Monthly Archives: February 2011

The village plans ahead

It’s only half past ten, but I’m feeling ready for bed.  I always feel that an early night is giving in, though, so I’ll hang on a bit longer.

I’ve always been an evening person, even as a child  When I used to share a bedroom with my sister, we both read for a while and then put the light out and I chatted away long after she was desperate to go to sleep.  I then slept heavily and found getting up in the morning really difficult.  I’m not a lot different now, although better at getting up if I need to.

We’ve started planning for this year’s village festival in the middle of July.  It’s called a festival rather than just a fête because of the beer festival which starts in the village hall about midday and goes on until late at night.  John at the pub, who runs it, always gets in some good guest beers and I sip gently away at the less alcoholic ones.  Well, it’s middle of the afternoon when I go there and I wouldn’t want to raise eyebrows.

I’m only on the committee because they needed someone to take notes.  I don’t offer to do much more – I help at the time, of course.  We’ve always been remarkably lucky with the weather, I’m not sure what we’d do if it rained, as the beer is in the village hall – not that it takes all of it up, but there’s not room for all the stalls.  I did the notes straight away and have emailed them out – it wasn’t really important enough to take priority, considering the other things I have to do, but it was simpler than anything else, so I reckoned I might as well.

Ro rang this evening, wondering if it would be all right to come over on Sunday instead of Saturday.  Makes no difference to us.  They’ve been invited out on Saturday evening for dinner.  He knows I won’t take it as a slight.  I’ve told him, there’s been a change of menu and will fillet steak be all right?  He thought it would.  Oh good, what a relief.

Z, absurdly enough, gives beauty advice

The Sage decided to have a last-minute switch around of china.  I’ve altered the numbers on the photos and changed around the descriptions in the list, but I’m quite anxious in case I’ve made a mistake, so we’ll have to proof-read carefully and check everything against the china itself.  I’ve sent 30 photos and the list to Weeza and she’ll do a draft of the catalogue over the weekend.

I’ve been asked to judge the home produce classes at the Garden Club show again, in September.  It’s in my diary now.  Call me attention-seeking, but I’ve taken it as a compliment that they asked me again.

Ro and Dora are coming over for dinner on Saturday, won’t have seen them for three weeks and we’re looking forward to it.  I’m doing a pot-roast.  Don’t know yet what the pudding will be.

I’ve received two compliments on my complexion in the last few days, which I mention because I’ve been using a new (to me) product.  I went to a friend’s Bodyshop evening and among the stuff we were shown was something called “Vitamin C Skin Reviver”  I put some on and said “gosh, that’s so smooth, when my husband kisses me he’ll fall right off” and duly bought some.  It isn’t instead of moisturiser, but goes on top, and I assumed that the smoothness was a temporary feel rather than an actual benefit but there we are,  my face has been noticed.  I can’t remember what it cost, but Bodyshop isn’t big bucks after all.  While I’m on the subject, the face cleanser I’ve been using for several years is Liz Earle’s Cleanse and Polish, which is so good that if ever I use anything else, my skin goes all dry and blotchy after a few days.  It’s brilliant.  It’s the only face wash I’ve ever used that isn’t drying, and because it’s washed off, you don’t need cotton wool.

I’m hardly one from whom skin care advice  flows naturally, but there we go.  First time for everything.

Which reminds me, on the way home from lunch, one of the friends I give a lift to (two sisters, both in their early 80s) told us a distinctly risqué story that another 80-something friend had been regaling their table with.  I thought there were some chuckles from the other side of the room.  What rascals.

I’ve just been looking in the mirror.  I don’t seem to look quite my usual raddled self.  But then, I have taken out my contact lens, so it could be a kind short-sighted blur.

Z felt a bit emotional

I wrote to all the staff at the school.  They were probably quite startled to receive a 1750-word letter, but I didn’t waste words.  Meetings to come after half term.  I’m afraid that those who are reluctant to make changes aren’t aware of what’s going on.  I addressed and signed all the letters by hand – so glad I’ve got a short first name.  Although not quite as short as Z in real life.

Anyway, I went, this evening, to a little get-together for former and present governors to say goodbye to the Head at the village school.  She’s been a teacher there for 15 years, the last 8 as Head, and now she’s moving to North Yorkshire.  She is a lovely woman and a brilliant teacher and guide to her staff, and she will be hugely missed.  They didn’t appoint from last week’s interviews,  but her second in command will take over until the right person is found.

This afternoon, I took all the photos, edited (straightened!) and labelled them, and will email the ones for the catalogue to Weeza tomorrow, once the Sage has told me which ones they are.  They will all go in the online catalogue, of course.  Someone in Belgium asked for a catalogue – we charge £5 for the first one, just so we know people who ask really want one, and then send them out free of charge.  He hasn’t got an English bank so offered a Euro bank transfer.  We checked, and it would cost us £7 to receive it, never mind the charge to him.  We’ve said we’ll waive the charge and just send the catalogue.  By tomorrow at 11, I hope to have got everything off to Weeza and have finished work.  I’m out to lunch, then have classroom visit reports to type up (I have the handwritten notes) and send out, a final – heavy – meeting on Friday morning and then that’s it for this half term.  Next week off, thank goodness.  I’ve got all my Nadfas stuff to do and the church rota.  I’m aiming to do them over the weekend, but it’s pie in the sky, I know.  Once I start relaxing, I’ll throw myself into it and forget all the work.

Music mixing

I’m finally getting to grips with the school music computer programmes.  It’s taken a long time.  I was just getting used to Cubase, and this year we’re using Musicmaker.  So I listened to the teacher explaining it all – she starts by demonstrating how to use it on her laptop which is linked to an interactive whiteboard so that everyone can see it – and I took notes on my phone.  Then, when all the pupils went off into small groups, I was able to help with problems.  I unashamedly look it up, I don’t pretend to know more than I do.

The afternoon group are quite different from the morning one, much more inclined to relate to me as a person than a teacher-figure.  It’s quite interesting in that respect, that the style of the class is so different.  I’ve noticed that I’m more relaxed this year, I’m finally feeling as confident as I pretend to be.

I was in a GCSE class last week, with a governor hat on (on helping days, I’m a friend of the school and unpaid assistant).  Part of the lesson involved analysis of a Moby song.  Homework had been listening to it and making notes and the lesson was writing down the analysis under various headings, without using any notes.  It was quite hard, I’d have found it very difficult.  They all dutifully set to and I went around speaking to some of them, asking questions and so on.  One lad, obviously very able, had a nice turn of phrase.  He admitted that he finds actually playing musical instruments the most enjoyable, not surprisingly.  The on-paper analysis, he said drily, is ‘not the most interesting part”of the syllabus.  I asked if it has a knock-on effect – when he listens to music for pleasure, does he tend to analyse it?  ‘Annoyingly, yes,”  he replied.  He also asked me what instruments I play – good job I had an answer for him!

I haven’t typed up my notes yet.  Must this week, it’s half term next week.  And I haven’t got a thing in my diary, except Meals on Wheels on the Thursday.  I might haul the hoover out.  I don’t remember using it this month yet, although I have washed the kitchen floor.

Snow on snow on snow

I’m not feeling very capable of describing how I feel.  There’s too much that I’m not at liberty to say.  Suffice it to say that the Head and I evidently haven’t handled things too well, because our wonderful and dedicated teachers are feeling really anxious, the Sage hasn’t altogether behaved like one, and my car wouldn’t start this morning.  That’s without the rest of the stuff patiently waiting.

Do you know, cooking dinner this evening, I suddenly thought, thank goodness I’m a Christian boozer and I have something to fall back and land on?  What does a teetotal atheist do?  Shit still happens, for goodness sake. Resilience can only go so far.  Crunchy raw carrots are delicious, but don’t cut the mustard.  Seriously, I’m interested.  If you have an answer, please tell me.  Because I may give up the booze one day, you never know, and who knows with faith?  I don’t think I’m the sort to lose it because I’m the tenacious sort, but shit happens.

I’m sorry my loves, I know that this is a positive, forward thinking and cheerful blog, but it’s also an honest one, and I’m having a day when I’m not feeling negative, not unhappy, but it’s all too much.  I don’t have to cope every day.

Okay, the good things.  The Sage was great, I called him when he was asleep to say the car wouldn’t start, and he uncomplainingly was ready to drive me in within five minutes.  I said what I needed to, and I feel able to cope with it.  I’ve had a kind discussion over the Sage’s screw-up and the result is his decision.  The car is back now, it’s nothing major.  I’ve not let anyone down.  I slept last night for more than six hours.  My friend Mike came to my rescue over the car, and I had a good chat with his wife Ann (not you, Mike and Ann, darlings) and cuddled their dogs (they’ve got an adorable spaniel cross that I’d bring home right now) and admired photos of their cute granddaughter.  I received my quote for my car insurance today, and it’s not much more than last year, which means I’m comfortable to just accept it and not go through the shopping around hell (I’ll check the small print first).  I’ve got money in the bank and had a really helpful, though unsolicited, phone call to advise me on where to put it (ooer missus).

So, good way outweighs bad.  That it doesn’t feel that way is just one of those things.  I’ll be back tomorrow being frivolous.

Oh, and thanks, Dave.  Your remark on Facebook today had me laughing for quite some time.  I L’edOL.

Taking turns

I’m not sorry to find that the weather has turned too windy, I think, to do the photographs today.  A lot of those Nadfas returns have come in, and I haven’t had time to do anything with them.

Al and Dilly went out for dinner last night, and had a delicious meal, they said, at a local restaurant.  They chatted to the proprietress and heard that, apparently, the satisfaction of a fully-booked dining room had been marred by two last-minute cancellations and a no-show.  Around here, people wouldn’t expect to give their card details in advance and have a charge made for not turning up, but you can hardly blame a restaurant.  Al said there were 28 diners, so losing 6 is a big deal on the Saturday nearest Valentine’s, when they’d probably turned away people and there was little chance of any last-minute hopefuls.

I remember, years ago, my mother telling me about a friend of hers, who’d had people come and stay for the weekend.  She lived in Beccles, where there were several nice places to eat.  Apparently, she blithely said that she had booked a table at three different places.  When the friends arrived, she asked them where they’d like to eat that night, and phoned and cancelled the other two.  My mother was shocked, and asked if she realised the implications for a business if people did that?  Friend didn’t get it.  She was the customer, the consumer ho ho, and it was her choice.  Well yes, said my mother, but you expect a booking to be binding on the restaurant, and they buy their food, turn away other bookings if full, employ their staff for the night, on the basis of the expected number of diners.  Cancelling with a couple of hours notice doesn’t give them a chance to repair the damage.  Friend still didn’t get it.

Dave had a crack at my grammar in the last post (if I didn’t know much about grammar, he’d not do it – don’t think he’s being pernickety, he’s teasing and knows I’ll tease right back) but it reminded me of a summer back over twenty years ago.  I think it was the summer holidays when Ro turned five, which meant that Weeza was fifteen and Al was thirteen, though it could have been a year later.  I don’t think that the Sage’s and my age are relevant, suffice it to say that we were young and lovely.  Anyway.  I had the bright idea that it would be a jolly good thing if everyone took it in turns to do the cooking that summer.

This was the proposal … well, this was what I told them was going to happen.  Each of us would take it in turns to decide on the menu for the main meal and cook it.  I’d help and advise if necessary and, if told in advance, would do the shopping.

It worked really well, actually.  I can’t remember much of what was cooked, but they didn’t rely on convenience food.  We went through a fair few things on toast on Ro’s days, I think – he did brilliantly well, especially when you consider it was a permanently hot Aga he was working on.  I did supervise him for safety’s sake, but he did fine.  I remember him cooking scrambled eggs, and I remember watching anxiously as he chopped carrots.   They all took the task of preparing balanced meals in a sensible manner – but then, we’ve always eaten well and enjoy good food, so it wasn’t surprising.

From my point of view, it wasn’t much less work.  I gave a lot of advice and found up quite a few recipes, and had to take on the responsibility of making sure that the fridge and larder were well stocked – especially for the Sage, who didn’t plan ahead – but letting go of the decision-making was a treat and it meant that I took care over choosing and cooking on my own days.  We didn’t repeat the experiment, not because it wasn’t successful but because it was a bit too regimented for our taste, really.  This rota stuff wasn’t really our way.


We’re well on the way with our next auction catalogue.  With one thing and another, we weren’t ready to start typing it up until 5 o’clock yesterday evening, and it took three hours.  I always get an energy dip in the early evening, and although I’d had lunch, that was quite early and I’d eaten nothing since, so I was very tired and so was the Sage by the time we’d done.  We had given ourselves five minutes break for a glass of wine to perk us up and I was extremely careful after that with the china, I was at the clumsy stage of tiredness already.  I wanted brackets at some point – to type them, that is – and I couldn’t remember where they were on the keyboard.  I learned to touch type more than forty years ago,  it’s usually second nature which is a measure of how befuddled I was by tiredness and half a glass of wine.

It so happened that Roses has mentioned making a cheese omelette – or, as they are now known to her friends,  omnomnomelettes (thanks, Rog) and so I took her inspiration and we were eating dinner by 8.15.

Today, Weeza, Phil and Zerlina came over and I’ve spent half the day cooking and the rest typing.  But now the condition report (that is, the record of any damage on the china) is completed and we’ve just got the photos to take.  If the weather is okay, we’ll do that tomorrow.  Having tried all sorts of ways, I like natural light and a lightbox so that there’s no shadow, best.  I’ll send everything to Weeza, who will prepare the catalogue and send it to the printers.  She’s good at layouts and stuff, and I don’t want to have to learn.

They stayed for dinner, which I hadn’t really expected as Weeza doesn’t like Zerlina to stay up late and roast chicken, roast potatoes, cabbage and courgette were cooked and on the table in not much over an hour from when the suggestion was made, which was a bit of a rush, with rhubarb crumble and custard for pudding.  I say all this to make Ro jealous if he reads it, of course (I don’t know how regularly he drops in, but he does sometimes) although he and Dora might be coming over for a meal next weekend.

I’ve just remembered it’s the early service tomorrow morning and I’m sidesman.  Oh bother.  I don’t think I’ve been sent hymns for the later service either, which means I’ll have to choose them.

Ah.  I’ve just looked at the rota.  I wrote it last November when Andy became ill – we check around to see who isn’t going to be available each week, and evidently tomorrow is a bad day.  I’m down as sidesman at 8 o’clock, and to read both lessons.  At 11 o’clock, I’m playing the music, reading both lessons and making coffee afterwards.  That’ll be fun then.  It’s not as bad as it sounds actually, we’re using the church meeting rooms to save heating the church for the winter, so it’s not as if I’m trotting up and down the aisle.  And if a good-natured person turns up, I’ll ask if he or she will read one of the lessons.

Yester day

Sir B’s comment about yesterday’s post reminded me of a conversation I had with my son Ro when he was a small child.   I was talking of something that had happened the day before, and he said “but that wasn’t today.”  “No, it was yesterday.”  “No, it wasn’t today.”  “I didn’t say it was today, it was yesterday.”

It was some time before I caught on, and took him a few minutes more to take in the difference between ‘yes-today’ and “yester-day.”  And at least they did sound the same, very nearly (cf the extremely funny link that Rog put up the other day, on a newspaper article correction that hinged on mishearing “20 sows and pigs as 20,000 pigs).

I can remember many occasions, as a child, when something completely mystified me and it wasn’t until years later that I worked out that I’d misheard or misunderstood an expression.  And children try to turn something that they don’t understand into something that they do – lots of well-known examples of that, such as Pontius the Pilot: mind you, one only had to think of Mondegreens to realise that we all do that.  Even in everyday speech, that so many people say “could of” instead of “could have” is simply a mishearing of “could’ve” – and so, it’s becoming an acceptable alternative, even if people who know it’s wrong don’t like that.  I’ve become a great deal more tolerant of this sort of thing in the past couple of years.  Language does and should evolve, and it’s part of the complexity and fun of English.

What I don’t like is simplifying things on the assumption that people won’t understand the original and so it’s best avoided.  It’s by having to learn more complex things that one becomes able to – for example, back when I was a child, we all learned the 12 times table pretty quickly.  We had to.  There were 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound, and everyone knew what tables were for, and so had an incentive to learn the 2, 3, 4, 6 and 12 times tables, at any rate.  7 was entirely useless so children had to be forced into learning that.  It’s 40 years ago next week that decimalised currency hit this country, and the purposefulness of everyday multiplication was lost instantly as well as the value and cost of everyday items, something that has never been caught up with since.  I’m not for a moment suggesting a return, it would be too damn difficult for everyone, including me, and even the extraordinary Secretary of State for Education, who probably regrets the passing of the slide rule and the introduction of the pocket calculator, hasn’t come up with that.  But Dilly, who is doing one-to-one tutoring in schools at present, was telling me the other week that the biggest problem is that reasonably able teenagers have missed out on learning some basics, and so can’t keep up. The biggest difference is in knowing times tables.  It so happens (and I didn’t raise the subject) that a Learning Support teacher at the high school told me exactly the same thing about tables the next week.

Same with writing and spelling.  Back in the day when, as a parent, I used to go in to help at the village school, I was listening to a child read her book.  Neither her first nor surname was spelled phonetically, but she was a bright child, probably 5 or 6 at the time.  We talked about the spelling of the word “laugh” and I said, you can’t sound it out, it’s one of those words that you just have to learn.  And, I pointed out, her own name of Laughton contains laugh.  She could spell her name, and was quite tickled by the idea. And I bet she had no difficulty with the different ‘augh’ and ‘ough’ pronunciations that language-simplifiers complain about, because the peculiarity of such a thing was an everyday matter for her.

Happy Barryday

Weeza and Zerlina came over today.  Zerlina came bustling through to the kitchen, wearing an apron and declaring an intention to make cakes.  I settled her at the table and asked what we need.  “A sandwich” she said.  We worked out the ingredients and utensils and set to.  Handed an egg, she tapped it twice on the edge of a bowl and they started to pull it apart,  I hastily put the bowl underneath her hands, and the contents successfully landed.  We made a Victoria sponge and flapjacks, then went to buy sprinkles (hundreds and thousands and mini lemon and orange slices) and icing sugar, which I’d forgotten to get.

All in all, we ate rather a lot of cake and flapjacks today.

It was decided that Barry was about due for a birthday, so we lit a candle and sang to him.  Waiting for her slice, Zerlina actually drooled, fortunately on the table.

Later, when Zerlina was having her nap (she still sleeps for at least an hour after lunch every day), we were talking about the children.  All three of them are delightful at present, very happy, eating and sleeping well,  a real pleasure – “odd how you’re all going to make your lives difficult again with a new baby each,” I remarked.  We pondered a bit.

Iacta alea est, occupet extremum scabies

That is – al being well and unless a major problem turns up – we’re going independent and becoming an academy.  Goodbye, local authority that used to be good and now isn’t.  Hello, £290,000 that we have paid them each year to provide various services.  We reckon we can get those we need, in some cases from the LA, for half that.

But that’s not the reason.  It’s independence.  The next government initiative, we won’t have to follow it unless we want to.  We’ll still answer to Ofsted but, as long as we teach key subjects (no plans to drop English and Maths I promise), we’ll be free.  I see it as protecting our marvellous staff.  Some of them are anxious, they see the LA as protective.  Hardly any more, less in the future.  We’ve made the right decision for the right reasons and it was a draining, but inspiring, meeting yesterday. I didn’t really sleep last night, but not because of anxiety.

I take it to heart.  So do many of the staff and governors.  We don’t leave it behind at the end of the day, but how could we?  We’re, you know, passionate and stuff.  Idealistic, once in a while.  Not me of course, I’m practical, pragmatic and hard-headed.  I want those kids to earn whole lots so that there’s enough money about to keep me in my dribbling dotage.

Please excuse the Latin, both are googeable quotations, or Chris, Dave, Dandelion or Mago will provide translations.  Or maybe Gledwood.  He’s a dark horse.