Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Gallery: My weekend

The washing is on the line and there's a stuffed chicken roasting in the oven.
The prompt for this week's The Gallery is 'My Weekend'. On Saturday it rained, I ran, I washed everything and I watched Andy Murray win his match at Wimbledon. On Sunday the sun shone, we swam, ate ice cream for lunch on the beach and everything I had washed flew on the line until it was dry.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Blog silence...

Swallow chicks in the stable.

Blog silence because:

  • It's been sunny so I've been outside doing glamorous things*
  • It's been raining so I've been inside losing my usual battle with the housework, sewing (presents so I can't tell you what), cooking (bread, meals, more bread, pizza)
  • On Thursday I nipped out to the local fabric emporium (which is on a farm) and bought supplies for the aforementioned sewing (so I can't tell you what because it's a secret, although I did buy some lovely fabric for a skirt for me).
  • The Urdd** sports scheduled for last Wednesday (when it wasn't raining but had been so the field was too wet) were held on Friday (when it was raining but the field was dry). R7 won the egg and spoon for the second year running.
  • It was a real phew-what-a-scorcher on Sunday and by Monday two of the ewes had flystrike*** so we had to round them up and deal with it.
  • In between times there's been Wimbledon and a Grand Prix (the only times I watch the TV during the day and even then I feel so guilty I dust, clean windows, sew or iron while watching)
  • Today the school sports were held and Brian was on an early shift so I had to muck the yard out, fetch the ponies in, water the polytunnel, feed and walk the dogs, make the girls' packed lunches, shower and drink a pint of strong coffee all before 7.30am (after which I had to wake two girls, find red coloured sports kit, round up trainers, tease tangles from hair, eat breakfast, stuff dog-toys with treats to amuse dogs while I'm out and find my deckchair and leave for school at 8.45am).
  • Then I had to watch my offspring compete in running, egg and spoon (H9 second, R7 third) and tug of war (and feign deafness, invisibility and rigor mortis when the call came for the mums' race) all of which, as any parent knows, is exhausting.
  • I did manage to fit in picking three huge bunches of sweet peas (or they'll set seed and stop flowering), dead head the roses and water the polytunnel again.
  • Now? Now it most very definitely is wine o'clock.

* I jest. Glamorous? Ha!
** Youth sports - all the schools in this area competing against each other. Usually six schools, but we lost two on Friday to their own sports days.
*** Don't ask. Fishermen use them as bait. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The three word Gallery

Tara's inspiration for The Gallery this week was the 'your day in three words' feature from Simon Mayo's radio two show (which I listen to most evenings while I'm cooking dinner).

So my The Gallery three word Wednesdays are:

Polytunnel skeleton completed

"All" we have to do now is make the doors, dig a one foot deep and wide trench all the way round and put on the polythene cover.

Gorgeous sweet peas

R7 and I planted five different varieties last September and they've been flowering their little socks off for about a fortnight now. Here we have (little vase): Anniversary, Mrs Collier, (big vase) Matucana, Black Knight and Midnight (all seeds from Sarah Raven.)

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

School report

I've just been to the school for an informal parents evening which turned out to be a very sociable, happy occasion with a great deal of praise and good news for my offspring. It made me both proud and envious of the education my children are having.

R7's teacher is an absolute delight. Almost as tiny as her pupils, bright and smart, she has taught R7 on and off since the nursery class and the adoration between them is mutual. There are no SATs here so R7 has been assessed discretely and found to be above the standard required in everything.

Meanwhile in year four H9 is taught by the new headteacher. H had done well with her previous teachers but Mrs C seems to 'get' H9 and H9 respects that and is inspired by it. The children learn not be subject but by child-led exploration (with guidance) so they don't know they are doing geography or science or whatever, it's all mingled into an education that is exciting and engaging. H9 again is above the expected standard in all subjects, even in maths which she tries to pretend she's not good at (but is).

It's all a far cry from my own schooling which was the primary school to age nine, middle school aged nine to 12 and high school for the rest. I loved my tiny rural primary school, which for me was about writing stories, being unbeaten in every school race, singing, dancing and hanging upside down on the climbing bars comparing the frills on my knickers with my friend Louise.

Then something went wrong in middle school. I encountered a bottle blonde harpy called Mrs Richards who took a dislike to the eight-year-old me (my birthday's at the end of August so I did everything a year younger) and made aspects of my time at that school quite uncomfortable.

Of course I don't remember it all clearly now but incidents included me being sent to join the remedial children for extra schooling in English (the remedial - awful word - teacher sent me right back into my class insisting there had been a mistake), falling behind in maths, failing to live up to her sporting expectations (I remember her standing over me with a clipboard, screaming at me because I couldn't jump far enough in the long jump).

I remember maths exam after maths exam when I got almost perfect marks and she wouldn't put me up to the higher set. Eventually when I just completely stopped getting any question wrong she said: "I suppose I'll HAVE to put you up to set one," and sent me there - in fury and bad temper - on the last day of that school year.

She prevented me becoming a prefect and stamped all over any enthusiasm I had for school sports. She had her favourites. I wasn't one of them. After four years of that treatment I thought I was a fairly average pupil academically, hopeless at sport and quite a rubbish person to boot.

Then we moved up to the high school and took tests to be selected for streaming. On day one at the high school I still remember looking at the code 3D1A and thinking there must have been some mistake. I was in the top sets for everything. Mrs Richards dislike of me - and to this day I still wonder why - pervaded the my school life. She knocked my confidence and I never put myself forward for any of the sporting teams (despite wanting to - I loved hockey and netball) and I wanted to do cross country running too (the last time I ran at school I beat the entire school team).

Of course I then went on to college and university, won a couple of best student awards and got my degree and made it happily into journalism and writing which is all I originally wanted to do anyway. The Mrs Richards effect wasn't terminal but she is the teacher I remember most and for all the wrong reasons!

Teachers have a great deal of influence over the pupils in their charge. It's a happy accident and a privilege that H9 and R7 are in the school they are in and I'm glad they are there (even if that fact they are entirely taught in Welsh has had its moments of difficulty - but only for me, not them). The early years of education are vital and if there's ever any whiff of a Mrs Richards in my children's education I'll be right there, ready for a fight.

Monday, 20 June 2011

They grow so fast!

The chicks have only been hatched since the beginning of the month and look how much they've grown in such a short space of time. This week, having realised they are proper little birds with wings and feathers they are doing their best to fly (see video at the bottom of this post).

Learning how to find food.

Look we've got feathers and everything.

Some are blue.

Just as Tardis gets them all nicely lined up one wanders off.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Cofiwch Dryweryn!

You know how it is, some weeks pass in a blur. This one was mostly taken up with anticipation of and practice for the national round of the Welsh Book Quiz.

H9 was part of the school team and had already been through two, I think, rounds to get to the finals as representatives of the county. This included reading and talking about various books and performing a play about their main book, Ta-ta Tryweryn by Gwenno Hughes. H9 had a shouting and speaking part, waving a placard while wearing a floor length fur coat. She loved taking part and I think she learned a lot from the other children in the team, many of whom are far more used to performing having taken part in the Urdd Eisteddfod.

The villagers protest.

The play was about the village of Capel Celyn and the Tryweryn valley north of Bala which was flooded in 1965 to provide for water for Liverpool. It portrayed the anger and despair of the Welsh-speaking residents as they fought - in vain - for their homes, chapel, school and farmland. It was so controversial because Liverpool City Council brought a private bill before parliament in 1956 which meant the Welsh local planning authorities had no say in the matter. The bill was opposed by 35 of the 36 Welsh MPs (one didn't vote) but was passed in 1957 and one of the last Welsh-only communities was lost to provide water for an English city.

Liverpool officially apologised for the incident in 2005.

Water engulfs Capel Celyn.

The play was extraordinarily moving. As the 'water' engulfed Capel Celyn the performers hummed 'Hen wlad fy nhadau' - a powerful moment.

After the morning quiz and performance the team made it through to the final four and were back on stage again to perform their play a final time for the judges. The standard was incredibly high - brilliant acting and singing in all of the performances. I'd have hated to have had to choose (except, being maternally biased, I'd still say Maenclochog's performance was the best!) They came second - a fantastic result for such a tiny school.

The finals took place at Aberystwyth Arts Centre which is on the university campus. It was lovely to be back there again. I used to occasionally have lunch at the Arts Centre when my grant allowed and saw many plays and films there. I really felt that nothing had changed since I last was in there in June 1990 wearing a mortar board and gown to collect my BSc. Perhaps the trees were taller and the Arts Centre has had some new additions - studios, dance school, a new cinema. I was itching to trot next door into the library, almost expecting to see some of my fellow students studying for their finals or maybe into the Students Union for a quick pint.

On the journey to and from Aber we passed the famous wall with its graffito 'Cofiwch Dryweryn' (remember Tryweryn) which is on the side of the A487 near Llanrhystud. Apparently it used to say 'Cofiwch Tryweryn' until a local teacher complained to her pupils that it was grammatically incorrect. The following day the T had been replaced by a D and someone had also added 'sorry miss'. The monument is kept freshly painted by the community.

On the way up the wall was pointed out to the children as they were doing the final run through of the play. On the way home, victorious, as the bus passed the wall again the children stood up in their seats and yelled 'Cofiwch Dryweryn!'

PS (added Monday, June 20th 2011 in response to Mountainear's comment): If you think 'incidents' like Tryweryn have been consigned to history go and read Mountainear's blog. This time it is pylons across a stunningly beautiful part of Wales to take windfarm-generated electricity from mid-Wales to England. Please also visit the No Pylons in Rea Valley website.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Gallery: Dads

The theme for this week's The Gallery is Dads so here we have my husband (who of course is a dad), an interloper (who never will be a dad, one of these is enough) and my own dad who is moving to Mull at the end of this month. It'll be strange to have him so far away (was it something we said?) but we're all looking forward to some lovely Scottish holidays.

Happy Father's Day both of you!

PS: Brian does have hair, it just didn't bother to show up for the photograph.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The F word

I'm on Ready for Ten today too (you see this is why I haven't blogged for a day or two - other things have needed to be written) anyway this time I'm talking about why my daughters won't get fat.

H9 saw the title of the article and said: "Is that because we're always running about?" Yes dear, I said. That's not the whole of it of course, good food, good genes and youth play a part, but it's rare to see an obese child in this part of the world.

The red tops are constantly screaming statistics about the number of children that will be obese by the time they leave primary school but I don't know where all these children are because they're not here. Presumably they're in towns and cities? I have no idea.

I think all this hysteria over size is largely fuelled by a thin-obsessed media with so much scrutiny of 'puffy' tummies and celebs who have 'ballooned to a size 12' (to quote the gorgeously funny comedienne Sarah Millican). We should all rise above such rubbish and stop reading the Daily Mail.

There's too much focus on diets too - fuelling an industry which has to make sure we fail at weight loss to keep itself in business. And don't get me started on cosmetic surgery. Why does everyone want to look the same?

Down with it all I say. Ignore. Rise above. Go running. Eat cake.

Monday, 13 June 2011

I'm not Usain Bolt!

Brian upholding the family pride at school sports day.
I'm over at Ready for Ten today talking about the parents' races at school sports day. I know I blog occasionally about running, but it's not sprinting. I'm not Usain Bolt or any relation to Linford Christie (despite the surname). You'll note the picture is of the family sprinter (who has medals to prove it) not me (who has medals to prove I can run 10ks and half marathons, just not terribly quickly). Please pop over to Ready for Ten and come and say hello.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

New arrivals

Tardis has spent the past three weeks sitting firmly on a clutch of ten eggs. She's been chatting to us as we build the polytunnel and crooning chicken songs at her brood. Then on Sunday...

Six of the ten eggs have hatched - two yellow, four blue. The blue ones are Blue Orpingtons, the eggs of which had spent time in a fridge before Tardis got to warm them up again with her underparts.

It didn't take them long to find the bowl of chick crumb.

Snuggling in a box while the broody pen is cleaned out.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

A half term haircut

This half term was a staycation with lots of things to do at home (like building the new polytunnel - more of that when it's finished). Funny how we've done lots of things but I can't really remember what. Anyway our main trip of the week was to take one very scruffy Scamp up to see Neris for a haircut.

Neris works with Brian and has helpfully recently completed a course in dog trimming. She also owns two adorable girl Schnauzers - Megan and Lily - and lives a mere stone's throw from New Quay.

Scamp hates car journeys so we hadn't got very far before we had to make the first (of four) comfort breaks. 

Megan pretending to ignore Scamp

It was love at first sight for Scamp as soon as he saw Megan and Lily (and Neris too, but they had met before). 

The three got on brilliantly so we left Scamp with Neris and headed off to New Quay with our picnic.

Burying R7's feet in the sand
New Quay was full of Birmingham accents, lobster-red cellulite, barely contained breasts and people eating chips on the beach.We joined them while we ate our smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, poked about among the shells and rock pools, had ice creams from out favourite ice cream parlour and then (because we were getting sun burned) went into a shop for new sun hats for H9 and R7 (where I discovered Sesalt Clothing).

Then we collected our newly shorn dog, minus a few big knots (we must brush him more). He was rather reluctant to leave Neris, Megan and Lily so he's now busily growing his coat so he can go back again.

Doesn't he look gorgeous?