Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Not marmalade

A consequence of the enforced long holiday may be that I have missed the Seville orange window. We ran out of marmalade weeks ago – actually I had to buy it in November I think. My very loyal Husband insists on home made and is kind about its varying quality. His mother used to make it, and luckily I dabbled in such things long before I had a family to consider because it was something my Granny did too. So I don’t resent the requirement. Apart from anything else, preserve making of any sort is a darn sight more satisfying than cleaning... ‘Though if whatever I’m cleaning is REALLY dirty, so that you can tell I’ve done it, I’d admit to a sort of pleasure.

So this isn’t the marmalade that I’d planned to make today after Sainsbury’s delivered the oranges, because they didn't. It is Delia’s Spiced Pickled Runner Beans, a delicious concoction that uses up the runners when your family really can’t face another and your husband is still bringing them home from the allotment. It seemed pretty easy this time largely because I'd chopped up the beans as they came in from the field and put them in the freezer. It will be interresting to see if it tastes any different. Still have another batch to make: the church fete will have that.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Convenient choices

Eldest went to 3 primary schools, and Youngest 2. One of these was the same school. We have been remiss, or lucky: they have also been our nearest school, and generally the only one we looked at. Eldest’s first school was the village primary in walking distance of home. The neighbours mostly chose the other village school (requiring a short drive), because it took the bulk of the military children and got better SATs results. The military children came from the military college, so their parents were arguably more able. Since some of these children were foreign, and all of them moved on biannually, if not annually, I questioned the statistics and chose the stability and convenience of the nearer school. It meant we met other local parents and children and could walk to events in school.
When we were posted to south east London we were lucky in getting a quarter in north east Kent. (In London the perceived wisdom was that you needed to get your children into the church schools, and the over subscription meant a letter from your vicar was essential, and, as only occasional attendees this was not a possibility.) Of the nearest schools, all of which needed a car journey, we opted for the pair most of the parents on the patch had chosen so that we’d get to know our neighbours and be able to share lifts. The Infant school (for Youngest) had an outstanding OfSTED; the Junior (for Eldest) did not. For 2 ½ years Youngest soared and Eldest got bored. I spent a great deal of time complaining that she wasn’t progressing and was told she was marvelous: she sat quietly and read a book when she finished her excellent work and caused no fuss. But she had local friends, and was happy, just bored by school. And we would move again!
The future beckoned and we decided we needed to send the girls to boarding school or buy a house. We couldn’t do both, and the military grants would cease before both girls were through school, so we purchased a house. We knew where we wanted to settle; we researched the local secondary schools and shopped in the catchment area of one of several good schools in North Wiltshire. We viewed a house and primary school in our two favourite villages and settled on one. The house was more affordable and the school more welcoming. The deal was done.
The small school size (45 pupils) meant that they went into mixed age-group classes; Eldest with 7-11(Key Stage 2) and Youngest with 4-7(Key Stage 1). Youngest’s teacher was not the best and our daughter had a lovely time playing and making no academic progress whatsoever. Her predicted excellent KS1 results (from the previous school) passed her by. But Eldest flew! Because of the mixed ages everyone had different work to do so she didn’t stand out as odd, and her job-sharing teachers always challenged her to do more. When Youngest moved up to the KS2 class the caring yet challenging ethos worked the same magic on her and she too learned to fly. But our choice of the village school had other consequences. The people we met as a result were pleased that we had committed ourselves to the village by choosing ‘their’ school. They were local so there were opportunities for walk/lift sharing to events in and out of the village. All the children would go to the same secondary school: they go on the same bus and we know at least those parents. In a big centralized secondary school you don’t even know the children they’re making friends with, never mind the parents. Just like everyone else, children will pick up (and drop) friends along the way.
They are now both at the planned secondary school and doing well in their different ways. Both are making new friends and have largely moved on from the smaller possibilities of their primary. Imagine if we had chosen the secondary based only on where their friends were going! I don’t know if we will have got it right in the long run, but for our family so far so good.
My purpose is not to be smug! I am trying to suggest that there are many consequences of choosing a school, and they are not all about academic achievement! If you don’t choose your local school you run the risk that your child’s friends (so perhaps yours) will also live elsewhere. If it is in a different catchment to your residence, the long term consequence may be that your child wants to go with her friends to their secondary school (which may or may not be possible). Once again you won’t have options to share a lift home from after school activities, to and from performance activities and so on. Happiness isn’t just about your child, it’s also about you! Deciding not to move your child from their pre-school where you used to live because they’d miss their friends is the first step on the never having their friends near your home! From pre-school, to primary and on to secondary every decision will have far reaching consequences, and they’re not just about education.

Friday, 22 January 2010

surfing not chores

And these are Eldest’s Christmas cushions.

I have wondered before why I blog, and who for. The who for has to be me since my readership is small – though, of course, perfectly formed! And the why? Well that must be for me too, a sort of memoire come chat with a friend. Having had the family at home rather more than planned I have had very little computer time, and I confess I've made up for that this week with some shocking timewasting! My surfing suggests that there are blogs of every description: there are parent bloggers, food blogs, crafty blogs and writing blogs to name but a few. I like some of all of these, and therein lies the problem! Couldn’t sign up to the groups because I’d need to write a specific sort of post and I am definitely a rambler. Luckily there are some of those too; I’ll just have to keep surfing for that non-group.
On that note, I’ve added some new blogs to my list of destinations. Enjoy!

Friday, 15 January 2010

A friend indeed

It has been my birthday this week. I feel no older, except when I look in the mirror or remember just how long ago x or y happened. And I often miscalculate those dates! It’s age you know. It comes to me when I realise just how long I’ve known the people in my life.

FriendAbroad has just e-mailed me a daft message about how none of the wishes, angels or whatever she has received has worked, and please could we send chocolate, wine or air tickets instead. Over the years we have seen one another spasmodically. We were next door neighbours when we were 9, and wrote termly to one another at our respective girls’ boarding schools until we pitched up at the same sixth form. Our friendship flourished at school despite her being more confident and successful in our co-ed surroundings. She taught me to put on eye-make-up, shared novels and companionship, enthused about our sewing skills and laughed with me. When she needed somewhere to live in London she came and shared my one-bedroom flat. Later, when she moved to the USA to accompany her widowed father, I went to stay for a long summer earning my keep by helping her with the household chores. Later still we lived in one another’s pockets as she prepared for her wedding and I made her dress and my bridesmaid’s dress. I’m her eldest son’s godmother.
Husband-to-be and I visited her family in the Netherlands for a ball and she memorably sewed me back into my dress when the clearly too cheap zip split open! She was, of course, one of my bridesmaids.
Her life has changed direction several times since then, and we have both moved about rather a lot, never close enough for detailed contact, but we keep in touch, and we visit when possible. She usually drops in when she’s in the UK, and we exchange e-mails randomly. Our lives have been different, but the things we have in common remain key, and we never have difficulty in finding things to talk about when we get together.
With a friendship that has lasted so long, it is impossible to imagine FriendAbroad ceasing to be part of my life. I can’t see a reason why two little old ladies couldn’t still be exchanging views on the novels we’re reading, our sewing and our children. Not to mention the Husbands and (future I trust!) grandchildren. Aren’t I lucky.
(The cushions were Youngest's Christmas present.)

Monday, 11 January 2010

White Out

So they went back to school for all of two days and then they came back home again and stayed. Husband too. And it had some real positives: I have enjoyed their company, we have done a number of family things as though we were still on holiday, and I’ve had the heating on during the day (hang the oil, we’ve already paid for it, ditto the logs, but how long will they last?). On the downside I have had no time to myself, could not get access to play on the computer without someone looking over my shoulder to see what I was up to, and have been expected to provide actual meals at lunchtime! The GCSE mocks didn’t get taken and will have to be rescheduled, and we paid for 3 ballet lessons that weren’t running.

There was much talk about how it had been worse or not in the past.
In 1991 when I was a working woman I got stuck in Scotland after a Friday visit to our factory. I was turned away from the airport with a toothbrush and a hotel room. Still no go to East Midlands on Saturday morning, but they’d take me to London instead. Met up with Husband-to-be who lived and worked there. The snow had resulted in some spare tickets to Cats, and I bought an unlikely outfit in Next: green jeans, orange baseball boots and a matching sweatshirt – I only had my suit. (History doesn’t record the purchase of underwear, but I think we’ll take it as read.)
At boarding school in 1969 a heavy fall of snow meant the day girls had to stay overnight and they slept head to toe with their friends. The next morning we were escorted to school by Matron so we wouldn’t have any problems. As she, a distinctly plump lady, herded us along the path in crocodile file she went wide and up to her neck in a drift. We loved it!
I for one can only claim inconvenience and nothing more. But I'm very glad to be alone again today, even without the heating.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to one and all, but especially to my very own (and only) Follower! In her honour I have added a Followers' gadget to my Blog and I await the flood with interest, but little expectation. I'm not sure I understand the advantages of joining; I've been content to put people's addresses down the side of my page as destinations I enjoy visiting regularly and haven't felt it necessary to 'Follow'. Perhaps someone will explain?
The Christmas holiday has flown by and the girls have gone back to school. Since the in-laws mass visit we have had a hugely enjoyable New Year's Eve dinner party (Black Tie and party frocks and enormous quantities of champagne and posh food - guests didn't get up from the table 'til gone 2 in the morning so I guess they had fun too); a brief visit from Northern Friend en route home from her holidays; a visit to London to stay with my parents which included a trip to Tate Britain (Youngest and Husband looked at the Turner Prize contenders for £8 each whilst Eldest and I did the rest of the gallery for free. We didn't think we would get value for money being inclined to dismiss large tracts of art as ‘rubbish’); a welcome Italian meal out and An Inspector Calls (very dramatic and interestingly staged so we could all help make notes for GCSE drama) and a visit from my eldest brother and his family for lunch.
We’re now back in the frozen west in our term time routine. Ballet has begun again. My taxi service just needs to defrost my unused car ready for tonight – perhaps we will be snowed off? I don’t know who wished for a white Christmas, but I’ve had enough now!
(The fox is a regular in my parents back garden.)