Saturday, 29 December 2012


Christmas was a strange affair this year. Christmas morning started at 7 o'clock with the discovery that Father Christmas had visited during the night. Ellie and Caitlin opened their presents at the end of our bed as normal but Adrienne was missing. She'd stayed the night at the boyfriends. She came home in time for Christmas dinner though.

After dinner we opened tree presents, then Beth, Andrew and Francis arrived and more presents were exchanged. We had tea and then everyone gathered round the telly to watch 'Doctor Who', as normal. But Mum and Dad were missing, Dad having broken his sternum two weeks earlier.

We went down to visit Mum and Dad on Boxing Day, had Carl's mum round for tea the day after and then Julie, Ken and Christopher yesterday. I feel I have over-feasted and now need a normal day, but there are just so many tempting left-overs!

Monday, 24 December 2012


 This was the scene outside my house on Saturday night. Carl got his digger out in the day and made a huge mound of mud at the end of the drive. We parked all the cars on on the hill. But the hill turned into a river and pretty soon the road was impassable. Our cellar flooded and the end of the garden but no major damage.
 We were supposed to go out to my works do but got turned around by the police because all the roads to Combe Martin were flooded. Then the environment agency floodline phoned to say we were in imminent danger of flood and should we have to be evacuated please co-operated with the emergency services. We decided it might be easier to stay at home. Carl, Caitlin and Adrienne decided to go out exploring at just past midnight. Apparently there was a party going on down by Co-op bridge, everyone had gone out to see the river at high tide.
This was the scene on Sunday morning. That red car had been abandoned and stayed there until this morning when its owner finally decided to come and get it back. South West highways have been out pumping the drains. The hills is now a small stream. And the waters are slowly receding.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Czech Republic

 Last weekend I returned from a week spent in the Czech Republic. Working - of course! I met with the teachers on our 2 year European schools project. This is us on the Charles Bridge in Prague, minus the teachers from Northern Ireland who met us a day later once we'd arrived in Karvina.
 We spent a lot of time in school and having meetings, but on the Wednesday we went with some children on a school trip into the mountains. It had only just snowed so there was no ski-ing, but the children did lots of sledging, in between practising their English conversation skills on us.
 We also did a fair bit of drinking! Champagne and beer at the staff Christmas party evening. Nice!
The best bit of the week was ice skating in the snow. Dodging the children dashing at 90 miles an hour from one side of the rink straight across to the other was a challenge. I did fall down once. But it was good fun!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Victorian Classroom

Today we had a Victorian day at school. This is the Year 4 team in all our finest Victorian gear. We had great fun swishing around in our hooped petticoats, although going to the toilet was a bit of an adventure!

Sunday, 18 November 2012


 A couple of weeks ago it was Bonfire Night. I've been so busy since then I've completely forgotten until today, when I found my camera, that I hadn't done my blog. On Saturday night we took the girls to Julie and Ken's house for fireworks, food and fun. Carl managed not to blow up the house despite the closeness of the fireworks to the house.

Then on Sunday night we did the same at Mum and Dads. It rained a bit so I didn't take so many photos. Willow stood at the patio doors watching the fireworks go up. At one point she managed to escape and did her level best to chase a firework. Fortunately she wasn't that fast! Mum Skyped Adrienne but I don't think she got a good view of the fireworks. She's requested that we save some for when she's home at Christmas, but I doubt if she'll be lucky. Perhaps we'll buy some more.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Last Ice-Cream of the Summer

Yesterday I decided it would be a good idea to take the dog for a walk on Westward Ho! beach. Ellie said, 'Can we have a Hockings?' 'Yes,' I said, 'if the ice cream van is there.' I fully expected it not to be there on a miserable day at the end of October.

Well, by the time we got down there the rain was coming down sideways and the tide was completely covering the beach. But the ice cream van was there, in his usual place at the top of the slipway. We walked the dog along the top of the pebble ridge, round the cricket pitch and back to the car, her shortest walk yet, then sat in the car in wet trousers and ate ice cream. Caitlin also bought herself a hot chocolate.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Ellie's Birthday

Today we celebrated Ellie's birthday. She had a few friends round and they went bowling and then into the karaoke pod. These are the sort of birthdays I like. We drop them off, they have fun, and we pick them up a few hours later.
At home we had burgers and chips for tea, followed by chocolate cake and ice cream. They are now in the other room pigging out on more chocolate and getting sugar-highs from fizzy drink whilst watching a video. These are the bits of birthdays I don't like - not getting any sleep. Why do they call them sleepovers?

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Fidget and Whiskers

Both our guinea pigs passed away on Thursday. They were muched loved and will be greatly missed. They were 5 years old, which I gather is a good age for guinea pigs. We buried them under a flower bush in the garden. Bye, bye, little piggies.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Adrienne goes to uni

Well, here she is, my Adrienne, almost unpacked in her university room at Southampton University, where she will study nursing for the next three years.

We drove her up yesterday and stayed in Basingstoke overnight, then arrived at the Halls at just after 10 o'clock this morning. The day was not without drama. It rained all day. We discovered she was on the fourth floor of her block and there was no lift. Luckily some very helpful students in yellow t-shirts were on hand to help with the carrying. Carl conned one of them into carrying the Dougal box up for us. I gather it has already prooved a talking point as she was Skyping about it earlier.

Adrienne has locked her bike in a secure storage space until she can sort out a key for the bike shed next to her block and then realised that she doesn't know where the key for the bike lock is.

We went to IKEA to get a few things she was missing, like a bin (which was supposed to be provided) and clothes hangars, and managed to get trapped in the car park by another car which broke down just in front of us. Fortunately it was not long before the car next to us moved and we could squeeze past.

But on the whole things have gone quite smoothly. Adrienne has already made friends and by now is probably out having a good time in something called The Cube as Freshers Week celebrations get under way.

We'll see her again at Christmas.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sunday afternoon drama

We sat down to watch a bit of telly this afternoon and had got 6 minutes into our programme when there was a loud bang and the sound of shattering glass from the room I write this blog in. Seconds later the dog shot through the door and into the safety of the garden. Investigations revealed a huge hole in one of the windows and a wood pigeon perched on the radiator opposite. Carl sent the girls off to get a towel and we managed to grab it as it tried to fly back out one of the unbroken windows.

The poor thing had damaged its chest and under its right wing and was bleeding everywhere. Caitlin insisted on cuddling it while we phoned the RSPCA. After listening to multiple mulitple choice options and several lectures on what to do with injured wild animals and birds I finally spoke to a human being who assured me some one would come to collect my pigeon. We put it in a box with holes in and left it. Three hours later someone eventually came. The pigeon, miraculously, was still looking strong and trying to escape. I hope he makes it.

I spent an hour of this afternoon picking up glass, washing pigeon blood off my walls and window sills and stripping all the covers off my chairs and sofa to put them through the wash.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

In Memory of Dave

Today I learned the news that Dave Mason sadly passed away in late July. I saw him only weeks before, smiling and laughing as always. He was a remarkably lovely man who was always cheerful and ready with a joke. I will remember him fondly and my thoughts are with his family.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Ellie starts Pilton College

Today was Ellie's first day at 'Chaddi', as it is known by the children. There is a brand new uniform for the Year 7s so here she is modelling it. She had a good day, although she reports that Caitlin got her lost for PE by sending her to the Sports Hall when she should have been in the gym.

Caitlin is now in Year 11 and doesn't have to have the new uniform. She's come home with homework for every subject she had today. A sign of things to come!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

France - Tusson and region

 We arrived at Carl's dad's house in Tusson at teatime on Saturday. We had a quick tour of the house as only Carl had been there before, then it was time for a BBQ tea outside. Lovely.

 On Sunday, after a lazy morning, we had an active afternoon. We hired kayaks from a nearby town and paddled down the river to a small village which I cannot remember the name of. It was lovely and sunny and nice easy paddling, until we came to what appeared to be a dead end with only weirs in front of us. We saw another group of people coming up behind us and decided to wait and see what they did. They were English and had about as much clue as we did. The only option appeared to be a small fork to the left but that looked like it was a weir too. On closer inspection of the map and instructions it did say to take a shoot to the left and to the left of the weir there was a shoot so we took it. It was correct, we didn't have to get out of our kayaks and wade out of the water.

We took a minute for Ellie to recover from the trauma of having spiders and river-boatmen in her kayak and then set off back to where we'd come from on bikes. There were a few uphill bits where I had to get off and push, but other than that it was easy cycling through pretty scenery. Most of the sunflower fields had their sunflowers turned down and dying but we found a few to stop and take pictures in. This is Caitlin before she realised there might be bees in the flowers, and before she'd decided she didn't like her bike cos she'd asked for a road bike like me when she really should have asked for a mountain bike!

 This region of France apparently closes on Mondays so we travelled to the nearest big town, Cognac, in the hope that some of the shops would be open. Hardly any of them were as they were all closed for a three hour lunch break. So we wandered around for a bit, bought drinks and ice creams and then went back to Tusson. Caitlin decided she wanted to go for a swim in a nearby lake with a beach but when we got there it had clouded over and she decided it was too dirty. We just paddled.

Then Tuesday arrived and the holiday was over. A six hour drive got us back to Le Havre and then on to Blighty. This is Caitlin trying to clean chocolate off the seat of her shorts. She'd sat in it for about three hours and it looked like she'd had a different sort of accident.

Friday, 31 August 2012

France - St Cyprien and region

We left Versailles on Saturday and spent all day travelling down to the South coast. We stopped in a few motorway services and also went to a town called Clermont-Ferrand which had a massive cathedral in black stone. It was lovely and cool inside and none of us wanted to leave. On Sunday it was cloudy, we spent all day just lounging about in our tiny appartment which we quickly nicknamed 'The Shoebox'. We did manage a stroll along the beach in the evening and a visit to the local shop to buy essentials. Monday was lovely and on the way to a supermarket we stopped to play Adventure Golf (above).
 The rest of Monday and Tuesday were lazy days spent by the beach. This is Caitlin looking cool in Adrienne's hat and my Ray Bans.

Wednesday was Carcassonne day. It was a 2 hour drive from where we were in St Cyprien via the coast road rather than the peage. When we arrived we ate the sandwiches we brought with us and then made our way into La Cite. The streets are narrow and crowded with people fighting their way in and out of shops. We found our way to the centre of the castle and in boiling heat I joined the queue for tickets. There were two queues with one man in each of the two ticket booths. I lost half an hour of my life standing in that queue. Ridiculous.
 It wasn't much cooler inside the castle than out of it, but it was pretty and we took lots of nice photos. We need to watch the film 'Robin Hood Prince of Thieves' again now so we can watch out for the shots of the castle and say 'I've been there'. After exploring the castle and the ramparts we found and nice little cafe in a square full of cafes and had a well deserved drink. Adrienne put her thermometre on the table, which was in direct sunlight, and it went up to the top of the scale, 50 degrees. That's hot!

 At the end of the week the weather grew windy, although the sun was still out. This is the view from our balcony. You can see the flags being blown in the wind.

 It meant we got some quite spectacular waves too which we all enjoyed messing about in.

 On Friday we drove into Spain to drop Adrienne off at Girona airport. On the way back we took a detour into the Pyrenees. This is me just before we got lost down a little mountain track that ended up in some French farm. Tomtom didn't have a clue where we were but it got us a bit higher up than staying on the road would have done.

Saturday was leaving-day, us and whole of the rest of the South of France it would seem because it took us nearly three hours to get back as far as Carcassonne and that was using the peage. It was a nightmare! We did get a good photo of the castle though when we stopped at the services. This was just before the air conditioning in Carl's car broke.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

France - Versailles and EuroDisney

 The first part of our holiday in France started just outside Paris in a campsite called Huttopia Versailles. We've been there before and it was very nice. This time was slighty different. We arrived at midday on the Thursday, checked in, then sunbathed by the pool until we were allowed to our tent at 4.00. Then we decided to visit the Palace of Versailles. I'd been to the gardens when I was 12 but that was all.

It was quite late in the afternoon by then but we went in anyway and had plenty of time to look around. The good thing about the visit was that children are free. When you get inside there are big posters that say no photography or filming but everyone else was doing it so we did too. It's a pretty impressive building. We wandered round the gardens too, although we were getting a bit hot and tired by then. So it was off to find a supermarket for bread and milk and then back to the pool for a swim.

The water was quite cold but the kids had fun.
 Dinner was bolognaise and pasta cooked inside our tent and eaten at the picnic bench outside.

 On Friday we were off to EuroDisney. We arrived in plenty of time to make it to the park gates and collect our tickets - 2 free tickets and 3 discounted tickets, thanks to Sky. Unlike America, however, the French do not seem to like opening the park early so although the gates opened at around 9.30 not one of the rides started operating until dead on 10.00. We went to the Studios first and they rode Tower of Terror while I got fastpasses for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Then they did the spinny and swingy rides in the new Toy Story bit.

 When we got into the Disneyland Park it was more crowded. We got fastpasses for Big Thunder Mountain and then wandered round and did rides where the queues weren't too bad - Haunted Mansion (above) and Pirates of the Carribean. If you look closely you will see the train on Big Thunder Mountain stuck on the tracks. Those people had to be walked off the ride. This was just before our fastpass time. It took them four hours to mend the ride, but we got on it eventually. We fastpassed Space Mountain while we waited and did some other rides.

Caitlin and Ellie had their picture taken with Rabbit. It was very hot and we were all tired and sweaty by the time we got back to the campsite.

That night a banging started near us. We didn't take much notice of it at first. Then it was bedtime and the campsite grew quieter. And the banging became more noticeable, more annoying. The kids managed to get some sleep but by 2.00 it was really starting to annoy me. A walk round the campsite in the dark discovered that it was coming from the shed behind out tent. We went to reception and rang the number, no answer. So Carl went to sleep in the car, as he was driving all the next day, I got a few hours sleep eventually. A complaint the next day did nothing. It was the swimming pool pump, but when I told the lady it was not doing it the night before and that I would like my money back for last night she said she would have to contact her boss and would send me an email in response. Nothing yet.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Ellie gets braces

Not the world's best picture, I know, but its the only one I took. This is Ellie's new look for the next two years. She had the yellow bands on today and we go back in eight weeks time to get it all checked and changed. She's been alright so far today, not too many moans, but it was a bit traumatic getting her to clean her teeth this evening.

Friday, 10 August 2012

A Day at the Beach

 Yesterday we had a lovely day at the beach. Well, afternoon really. We got to the Northam Burrows end of Westward Ho! at just after 2 o'clock and met up with Jason, Ness, Ian and Louise and their children. I was pleased to learn that you can actually take your dogs on that end of the beach in summer. So Willow came too and played with Truffle - she spent most of the time running after her ball and making sure Truffle didn't get it.
 The men, and Nessie, all went in the water with surf boards. Carl took the camera down and managed to get lots of shots of waves and nothing else.

The rest of us just went for a paddle. Even Willow went in, although she didn't like it much. We were there til about 6 o'clock then went back to Jason and Ness's for fish and chips and Olympic watching. It was a great day.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The End of an Era

 On Wednesday Ellie had her last day with Celia, our childminder. I know she's eleven and probably didn't need to go anymore, but it was easy on the day I have staff meetings and Celia lives in the house next to the school. Ellie loves going to Celia's. Celia has been Ellie's second mum. I am afraid I got all emotional and cried. Ellie laughed at me!
And yesterday was her last day at Pilton Bluecoat. She went through the signing-the-t-shirt ritual. For the last twelve years one of my children has been coming to school with me. Next year will be very strange. I cried again. Also because Rob left. He's been at school for 22 years and was the last remaining teacher who was there when I started 20 years ago. It won't ever be the same again.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Ellie on stage

Ellie is having a week of performing. On Saturday evening she was in the annual Guitar Concert where students from the Barnstaple area schools taught by Des Miles get together to perform. Ellie is in her fourth year now, but there were students there in their first year, right up to 18 years + in the North Devon Guitar Ensemble.
Then this evening she was in the Year 6 end of year production of "Go For Gold", a musical story of Modern Olympic athletes and the Ancient Greek Games. Carl and Caitlin came to see it. Carl said it was the best one yet. There are another two productions to go for anyone interested in coming, tomorrow afternoon and Wednesday night.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

June Update

I have been a bit busy lately in a dark tunnel of report writing. Every time I sit down at the computer the only thing I seem to be able to do (apart from compulsively checking my emails) is think about writing another report. However, I only have four left to do now, so I am allowing myself a little deviation to update you on The Betazoids June.

Caitlin has had her birthday. She couldn't think of anything much she wanted so she's had yet more books, money and her Gran and Grandad paid for her to go on a school trip to London in November. Lucky girl!
 Two days before her birthday she managed to slice her thumb open on a can of tuna. That resulted in a quick trip to casualty for two stitches. It's her fourth trip in 13 months. Carl had to fill in a questionnaire, one of the questions was, 'Do you have a social worker?' I guess the answer was, 'No, but we might have soon!'

 Grandad also had a birthday. 91 and still going strong (if you don't count the bruise on his head where he had an argument with the shower). Mum did birthday cake and nibbles. Very nice.

Ellie ran her last Bluecoat Sports Day, held at Braunton Athletics track. She ran the third leg of the relay, took the baton in the lead and held on to the lead all the way round. She passed to Taylor who gave them even more of a lead and they came home with a gold medal. She also took part in the long jump and came a respectable second. She spent last week away from home on the Year 6 residential trip to Heatree House on Dartmoor. She had a great time, although she came back with a very croaky voice.

Adrienne has been for a volunteer job interview, and is now going for another interview for the same position only paid. If she gets it she may not be coming on holiday with us. At the moment she can't decide what she wants more, the money or a holiday. If only my life were that simple.