank holiday, but it has warmed up, dried out and long range forecast is predicting a warm, dry June.

I am wearing ... blue jeans, pink t-shirt and purple cardigan. Colour blocking!

I am reading ... about data protection. Ugh! Seems I can't manage both studying and pleasure reading.

I am creating ... almost at the end of the second sleeve of my cardigan. Finished my cotton socks, and have started a colourwork pair. Will post a picture when I have more time.

I am listening ... Tevye reading Ramona the Brave to Cherub.

I am watching ... Britain's Got Talent,  The Apprentice, So You Think You Can Dance, and Upstairs, Downstairs Series 4 on iTunes. Have got behind with Doctor Who.

I am enjoying ... knitting something challenging (the new socks). Mostly I knit stuff that I can knit while reading.

I am planning ... Cherub's birthday party for Sunday (her birthday isn't until next Wednesday, but the weekend before works best for her party). A dozen small girls and a bouncy castle in the garden.

Learning notes ... Angel's science exams went rather better than she was expecting (phew!). Only maths, graphic products, ICT and one RE exam left to go.

Cherub ... is in a state of high excitement about the whole birthday thing. Five, in her estimation, is BIG.

On the calendar ... a busy week, which is why I am so late posting this.

Tuesday: a family day trip to the seaside (Brighton, on the south coast)
Wednesday: a play date for Cherub with her best school friend
Thursday: archive day
Friday: a day at the zoo with Little Friend N and his mum
Saturday: a trip to a nearby town for a free kite festival. Cherub is hoping to take her own kite to fly, but there isn't much wind forecast, so she may be disappointed.
Sunday: Cherub's birthday party

On the menu ...

Monday: Sweet chili beef kebabs and potato wedges
Tuesday: We ate out in Brighton (taking advantage of Tesco Clubcard coupons to visit Cafe Rouge) Wednesday: Pizza for assorted girls; sausage and mash for Tevye and myself
Thursday: Chicken in breadcrumbs and chips
Friday: Baked potatoes with tuna mayonnaise and / or coleslaw
Saturday: Burgers? Maybe?
Sunday: Whatever we can fit in around Cherub's party

On my to-do list ... mostly party organising! Also tidying, cleaning and maybe trying to put flowers into pots in the garden before the party.

A picture from last week ... or rather, from Brighton yesterday. A sign spotted on the door of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Or Krispy Kreme No Doughnuts. Duh!