Marooned in the Modern World

In conjunction with my book "Swiss Family Suburban" this blog is from my diary; the diary of a wife and mum in a world where neither is valued highly. Beth Bill.

24th October 2009

What a lovely end to the day: Em is away visiting friends on The Wirral, and Jonti & David are at the 'Godspell' after-show party, which leaves just me and Matt. We've spent the last hour beginning an Alphonse Mucha jig saw whilst listening to Glen Miller.

21st October 2009

Charity doesn't seem so well :( Nothing seems to be definitely wrong, but she doesn't seem quite well (just like the children!) She is still eating and pootles about, but isn't as active as the other hens. Her comb is quite shrunken and pale too. In all the books they suggest Red Mites as the problem, but this doesn't seem to be the case here as I'm really strict on cleaning and spraying the hen house to prevent them. I've even been down in the dark with my torch to see if there are any (as they only come out at night), but there wasn't a mite in sight. We are wondering if it's just an accumulation of being at the bottom of the pecking order (she does get to eat, but after a while she gets chased off as the others finish up) and maybe the weather turning colder. The comb is where a hen sweats and so if she is feeling the cold, being a little run down, then it makes sense for the comb to shrink - to conserve heat.

To help the hens get through the winter comfortably we have started to give them warm porridge for their tea - often with bits of soggy cornflakes (none of us can eat the bottom bits of a box), bread crumbs and a little honey. The first time they had it they didn't quite know what to make of it, but they soon developed a taste for it. It's really funny though as they have to do swiping movements with their beak across the ground to get the stodge off their beaks, quite comical to watch.

Even though we fenced off the veg plots from the hens it seems my brassicas still aren't safe! Something still keeps nibbling at the leaves. I've put crushed egg shell down and then, in desperation, some slug pellets - but they are still getting eaten. I'm not too keen on using slug pellets: I don't want to risk the hens eating them (although they are supposed to have something in them that repels animals) and I don't particularly want a slug pellet resting inbetween the leaves when we come to eat them (if there is any left). I'm just hoping that as the weather chills the slimy predators will be less likely to go a-wandering.... I hope.

19th October 2009

This weekend we went to see our friend in a production of All in Good Time by Bill Naughton. It was hilarious and also quite thought provoking in places. Fortunately our friends, who played Arthur and Violet, are married so the stage kissing wasn't a problem. However, because the programme shows that they share the same surname - and folks can't imagine anyone marrying young - some folks thought they were brother and sister!! What is the world coming to?!

Audley Theatre did an amazing job for the set, a two tiered interior scene fully furnished and decorated. We particularly enjoyed the 60's sound tracks during scene changes and the intervals. In the play Arthur puts a on record of Beethoven's Emperor, and I was very proud knowing that it was my CD playing.

I have a feeling that the Noddy duvet was packed away prematurely - Em is unwell again. I did say that the children weren't ill very often - although they aren't too ill, just a little 'buggy'. We are hoping she has the energy to go to choir rehearsal tonight.

Tonight Jonti has dress rehearsals for "Godspell". I know I just mentioned how we enjoyed the 60's soundtrack at the theatre, but this really isn't my cup of tea - though I'm sure it will be expertly played. Not only have they got the theology messed up but I think it's really cheesy - I don't do hippy too well. (I think I'm wrong there, apparently it's 'Rock'.) Jonti is playing drums/percussion and apparently he has been given permission to "go for it" on a couple of numbers. GROAN ...

15th October 2009

The Noddy duvet is back out again. This time it is Matt who is unwell. Like Em was, he's not too poorly but just a bit 'wiped out' - quite nice and cosy really. This is where home schooling is good, as he wouldn't be well enough to go to school but can sit and do a bit. It's at times like this that a bit of English Literature comes in handy. To sit and read, and answer the odd question isn't too much trouble but you are still getting something useful done. When everybody else was out at rehearsal he didn't want to watch a film in the genre of "The Railway Children" so we watched "Rush Hour" instead. Boys, eh!

Choir rehearsal was gruelling this week. I wonder why Oliver keeps turning up! Everything he'd told us last week was promptly ignored and loads of people sing with their music copies right in front of their noses, so they just can't be watching the conductor. It's awful when he signals a stop and people just keep singing. He would say things like, "That first line was good", it was terrifying. I think the point is that he is teaching us to really sing, rather than just lah at the appropriate pitch. Each piece has it's own different character and we need to project this, Faure's Requiem has a really pure and bare tone, as do certain parts of the Verdi Requiem - very scary to sing, you feel so exposed. Parry's I was glad is a much fuller tone, overall, but it's easy to get carried away and make it sound like a 'foaming quart' ditty.

The rehearsal was only short as it was the Ceramic City Choir AGM. It was very interesting and informative - until any further business, groan......

12th October 2009

The weather is turning to Autumn - my favourite season. I just love the autumn colours. I like the clothes for Autumn too - jeans, jumpers and boots (Doc Martins usually). A brisk walk (with our neighbour's dog at the moment) is simply glorious at this time of the year. When we need a break and some 'time out' we refer to it as 'kicking leaves' time. There's nothing better to blow the cobwebs away and clear your head.

The trouble is that the washing doesn't dry. In Swiss Family Suburban I mention that, in our family, the main crop is 'pant trees' - which we harvest regularly. The children learned their colours by playing snap with wet socks (and 'smalls') which were pegged out and hung on the shower rail to dry. I know that tumble dryers have been invented, but they take ages and cost a fortune to run. In the summer it's no problem as everything can go on the line (I love watching sheets blowing on the line, I find it really relaxing - simple pleasures eh?), but this is that awkward inbetween time. The washing won't dry outside and we haven't got the radiators on much so it won't dry that way either - so it's back to the 'pant trees' (and a clothes maid in the bath).

At times it's difficult to remember that this kind of stuff is important. But, if I want my family to stay clean and tidy, then it's my job and it IS important. There's no point in the children learning to play Poulenc's flute sonata, Grieg's Lyric pieces or Paul Reade's Victorian Kitchen Garden if the basics aren't covered (literally!)

8th October 2009

The role of mum has transformed into the role of nurse in our household, although not in too extreme a measure. Over the last few days Em hasn't been well, not really ill, but just not quite well. Yesterday she was far too woosy to go to rehearsals. It's quite nice when the children are just a little bit ill (which isn't often) as it's an excuse to be cosy; and so last night we sat on the sofa, with a blanket, and watched The Railway Children (the original TV adaptation with Jennifer Agutter, Dinah Sheridan & Bernard Cribbins) - wonderful! No matter how many times I watch or read I ALWAYS cry when Bobby meets her dad at the station and shouts "My daddy!"

This morning David's eye is very painful again. He couldn't open his eyes to begin with and now it's very painful where he scratched it last week, so I was back to handing him his drinks - and the telephone to call the hospital. Back to the hospital again this afternoon. Because we are off to the hospital this afternoon the children have hatched an evil plan to take their schoolwork to Grandma's. I'm not too sure how much schoolwork will get done...

Extra curricular activities for Matt now include Dog walking for a neighbour. Actually, this counts as 'work experience' as he is thinking about being a dog handler in the police force. After several years of home education we're pretty good at labelling anything as educational!

6th October 2009

Crazy concert season is already upon us. Later will be all the different band's Christmas Concerts and performances for the various Christmas lights switch on - wrap up well! However, now is the time for the 'Rootz' Barn Dances. Em and Matt are official members but Jonti often joins in with some drumming. Last night was the Harvest Barn Dance for Milton Parish Church. It looks like the kids will be eating pie and peas for the next few weeks (though probably without the mushy peas). The band leaders are truly amazing - I don't know how they find the energy to play with such vigour and call the dances. For the other dances they will be bringing the dance callers from their other group (their 'professional' one).

Still, home-schooling has it's perks. After a busy, late night the children can have a bit of a lie-in, so they won't be too worn out by the busy schedule. Also, school dinners have gone up in the world: Today we are having a Carvery with David's dad before he flies out to Australia tomorrow.

I've finished proof reading Swiss Family Suburban, so now it's time to start trudging through agents and publishers. I suppose the approach should be a dispassionate posting of papers, methodically and repeatedly - though it's hard to keep it like that when you've spent months pouring yourself into a work (especially when it's something as personal as your own family life). Ah well, here goes ...

2nd October 2009

Finally, I've almost completed filing for the end of the last academic year. I feel bad for leaving it so long - not like me at all! You wouldn't think that this box was the culmination of a hard working school year for three kids. I suppose it is only the actual test papers, not the work books (they fill two much larger boxes). All the books are filed away and stored (for posterity) and the tests are sent to the certificate body, in Swindon. Inside this little box are all the usual academic subject tests, such as Math, English etc. and also over two years worth of Spanish results and the culmination of several years work in Music Grade 5 theory as a General Level equivalent. It'd be a little more satisfying if it were a bigger box. Even so, it cost over £8 to send!

In our home (like many, I imagine) we have the institution of a 'blanky'. This has been more of a big deal as the children have grown older. If the evenings are a bit chilly as we sit and read or watch a film the blanky is called for. If you are a little tired and are just lounging, the blanky is required, in fact David and I sat with it over our legs as we watched an episode of Morse last night. Matt has become known as the 'blanky meister' as he seems to have taken the majority ownership, and he does do an excellent 'tuck in'. However, if you are really ill, only the Noddy duvet will suffice. Ever since the children were small, if you were ill and lying on the settee the Noddy duvet would be called in. This practice has continued well into the children's teens. The children aren't often ill, so it's quite an occasion to get the Noddy duvet out of the wardrobe. In recent years it has even been loaned out to friends, adults and children alike.

If the Noddy duvet doesn't get much use, the blanket is in constant demand. Recently it has even found it's way on to the trampoline - the children wanted to be cosy but also wanted to go on the trampoline and chose to combine the two. Needless to say the results were devastating and two holes surprisingly appeared! A family discussion about what to do was necessary - do we patch it up or buy a new one? A new one was out of the question and so, if you look closely at the picture, a little mending is evident. We now think that this is a REAL blanky - the holes have really made it belong!