Thursday, 26 July 2012

I'm Off...

I thought that I'd be posting all the time through the summer holidays but this heat has completely thrown my routines.  The first 'holiday' of the holiday (if you see what I mean) is also looming large.  I'm taking my parents away for a week to a little cottage near Lampeter.  I can't believe that I booked this break back in January.  2012 is certainly flying by!

Mark, who only gets 'normal' holidays, is holding the fort in Worcester.  He doesn't mind me going away for a week without him as long as I leave a reasonable stock of meals that he can throw together with minimum thought.  As a result I've been busy cooking meals for us this week, making extra portions to re-heat next week and planning food for the beginning of my break with Mum and Dad.  I think it's close to being organised.

I feel lucky to have the chance to spend some quality time with my parents like this.  When they lived in Manchester I used to go and stay up there during the long holiday.  When Dad retired and they came to live round the corner, it seemed logical to maintain the 'week together' tradition.  We've visited a lot of the Devon coast and most of Welsh coast over the last 12 years.   However the Lampeter area is going to feel new to us because we haven't been there for the best part of 40 years!  The last time we visited was a camping holiday back in 1973.... 

Mum (who has Huntington's Disease) has been finding life a bit 'tricky' (her words) recently.  She's been feeling very low and anxious, which are typical day to day symptoms of any degenerative disease.  Dad (as her main carer) has been caught up in this.  I'd go away with them regardless of Mum's health - but it's nice to think that I can give Dad a 'double holiday' by taking on some responsibility for a few days.

If you are going on holiday shortly - hope that you have a fabulous time.  If you have just got back from a break - I hope that it was fantastic!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Cleaning, sorting and other things...

It's been great to be on holiday for the last few days - especially when the sun has been shining and it's been blissfully warm.  I've started the process of 'catching back' on all the jobs that I didn't have time for during term time.  My harp - poor neglected instrument - received a general MOT and re-string this morning.  I'm also doing some 'in the corners' cleaning.  It feels nice to do things at my own pace for a change.

Mark and I spent Saturday at the 'Silverstone Classic' event.  The whole site was totally water-logged this year.  We managed to find a bit of hardstanding for the Kitten near the Marcos Club stand.  The Lotus Club owners were a lot less lucky and many of their beautiful cars looked as if they had been on a 4X4 circuit.

It's become a bit of a tradition to spend the first day of the summer holiday at this event.  It's generally very relaxed and friendly.  This year we chatted for ages to an Australian couple who had just driven their classic Bentley across Mongolia, Russia and Europe.  They'd been on the road for 51 Days - incredible.  I SO want to be doing that sort of thing when I retire!

I love the way that you can wander round the pit lanes at these events.  There are some fantastic photo-opportunities..

Plucky little number 68 was the only Marcos racing at the event.  Here it is in the process of over-taking an E-Type Jag..

There was a Balloon Display in the early evening.  This was the view from the passenger seat of the Kitten..

Here are the new pits in the evening sunlight.  Last year I wasn't sure if I liked the new architecture.  This year it's grown on me a little...

Here are the Group C racing cars thumping round the track in the twilight.  They are really fast and incredibly noisy.  I love watching them pull away in close formation.

Best of all, it was lovely to spend a whole day outside.  With all the oil, petrol and exhaust fumes it was hardly a day in the 'fresh air' - but it completely beats being in a classroom!!!!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Exploring New Ground..

Here are a few photos from our weekend away.  We travelled down to Godalming on Friday evening and stayed for two nights in this lovely 'Arts and Crafts' House in the Surrey Hills.  I wish that I'd taken more photos of the interior.  Joy - the owner - has an talented eye for combining beautifully simple things with floral displays and eccentric original pieces of art.

To give you a flavour of her skill, here's a corner of the tea tray that was in our room.  It was so pretty.

On Saturday morning we drove south across towards the South Downs until we got to an open air museum near Goodwood.  We managed to see most of the site before the weather really deteriorated.

A man at the museum suggested the Goodwood Aero Club cafe for lunch.  This was the view from our table as the next part of the storm moved south towards us.

After lunch we explored the racing circuit a little.  There was an event taking place and one of the marshalls offered to drive us round the track.  Mark was so excited to be on the tarmac of this iconic circuit. 

The heavens opened again as we drove back the B+B so Mark spent some time cleaning his 'pride and joy' before we went out for dinner.

Since we don't know the area we were guided by 'Tripadvisor' to a pub a few miles away.  To be honest it was a little bit more pricey than we're used to paying, but it had a fabulous atmosphere and the food was lovely.

This was an attractive collection of interesting things on the mantlepiece above our table....

...and Steve the cat kept a watchful eye on proceedings....

Yesterday we were up bright and early so that we could go and play on the famous concrete banking at Brooklands.  The track was designed and built in 1907.  I was surprised by the fact that it's 100 feet wide.  As a result cars look absolutely tiny...

I'm still having problems with my foot and was doing my best to get around on crutches.  The lovely people in the museum insisted that I could have their mobility scooter when they saw that I was struggling.  I couldn't resist taking it up onto the banking as well....!  What do you think of my racing line...

We stayed almost to the last car and drove home in clear, sunny weather..

It's been one of those rare, perfect weekends!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Catching up..

Here's a few pictures of my baskets and pots at the back of the house. I'm really pleased with them this time. Normally the plants look weak and feeble - this year they are surprisingly happy and strong. I suspect that the fairly constant rain has something to do with their success!

Thank you to everyone who left lovely and supportive comments on my last post.  I read everything that you wrote several times and it helped me immensely (especially when members of my family were being less kind!).  After a few days of uncertainty and roller-coaster emotions, Mark's consultant has now decided that he wants to hold back for a little before the next operation.  His rationale is that he wants Mark's face to heal as much as possible.   It's difficult because Mark had talked himself into the correct mindset for having the next operation.  Uncertainty is suprisingly exhausting!

The end of term is grinding on....  Year 8 are performing the outcomes of their Tribute Band project for the next two mornings (6 hours of live Music in two lots of three-hour sessions).  There are approaching 80 Bands/Vocal groups from the whole year group.  Every child gets up on stage and performs.  It's rather crazy - but a lovely way to end the course.  Confident pupils will work with backing tracks or live music, while less experienced pupils sing/play along with the full version of the song.  The focus is on developing performance experience plus all the personal organisation that comes with the rehearsal process.  I tend to be completely mangled by sympathetic nerves!

Friday is the day that all the 'nice' Year 7s, Year 8s and Year 9s are shipped off to the West Midland Safari Park, Drayton Manor and Alton Towers.  I normally go to Alton Towers but this year I've elected to stay at school - largely because my foot is still uncomfortable and not great at walking distances.  I've yet to find out what I'll be doing with the 'interesting' characters that have been left behind.  At least I'll be able to make a quick getaway at the end of the day.  For the first time in a very long time, Mark and I are going away for the weekend.  We are REALLY excited....!

Term ends on the 20th July... "So near and yet so far...."!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Good News and Bad News..

On Tuesday Mark got the results of the biopsy of the tumour. The good news is that it's not cancerous.  The bad news is that around 10% of the thing is still in there and it's already growing under the skin that was grafted into his eye area.  He has to have another operation.  The specialist wants to do it sooner rather than later so we're going to be 'back to square one' farily shortly. 

To be honest, we've been through a bit of a gloomy patch over the last few days - which is why I've been commenting but not posting.  I keep reminding myself that at least its not cancer, but it's been giving me some sleepless nights and work has been hard.

Today I reached a point where I realised that I really should be counting my blessings....

This afternoon I taught one of my Year 10 (15 years old) Music classes.  There is a boy in this group who had a sequence of cancers when he was 7/8 years old.  While he survived, many of his vital organs were badly affected by the strength of the treatment that he received.  I chatted to his Mum after his performance in the concerts last week and she told that his latest problem is varicose veins in his stomach.  He postponed treatment to complete his performance assessment last week; went in for an operation at the beginning of this week; was back in my classroom today to finish off his written assignments and will be back in hospital for a further operation next week.   This boy always smiles and never complains.  To me - especially with my current preoccupations - he is inspirational.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Role Reversal

Back in May one of my Year 11 boys asked me if I would drive a group of them to the Prom in the school minibus.  I was really amused by the idea that they wanted to be so 'anti-establishment' so I agreed to help out.  I decided to surprise them on the evening by dressing as a Year 11 Prefect (a special tie and badges).  I also amused myself by wearing my uniform as incorrectly as possible (shirt tales out, buttons undone and blazer sleeves rolled up).  As it got closer to the time I wondered if I'd really done the sensible thing.  I started to panic that wearing school uniform was a step too far and that the senior teachers would have a sense of humour bypass...  I needn't have worried.  The evening went really well and the senior teachers were just amused by my uniform prank.

Here I am with some of the boys by the minibus.  I. - the tall lad, second from right - had the original idea of going to the Prom in an old LDV!  All of these boys have studied Btec Music with me over the last three years.  They are great characters and I miss them...

The whole group on I.'s drive.  They look really self-conscious in their brand new suits!  A couple decided to go for the fancy dress option...

Here we are outside the Botanical Gardens in central Birmingham.  My school has used this venue for a few years and it seems to work really well.

Here I am with another of my lovely Music students - A.  Normally she is quite a 'tomboy' but this evening she looks beautiful and glamorous.

Here are a couple more of my Music girls.  The girl on the right was also in my form.  She is a lovely, kind-hearted chatter-box and form time is really quiet without her....

The boys gave me a bunch of flowers and some wine to say 'thank you'.  The roses are gorgeous -  they are clearly a special breed that will stay in this 'just open' state for several days.  Mark and I enjoyed the wine when we finally got home on Saturday night.

The whole evening was great fun.  The pupils were amazed that I could find my old Prefect, Duty Senior and 'Service to the School' badges (from the 1980s) to wear on the blazer.  I don't think they realise quite what a 'magpie' I am!