My week .. the one with the Queen’s funeral

The national period of mourning ended on Monday with the Queen’s funeral, which was a bank holiday. Its hard to describe the atmosphere of the past ten days, its been a period of reflection but also when we have lived the ceremonies and traditions previously only read of in history books. It has been incredibly British and one of the most interesting aspects was ‘The Queue’ in which people queued to pay respects to the Queen in the lying in state. At times the queue was more than 5 miles, and it appears there was a sense of community and togetherness among the participants.

On Monday, I did watch some of the key moments of the day ( a royal funeral is a long day … )The military procession was impeccably presented and the crown and orb on the coffin with the family flowers was the moment which moved me the most, along with seeing the Queen’s corgis and pony outside Windsor castle. Everything was beautifully presented and a tribute to the Queen. There are many discussions about the monarchy, but the Queen was special and I feel the country gave her the dignity and respect she deserved.

With the long weekend, we had the opportunity to do something a bit different. The boys went to see Grandad in Bristol and my daughter and I travelled for some parkrun tourism. We then pottered around the town before returning en route to a local vaccination centre so I could have my Covid booster. The children I teach are so very medically vulnerable that I need to do everything I can to protect them. I did feel a little rough on Sunday, post vaccination so a perfect excuse for a lazy day at home.

Despite it only being a 4 day working week, it was busy but I feel like I’m getting in to the swing of my new role and everything is slowly falling into place. I even managed to leave early on Friday afternoon and made it home by 4.30. My life is wrapped up in my new job at present, so each evening is curled up on the sofa, normally with an open laptop watching the Bake Off or a similar cosy programme. Life will get into a new rhythm soon but for now, its about being in the moment.

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My weeks … beginnings and endings

This week was my first teaching my new class at my new school, we got a new Prime Minister, Liz Truss and a new King, Charles III. A remarkable week. It was also the sad goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II, who despite the smiling photo on Tuesday for the kissing of the hands with the new PM, died peacefully on Thursday. It’s true that most weeks are quiet and ordinary and then you have an extraordinary week which is truly historic.

Personally, it’s been a lovely week with my new class and team, but a very steep learning curve, so many new processes, routines and things to learn. I’ve also inherited the messiest, cluttered classroom so am trying to organise this too. I feel quite unsettled in such an environment, I crave order and neatness.

I was at home on Thursday evening when the news about the Queen’s death broke, I had picked up my mobile to phone my mum and saw the breaking news. I never got to make the call, as I was drawn to the tv coverage. I think it’s the news we’ve all been expecting and there was very much the feeling at the platinum jubilee, that it was the public thank you and goodbye to the Queen. However, I did feel a sense of sadness at her death, she has been the constant in our lives and I felt she was a bit of feminist icon and one of the leaders of the 20th century.

Since Thursday evening, its been a period of contemplation and national mourning, sombre music on all the radio stations, sporting and cultural events cancelled and rolling news coverage on television. Parkrun did go ahead but we paused at the start as a mark of respect for the Queen, which did feel correct. It has now been announced that the funeral will be a Bank Holiday on September 19th.

It is a strange time at present, a period of transition on so many levels, leaving us all a little out of sorts. Its a period, when you take each day at a time, and look forward to more familiar and ordinary times.

My week … the one with a holiday, part 2

This week, we have been at Church Farm in Pagham, for the second week of our summer holiday. We came here at May half term so it felt very comfortable and familiar to be returning this summer. Its a site we really like and this week our caravan was stunning, brand new with all the best spec, whilst also feeling very warm and homely.

We continued with the normal holiday activities, lots of swimming, both indoor and out, target shooting, pottery, walks, bingo (!) early morning runs etc.. The weather, bar one day was very good and there were lots of mornings sitting around the outdoor pool dipping in and out, drying out on the sunbed and reading a good book. I had a very high book count this holiday, averaging I think one every couple of days. Of course, there was parkrun tourism on Saturday, with a visit to the Bognor course, an enjoyable lap course through a lovely park. We had also been to Bognor one afternoon to play crazy golf, my son’s and my little challenge. It was a really fun and traditional course and he won, meaning he now leads the grand crazy golf competition, 5 – 3.

After the May holiday and our first visit to Chichester, we had planned a return visit for a girls’ shopping trip. We did this on the Thursday which started as a really wet day, a morning when you are awoken by the mesmerising sound of rain on the caravan roof. The children had been booked in to the local water park in the morning, so as they were in wet suits, the rain didn’t really affect our plans. Fortunately, during the morning it stopped so that by the time we started shopping the sun was out again. We had a lovely little mooch around Chichester but bought very little, only a pair of school shoes (oh the stress) The shops still had a lot of summer stock and we were both looking for more autumnal clothes. We had promised ourselves a special lunch so enjoyed tapas and a girlie chat, life’s simple pleasures.

The holiday was two happy weeks of family time. It has been a strange year and a very stressful and busy end to my job at the start of August, so it was nice to be away and family focused before my new job started. One of the big advantages of my new job is that my holidays now match exactly to those of the children (previously 3 weeks of the 13 were not the same) and I am so excited for the full 6 weeks holiday in 2023, the summer of my 50th!

My week … the one with a holiday, part 1

This is a much anticipated and welcome holiday after a few really tough months. I’m so looking forward to simply pausing the merry go round and enjoying the simple pleasures of a holiday, an early morning run, swimming, reading, playing and resting.

This year we have done a two centre holiday with a week each at caravan parks in Hastings and Pagham. The holiday was preceded by a trip to Paultons Park, as we had a hotel booking postponed originally from 2020, then again from last year and finally we got to use it. As Paultons Park was en route to Hastings it was a good stopover. We had a wonderful, sweltering day at Paultons Park, one of our family’s favourite places, followed by a well planned pub Roast in the evening and a night in the hotel. This did make the journey much easier and quicker the next day and we were settled and in the pool by 2pm. This has been a holiday where we’ve all had the time to relax and enjoy the simple pleasures. We planned a few meals out in Hastings, one to celebrate our 12th famiversary and the other to a pizzeria we had previously visited for which my son awarded it the best pizza in the world accolade. Fortunately his opinion hadn’t changed and it was a delicious, authentic Italian menu for us all.

We visited Hastings on a few occasions. We saw Super Pets at the cinema, which was much better than anticipated and pottered along the prom in the evenings. I also got the chance to do the Hastings parkrun, I do like a bit of parkrun tourism and a flat out and back along the prom was a great route. We also went to Bexhill, which was a charming seaside town. We had just got ourselves settled in a lovely little cafe when the first rain we have seen in months fell, it was biblical in its proportion. Yet, after half an hour or so it stopped and we carried along on our visit. In both Hastings and Bexhill we’ve been doing the duck hunt and I think we finished with 15. I love these trails in the summer which add a little interest to walks.

We do like the caravan park in Hastings and there was plenty for the children to do, swimming, kayaking, pottery painting, inflatables etc.. Our son lives for his football and always managed to find a game to join in with. Our daughter managed to find some friends too and a little holiday romance to brighten up her holiday.

So that was week 1 and a bit done and now off to Pagham for our next week of family fun .

My weeks … the ones with an ending

Mr S accident and subsequent shoulder injury have led to a less relaxed summer holiday than expected. I finished work midweek but up ’til then its been a juggle of work, driving and trying to tidy up figuratively and literally, from my current job. I’ve been there for 18 years , so there was a lot of finishing up to be done in the past few weeks. I was determined to leave for good on Wednesday, when I broke up for the holidays, even though my contract ends officially at the end of the month. It was satisfying after a hectic few weeks to hand over my laptop, iPad and keys as I left. It was an amazing place to work and I met some of my closest friends at the school, but its a very different place now and it is the time to move on. As a special treat, I arranged for Krispy Kreme doughnuts to be delivered to all our pupils and my Education team. They were amazing and very well received.

Last week the stress of life did get to me and I was very poorly with some type of stomach migraine. Unfortunately it was also on a very full on day and I had to continue as normal. So it was a drive to drop my son off at his holiday camp, drive on to my new school to collect a laptop, then on to meet my dad who we met half way as my daughter was going to stay with my parents for a few days and back to pick up my son at the end of the camp. I was so poorly, lots of sick stops, that I had to cancel lunch with my dad and daughter and went to a Tesco car park and slept for 90 minutes until I felt well enough to drive. After a good night’s sleep and some tablets, I actually did feel well enough to go into work the next day, albeit a little later than normal.

After meeting up with my dad on Tuesday, I drove to my parents to collect my daughter on Friday. They had a lovely time and had visited the Van Gogh exhibition which we had been booked in for the weekend we were due to visit but had to cancel due to Covid. That couple of hours driving on my own listening to my playlist on a sunny journey was blissful. I had a lovely home made tea and then we headed to Weston Super Mare town centre to have a drink and listen to some of the live music featuring in the weekend’s music festival. We went to a games bar and enjoyed a game of Yahtzee. It was very early start on Saturday morning, sadly no chance of parkrun tourism, to meet up with our boys and get them over to the stadium for the first game of the football season. We dropped them off and then my daughter and I headed off to the local town for a delicious al fresco lunch, avocado smash for me, halloumi and chill jam baguette for Little Miss before walking down to the beach. I was planning a lazy afternoon on the beach but my daughter was keen to walk between the two piers. I wished she had shared this before I chose to wear flip flops! The beach was full and there was such a lovely, happy atmosphere. It was hot, and we stopped for a few drinks and an ice cream. The boys’ team won so happy people all around and then to finish the day, we watched the fireworks from our garden. As it was carnival week, we have enjoyed 3 stunning displays in the past week.

This week was very work focused although I took Monday afternoon off to take Mr S to the hospital for a CT scan. I had asked for a very quiet send off and genuinely meant it, so I was pleased to say goodbye to my department before the start of the final day and just focus on my work. We had a beautiful leavers assembly for our students, there was such love filling the room that I felt very proud and humbled.

As soon as I finished work, it was time to get ready for the holidays. We leave tomorrow with a day at a theme park and night in a hotel before travelling to week one in Hastings. We are all ready now and I’m just looking forward to the rest and special family times. I did manage a parkrun today, but it was so hot on such a challenging course that I felt a bit queasy at the end. After a cool shower, nice lunch and lots to drink I’m ready for an early night and holidays tomorrow!

Neighbours

Last night I enjoyed the finale of the Australian soap Neighbours and it was a kitsch and nostalgic celebration of my youth.

Neighbours to me is one of those comforting programmes, it is home and happy, simple times. I haven’t watched it in over 25 years, but it was a constant as I was growing up. It started when my friends and I discovered it in 1987. We were addicted and thanks to a very late school lunch hour and the proximity of school to my friend’s house, we got our parents to approve lunchtime passes and off we went to munch our sandwiches and watch Neighbours before returning to lessons. I moved to a different part of the country in the summer of 1987 and Neighbours was there, my link to my old friends and providing that comfort when I felt lonely. My new friends also loved it and although it was so uncool, I remember listening on repeat to Jason Donovan’s CD in my friend’s bedroom. Neighbours was always there when you needed a pause on homework or revising for exams, 5.35 was that special half hour just before tea, when you escaped to sunny, happy Australia. When I went to work in France for a year, it was Neighbours that I craved to watch back on British tv and I remember asking my mum for the recaps on the phone. Helene et les Garcons was a similar series in France but not quite my Neighbours. As I got older and started work, I watched it far less but it was always one of those programmes you could just dip into and feel good. Sometimes you just need a series that does this, it is familiarity, comfort and nostalgia.

I finally visited Australia in December 2002 to watch the Ashes cricket matches in Melbourne and Sydney. I couldn’t go to Australia and not visit Ramsey Street, or as it is correctly called, Pin Oak Court, so on Christmas day after Christmas dinner, we jumped on a suburban train and headed off to Ramsey Street. I loved every minute of my time on the street, recognising the houses and picturing all the famous scenes. Its one of those things you do that seems a bit crazy but you never regret. We returned 4 years later for more cricket and on one night in Sydney we went to see one of my favourite musicals, Priscilla Queen of the Desert (I loved the film with Guy Pearce aka Mike) As we walked in we saw Toady in the audience, which was just class.

The finale last night was just the perfect mix of nostalgia with flashback clips which I remembered watching the first time, so many cameos and clever touches. For me the story reuniting Mike and Jane (oh how I rooted for Plain Jane Super Brain in the 1980s, I really identified with her rather than feisty Charlene) was the perfect ending I needed. So many characters from my era were featured and it all just felt so warm and comforting. Neighbours wasn’t just a tv show, it was something which grounded me during my teenage and early adult years and I’ll always smile remembering how a simple Aussie soap brought happiness and comfort.

My week … the one with a trip to London

Following Mr S accident last week, its been a pretty full on week. I’m working full time (over 4 long days), and have returned to being housekeeper, cook and driver whilst he recovers. Its frustrating but I always try to make the best of all situations. It has been a busy week, with another family birthday, the end of term for both children, an end of year treat for the scouts, a trip to London, an important medical appointment and the week culminated in supporting our son at Saturday’s cricket match followed by watching a friendly football match for our local league team. I’m not sure full on quite describes my week! Oh and there’s been a heatwave and the hottest day ever.

This week’s highlight was my son and mine’s trip to London. We had planned it for the Spring of 2020, but it became a casualty of the pandemic. Since the pandemic there has been so much to catch up on (we’ve still 2 weekends owed) that it was wonderful to finally do our visit. I chose the very first day of his holiday, as his sister was still at school and I had my day off, so it had little impact on others. My son has been a little worried about visiting London, as living in a small seaside town, it seems quite daunting. However, he actually took it all in his stride, so much so by the end of the day, he asked to go on the Underground which he had been very unsure of.

When he was little, my son had a small picture book on London and he loved looking at the illustrations. It is the most beautiful book and is one which I kept for the happy memories of reading and looking at it together. I surprised him with it on the train and we looked through what we might see (I had a fully planned itinerary, organisation was key to see all we did) Our big trip was to the Imperial War Museum, military history is my son’s passion and he was so excited to see a spitfire and all the other exhibits. I found it a really interesting museum just the right size and the air conditioning was very welcome on a hot day in the capital. Thankfully it was 15 degrees cooler and cloudier than the 41 degrees and blazing sunshine of Monday. After the museum, we walked on the South Bank, so vibrant and bright and then crossed over to Trafalgar Square to see Nelson! There was a giant ice cream on one of the plinths and the music from the buskers filled the square with such a lovely atmosphere. We then walked onto Leicester Square and had fun finding the statues, my son was particularly delighted by Mr Bean and me by Paddington. We had a potter around China Town and then headed off to Covent Garden, where we stopped for a much needed sit down and some delicious crepes. My son then asked to see Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street, so we walked there via Parliament Square and Westminster Abbey, before our trip on the tube back to the station. Needless to say we walked a lot, 30k steps, but it was worth every single step, we had an amazing day and have a few ideas for our return trip.

Its been a lovely week of making memories with my son, we had London which was one of our best ever days together and then due to Mr S injury I got to take him to see his football team who by chance were playing my team, another brilliant experience. Yes its been a tough in places, and a mad, crazy week but one where there have been very special times which I am so privileged to have enjoyed.


My fortnight .. the one when Covid struck.

So, after more than 2 years of the pandemic, we were finally struck down with Covid. It started with Mr S, then our son and finally me. Our daughter so far has swerved it and we are all clear now. I feel a bit of a fraud as my symptoms were so mild that I would never have known I had Covid if I hadn’t done a test. The Covid episode has been prevalent over the last 10 days, with Mr S going down with it first and ending today with us all negative. I do believe that I reacted so meekly because of my vaccinations and booster and am incredibly grateful to the scientists and medical professionals who developed these.

I am incredibly grateful that we were all so well and that our isolation was as pleasant as it could have been, we have a nice house and garden and were able to potter around and play. We had food deliveries and our neighbours and friends all offering to drop in anything we needed. This is privilege I will never take for granted.

The most frustrating aspect of Covid was our cancelled plans. Last weekend we were due to go away to Longleat for a weekend which had been booked nearly a year ago. The weather was perfect and it would have been lovely, but it wasn’t to be. However, we have been able to transfer the tickets and hotel to the October half term holiday so the break will happen just at a different time. Our son also won a very special award at his presentation assembly, Sportsman of the Year but as we were still testing positive we were unable to attend. My parents came to the rescue coming down to watch the assembly and then taking our son with them for the weekend so my dad could take him to see the car racing he had been really looking forward to. I did have a week’s leave last week so all my plans were cancelled which is frustrating as I need to rearrange everything into a tightly packed schedule. Just to add the mayhem of Covid, my husband dislocated his shoulder on Wednesday, so this meant trips to two different hospitals. Now he is unable to drive for a few weeks just as the summer holidays are starting, this calls for organisation skills of the highest order.

Unsurprisingly given our confinement to home, I have watched a lot of tv. I watched the series of The Summer I Turned Pretty and Everything I know about Love. Both are brilliant, perfect summer dramas. I also have been busy reading and One True Loves, was superb with the ending I was rooting for. I have also been busy with Wordle, Quordle and Heardle to keep me occupied, proving that I reckon I’ll do fine when I retire as I can always find things to do.

Today was freedom day (aka negative test day), and I celebrated with not simply a parkrun, but my 50th parkrun and earnt my red t-shirt. It was sooo hot as we are in the midst of a heatwave, but it was worth every bead of sweat to finally get my 50. Its taken 3 years due to the pandemic, so I’m hoping to get to my 100 slightly quicker.

The highlight of my diary next week is a trip to London with my son, a promise made just before lockdown which we are finally getting to do. Having had Covid I’m more relaxed about the trip, cases may be high but I think we have a little immunity now. Fingers crossed its a trip we do get to do in July!

My week .. the one with simple pleasures

As I started to prepare this entry, I questioned whether I had anything to write about this week, as its seemed quiet and relaxed. However on reflection, there have been sparkles, unexpected simple pleasures which have lightened the days.

One thing which has given me great pleasure this week are my peonies which have gone from bud to blooming flowers over the week. I love peonies, they are so beautiful and there is a magic in the transformation from a tight bud to a large petaled flower. I have them in the kitchen window by our table so I get to admire them at mealtimes and they are the first thing I see as I walk in to the house.

On Sunday afternoon, we were at a loose end and decided to head over to a beauty spot. Its a lovely walk, a canopy of green from the tall trees and natural water features on the ground. It is a perfect example of forest bathing and you do leave feeling more peaceful, grounded and relaxed.

In what has become quite a rare occurrence, I did take my Thursday off this week and it was lovely to have a free (ish) day. I had my nails done, I love a natter and nails session and the pastel green is mint (see what I did there!) After the appointment, I took the time out to enjoy a tea at the courtyard café in town and just sit with my book and feel the sun on my face. I then took a call from a friend and had a spontaneous meet up, I love it when you can just go with the flow… I had arranged to be present for the unveiling of the town’s jubilee mural, so she came too and we enjoyed what was a really sweet event promoting arts for young people. My school had been involved in the project and I am so proud of our dolphin.

Today, was another early start for a cricket match, my son was captain for the game and gracious in defeat. The respect and sportsmanship of my son’s team was in stark contrast to the opposition, I would prefer they lost with grace than won with unsporting behaviour. We took a picnic and headed over to the local town, which has a lot of beautiful spots. We happened across a craft fayre in the church grounds so the children had fun on the tombola whilst I perused the craft stalls. I treated myself (its birthday month) to a new ring which will complement some other pearl jewellery I own. We also stopped by a rather wonderful patisserie for a tasty delight. Away cricket Saturdays have become a real treat day and it was sad that this was our last for the season as we’re home for the remaining games. Next season the games for the next age group are played on Monday evening, so there will be no further days out for a few years, its been an unexpected highlight of this summer, making each away game an ‘event.’

Next week is a little busier, I’m swapping my day off for 2 afternoons, so I can attend my son’s sports day and parents evening (so appreciate the school’s organisational skills here) and then leave early on Friday so we can pick up the children from school and make a quick getaway for our weekend away. We’re off to Longleat which is one of our family favourites.

My week … the one with the MOT panic!

Well I am so grateful for a quiet weekend as this week has been mad. My highlights today (apart from parkrun) were a walk along the quay and riverside of a local town and an ice cream and then buying a bunch of peonies at the market, some of life’s simple pleasures. At around this time of year I get the perfect storm of family celebrations, end of term treats at school and clubs and the humdrum of everyday life. It can be a little overwhelming and this week I did something I have never done in my 27 years of owning a car, I forgot my MOT. Fortunately I realised this on its due date, but phoning around I discovered there was no chance of getting a MOT for around 10 days in our town, so had to reorganise my week so I could go to the ‘big’ town after work and get it done at Halfords. It was a nervy drive over as I wasn’t sure where I stood on my insurance but I got over safely and I was very impressed by Halfords, I was in and out within the hour with a pass and no recommendations. Fortunately, I don’t use my car much during my working week and walk to work so not having a car made no real difference to my day.

Last Sunday was Fathers day and another family celebration, so we went to see the new Jurassic Park film. I have to admit the franchise is not really my style and I wasn’t a huge fan of the film, but those who chose it enjoyed it and I had a comfy seat for a few hours. We came home to cakes and bakes needed for the week ahead so it was busy Sunday night.

Unusually for me, I found myself out on both Monday and Tuesday evenings. Monday was for a drink on a seafront bar, the bar was on the seafront and the view was soothing and beautiful. On Tuesday, my daughter and I went to see a production at the local theatre funded through a Platinum Jubilee grant called Swim. Sea swimming has become a huge thing in our community and there are big numbers of mainly women who pop into the sea everyday of the year (not me, I run by and wave) The production was brilliant, so empowering and joyful. The production started in the theatre with a presentation of what wild swimming meant to the swimmers and there were some lovely and very thoughtful comments. Then the audience went outside where around 50 women did some choreography on the beach and in the sea, accompanied by the best summer songs, bright and gorgeous costumes and props and a huge crowd clapping and singing, it was so uplifting.

Wednesday evening was my emergency MOT so I found myself walking in the sunshine whilst I waited, listening to the latest edition of the running podcast, With Me Now, featuring a profile of my home parkrun. It was a brilliant episode and totally caught the spirit of our parkrun. I did parkrun this morning (before a quick dash to an opticians appointment) and achieved a rare groundhog day where you do exactly the same time on the same course in consecutive weeks. I never run to a watch so had not planned to do this but am chuffed to have done so!

On Thursday, I popped over to my new school to hand in some documentation and sign some forms. I am so excited about my new job and can’t wait to start, its definitely the right time for a new start professionally. At the school, there are a number of people I have worked with before, SEN is a small world, so it will be nice to see friendly faces come September. I have a new notepad and already have ideas …

I’ve not watched much tv this week, but I have been reading just before bed. The book A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning-Wroe may not appear to have the most appealing plotline, Aberfan tragedy, an embalmer as the protagonist but it is a lovely read and one I am finding every spare moment to read.