Tuesday, December 31, 2013


My friend Faith wrote this post on her Household Diary blog listing ten things for which she is grateful. It inspired me to do the same. I'm taking gratitude for my family as a given and here, in no particular order, are ten more things for which I am grateful:

1. Our neighbours, who have been a tremendous blessing in our lives. We have four sets of neighbours (two on either side) who all lovely people. We socialise and have fun together, the kids have built in playmates, and most importantly we are a support network for each other. In an emergency we each use each other as our first port of call for help, whether it is babysitting in the middle of the night because someone has to make an emergency trip to hospital, running a load of laundry because a washing machine has broken down, collecting a child from school, or borrowing a pint of milk.

2. My colleagues. I work with a group of extraordinary, quirky and very individual people. Sometimes they can be exasperating and it is like being part of a disfunctional family, but there isn't a single one I would want to be without and some have become dear friends.

3. My car buddy, whose company makes travelling to and from work far more enjoyable. I have discovered that under what can be a prickly and pessimistic exterior there is a kindred spirit - a fellow history geek (ancient history in his case) who also loves classical music and with whom I have a huge amount in common. Special thanks to him for introducing me to Horace, ancient Rome and Shostakovich's Jazz Suites, for entertaining conversation about a huge range of subjects, and for a lot of laughter.

4. My bedroom, which is the one place I can (sometimes) find some time alone. It is my happy space.

5. Hot showers. I am a shower person rather than a bath person. My morning shower wakes me up and makes it possible to face the day (I am not a morning person!).

6. Good health. Apart from occasionally succumbing to asthma related chest infections I am lucky enough to enjoy very good health. So generally speaking do my family - even the scoliosis Tevye has had since he was a child does not cause too much of a problem and does not affect his quality of life. We are very lucky.

7. English countryside. Almost every day when I drive to work I will be treated to a wonderful view - a beautiful sunrise over the fields, or a row of stone houses in a picturesque village.

8. Transport. The ability to hop in the car or onto a train and go more or less anywhere I want to go. After many years when Tevye and I shared a single car the ease of having a vehicle accessible whenever I need one is something I don't take for granted.

9. Music, both to listen to and to play. I am so lucky that I had an aptitude for music and was able to take lessons as a child. Playing in bands and orchestras is a wonderful way of relaxing if I feel stressed, is fun and sociable. I can't imagine a life without music.

10. Technology. I love my iPad, my phone, my Kindle, the internet, Spotify, blogs, Facebook - all these things that allow me to connect with friends (some I know in real life, some I don't), and that both entertain and inform me.

I think this year I am going to try to focus on gratitude and write down every day three things - however small - for which I am grateful. If I could keep it up for the entire year that would be over 1000 things. I doubt I will manage that, but I am going to give it a try.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Update Number 3: Marie

Marie is now part way through her GCSE exam year at school (exams taken at the end of what in the US would be the sophomore year of high school) and working very hard. She has become quite ambitious academically and is determined to get the best grades she can. She has decided that she wants to change schools next year for Sixth Form (for historical reasons years 12 and 13 are often known as Sixth Form even though it now makes no logical sense whatsoever). The adjacent county still has a selective education system, in which children take an exam at age 11 and the brightest go to very academic grammar schools. The town where Helen works has three grammar schools - one for boys only, one for girls only (both of these very highly performing academically) and a third mixed school which is slightly more relaxed. Marie has been saying for a while that she would like to go to the girls only school to take her A levels (the usual next step after GCSEs in the UK examination system). However before the open evening for this school she made a last minute decision to go to the Sixth Form open evening for the mixed grammar school, thinking it might be a back-up option. She came out convinced that it was the right school for her and we have now applied for her to go there next year to study for the International Baccalaureate (that merits a post of its own, so I won't say any more about it now). Whether she gets a place there will depend on both her predicted and actual GCSE results, but based on how she is doing now it should not be a problem. In the end she never even bothered to look at the school she originally thought she wanted to go to.

As well as working hard in school Marie keeps busy outside. She has found a part time job and works as a waitress in a cafe on Saturdays. She joined A-Next-Door's gym and goes there regularly. She also likes running (though not so much in the winter!) and says she eventually wants to run a 10K or a half marathon. She is hoping to go to Bulgaria again, possibly in May, which will mean another spell of fund raising. She still loves her art and intends to continue with it next year. The picture below is a silk screen printed, African art inspired cushion cover she made for her mock GCSE exam (someone more experienced with a sewing machine did the making up - the exam was only testing the art part, not sewing ability!).

Friday, December 27, 2013

7 Quick Takes: 27th December 2013

1. We have had a relaxed family Christmas. Tevye, Helen and myself don't go back to work until January so we are getting a long break and have quite a bit of fun stuff still to come. We have Tevye's family coming to visit on Sunday, social things planned for New Year's Eve and New Year, and Helen and I are planning to go to see the Hobbit on Monday.

2. We had a slight technical hitch with the Christmas Dinner. Tevye read the weight per kg of the turkey instead of the actual weight. Dinner was a little late!

3. I bought a Playmobil school for Rose for Christmas for a bargain price. I thought the Playmobil castle was long-winded to assemble. The school is worse. I think it took me about an hour and a half on Christmas morning!

4. Tevye's Christmas gift highlight was a T shirt with the slogan "I don't need Google, my wife knows everything". He finds this highly amusing!

5. I bit the bullet and joined a gym last week. A-Next-Door works there as a receptionist and was able to get me a "Friends and Family" discount. The gym closed for two weeks for a refurb the next day and the price will go up from January so I decided to jump in while I could still get cheap membership. Meanwhile I can use a sister gym a couple of miles away - this one is also being refurbished, but has a swimming pool and spa which is still open.

6. As you can probably guess from number four, getting more exercise is going to be one of my New Year's resolutions. I am not sure what the rest will be, but think they will need to involve both decluttering and prayer.

7. The final stages of the reshuffle at work have played themselves out over the past ten days and almost everyone now knows whether or not they get to stay and in what role. The senior posts did not go as most of us would have expected, but on the whole I think things are going to work out and it could have turned out a lot worse. Some unexpected positive things have also come out of the whole muddle.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Update Number 2: Helen

I posted back in the summer about Helen being offered an apprenticeship. It seemed an exciting opportunity but in the end it never came to anything. She was offered a work placement she didn't like the sound of (it was in a high end fashion company, really not her thing!) and although she was told it was fine to refuse it and wait for another, nothing else materialised so she started applying for other jobs.

She eventually started work at the beginning of October as a marketing apprentice with a recruitment consultancy in a nearby town. She works four days a week and spends the fifth at college doing a business administration course. So far she absolutely loves her job. Recruitment consultancy is something none of us had any clue about. It turns out that it is a fast paced, exciting business, at least at the international level that this particular company works at. It is also well rewarded. While Helen is on a lower salary as an apprentice, it is still well above the minimum that many apprentices receive. She also gets a whole array of side benefits, ranging from free fruit on the desks (it is a "healthy eating" office) to a day off for her birthday as a bonus on top of her normal holiday entitlement. Yesterday I got sent a picture of the Christmas hamper she had just been given! The work she is doing seems to be quite varied, ranging from working with social media to helping arrange events. She says the days go past quickly and the office is very friendly and sociable. Her apprenticeship is for eighteen months, but as the company is expanding and has a track record of keeping its apprentices her longer term prospects look pretty good. So far she has absolutely no regrets about choosing work over university - quite the opposite.

All in all, she is having a wonderful time. Not only is work going well, but as soon as she knew for certain she had a job she bought her own car so she has a new level of independence. Seeing her drive off in the morning all dressed up in her office clothes is both a source of pride and makes me feel slightly old!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Update Number 1

I think it will take a post each to fill in the gaps since I last blogged for myself and the girls (not so much has been going on with Tevye). I'll go in age order, so starting with me ...

It hasn't been an easy three months. My oldest friend died of cancer in November. We had been friends since our school days, and although we rarely saw each other in recent years as she lived some distance away she was the closest I will ever have to a sister. She had been ill - very ill - for six months. Fortunately I was able to visit her in September, which we both knew was goodbye. Her funeral was hard and my heart aches for her husband and her son. I will miss her.

Work has been hard too. I still love my job, but our department is undergoing a reshuffle which means many of my colleagues have been living with uncertainty since the beginning of September. Some people's jobs will change, some will get demoted, others promoted, and at least two will lose their jobs completely. Communication from above has been bad which has added to everyone's stress. The end game is going to play out over the next couple of weeks, so in the new year at least everyone will know where they stand. Some people will not be having a happy Christmas though. The decisions that are about to be taken on who gets which job will also have a direct effect on me as certain permutations will make my working life much more pleasant than others. Result: anxiety. On the positive side, I am now officially qualified as an archivist, with the piece of paper to prove it.

So much for my update - not a very happy one I'm afraid. At least I am optimistic that the next three months will be much less stressful. Fortunately the updates for the girls will be much more upbeat!

Monday, December 09, 2013

This Week: 9th December 2013

The weather ... average December weather. Not too cold, sometimes damp and grey, sometimes not. There were a couple of very wet, windy and cold days last week, but nothing out of the ordinary is in this week's forecast.

I am wearing ... warm, fleecy pyjamas.

I am reading ... a book about the effect of First World War casualties on the families left behind. Can't remember the title offhand but it was a Kindle Daily Deal I picked up a while ago.

I am creating ... socks for Christmas presents.

I am listening ... Christmas carols by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band. English folk music, with lots of traditional carols.

I am watching ... not much. I watched a documentary on the life of C.S.Lewis last night. Mostly life is busy and TV tends to be low on my list of ways to spend my spare time.

I am enjoying ... playing Christmas music. One busy band weekend done, two more to go. The brass band concert I played in on Saturday was particularly good and kicked off the Advent / Christmas musical season in style.

From the learning rooms ... I officially passed my archive course and now have the certificate to prove it.

On the menu ... everything is too chaotic with too many people doing too much stuff out of the house to be worth menu planning in the run up to Christmas.

On the calendar ...
Tuesday: Marie gets her braces off! She has been counting the days. Rose has school Christmas play performances Tuesday and Wednesday, but maternal incompetence meant the form asking for tickets didn't get handed in on time and the only performance we could have watched is full. Bad mummy!
Wednesday: band practice.
Thursday: office Christmas lunch for me.
Friday: Christmas meal in the evening with Michael's colleagues.
Saturday: playing carols at a local shopping centre (mall) in the morning then going out for a Christmas meal with our neighbours in the evening. Apparently meals out are like buses. You wait ages for one and then three come at once.
Sunday: possible playing more Christmas carols in the evening, but as there are enough other trombonists going I think I may take a break and skip out on that one.

A picture from last week ... a seasonally attired tuba from Saturday's Christmas concert.

Friday, December 06, 2013

7 Quick Takes: 6th December 2013

I will write some proper catch up posts later, but for now a few snippets ...

1. Marie and I have been doing pre-Christmas things. We went to a Christmas Gift Fair and the German Christmas Market in Birmingham, then followed that up with a day in London which ended up at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Here is an ice squirrel from the Magical Ice Kingdom there.

2. Yet again the pre-Christmas season means lots of trombone playing. This year I have also added in a bit of flute playing. The theory was that playing flute in a local concert band would fit into my week more comfortably than playing violin with my usual orchestra. Not sure yet how the theory will work out in practice, but I am enjoying playing something different.

3. At seven Rose has finally started losing teeth. She was getting very disgruntled as everyone else in her class had already had multiple visits from the tooth fairy. Her second came out on the way home from school this week, leaving her bloody but triumphant. Whereas with her sisters the tooth fairy just left money in exchange for a tooth the tooth fairy now also leaves a note. The tooth fairy could live to regret this.

4. We are now well into the season of dark mornings and evenings. I hate that it is dark when I drive home from work, but there are a couple of silver linings. Driving to work in the morning I often see the most beautiful blue and pink sunrise, and coming home in the evening there is a startlingly bright "star" low in the sky - Venus, maybe?

5. I have decided I should have been a hobbit. I have realised that to function properly in the mornings I need breakfast, second breakfast and elevenses!

6. Talking of hobbits, I'm looking forward to seeing the second Hobbit movie though I think I will probably have to wait until the Christmas / New Year break. Hoping I can find a daughter who would like to see it with me as it really isn't Tevye's thing. I liked the way the wove the background to Lord of the Rings into the plot of the Hobbit in the first movie, though the darker, epic feel is very different to the book. Not sure what Tolkien would have made of it.

7. Must get up! I have half an hour to get showered, dressed, wake up school-going daughters, make them breakfast, make myself lunch, and get out of the door. It can be done, but only just!

Thursday, December 05, 2013


Yes, I am still alive.

No, I have not forgotten about my blog.

Yes, I do still want to keep blogging, I just somehow got out of the habit.

The longer I go without writing the harder I find it to get started again. This is a "just do it!" post to get myself unjammed. More soon, I promise. Of course, it would serve me right if by this time I am simply talking to myself!

Monday, September 09, 2013

This Week: 9th Sept

The weather ... Ugh! It feels as though it has gone from August to November in four days. Thursday was a glorious hot summer day. Today? Wet, miserable and cold.

I am wearing ... fleecy winter pyjamas and woolly socks. To go ith the 15 tog feather winter duvet which is back on our bed.

I am reading ... magazines. Playing with the free Zinio subscriptions available through our local library.

I am creating ... The green sweater, which has slowed down since I came home.

I am listening ... I'm on a seventies kick

I am watching ... Dragons Den while typing this on the iPad

I am enjoying ... Being back at orchestra. I missed playing my violin over the summer.

From the learning rooms ... Two girls back at school. Rose seems to be enjoying her new class. She tells me that they have a traffic light system. If they find a piece of work easy they colour the green light, middling is the yellow light, and if they find it too hard the red light. Rather a neat way for their new teacher to get a handle on what level each child is working at, I thought.

On the menu ... Taking things as they come this week

On the calendar ... It's a busy week!
Monday: free evening
Tuesday: repair man coming to fix the oven which has stopped heating up properly; orthodontist for Marie; ballet class for Rose; I am giving a talk about Victorian crime in the evening (work)
Wednesday: brass band
Thursday: swimming for Rose; orchestra for me
Friday: Yom Kippur begins
Saturday: synagogue all day for Tevye; working at an open day for me, with Rose coming along as an honorary staff member
Sunday: playing at a "Songs of Praise" type service with the brass band

A picture from last week ... Our town has a children's trail with various children's literature related artworks. Rose, Tevye and I followed if on Saturday and found this on the underside of the bandstand ceiling in the park.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Holiday in Instagram

Ridiculous overuse of Instagram filters here, but I was having fun! Here are some pictures which give a taste of our week in Dorset.

Playing on the beach

Punch and Judy show

Cows crossing

Sherborne Castle (built by Sir Walter Raleigh)

Weymouth harbour

Bumper cars (A and Rose catch Helen)

Sea life

Goat feeding


Monday, September 02, 2013

This Week: 2nd September 2013

The weather ... still thinks it is summer, not that I will see much of it as I went back to work today and more autumnal weather is forecast for the end of the week.

I am wearing ... black leggings and a grey leopard print tunic.

I am reading ... Let Me Tell You a Story by James and Joan O'Keefe. Their book The Forever Young Diet and Lifestyle kickstarted my healthy eating changes a couple of years ago and I want to keep myself motivated. I don't think I'm in danger of losing my good eating habits but I want to do better with exercies.

I am creating ... a light green sweater. I have knitted almost the entire body in a week. That's what having knitting and reading time while on holiday does for me!

I am listening ... to peace and quiet. Marie and Rose have gone to bed and Helen is out.

I am watching ... the hugely addictive Great British Bake Off.

I am enjoying ... life. And I am hugely grateful for it. I have friends who are facing life or death situations. I am hurting for them but also realising how important it is to count my blessings.

From the learning rooms ... Marie goes back to school on Wednesday and Rose on Thursday

On the menu ... menu planning has gone pear-shaped this week as the oven is on the blink. A repair man is coming next Monday. Meanwhile I am thinking more about how to cook than what to cook.

On the calendar ...
Monday: Back to work for me. Marie finally made it back from Bulgaria this morning after a three day overland trip.
Tuesday: Back to work for Tevye.
Wednesday: Back to school for Marie; back to band for me. I have the day off work to look after Rose. Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) starts, so Tevye will be going to synagogue.
Thursday: Back to school for Rose; back to orchestra for me. I am taking another day off work, this time to visit a dear friend who is very ill. I am grateful for a job with good paid holiday time (26 days a year) and the ability to take flexible days off if I work the hours in advance.
Friday: Back to work again for me!
Saturday: A free day?
Sunday: Tevye and I are planning to drive down to London to visit his parents' graves (something Jewish people prioritise around New Year).

A picture from last week ... a slightly uncertain Rose on one of those giant bungee trampoline things (I'm sure they have a name, but I don't know what it is!)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

This Week: 26th August 2013

Yes, I am still here!

The weather ... beautiful late summer weather, warm and mostly sunny. Perfect as we are spending the week in a caravan on the Dorset coast at Weymouth

I am wearing ... pyjamas. Enjoying being lazy.

I am reading ... It's a Don's Life, the book of a blog by Cambridge classicist Mary Beard. Easy to dip into, but also teaching me snippets about the classics and the ancient world as I read.

I am creating ... a light green sweater, knitting in the round top down. I can't remember the pattern name offhand. I wanted mindless knitting and non-taxing reading this week.

I am listening ... to noises from outside the caravan and Rose watching something on the iPad. Helen and A (who has joined us for a few days and really needs a blog name) are about to take Rose to the soft play area. Marie is not with us this week as she has gone back to Bulgaria to work with the gypsy community again. This time they are painting a school, helping to set up a pig farm, and running children's activities.

I am watching ... not much. I'm coming to the conclusion that TV and I mostly don't get along. Watching TV is so far at the bottom of my pecking order of things to do that I rarely bother, and the less I watch the harder I find it to focus even on things I really want to see.

I am enjoying ... rest. Catching up on sleep. Time to read, walk, swim and just be.

From the learning rooms ... I finished my course! The whole thing! I submitted my two final assignments on Friday and should now be a qualified archivist and records manager. The last three months have been tough going, trying to combine full time work, family, music and studying something I really didn't enjoy - the rest of the course has been fine, but records management is just not me. The last effort on the final assignments was a constant battle not to lose focus. The last few weeks have left me feeling overtired both physically and mentally and dragging through everything. I badly needed this break and an opportunity to recharge my batteries.

On the menu ... whatever we feel like that takes minimal effort. Quite a bit of eating out and takeaways.

On the calendar ... nothing!

A picture from yesterday ...

Monday, August 05, 2013

This Week: 5th August 2013

The weather ... Wet and miserable today, which is a shame as I was not working and had planned to take Rose to the zoo. We went swimming instead.

I am wearing ... Dark pink trousers, sleeveless navy top, navy cardigan.

I am reading ... Not much. I have downloaded a few Kindle books intending to read them. Dos that count?

I am creating ... Coursework assignments. I spent a long day on Saturday writing an essay which is one of two final assignments for the final module of my archive course. The end really is in sight!

I am listening ... Usually I fix on classical for a while or rock / pop for a while. At the moment I'm mixing it up and listening to a very random mix of music.

I am watching watched ... Now You See Me at the cinema with Tevye last week. We both enjoyed it, as did Helen when she saw it the week before. A kind of magical / sleight of hand thriller. Not the most believable plot, but very watchable.

I am enjoying ... Having extra time at home over the summer, thanks to a mix of taking odd days of my holiday allowance and flexi days (days off in lieu of extra hours worked)

From the learning rooms ... Records management, records management, and more records management - but only for another two and a half weeks and then I'm DONE!

On the menu ... Menu planning in the holidays just doesn't work. I don't think I stuck to last week's plan for more than a day or two. Everything is out of routine and I never know much in advance how many people I need to feed.

On the calendar ...
Monday: day off work. Took Rose swimming. Marie is spending Monday to Friday this week babysitting for a friend. Well, not babies exactly - 11 and 8 year olds. Teenagers can be very useful!
Tuesday: back to work for me. Dental appointment for Tevye. Rose has a friend coming to play in the afternoon.
Wednesday: helping to run an archive related activity day at the library, band orCtice.
Thursday: going to look round a newly refurbished museum. This is work. Did I mention I love my job? Tevye has a routine hospital appointment.
Friday: nothing out of the ordinary
Saturday: more work on the wretched records management.
Sunday: playing a "Proms in the Park" concert with the band in the evening. Should be fun. Tevye and Rose are coming to listen and we will take a picnic (so long ad the weather is ok!)

A picture from last week ... Today's healthy lunch. Wholemeal bagel with eggs microwaved in a mug (easiest eggs ever!), mushrooms, sliced tomatoes and baby spinach

Monday, July 29, 2013

This Week: 29th July 2013

The weather ... has been very warm and humid. We had heavy rain on Saturday evening which has left it cooler and less sticky. We are lucky in that our house is a cool one - if we open the right doors and windows we get a nice cross draught. Nobody in the UK has air conditioning as really hot weather is so rare. This is the first heatwave for seven years. Personally I like the heat and feeling as though it is a proper summer, particularly after last year's which was miserably cold and wet.

I am wearing ... black linen trousers, black and white print t-shirt and sandals.

I am reading ... magazines! I have discovered I can download some free from our library through the Zinio app. I am still ploughing through my records management course which doesn't leave much time or brain space for reading, so I'm enjoying having magazines I can dip in and out of.

I am creating ... nothing. I am a cold weather knitter. I never seem to do much that is creative when it is hot.

I am listening ... just dipping in and out of a mix of classical and rock / pop as it takes my fancy. Nothing is particularly grabbing me at the moment.

I am watching ... a new series of Who Do You Think You Are.

I am enjoying ... summer!

From the learning rooms ... Marie and Rose have finally finished school for the summer.

On the menu ...
Monday: Spaghetti bolognese (Tevye cooking as I will be late home)
Tuesday: Chicken and chips
Wednesday: Burgers, mushrooms and sweetcorn
Thursday: Salmon with veggies
Friday: Vegetarian chilli?
Saturday: ??
Sunday: Roast chicken

On the calendar ...
Monday: Back to work for me (after taking Thursday and Friday off last week) with a ten hour day - I sometimes have to work until 7 on Mondays as it is our late opening night
Tuesday: Rose is starting a tennis course which runs for three consecutive mornings. She brought a leaflet home from school and rather to my surprise was enthusiastic about the idea.
Wednesday: More tennis for Rose. Another day off work for me, so will do something else with her in the afternoon.
Thursday: Final day of tennis for Rose. Back to work for me.
Friday: Small piece of records management coursework due.
Saturday: Hoping to get a draft of a records management essay done (one of two final assignments for the course)
Sunday: My neighbours' daughter and her friend are holding a pamper evening to raise funds for the girls' trip to Bulgaria. Rose and I have tickets. Rose tells me she wants a drink ("but not wine, mummy"!!) and a back massage, but does not want nail varnish, thank you!

A picture from last week ... The view from my bed!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Life in Pictures

Sometimes this seems to be the only way I can blog. Time is at a premium at the moment as I slog through this last module of my course. Records management doesn't interest me so it is a case of gritting my teeth and ploughing through it. Only six and a half weeks and the whole course will be finished. I am so ready to be done!

The weather for our guided walk was beautiful, as you can see from this picture of the lake in the country park we walked through. The heat, combined with the fact that much of the walk was uphill, made it very tiring. It took a week for my legs to recover. Slightly overdoing it with exercise the day before didn't help.

Our archive is right by the river and a pond which may be intended to be decorative (if so, fail!) or as an overflow outlet. in the summer algae covers it with an unattractive green scum. A moorhen has built its nest in an abandoned traffic cone in the scummiest part, carefully incorporated discarded litter in the structure. Full marks for creativity, zero for aesthetic sense.

The weather forecast for the last few days. Summer! It is upposed to last through this weekend too. Utter bliss.

Rose petting a shetland pony at her school fair last Saturday.

Later on Saturday we went for a picnic at a local country park where they have added some wood sculpture intended to sark kids' imagination. I tried our the giant's chair for size.

Monday, June 24, 2013

This Week: 24th June

The weather ... where is summer? I'm tired of being cold. When the sun comes out it is nice enough, but as soon as it disappears it gets chilly again. Really it feels more like early May than late June. I took the two younger girls to a nearby kids farm yesterday. I wore a long sleeved t-shirt, a thin sweater and a weatherproof coat. And I was shivering.

I am wearing ... black jeans, long sleeved burgundy t-shirt, long cream cardigan, black studded ballerina shoes, black and silver heart-shaped glass bead pendant

I am reading ... just finished The Reluctant Yogi (I'm on a yoga kick!). Not sure what to start next.

I am creating ... still the same pair of socks. I never knit much in the summer.

I am listening ... to silence! Can hear birds and traffic faintly outside the window.

I am watching ... really I just don't watch much of anything. I have downloaded the first episode of The White Queen (historical drama series about Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of King Edward IV) but haven't watched it yet.

I am enjoying ... pink toenails. Even if it is too cold to want to wear sandals.

From the learning rooms ... Rose went on her first ever school trip last week, to the Roald Dahl Museum at Great Missenden. She was very anxious beforehand as she was worried she would somehow get lost. I eventually realised she was picturing somewhere gigantic like the Science Museum in London. The Roald Dahl Museum is rather smaller scale! In the event she had a good time and - surprise, surprise - did NOT get lost!

On the menu ...
Monday: whatever Tevye can find in the freezer as I have to work late
Tuesday: fish and chips
Wednesday: mango and lime chicken kebabs
Thursday: pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs
Friday: savoury bean pot (beans cooked with apple and carrot)
Saturday: ???
Sunday: roast chicken

On the calendar ... a pretty quiet week with not much out of the ordinary. Unusually I have to work on Sunday, leading a guided walk around three villages (the walk my colleague tested out a few weeks ago)

A picture from last week ... Rose at the farm

Thursday, June 20, 2013

And So To Work!

Helen has been offered a job! Or more accurately, an apprenticeship. In the UK most 18 year olds with the right qualifications move on to university, but faced with the prospect of repaying student loans for the next 30 years a growing number are choosing to go straight into work. In Helen's case the financial considerations were only a part of her decision not to go to uni. She prefers working to studying and is ready to get started on a career now.

The UK has a system of apprenticeships which allow companies to take on an apprentice at a (usually) nominal salary in return for providing training. Initially I think apprenticeships tended to be in more practical fields and geared to youngsters leaving school at 16. Now there seem to be a growing number of advanced apprenticeships and apprenticeships intended to lead into professional careers. The government has also put some money into promoting the provision of apprenticeships in areas where they think there are likely to be skill shortages.

The apprenticeship Helen has been offered is in digital marketing and is part of one of these schemes. A large technology firm has its own apprenticeship and training arm which has expanded to provide a number of digital marketing apprenticeships in partnership with other companies. The training organisation selects the apprentices, gives them initial training, and then places them in a partner company for a year. The apprentice is employed during that year by the partner, but is supported and mentored by the training company and spends one day a week there to study for a digital marketing qualification. The expectation is that at the end of their training apprentices will either be offered a job by their employer, or will be helped to find a suitable permanent job (or even to set up their own business) by the training company.

Getting a place on the scheme wasn't easy. They get a lot of applicants and Helen had to get through a phone interview and a three hour assessment which included group exercises, an individual interview and a demonstration of digital / media related work she has done. She loved the set up, said the people were all really nice - interviewers, existing apprentices and other applicants - and came home very much hoping they would take her, so she is hugely excited to have been offered the opportunity. The next step is to meet with prospective employers and get her work placement arranged. The aim is to match apprentices with companies that will be a good match for their particular skills. She has been told that she will get interviews with two or three, and that the process will be as much about deciding if they are right for her as the other way round. She will be working in London, and because she has to travel in from outside London they will try to put her with a company that is conveniently located for commuting

So all in all, VERY exciting times! We are very hopeful that it will be a good choice for her and that she will enjoy working in a fast paced, cutting edge media-techie field. I have to admit though, that the prospect of seeing my daughter heading off to commute to an office in London makes me feel very old!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I promised some pictures from Rose's birthday, then realised that I can't post most of them as they show other people's children! She chose to go to Build-a-Bear with five school friends (the minimum number for their parties), then come home for a teddy bears' picnic - though in fact none of them chose bears and it was a monkey / dog / rabbit picnic!

Contemplating her options in Claires (she had a voucher to spend)

"I promise to look after my bear (or monkey) ..."

Monkey boxed and ready to go

Picnic time

Birthday cake - baked by me, decorated by Marie

Location:Rose's Birthday

Monday, June 10, 2013

This Week: 10th June

The weather ... Lovely when the sun comes out, chilly when it doesn't. Feels more like early May than June.

I am wearing ... black and white pyjamas.

I am reading ... nothing at the moment. I have lots stacked up to read when I come out he other end of studying records management (groan)

I am creating ... still the same pair of socks, slowly

I am listening ... a CD called Music of the Crusades, recommended by a friend. I'm on a medieval kick at the moment (generally, not just musically).

I am watching ... a short BBC series about imperial women of Rome (wives, daughters and sisters of emperors). Fascinating.

I am enjoying ... feeling well again after shaking off the after effects f the chest infection. Still coughing a bit but otherwise feeling good.

From the learning rooms ... Helen's exams are done and she has officially finished school. Marie has finished science exams but a maths tomorrow and Friday.

On the menu ...
Monday: chicken, mashed sweet potato, braised leeks
Tuesday: fish and chips
Wednesday: chicken thighs and veggies
Thursday: stir fry (assuming Helen us home as it is a favourite of hers)
Friday: vegetarian chilli
Saturday: wait and see! Maybe burgers?
Sunday: roast lamb

On the calendar ...
Tuesday: spending most of the day at an education and culture xhibition, promoting the archive's educational services; Helen has a job interview in London; maths exam for Marie
Friday: maths exam for Marie
Saturday: playing at a village fete with the band
Sunday: band again, playing at the band stand in the park in town

A picture from last week ... It was Rose's 7th birthday last Saturday, but I think I'll put pictures into another post. This one was taken by Tevye when I got jumped on by daughters last week.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Picture Edition

1. The view from my Kindle at the lakeside park on Monday.

2. The moment before a certain daughter realised her tongue had frozen to the ice lolly.

3. On the inflatable slide

4. Landing!

5. Two bookworms

6. The kitchen on Tuesday morning. Wall colour very pale green (I named this paint colour "anaemic willow", though I'm sure Dulux had a more appealing name when we chose it!)

7. The kitchen on Wednesday afternoon. Wall colour "vanilla sundae".

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

North Bedfordshire

Last week my job share partner and myself spent a day walking through the North Bedfordshire countryside in the name of research - we are trying to put together a guided walk themed around some of the criminal cases we have catalogued. The walk gave us a chance to explore a new-to-us and rather lovely area, which often reminded us of the Cotswolds. It was also rather longer than we anticipated as we wandered through various villages trying to identify particular sites. We estimated we walked about 12 or 13 miles in total.

Here are a few highlights, mostly from later in the day when the weather brightened up ...

Thatched country cottages

Church on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside. In the middle ages this village was the centre of a small barony.

We fortified ourselves for the second (and longest) stage of our walk with a pub lunch here

View from a country park

Village green

Village lock-up. This was a highlight for us as we have various records concerning the lock-up and its prisoners. It wasn't a prison as such, just a holding cell for the local police before offenders were taken to the gaol in Bedford, and also a place where they could put drunks to sober up!

An old court house (now just a house!)

Another village church

In the 19th century this bridge was often the subject of complaints that it wasn't being kept in good repair.

Unusual brickwork on the side of Tudor house

This cottage was once a pub. I loved the little statuettes near the door.

Monday, May 27, 2013

This Week: 27th May 2013

The weather ... lovely May weather both yesterday and today, with sunshine and blue skies with some puffy white clouds. When the sun goes behind the cloud the wind is a little chilly, but for a holiday weekend I'll settle happily for this! Tomorrow's forecast is for cooler temperatures and rain, but at least today gave us a chance to get outdoors.

I am wearing ... black jeans, cream t-shirt with black floral pattern, black cardigan, black and white spotty socks. Very monochrome!

I am reading ... The Reluctant Yogi: a Quirky Guide to the Practice That Can Change Your Life by Carla Mackay.

I am creating ... still knitting socks. I'm not feeling very crafty at the moment. I always tend to find that I am a seasonal knitter and do very little in the summer.

I am listening ... Vivaldi streaming on Spotify, but it keeps blipping out on me.

I am watching ... not much!

I am enjoying ... feeling better. I caught a cold from Marie and Rose last week and after a long tiring couple of days on Wednesday and Thursday it turned into a chest infection. The combination of chest infection and asthma isn't a happy one. Fortunately I was able to get a doctor's appointment quickly on Friday and thanks to a combination of steroids and antibiotics was able to move and speak without getting breathless by Saturday evening. Yesterday I still felt pretty limp, but today has been much better. Hopefully I'll be almost back to normal by tomorrow.

From the learning rooms ... half term break this week. Rose has a long half term and doesn't go back to school until Wednesday next week. Helen and Marie both go back to public exams. Helen has her two A level exams on Monday and Tuesday, then she is done with school! Marie has biology, chemistry and maths GCSE papers over the first couple of weeks after half term. She takes core science and maths this year, then the rest of her GCSEs next year. (GCSEs and A levels are national exams which are essential for access to universities, further education courses and many careers, taken at 16 and 18 respectively)

On the menu ...
Monday: picnic lunch (salad); mackerel fillets / fish fingers, mushrooms, courgettes, sweetcorn, potato rosti
Tuesday: chicken and chips, green beans
Wednesday: lamb steaks, sweet potato, mushrooms
Thursday: [eating out]
Friday: savoury bean pot
Saturday: ??
Sunday: roast chicken

On the calendar ...
Monday: went on a family trip to a nearby city lake (all of us except Helen, who was working and in any case mostly does her own thing these days). We took a picnic lunch, then Rose enjoyed the play area and went for a walk with Marie while Tevye and I sat on the grass and relaxed. Although I'm feeling better I don't have the energy for much walking yet.
Tuesday: Repainting the kitchen
Wednesday: More repainting the kitchen
Thursday: I am going on a trip to London to visit two large archives (arranged as part of my course), and Tevye has a business meeting in London. The timings work out so that we can travel in together. He will get back earlier than me though, in time to take Marie and Rose to optician's appointments. Rose is hoping she may not need her glasses any more; Marie, who doesn't currently have any, suspects she is going to need them as she says she is struggling to see the board at school. In the evening Tevye and I are going to dinner with friends from band.
Friday: Tevye needs to go into work, so I shall probably take Rose (and maybe Marie?) out somewhere
Saturday: Nothing on the calendar yet.
Sunday: Taking Marie and A-next-door to another car boot sale for some more fund raising.

A picture from last week ... our annual visitors to our front garden are back. Every year they turn up, wander around the grass in front of the houses at our end of the road for a week or two, then disappear again until next year.

Monday, May 20, 2013

This Week: 20th May

The weather ... At times last week felt more like February than May, sometimes wet, sometimes cold and grey. Yesterday was sunny and quite warm, but there is more rain forecast for today.

I am wearing ... navy chinos, butterfly print t shirt, navy cardigan

I am reading ... about records management. Dull.

I am creating ... still the same pair of socks.

I am listening ... to Danzon No.2 by Arturo Marquez and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade.

I watched ... Minority Report at the weekend. It was set as a task for my course as a jumping off point for thinking about various records management issues.

I am not enjoying ... Level 147 of Candy Crush. Think I may be stuck for ever. Serves me right for getting hooked on a time-sucking game.

From the learning rooms ... this will be Helen's last week of school. Ever. Yikes!

On the menu ... this week the plan is that I have no plan!

On the calendar ...
Tuesday: Helen has an interview for a photography and video production apprenticeship
Thursday: Fund raising quiz night at work. Should be fun.
Sunday: Another car boot sale for Marie and her friend. I think my brother may be taking them this time.

A picture from last week ... a horse and cart spotted on our walk on Thursday. More playing with Instagram filters!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Medieval Week.

Two things I have been doing this week:

(1) Medieval stuff
(2) Playing with picture apps

On Thursday Tevye and I went for a walk in a village a few miles away where there is a castle site. I didn't even know it was there until a few months ago and had never been. Not much is known about the castle, except that it existed in the twelfth century and was probably a simple wooden keep and palisade that was never replaced with stone. The remaining earthworks show it was a classic motte and bailey castle. A small one!

The picture below was done with an iphone collage app called Moldiv, which I stumbled across when looking for something else. I mixed up shots of the castle with the surrounding countryside.

This picture is a collage of three panoramic views taken from the top of the motte. The white stone thing in the bottom picture is an Ordnance Survey triangulation point.

Today I was looking after an archive display in an adjacent town which had a weekend event focusing on its medieval history. This town was founded by King Henry I at the beginning of the 12th century and was the site of an important priory for the next 400 years. After the priory was dissolved in 1540 most of the buildings were destroyed, but the nave remained as the parish church. Imagine how imposing the original church must have been when it was complete.

There were a lot of middle ages re-enactors there, with booths demonstrating different aspects of medieval life and a recreation of a minor skirmish which took place in the town during the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century. I particularly liked the minstrel, who had an intriguing collection of early instruments. I now want a bowed psaltery. Or a lyre. Or both. As you can see from this picture I have also been playing with Instagram filters.

This panoramic view shows part of the encampment, with soldiers mustering ready or battle.

More Instagram filters on these pictures, trying to compensate for slightly fuzzy cropped distance shots. This Yorkist soldier was taking a breather between bouts of fighting.

And here the battle was raging.

I have also been working on some of these at work, so all in all a very medieval week.