Monday, 7 October 2013

Hurray - got my computer back! And LOTS of stuff has happened...

I left my computer in Macclesfield by mistake in early August and SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED SINCE THEN! Now that I have it back I have this huge mental pile of news to unload. By now my mum will be saying to her computer as she reads this, "But you got your computer back two weeks ago." Yes, I know, Mum, but that is all part of the news.

In summary:
Summer holidays

Warm, sunny, in Macclesfield, then home with a scary amount of sorting, throwing, recycling, work, and gardening.

Visitors (could there be some connection with the previously listed activities?): Great Granny Dorothy, Grandma, Grandpa, Jo and two of her boys.


Masses of veg from the garden.


Scotland with more climbing, play, Jo with husband and all four boys (young men), Grandma and Grandpa and some sun.

Angus started year 2 and Isla moved into morning nursery.

Angus turned 7. Oh my goodness.

Angus ran the Great North Mini Run again this year.

Angus became a Beaver

Isla ran the Great Scottish Mini Run as she couldn't get in to the North Run.

They have so far raised over over £250 for St Clare's hospice..

Masses of veg.

Chutney making due to the masses of veg.

Jam making due to the superfluity of fruit.

Freezer overload.

We grew a monster in the back garden.

Ken has started running a cub group hence I haven't been able to get on my computer. He has been hogging it for a couple of hours each evening to produce emails or paperwork, or he has been trying to figure out why our printer has spontaneously stopped printing black. Then magenta. Last night the yellow didn't work.

I have been running around finding stuff for the cubs.

Somewhere in all that I had a birthday and was given a groovy new camera by my Mum - thanks Mum!

Okay, so you want pictures. Here they are - if the internet works. That is yet another reason why I haven't done anything in the last two weeks: it keeps shutting down again, usually just when I have the time, inclination and access to the laptop. As a village we are trying to do something about it. Honest.
Isla in Glasgow having finished the Great Scottish Run: 1500m in 12 minutes.
Being invested
Not many Dads have the privilege of investing their own son and passing on the tradition. Third generation Scout in the making.
Me and Angus in the Great North Mini Run. We are there...
First day back at school. Better front door than the picture last year!
Masses of veg and Isla's favourite activity: picking mangetout. She cried today when I dug them out and she realised there wouldn't be any more until next year.
Great Grandma Dorothy visiting.
We all had a wonderful few days at the Great Dorset Steam Fair helping run Douglas's engine and Dad's roller. Angus and Isla got filthy, oily, happy, and made wonderful memories.
With Graham and Liam exploring our Roman heritage.
Not very fierce or scary. Quite cute for a Roman Soldier really.
The marshmallow eating in Torridon went better this year. More experience clearly.
Angus finally worked out how to climb. But we did have problems getting him down again...Hence the back rope!   

10 feet tall, still growing and still flowering. Our monster sunflower (and Angus) last Sunday. 

 There, catharsis. That does feel better. Not so much detail but then that is probably better, right? Are we all up to date now?


Friday, 28 June 2013

Angus and Kate

Last night at a farm near us, Kate Humble was doing a book signing. In case you haven't heard of Kate Humble, she is a British explorer and naturalist. Find out about her here.

Angus has only seen Kate on two programmes which are extras on a DVD he has about the world's oceans. They were made ages ago (2001) but have really captured his imagination: Kate diving in the Amazon. Kate going in a submersible to the bottom of a ravine and seeing a six-gill shark.When we heard she was going to be a few miles away I wondered if Angus could meet her. I knew he had lots of questions and would be inspired by talking to her. He does, after all, want to be a naturalist!

Off we went in the car after school yesterday. We met a thoroughly lovely car park chap who said, "Wait a minute and I will see what I can do" in reply to my request. A couple of minutes later we were interrupting Kate eating her dinner! The poor lady was so gracious and Angus was desperately nervous seeing her in person but Kate obviously knows nervous boys: Do you think I might be dangerous and scary? Silent nervous grin Can you play thumb wars? Silent shake of the head No? Well you play like this...

Giggles, smiles, relaxing.

"Can I ask you some questions?" asked Angus. Summarized replies

"What was your most dangerous thing you have done?"
We try to reduce danger but diving in a submersible.

"What was the most exciting thing you have done?"
Seeing a six-gilled shark and swimming with Basking Sharks off the West Coast of Scotland.

"What do you most enjoy about your job? What makes you happy?"
Waking up early in the morning, going for a walk and hearing the birds wake up; feeling that you are in a private world. 

"How can I train to be a naturalist?"
Join something like the Wildlife Trust or the RSPB, volunteer, get your hands muddy and dirty and find out exactly what you enjoy the most. Then do more of it. 

"Have you ever met David Attenborough?"
Yes, I have worked with him, met him several times and even had dinner with him. He truly is a lovely person: charming, polite and a gentleman.  (Angus nearly died with excitement hearing this bit as David Attenborough is his real hero.) 

Kate signed Angus's wildlife spotting book and we went away leaving her to finish her dinner in peace.

Thank you Kate, you made a little boy very happy.

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Grand Reveal...

I have been hassled and emailed and asked in phone calls to show what we did to the front of the house and have stalled. I must admit that I was reluctant for two reasons:

Firstly, after I came back from Africa I was embarrassed? felt uncomfortable? felt guilty? I am not quite sure, but the amount we spent on repairing the front of a house that could have sufficed although did need some repairing seemed immoral. I knew that in a British context it was justifiable, but on the grand scheme of things, I wasn't sure that I could justify that amount of money to someone in Senegal.

Secondly, I wanted to wait until the garage door had been fitted which took ages as they ordered the wrong springs. And until the gravel driveway had been restored (thanks Ken and Chris - it looks great!)

Anyway, enough philosophising, here is the house history:

What it looked like just before buying.

In February showing the new roof, smaller window upstairs, brown cladding temporarily replaced by render from the first work in 2011 but minus the porch.

Finished with only a bit of brick work around the porch to be completed. What do you think? Much better isn't it? We also removed the original external wall within the garage which meant it was divided into the original garage and a small triangle thing to the left. It is now all one space and a lot more useful.
To the right of the house you will also see that we are making progress in the front garden - we had to remove the decking in the back garden as it was causing damp. This has now been reassigned to raised beds in the front which are growing veg and fruit. Unconventional but they look fine and are proving to be productive.

So, only one important thing left to do: replace the patio doors in the back as the damp has rotted them. But for now, peace, weeding and painting the porch.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

You Know You Have Very Differently Gifted Children When...

with an age difference of three years, they both learn to ride a bike confidently on the same day.

Angus was too busy cycling with his friend to pose for a photo but he is very proud of himself, and fortunately for us, of Isla.

Sunny cycling days ahead. Hurray!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

On coming home

After a Friday morning in a market near Saly, where we were staying, we all drove to Dakar, and said goodbye.

I had had an amazing two weeks away. I had missed my children and husband more than I thought I would, partly because I kept seeing and thinking things that I desperately wanted to share with them. "Angus would love to be seeing this," "What would Ken think about this?", "I wonder how Isla would react to this?"

I am glad to be home and have been far less culture shocked on returning from a developed country than I have been previously. I don't know why. My main reflection was whilst cutting the grass on Monday. I found it absurd that there were cattle in need of food; hungry goats, donkeys and horses in Africa, and here was I cutting and throwing decorative grass. The imbalance of resources seemed so unfair. I am not even going to mention the relative sizes of our house versus those we saw in the villages in Africa, or the abundance of resources and colour in Angus's and Isla's school and nursery.

While I am trying to work all this out, here are a few random photos from Africa that didn't make it into my other posts.
A pile of letters for the sponsored children. I had never really thought about what happens to the letters I send to Aloyse.
Dakar from a rooftop.

The bathroom at our hotel. Isn't it beautiful?

A group of school boys waiting for a lift to school. Hitch hiking to school seems to be normal.

World Vision gifted an ambulance to an ADP in Senegal. Basis isn't it?

Bullet cases being worn by a musician lady being used to create pleasure and music instead of pain. But where did they come from?

A group of children with Jane checking out a photo she had taken of them. This was very popular.

Sheep? Goats? Anyone know for sure? Makes you understand some of the biblical imagery of confusion over sheep and goats.
How to embarrass British women -  make them dance! But honestly, we didn't care how silly we looked. The pleasure in us dancing was far greater than any embarrassment we may have felt.
This is a Scout and Guide meeting area. Seriously, scouting has reached Senegal.
The greatest amount of teaching resources I saw in any school room.
Spot the chalk boards and lack of anything on the wall.
Off to meet her sponsored child. Spot the lady on the left carrying water on her head, and a baby tied to her back.
These girls had a small bouncy stone and were playing a kind of marbles game.
Group photo orchestrated by the girls on the back row. Sharon our group leader on the back right; Tricia an Ambassador on the left.

Another Fiona, a WV staff member with a tiny baby goat. It was very sweet.

Chasing bubbles.

A beautiful painting about child sponsorship in a WV Office.
Motorbikes are the best way for WV staff to get around.

African countryside out of the car window.

Against child Marriage. A Poster in a school.

WV have been encouraging irrigation and market gardening. It has been very successful.

A WV well. In the rainy season the water would be up to the shelf.

Close up of mud huts.

African Cows in the shade.

A compound

In Dakar we saw a lot of road side plant nurseries. A welcome splash of colour.
More plants in the nursery.  
 So all in all, I am very glad that I went. Would I go back? Definitely. And the children want to go next time.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Ambassodor Trip Day Four - In Brief

Today I am just going to share one story with you. I really don't think it will need many words. I was nearly in tears.

The school

Their classroom - they share it with snakes, scorpions, have to close for 5 months in the rainy season and no books or equipment can be left in overnight as the goats break in and eat the books.
After the rainy season the pupils and staff rebuild the classrooms before they can restart school.

The teacher has to duck.

Tomorrow they will start school here. With a roof. No scorpions or snakes. Toilets. The teachers won't have to carry everything home each evening. The no long holiday during the rain.
But even in a new school building, lessons and teachers can still be quite dull. Maybe they have heard they won't have five months off each year?

This is what child sponsorship achieves. A new school. A new start. Fewer holidays.