My week … the one with fireworks

There always seems to be a flurry of special events this week, we have had my mum and Mr S’ birthdays, Halloween and Guy Fawkes. My organisation skills have been pretty mint to ensure all the plans were in order. The birthdays were quiet celebrations. My mum is in Spain so it was a Facetime call and a satisfaction that the early posting of her cards ensured she had some to open on her birthday. My family’s organisational skills don’t match mine, and although I am teased, I like how I work. Mr S’ birthday was a quiet weekday night in with his favourite tea and his traditional birthday cake, Christmas cake. My new workplace is less than a mile from a M&S food hall, so our special treats are all so much more accessible now. I still can’t get over the accessibility I have to shops and services working in a big town. There is a drive thru Starbucks minutes from school and this has blown my mind!

Halloween was a strange non-event this year, the boys were away at football training for most of the evening and the weather was so horrendous, that no one came trick or treating. I didn’t even dress the house properly for Halloween, I simply didn’t have time with our busy half term and trip away. I think sometimes it’s okay to take a pause, although whilst we didn’t celebrate at home, I did do spooky science at work and some of my students did dress up.

As Mr S’ birthday is very close to Bonfire night, we have always tended to use this celebration for Mr S’ treat. We were toying with a number of options and finally went for Friday night at the rugby club in the neighbouring town (our town has no organised event because we have lots of summer displays being a holiday town) The rugby club turned out to be an excellent choice as the weather was perfect and the following night, the weather cancelled a number of the displays we had been considering. Again, we needed to sort the logistics and my daughter and I didn’t go home after school and just met the boys in the pub for a few drinks before the display. Is there any better way to spend an early Friday evening than in a warm and cosy pub, anticipating the weekend ahead? The evening was lovely, a mild but bright night, with delicious food from local businesses (pizzas and pancakes) a little funfair, live entertainment, an Elvis impersonator and of course a stunning display, a wonderful evening.

Despite the late night, we were up early for parkrun on Saturday, but unusually as volunteers and not runners. My knee is playing up so I went to help my daughter who is volunteering as part of her DofE award. It was wild, wet and windy and we were the timekeepers on an exposed spot, but it was strangely life affirming, so friendly and good to be out and refreshed! It also felt totally justified to have a cosy rest of the day at home.

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My week … the half term edition

Half term was fun, busy and the tonic required after a busy autumn term (so far) It was a mix of time at home, trips out and a little stay away.

Without wishing to make this entry sound like a what I did on holiday piece of homework, it does make more sense to detail the week in order! On Monday, we started the week with a trip to the Haynes car museum in Yeovil, for my car crazy son. We had been when he was much younger but this time, he was the perfect age to really appreciate the cars and exhibits. It is a fantastic, interactive museum, a real labour of love, with lots of really friendly and knowledgeable volunteers, keen to share their expertise and the enthusiasm of visitors. My son really was bursting with happiness when one of the volunteers offered for him to sit in his all-time favourite car, the Lamborghini. The museum is halfway between our home and my parents, so my dad came to spend the day with us too which was lovely, as we hadn’t seen each other since the summer. Despite it being half term, my son still had his football training in the county town on our way home from the museum, so I got to see him which was a treat for me as I can’t normally go. It was a quieter session but great to see him on the field and enjoying his football. It was a dream day for him, cars and football his twin passions.

After a busy Monday, I had planned a lazy day at home on Tuesday. My children were keen to make a gingerbread haunted house, and it became pretty much a whole day activity, baking the gingerbread in the morning, ‘gluing’ it together after lunch and finally decorating it in the afternoon. It was a brilliant activity, and the result was impressive. I liked how well the children worked together on it, and although I was in the kitchen it was very much their work and ideas. Tuesday became a bit of a kitchen day, with a delicious homemade red pepper and tomato soup for lunch and a double cheese tart for dinner, all made from scratch. My kitchen is my sanctuary and a day spent in my kitchen is a very well spent day.

Wednesday morning was heavy rain and strong winds, not the best conditions for my son’s football camp. However, after the first hour the conditions rapidly improved and he enjoyed the session run by the local football league team. We all went over to the ‘big’ town, but we escaped to the local shopping centre for a warm drink and to collect a few bits and pieces whilst he trained. The camp was only for the morning and we had a picnic in the park before we returned home to pack for our days away.

I was a bit worried about our trip away. It was postponed from our original date, as we all had Covid in July, and whilst we were able to rearrange the hotel and tickets, the trip had to be taken by the end of October. I was concerned about the weather and had visions of us all trudging around a wet and windy Longleat not having a lot of fun. However, we struck gold with the weather, on the day we visited Longleat, it was warm and bright and all that was needed was a long-sleeved top for the later afternoon. The blue skies in the pictures above illustrate what a beautiful day it was. We are familiar with Longleat so had planned our day accordingly. We started on the boat as it can be busy later and walked straight on to enjoy the little cruise and of course, to feed the sea lions. We then did the maze as this can be busy too, before heading off to the safari park. The park is getting ready for the light festival, and it was a bonus to see the display on the park. This year’s theme is Roald Dahl books and it is STUNNING. Although the purpose of our trip was to visit Longleat, we also enjoyed a little meander around Trowbridge where we were staying, a trip to see the film Black Adam (sadly not my type of film but the children enjoyed it lots) and a very nice meal out. We were also able to go and visit my father-in-law on Saturday before returning home, so a very successful trip.

We returned home late Saturday, just in time for the Strictly Halloween special and then had a lazy Sunday ready for the new half term. It really was a good half term, one where I felt refreshed and relaxed and looking forward to the Christmas countdown.

My week … the one with a new car

In thinking about my week, it all seemed rather routine and monotonous. However, despite the similarities of the days, I am really enjoying my new job, it’s fun hence the photo above of leaf animals part of our Forest School work. Sometimes routine is comforting and inspiring.

As a result of my new job and work that I knew would be needed on my car this winter, I decided to upgrade it. My old car was a basic little run-around (and much loved!) perfect when my commute to work was 1 mile. However, it is not so good for a 35-minute commute, which in winter will be more challenging along country roads. I also only had a FM car radio and wanted to be able to listen to DAB radio and podcasts on my commute. I really don’t like buying cars, I’ve had a couple of poor experiences in the past, so Mr S offered to do this for me. I simply gave him the make and model and he did the rest, totally stress free for me. He’s brilliant at negotiating a deal and succeeded again. I actually never saw my new car until it had been paid for and delivered and the first time I drove it was on a night out with friends on Friday. This did leave to a rather amusing midnight problem as we tried to work out the child locks. I am delighted with the car it ticked all the boxes at a decent price and mileage. I can’t get over all the mod cons, it’s made driving very exciting!

My running is not really back into its routine yet, but I have still being going out at weekends. Last Sunday it was a beautiful morning and when I ran by the new statue in town, I paused a few minutes to appreciate its beauty. This statue commemorates a local hero, Trevor Chadwick who was a teacher and also lived on site at the school in which I used to work. In 1939, he helped to rescue nearly 700 children from Prague, a story that was hidden for decades and has only recently been shared. As a result the community not only raised the funds for this statue but also the children’s playground it overlooks, was renovated and renamed in his honour. It seems so fitting that he overlooks the children’s playground and out to sea and it is a special place to pause and reflect.

Today, I’ve not run a parkrun, my knee feels a bit sore but my son and I went up to our local parkrun to volunteer. We were there early to set up the course and then later drove into the next town to do a few jobs and treated ourselves to a rather, lovely little lunch. Life may be routine but there is always joy in such moments.

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 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 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.

My week … the one with a resignation

Again its an entry for a little longer than a week but lots has been happening. Hopefully normal service will return soonish, although for our family the next 6 weeks is full of all the celebrations and special occasions.

Firstly my big news is that after nearly 18 years at my school, I have resigned, having secured a new job for September. I’ll be working again with my work bestie / job share partner of the past 12 years and I am so excited for my new role. Its a big change, but the right one at the right time. On the work front, I’ve been working really hard on some transitions for our older students and I felt humbled to receive some lovely thank you cards and gifts this week after successful placements were secured.

We had a really busy weekend last week. On Saturday, we had an away cricket game a long distance away, a 6am start on a Saturday for us all was a little tough! However it was a lovely, friendly club and the weather perfect so all was good. On the way back we stopped halfway for lunch, unbeknown to us it was the town’s folk festival and there was a fantastic atmosphere with huge crowds of people. It really felt quite joyful, a reminder of life pre pandemic. On Sunday it was another early start so my daughter and I could go shopping in Southampton, it has the best shops for a style conscious teenager. We had a very successful trip, a delicious lunch al fresco, lots of fun trying on clothes and a lovely potter along the nice make up and perfume counters in John Lewis. I also was able to buy gifts for lots of events coming up so am feeling pretty organised.

The weekdays passed without any particular notable events. I am listening to the audio book, This Is Not a Pity Memoir and thoroughly recommend it. We also finished the series The Staircase again based on a true story. There were parts I really enjoyed but felt only indifference to the protagonist. A much better watch was the new series All I know about Love, based on the book by Dolly Alderton which I really rated.

Today, I was due to go to be cricket mum again, but the match was cancelled last night as the opposition couldn’t raise a team. I was delighted that this freed me up to go to my local parkrun which was being visited and profiled by the podcast I listen to weekly. Having listened to everyone of the 206 episodes it was great to say hello to the presenter and I’m looking forward to hearing his thoughts on our parkrun next week. I also met a VI guide who is doing a ten parkrun challenge, he was so interesting and was interviewed by the local radio for broadcast next Tuesday so I’ll try and catch it on our local radio station. You meet the loveliest people at parkrun. This afternoon, I’ve been down town with the children, its rowing regatta so another busy event which creates a lovely buzz in the town.

One of the more random experiences of the week was getting papped, as a large group of people have been gathering outside our house for a few nights. It was quite intimidating on the first night and we went out to ask why there was a crowd outside our house with long lenses. It turns out that there wasrare bird in our garden and that was the object of their visit.

Tomorrow we’re off to see the new Jurassic park film as requested by the children. After a week of heatwaves and sunshine, the weather forecast is poor so it seems a good idea. Its also Father’s day so a nice way to do something together.

My week .. the one with a jubilee half term break

This was such a well needed holiday for us all after a few tough weeks. You could feel the stress just dissolve as we drove off and the sound of laughter filled the car. We were fortunate that the journey wasn’t too far, around a 2.5 hour drive so we arrived at lunchtime and went to one of the village’s local pubs for lunch before checking in, such a nice and relaxed way to start the week.

Our caravan was amazing, we think we had been upgraded as since we booked the company have rebranded the caravan categories and I think we sneaked into the higher band. It was a real luxury caravan and the perfect base. One of my simple pleasures on a caravan holiday is sitting on the decking with a book and drink in the sunshine and I managed this daily on holiday. The caravan was in Pagham, West Sussex, a charming, quintessential English village, with Bognor and Chichester both close by. We visited Bognor to go to the cinema to see Top Gun, Maverick and Chichester to wander around the town and have lunch. I love an early morning run on holiday and loved exploring the village and neighbouring nature reserve. I think running is one of the best ways to get to know you local environment.

The campsite had lots of activities to enjoy, we all went swimming at least once a day, the children normally twice. I still am really appreciating being able to swim in a pool after the lockdowns, when I swim, I always feel its something I should do more of. There were pools both inside and out and with the good weather we were able to enjoy both. The children also enjoyed the Go Karts and playgrounds where we were able to give them a little more freedom. They also continue to enjoy their £1 treat money for the minimart. During the week, the boys did target shooting and the girls went to an art session where we painted some gnomes, they were great sessions. We went to bingo on a couple of occasions too, classic holiday fun.

We were all keen to see the new Top Gun movie so we booked tickets and went to the cinema in Bognor and it did not disappoint, it was spectacular. I’m so pleased we got to see it in a cinema first as the big screen experience really made it, the amazing air scenes, the sound and the general buzz of the audience in the cinema. The cinema continues to be a magical place.

Whilst we had been to Bognor previously as we have stayed at Butlins, we had never been to Chichester and what a lovely little city it is. We started the day with a trip to the local trampoline centre which the children loved. We did a two hour session and for the first hour they shared it with only two other children, they all got individual help from the staff and lots of go’s on all the different features. After the session, we headed into the town centre, Chichester which was beautiful. It had some gorgeous decorations for the jubilee, the photo above does not do justice to the display in the florists as it was stunning. I also enjoyed walking around the town, from the beautiful gardens of the cathedral to the side streets and spotting the street art. We stopped for lunch in Chichester at Bill’s and it was one of the best lunches out I’ve had, buzzing atmosphere, stylish and funky decor and an outstanding menu. I had what was essentially a Greek salad, but it was so fresh with a few twists on the traditional recipe and was one of the most delicious salads I’ve had. My daughter felt similar about her salad, grilled halloumi, hummus, flatbreads etc.. whilst my son couldn’t believe he was allowed bacon, pancakes and maple syrup for lunch!

This was such a lovely, relaxing holiday full of simple pleasures just what was needed for all the family. We have another week booked at the same site in August as part of our two week holiday and look forward to returning for more happy, family times.

The Platinum Jubilee

This weekend has seen a four day weekend to celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee, a reign of 70 years. Its difficult to sum up how I feel about the monarchy, I’m neither a monarchist or republican but somewhere in between. I have respect for our Queen but not so much for the soap opera of the monarchy.

I have seen the Queen once in the early 80s, when I was on a girl guide camp at Windsor castle and we all went to the same church service on the Sunday. We saw a lot of the Royal family at the service, and I think we were all in awe of a young princess Diana. We all curtsied to the Queen and the Queen Mother came to talk to us after church and had her photograph taken with us, she was so lovely and spent lots of time chatting to us.

As we were away for the week, I hadn’t planned to decorate the house. I do have some vintage, floral union jack bunting which I use regularly, so this was in the window and I did change my light box to a jubilee message. On our return from holiday we did find some bunting had been added to our little triangle / cul de sac by our neighbours which did look festive and fun.

Our town loves a big event and held a large street party on Friday which featured prominently in the national press. There were union jacks everywhere in town and the local floral society had organised their members to provide the shops on the main street with themed jubilee floral displays, which were magnificent. There was a huge crown at the station and the theatre had a life size golden coach displayed on its exterior wall.

As we were away we didn’t participate in any of our town’s events ourselves and with the event at the holiday site being on Saturday afternoon, we missed that too. However, I did enjoy our jubilee party at school with the students and parents on the last day of term and then I surprised myself by really enjoying the televised events. The concert on Saturday evening had some amazing moments, the Queen and Paddington sketch was priceless, Diversity’s dance through the decades was brilliant and I’m sure I’m not the only 40 something mum who squealed when Jason Donovan appeared as Joseph! On Sunday, I watched the crazily, beautifully bonkers Jubilee pageant. The themed double deckers were brilliant and the national treasures on them were perfect. There was so much to keep you amused.

I think that whilst this weekend was a celebration of the Queen, it was sadly probably one of the nation’s last opportunities to thank the Queen for all her service, at 96 she looks frail and elderly. She was unable to attend all the planned events due to her health and the final balcony scene of her with Charles, William and their families appeared to symbolise the royal transition. However, it was a joyful weekend with so much fun and British charm.