Thursday, 26 May 2011

Tales out of school

I spent my last year of primary school boarding. In those far off days, before mobile phones and e-mail, we were required to write home once a week. In the junior school said letter had to be handed in to matron unsealed. Once we got to the secondary part of the school we only had to produce the envelope and show a letter before sealing it up and handing it over, and by the third year you just handed over a sealed envelope. But as a 10/11 year old my letters were read. Mother replied weekly with her news. Legend has it that she still has my letters; I’m sad to report that I didn’t keep her newsy everyday chats, though I kept Father’s as he wrote very rare, often sentimental missives.

At weekends we were always taken for walks, and sometimes these involved a trip on a bus to somewhere. On one memorable occasion we were taken on a coach trip to a pine wood and given permission to roam. When it came time to go back to school a number of girls were unable to be found. I do not recall (more than forty years on!) whether they were genuinely lost or behaving badly, but I do know that teacher’s stayed behind while we were sent back to school and they were found. I have no doubt that it frightened the life out of the teachers and that we all found it very exciting! So, of course, my letter home included this adventure. It was the first and only time that I was summoned to account for myself to the Housemistress’ study. The relevant pages had to be rewritten before my letter could be sent home. Generally I enjoyed writing letters and wrote detailed, decorated pages. On this occasion it must have been clear to my parents that my letter had been altered, and I’ve no doubt that I told them all about the missing girls when I next saw them, but I expect it was right not to worry them.
So it is with a certain hesitation that I commit the following account to the ether: please don’t decide your children cannot be allowed to go on school trips, it is character forming and terrific for their independence (and they will dine out on the stories for years!). And, for the record, no one was actually out of range of teaching assistance, the teachers just weren’t interfering.

You may remember that Husband had to go and learn how to camp and map read so that he could help out with DofE at school (and that 30 years in the Army didn’t count). Well, he’s been on his first adventure - after several weeks of preparation after school for the children (and teachers). He went off on Friday evening with a rucksack full of kit and rations. A phone call from the comfort of his tent that night says the whole thing was a hoot: the children (from14 up) had to walk a mile and a half then set up camp and eat their supper. It took one of the groups 3 hours to do the walk as their map reading didn’t go well; and the food brought didn’t necessarily lend itself to camp cooking conditions. (I have clearly been very lucky to have the combined knowledge of a camping Husband and Brownie/Guide experience to help inform what I have sent on Dof E camp!) It was a practice, not the assessment, and the whole point is to check what they don’t know and then help them get sorted for the real thing. For instance, one group hadn’t turned up for the session on how to put up a tent. While this event is not about leaving them to suffer, on the assessment the teachers are not allowed to help. Ditto the lad who couldn’t work the tin opener to get at his supper, and the girl who had never struck a match…. On the Saturday they trekked with all their kit, and this too had issues re map reading. Of the nine groups taking part six managed to achieve their goal. They all have some work to do before the Bronze assessment!

Youngest has also been off camping. She went for two nights away with her Switzerland crew practicing camping and walking (and bonding) for their trip in August. There are eleven of them; the three in charge are late teens and early twenties, leading for the first time. She came home tired but happy and the only real information I got was that she’d had porridge for breakfast both days and was very much looking forward to a pain au chocolat on Monday!

In their absence Eldest and I did rather more playing on the internet (her chess, me surfing) and fighting (nicely) over whose turn it was to play Mahjong on Husband’s new computer (we don’t have it on ours) than was perhaps appropriate. She’s revising for her AS levels and I expect I was doing something useful around the house or gardening really…

Saturday, 21 May 2011

May I recommend?

Thank-you Countrymummy over at projectforty (and on my sidebar) for kindly giving me this award. I googled it to see what I could find. It seems all I have to do is pass on the award and though I haven’t managed to find the origins of the Liebster Award, I’ve found a number of posts about it. They vary regarding numbers, and it does seem it is about those following numbers (and mine are small but, of course, perfectly lovely). So I may be supposed to tag 3 or 3-5 bloggers who have fewer than 100 followers, or fewer than 300, or a ‘small’ blog…
So I propose that you should check out I'm Crayon who is scribbling 'a completely pointless, nubby little blog' that always makes me smile; Fran at being me who has lots of followers and may not need an award but is one of my favourite ports of call (but has recently suggested she may give up blogging!) and has a wonderful take on the meaning of English; and thirdly why not visit wylye girl whose tales are marvelous.
I would add that they should none of them feel obliged to accept or pass on this award as I'm usually the break in the chain of chain e-mail that demands I pass it on to my friends, but I was far too chuffed (I'm trying not to think 'pathetic') at being given an award to fail in this instance!

Were you gripped a few weeks ago by the serial that was South Riding but perhaps a little puzzled by character motivation? The girls and I loved it, but we did wonder why some things happened. Well, having just read Winifred Holtby’s eponymous book I’m staggered at just how much Andrew Davies managed to get into only three hour long episodes, and I’d thoroughly recommend getting in touch with the characters’ inner thoughts!
Written and set in the 1930s it is surprisingly modern. A fascinating study of character, it is also a good yarn: believable, with loose ends, rather than neatly tied in a happy ending format. There are further strands to those in the TV series, but even those you think you know are further explored and embroidered with a cast of characters that cover the spectrum of people you’d expect to find in a (fictional) rural area in Yorkshire. The machinations of the local council, the wheels within wheels of social life and the hardship of simply living through the 1930s are intricately observed. Themes like women’s place in society, health, housing, the welfare state and schooling are all touched upon, but always as part of the story and how they affect the people.
Short chapters with titles made it a page turner too: an all round good read.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Chief Cook

Oh it’s been mad here lately, but, what you can’t tell from where you’re sitting is: I am on-line on my very own internet connected computer! (It's not connected to the printer yet but you can't have everything.)

So we’ll brush over my recent inactivity, writing-wise (I don’t suppose you think fete advertisements count?) and get down to the business of recording life in my little rural idyll.
On Sunday we had old friends to lunch. A traditional family affair, with a roast leg of lamb and rhubarb trifle, followed by a walk along the river, through the allotments and back up the glebe field and home for tea and carrot cake. As I stripped the joint and chopped the leftover vegetables, boiled up the bones for stock and assembled the base of a shepherd’s pie for supper later in the week I had one of those flashbacks.
Roast lamb with onion sauce and homemade mint jelly is a meal I completely associate with my grandmother’s home in Hythe. It’s not that I haven’t eaten it throughout my life, it is just Granny who I picture mincing cold roast lamb in one of those enormous metal contraptions that had to be screwed to the vicarage kitchen table and fed through the top – being careful to keep your fingers out of the way.. and cleaned through with a crust of stale bread afterwards come to think of it. Why I was particularly struck last night was because that is no longer how I make shepherd’s pie – though I used to use the whizzy machine and it’s efficient blade for ‘mincing’. I never met my mother-in-law, she died unexpectedly and rapidly of cancer a few months before I met Husband, but I was very soon told that her version of said pie was better than mine. I have learnt to chop the meat and vegetables so that you can still see what’s what, and to add a good spoonful of pickle (apparently it should be Branston but adding my own is now accepted).Roast lamb always comes with carrots and peas so clearly they can go in along with any left over roast potatoes, the gravy and onion sauce.
Topped with freshly made mashed potatoes and baked in the oven to heat through and crisp the top it is a perfect supper dish! Tonight. When Clergyuncle, who is visiting, will be joining us. I wonder if he will agree that my mother-in-law’s version is better than his mother’s?!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Where did the month go?

A catch up, possibly with pictures.. I write from Husband's new computer on a wireless link, 'my' computer is yet to be plugged in never mind connected to the wireless thingy. Yes, I know, I should just sort it out for myself, but a) I've no techy skills whatever, and b) I would be in very deep trouble if it went wrong and messed up this one! I'm sure he'll get there, not least because he doesn't want us "clogging up this computer like we did the old one".
Youngest's Just William Guide Camp went very well judging by the exhaustion of the participants - not to mention their general grubbiness. She even held an award ceremony at the end and presented certificates for such feats as 'Most interesting table manners' and 'Best den builder'. The planned mid-night camp-fire sing-song was moved to around 8pm because they were all a little bit afraid of the dark.
The weather in Spain was not quite as good as it was at home, but the welcome from Firstcousinonceremoved was enthusiastic and we packed in a great deal of sightseeing: Segovia, Madrid, San Lorenzo El Escorial, Picasso's Guernica, tapas, Easter parades (a sort of Live and Let Die style funeral march dressed in Klu Klux Klan outfits!) and a Palm Sunday service.
Home to some hasty planning for an Easter weekend visited by both sets of Grandparents and a stray Brotherinlaw. Youngest made place settings and Eldest a cake. (Pictures will have to follow as I can't find them anywhere on here!)
A couple of days of school and they were all off again for The Wedding. Youngest and I were pretty much glued to the telly - I needed to see all those frocks! Loved The Dress but threw abuse at the commentator who described it badly and failed to talk about where and by whom the fabrics were made; I've had to buy a paper to find out! The coverage was followed by a street party at our end of the village that was well supported and a bit of fun.
Yesterday we took my in-laws to Camden Town for a (younger) Brotherinlaw's 50th birthday lunch. A real treat in a private dining-room at the York and Albany.
That's it, life ought to be back to normal now.