Thursday, 30 August 2012

Messing about on the river and my prize

First I'd like to thank Lou at The Archers at the Larches for picking me out of her free prize draw! I won the tub of Baobab powder which I'm very much looking forward to trying. Sorry for the delayed mention Lou, it's been a busy week!

Lots of things have been happening since my last post and I don't seem to be able to grab 5 minutes to myself, it's not helped by the fact that no one knows I've been writing a blog, so I have to sneak upstairs to my office/boxroom/messy cupboard! I like to call it my office but really it's the dumping ground of a massive "to-do" pile.

Amongst all the things going on, as well as the tail end of the cricket season (before we hurtle into indoor winter cricket practice) number 2 son had a very short notice invite to have a week in Spain with a friend's family. I realised he hadn't had a haircut for 6 months and had no holiday clothes so ran around Norwich like a mad woman trying to find things in the Summer sales - of course I'd left it too late. A bit of online shopping got us a few bits so if you're in Spain & see a 13 year old on a beach with the tags still on his clothes or noticeably wearing last years shorts (2 sizes too small) please tell him his Mum says "Hi"!

I've tried to spend a little time doing things Little Miss would like to do as she has spent most of her school holidays in the car driving to her brothers matches. She managed 2 shopping sprees (using birthday vouchers), a swimming session and lunch out with a friend.

One thing we managed to do, just the two of us, was a river cruise organised by the cricket club (everything I do has a cricket connection!) We should have been in Kent watching number 2 son play (ie get badly beaten!) but as Little Miss had a last minute under 9 match locally we decided to stay home - so were unexpectedly available for the boat trip.

I thought you may like a short tour of the Norfolk Broads, or more precisely the River Bure. The river runs through our village and we picked up the boat just down the road at 6pm. Despite living withing 5 minutes of the river we never go out on a boat, so this was a rare treat for both of us.


And what a lovely time we both had!

Friday, 24 August 2012

A New Chapter and a bit of a rant!

Thank you for all the good luck messages for number 1 son and his GCSE results.
After a restless night of worry (me not him) we drove into school yesterday morning to collect the big brown envelope. The news was good and he got 5 A's, 4 B's and 1 C grade.

We were over the moon at this. He's a bright boy but is very laid back (lazy?!) so we weren't sure quite how much effort he'd put into his revision. Obviously he did a bit more than we thought!

So from there we drove to his chosen sixth form college in Norwich City Centre to "sign on" and accept the offered place for September. It's right in the middle of the city so we parked in John Lewis. At the college he met up with friends who all seem to have done better than they expected. There had been a lot of worry that morning when BBC news announced that this year the examiners had been hard on students and grades had dropped for the first time in years.

Well, all was good and I took him for a Starbucks coffee and cake. I didn't have the cake - since when did they start putting the calories on all the cakes in there? I'm sure that's not very good marketing, it certainly put me off as I couldn't find anything under 400 calories!
And then home, only to discover he'd left the envelope containing his results in the John Lewis carpark!! I quickly 'phoned John Lewis and the very kind lady in the customer services department ran down to the carpark pay machine and found the envelope - give that woman a medal!

Anyway, now for the rant!
I decided I really must sort out his travel pass to the sixth form college today, I'd enquired some months ago but we didn't want to apply until we knew he definitely had a place; it was dependant on grades.
I'd been told by the council that travel was not very well subsidised and we would have to pay quite a bit ourselves, the amount awarded to help would depend on your income & whether you are in receipt of qualifying benefits.

I tried to complete the online form today with no luck. The journey from home (or nearest town) to college was not showing up, how strange? So I telephoned the council again. Apparently the funding has been withdrawn altogether unless you choose the sixth form college deemed to be in the catchment area of your home. That sounds ok, but none of our local high schools have a sixth form. We could travel equal distance to the 2 nearest, we're about half way between them both. Apparently one is the "right" one! Naturally it's not the one he chose! I explained very calmly to the council lady that all sixth forms offer different courses and the "correct" one doesn't offer what he wants to do. It may sound like he's looking for a slightly obscure course but no; it's A levels in English, Chemistry, Biology & Politics! Not available to do together at the college he apparently "should " go to!
She couldn't help at all and explained that due to government cuts in  education funding they were hanging on to the little bit of money they had left by their fingertips. I was also told that further education is not compulsory - I don't think staying on in education should necessarily be rewarded but to penalise him is a bit much!

Due to the change in law a while back, it will be compulsory for my other 2 children to stay in education until 18, presumably the travel costs will be funded then?

It really makes me cross that his travel to college will now be costing around £450.00 per year, but for those going to the college who's catchment area we are supposedly in it will be a lot less. I appreciate that we are lucky in this country to have free education but it seems that with university tuition fees and things like the transport costs increasing massively it's becoming more difficult for the less well off to further themselves in education.

This is the third time in the last couple of years we've been directly affected by the government funding cutbacks.

 The first time was when number 1 son was offered an extra course at school; he was given the chance to take a "leader in sport" course (I think that's what it was called!). It meant he volunteered to assist various events and took some additional training at our local university. He was about to take a cricket coaching course sponsored by his club but the school advised to postpone this. They explained that the leader course would automatically qualify him as a level 1 coach and he could go straight on to level 2 with his club. It was a 2 year course in addition to all other school work - 18 months in the funding was withdrawn!! No warning, no chance to finish it - just stopped!

The second time was when all local primary school children were taken to participate in different sports so any talented children could be spotted and picked to have further, subsidised training. Little Miss was over the moon to be picked for gymnastics (she'd never done it before) and was invited to join a club at very little cost to our family. She participated in the club and went to 2 regional competitions, coming 2nd in the last one. At that point all funding was withdrawn and to keep the gym club running all costs were passed on to the parents!

I do understand that funds are not limitless and that the academic side of education may be more important than the funding of sports, but wasn't the motto of the 2012 Olympics
 "inspire a generation"? - which generation was that?!

Now I will apologise for ranting like that- I promised myself at the beginning that this blog would be snippets of my life with plenty of humour thrown in - but I'm sure this affects lots of other families too.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Cookery Expert

Well we've finished the week of non stop cricket, everyone was very tired by the end. It was a successful week though with the team winning 3 out of their 4 matches and the sun shone for all of them. And I think they had fun in the dorms, if the bleary eyes are anything to go by!

But of course as soon as the weekend arrived there was more cricket!
The builder and number 2 son have gone to Kent today for a County match, I've stayed behind with the other two as Little Miss has another match this morning. She's outside practising with her brother right now and she's very nervous!

She's probably the most capable out of all of them, number 1 son son seems to have lost the ability to do anything for himself just lately.

She cooked us all breakfast one day.....

                                                            ........pyjamas and chef's hat, that's how you cook, right?

Well we have a busy week ahead, hopefully with not too much cricket! I hope we can manage some swimming, meeting up with friends, an evening out, possibly a boat trip.....and of course the dreaded GCSE results for number 1 son, fingers crossed that his part time job of washing up at the local pub doesn't become his only career path!

Enjoy your week. xx

Sunday, 12 August 2012

We're going on tour!

Well I wish I could say I was going on tour as the drummer of a rock band, or maybe just a roadie. Or better still the wife of the drummer in the rock band (only this drummer would do!)

But sadly it's the annual cricket tour! Number 2 son plays for the county and every year they have a tour. We've been to Worcestershire where we spent a few days squeezed into a travelodge! We booked a £19 a night family room in the travelodge sale but I have a feeling they mistook us for a family of sardines!

The builder and I were in a double bed, number 1 son on a small single with a pull out bed underneath for Little Miss. Number 2 son stayed with his team in a school dorm.
It wasn't a popular choice as when we asked around there was a lot of "oh no, we just rent a small cottage", or "there's a lovely hotel just along the road, swimming pool and everything"!!

Number 1 son can be a very restless sleeper and we were woken on the first night by slightly muffled cries of "HELP!" He had fallen off his bed onto Little Miss, she had woken but he had not. He'd managed to shift himself around and got his head wedged under his own bed but was laying right across her! We managed to pull him free, put him back in his own bed (still asleep!) and then get her back to sleep - it was a tiring stay!

 The scenery however of the Malvern Hills was spectacular and I took hundreds of photographs.

These are just a couple showing the college where all the cricket was played.

The following 2 years we visited Ipswich. I don't want to put down Ipswich Town as
I'm sure it can be a very nice place; however I can drive there in just over an hour so it's not my ideal destination for a short holiday.

Well this years tour was eagerly anticipated; other age groups have travelled to all parts of the world for their County Tours. India, South Africa, Australia etc..... so where would ours be? A little worry about the cost but I'm willing to overload my plastic for a trip abroad!
Anyway it was announced......wait for it.... Bury St Edmonds!! Just outside of Ipswich around 1 hour 15 mins from home!!

This year I'm not booking a travelodge or any kind of hotel, I'll drive there each day. The builder stays with the team as he helps to coach.
We'll pack our usual enormous picnic and travel home each evening, it's hard to say whether the diesel will cost more or less than a hotel.

Of course if the band want me to tour with them, I'd stay over!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Despite her heavy work load the Tooth Fairy made it on time!

After much wiggling and twisting Little Miss managed to lose another tooth this week, this makes me very nervous & I break into a sweat. My history with the tooth fairy isn't great.
I do try, but as the years have gone on and the kids have got older I've slightly lost the momentum... ok, I never really had momentum!

The tooth fairy is often busy and always worn out so she does forget to visit on the odd occasion; when I say odd occasion I mean most of the time!

She once forgot to come on so many consecutive nights to number 2 son that she sent a letter to apologise. Not an ordinary letter, it arrived in number 2 son's Christmas stocking delivered by Father Christmas himself on Christmas Eve no less! She did explain that she hadn't forgotten but had been called in at short notice to help the elves in their toy making factory due to the back log that year. She'd been so busy and productive that Father Christmas had agreed to deliver her letter and £1 with all the other presents - he's a kind old soul!

But this week she surpassed herself, she staggered into Little Miss's room very late at night and half asleep with £1 coin at the ready. She scrabbled around under the pillow and pulled out the tooth plus not 1 but 2 letters addressed to the Tooth Fairy. The lengthy notes not only asked for a written reply but also a "real" photograph of the Fairy herself.

So she fired up the old computer and set to work........

                                                                           ...............than Heaven for Google! 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

To London and back....twice!

It's been quite a week and we've managed to do several hundred miles in the name of sport. But the Olympic atmosphere in London was fantastic.

Our Olympic journey started a long time ago as my sports mad husband promised the family that if Great Britain won the Olympic bid we'd be there for something, how we'd be there he didn't know; but be there we would be! He isn't very good at organising trips of any kind and refuses to use the computer so that meant it became my job to apply for tickets. Me, the only member of the family without a single sporty bone in my body!

When the time came I sat poised at our ancient desktop and filled in our ticket application as per everyones wishes, had we have been successful in getting all the tickets we applied for we would now be bankrupt! However we got none. All was not lost however as the other 4 members of my family insisted I got up at the crack of dawn to apply when the second batch became available. This time we managed to get 5 tickets for table tennis on July 29th and 4 for the boxing on July 30th. I could see we'd need help for the boxing as there are 5 of us but with months of notice that should be ok, right?

Well when we entered March the cricket fixtures were announced and as you may have guessed we had a clash of dates. I assumed that as the Olympics in London were unlikely to be repeated in our lifetimes there would be no problem; but I was wrong! Husband and number 2 son decided that the cricket match scheduled for  July 29th should take precedence. From that time on I buried my head in the sand and hoped that a solution would become apparent, I thought my prayers had been answered with all the rain but sadly the match was unlikely to be called off due to rain a month before the day!

The reason for my panic is that I am notorious for getting lost, anyone who knows me well would be horrified at the thought of me trying to get out of my own village without a sat nav and even then I struggle.

My travelling adventures are well known, I've been lost on a bus (got on the wrong one more than once), I've been lost in Norfolk, the county I live in and I have once been lost in a carpark next to where I worked. I drove around the carpark for some time unable to find the exit and happened to look up and see all my colleagues lining the 3rd floor windows in hysterics!
 When I had to go on a training course to London, alone, a colleague offered me a ball of string and suggested I tie it to the hotel door handle and unravel it all the way to the training centre, just so I could find my way back!
Anyway I eventually got a grip and decided that I would take the eldest and youngest children to London on my own!  I overcame panic attacks to book rail and tube tickets and a travelodge in docklands at a ridiculously over inflated price, I also managed to pass on the 2 spare tickets to friends; friends who sadly did not want to travel with us - well you wouldn't, not with my history!
(I do have many more horror stories from when I attempt to travel - passport issues, missed planes, floods, cardiac arrrest of another passenger, lost luggage.... you name it it's happened to me)

I considered all possibilities and allowed 5 hours to get from the tube station to our hotel (15 minute journey) and another 5 hours from the end of the event to Liverpool Street Station for the train home.

Well to cut a long story a little shorter WE MADE IT THERE AND BACK AGAIN!!

And a great time was had by all.....
We cheered in the table tennis but unfortunately saw the ladies GB competitor lose, in the men's event there was no one from team GB so we decided to cheer the Australians! Little Miss however, cheered the Aussies in every event as she still desperately misses the Australian cricketer who stayed with us for 6 months a couple of years ago. With the magic of mobile internet we were able to "speak" to him and his sister on facebook while in the arena - we were told to shout as loudly as we could "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi!!  So we did!

After our session in the ExCel arena we took the tube to Knightsbridge in the hope of a cup of tea in Harrods; seemed like everyone else had the same idea though! We crossed the street and took a table in a tea room until we spotted the prices, I do draw the line at £18 each for afternoon tea.
Anyway a little up the road we spotted this creature...
She was outside the National Geographic shop which I can highly recommend for a light lunch - delicious! And as they were promoting Columbia Little Miss was given a wooden jigsaw painting kit and invited to start her paintwork there and then in the shop.

As we stepped out to start to head home we were just in time for the road to be closed and the ladies cycle road race to go by, very exciting when the shouts from up ahead came "GB in the lead!"

We had a great time and headed home by train in the certain hope that husband and number 2 son had sorted everything out for their trip to see the boxing on Monday - they hadn't.
So at 10pm I hastily booked park & ride, found a babysitter for the day and after  quick sleep off we went on trip number 2!
The boxing was great and everyone enjoyed their Olympic experience, even me!