Friday, 23 October 2015

Taking a little break....

I'm having some problems with the internet at the moment, which makes it very difficult to read your posts, comment and share my news.  It's getting very frustrating and makes doing anything on the internet a real chore, so I'm going to take a little break for a couple of weeks.
While I'm away...
"Happy Holidays" to all of you who work in education and have just reached the halfway point.
"All the best," to everyone who pops by regularly.
I WILL be back properly once this is sorted.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Very, very wierd...

Earlier in the year my 'fantasy retirements mornings' were filled with harp practice, walking, regular blogging and keeping on top of the housework.  The afternoons were going to be more sociable - meeting friends, crafting, clubs, and my working with my instrumental pupils. 

Hmmmm...... at the moment I have absolutely no routine whatsoever.  Don't get me wrong - I'm having masses of fun and I'm loving every moment of it - but I've spent my whole life following rigid timetables so this feels very, very weird.  Even as a teenager, my life was completely regimented by a programme of practice, homework, orchestras and clubs.  My 'Fly Paper Memory' (everything sticks to it!) means that I could probably still work out what I was doing at 4.30 pm on a Tuesday in February 1984.  I have 26 years of teaching timetables stuck in my memory archives too.

At the moment I'm trying to bring a small sense of 'order' to this apparent free-flow.  Each morning I write a little list of tasks for the day, then each week I write a more general and aspirational lists.  I must confess that I feel better when I've started to tick these tasks as completed.  (Old teaching habits die very hard.....!)

However I can see that the benefits of all this flexibility and I'm trying not to beat myself up if I my lists remain un-ticked for a few days.  Last Friday afternoon my piano pupil cancelled, so Mark and I took the chance to enjoy a walk in the sunshine through Worcester.  I'm so glad that I had my camera with me because the colours were amazing...

The river was really still, which gave some great reflections...

On Saturday I had plenty of time to prepare H's celebration meal
(H is next to her Dad at the top of the table)

...and on Tuesday morning I spent a couple of hours making a fabric bag for H's charity raffle at the beginning of November.  (This is another 'stash-busting' project - using some 1990s Dorma fabric from my Mum's hoard and some pretty pink/white lining.  The Raffle is going to raise money for Breast Cancer so I thought the pink was appropriate.)

And today....
This morning I'm collecting Mum from church in an hour or so then we're driving over to the Cotswolds to collect some specialist car parts for Mark.  It's about 2 hours driving through a lovely part of the world, so Mum's coming along for a natter and lunch.  We will probably get back around mid-afternoon.  After that I've got harp practice to do (and I'd like to start cutting out an apron).  At 5.15 I'm leaving the house again and walking down to my sisters for a catch up chat.  She lives two miles away so that walk covers my daily exercise regime.  Once I get home again it will be time to make dinner, catch up with Mark, maybe make up the apron, then bath and bed!
SO MUCH NICER than school politics and marking!
(This week a number of former colleagues have contacted me for the first time.  It seems that things are seriously 'sour' and everyone seems to be trying to second guess the intentions of the SMT.  Ugly rumours about restructuring, cost cutting etc are rife... I hate to see my friends under so much pressure - but it also makes me feel even more content with the path I've chosen.)
I hope that you are having a good week.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Presents and Plans

I'm definitely "time rich and cash poor" at the moment, so I'm digging deep into my crafting skills to make as many presents as possible.  I made this bag on Tuesday afternoon (when it was pelting down with rain here in Worcestershire).
Then I made a second bag in a different colour-way yesterday afternoon.  (I am in a group of three friends who all have birthdays in November - so we always meet up for a joint celebration and swap presents at some stage in the month.)

The material is a really lovely quality with attractive details in the leaves.   I bought it from a clearance bin in a interior design shop in Hereford.  Each piece of material was about 34 inches long and 16 inches wide, so I've got some useful pieces left over from these projects.  I think I paid about £8.00 for five pieces - so the bags have cost me less than £2.00 each (plus lots of love, time and cursing over pricked fingers!!!!)

With the benefit of hind-sight I wish that I'd picked up more pieces... but I was in the early days of developing my fabric stash and didn't recognise the potential.  However, I've got the same design in a pretty blue colour-way which may be nice for my Mum for Mother's Day.  The other two pieces are a kind of bold stripy deck chair design.
Thank you for all your suggestions for Saturday night. 
You really kick-started my creative juices and I'm now having loads of fun with my plans.
Here's the provisional menu...
Golden Peach Cocktails
Glowing golden autumn vegetable soup
Cold Roast meats
and a selection of hot and cold 'sides' including
Roast Veg with Double Gloucester Cheese
Lightly curried potato salad etc
"Climb Every Mountain" dessert (a profiterole pyramid)
Golden fruit pie
A lemon syllabub
a 'Golden' cheeseboard
I've got loads of autumnal coloured tea light holders to dress the table and a vase for some yellow flowers.  I've also decided to develop the expedition aspect of the award by giving each guest a placemat that's personalised with a section of OS map of significance to them.  H. will get a map of the area that she walked in; I. will get a map of the area of north wales where her best friend lives; B-in-Law will get a map of an area of the Lake District where he went open water swimming for the first time this summer... and so on!  Hopefully it will work...
Fortunately I've only got a couple of pupils in the next few days so I should be able to organise this in a 'calm and measured manner'!
What are your plans for the weekend?

Monday, 5 October 2015

She did it!!!

Tomorrow my eldest niece H.  is going to receive her Gold Duke of Edinburgh award at St James Palace.  H., my sister and B-in-L are travelling down to London this evening.  Sadly my sister will have to wait outside while the ceremony is taking place because tickets are limited to one per family.  Fortunately she attended the ceremony a few years ago with one of her students - so she says that she will be able to imagine everything again as H. receives her certificate.
I think I've mentioned previously that H's sixth form years have been 'difficult' for a whole host of reasons.  There were times when she didn't look as if she was going to be well enough to complete at least one of the expeditions - and she has always been very loyal volunteer at a local respite centre for very handicapped youngsters.  As a result, I'm a very proud Auntie!!
Next Saturday evening all the family are coming here for a celebratory meal.  I'm planning plenty of gold decorations but it's harder to come up with 'gold- themed' food.
All suggestions welcomed!!!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Back from our Travels

My 'bucket list' for life outside the classroom is relatively modest - quality time with the people I love, time to learn new crafts..... and a September holiday!  We've just got back from two weeks holiday in France and it's been GREAT!

We took the overnight ferry from Portmouth to St Malo, then headed to the Gironde estuary for six nights.  This area is clearly a popular summer resort for French families and foreign visitors but it was blissfully tranquil out of season.  We stayed in gorgeous apartment overlooking the port at Mortagne.  It was a top floor studio apartment so the views were stunning and the sunsets were superb...

We've never been to this part of France before so we made sure that we visited all the main 'sights'.
Talmont - with it's dramatic medieval church by the estuary -

Pons - with the enormous castle keep in the main square -

and it's medieval pilgrim hospital on the road to Compostella -

and Saintes - with it's ancient churches and 2000 year old roman amphitheatre -

We also made time to 'seriously chill'.  We ignored the news, switched off Mark's work mobile, ate nice meals and drank lots of local wine (Bordeaux - the 'Haut Medoc' was especially good!)
At the end of the week we drove inland to Angouleme for the second stage of the holiday.  This was three nights in a small city centre studio apartment - so that we could attend this year's 'Circuit Des Remparts'.  Many years ago we promised ourselves that we would celebrate the first September of my retirement by watching this race.  As a result the whole weekend felt slightly surreal - but it was great fun.  The town centre is completely taken over by the event.  The cars were quirky and beautiful, and the atmosphere was lovely.

I'll certainly never forget the excitement of walking up to the old town at 7.15 am on the Sunday (in the dark), making our way into the circuit, listening to the cathedral bells chime 8.00 in the rising sun then watching the first cars make their way out onto the circuit for the first qualifying laps.  Fabulous!

On Monday we drove back up to the north coast of Brittany for the final phase of the holiday.  We spent the last four nights in a small hotel right on the sea front at St Malo.  This was the view from my pillow -
We walked for miles and miles along 'Grand Route 34' - which is a long distance footpath covering the Rance estuary and the part of the Breton coast line -
One day we started walking from the port at the bottom of the lovely 'Rue du Jerzual' in Dinan -
Another day we explored the headland to the north east of St Malo -
And on our final day we walked the coastal path from the Rance 'Barrage' to Dinard and beyond -

We ended the holiday with a day on the ferry from St Malo to Portmouth.  This was when we really noticed that we were travelling 'out of school holidays'.  The ferry was practically deserted and really quiet.  It was a lovely sunny day and the sea was really calm - a complete bonus at the end of September.

It's taken a few days to get back into routine.  Mark asked me to write an article for the Marcos Club Magazine about our trip to the 'Circuit'...which took up lots of potential blogging time.  I've also tacked the 'post holiday washing and ironing mountain'.  However don't feel too sorry for me because I've also been making the most of being able to read/craft in the garden in the afternoon sun...!  Hopefully we can hold onto the blue skies for a little longer.