Wednesday, 25 February 2015

See the paintings of "Framed"

When we were in London daughter wanted to visit here:



How have we raised such a cultured 10 year old?

We haven't.

She has read this:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Framed-Frank-Cottrell-Boyce/dp/0330452924

  and wanted to see the paintings that were featured in the book.

So we headed into the vast edifice, collared two unsuspecting employees and interrogated them as to where we could find the paintings (at one point we did say "this isn't a test").

Apart from the Mona Lisa, which is, of course, in The Louvre in Paris, and The Umbrellas by Renoir which spends half its time in Ireland, all the other paintings were in the National Gallery.

In case anyone else has an inquisitive 10 year old, and doesn't want to mither the poor curators of the Gallery, here's where you can find them:

The Ambassadors, Hans Holbein the Younger, Room 4

A Grotesque Old Woman, Quentin Massys, Room 5

The Manchester Madonna, Michelangelo, Room 8

Still Life with Oranges and Nuts, Luis Melendez, Room 39

Bathers at La Grenouillere, Claude Monet, Room 43

Sunflowers, Vincent Van Gogh, Room 45

The Wilton Diptych, Unknown, Room 53

The Arnolfini Portrait, Jan van Eyck, Room 56

A Greek Captive, Heriette Browne, should be in LG2, but was in storage when we went.


Enjoy!

Friday, 20 February 2015

London - City of Culture?

It's half term and we've just returned from a few days in London.

It's only two hours on the train from Manchester for next to nothing (daughter's return fare was £10), so we booked a four star Best Western hotel in Earl's Court courtesy of Tesco vouchers, ordered our Visitors Oyster Cards on-line and away we went.

So what did we do?

Well, what didn't we do?

We did Hamleys, an open top bus tour, The National Portrait Gallery, we saw "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" on Drury Lane, went on a river cruise, did The British Museum, The National Gallery and The Science Museum and walked from Buckingham Palace down the Mall and spotted Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall on the balcony at Clarence House (I wasn't convinced it was her, but hubby was adamant).

My favourite thing was the British Museum with the Rosetta Stone, the Sutton Hoo Helmet, the Elgin Marbles, Lindow Man and the beautiful Lewis chessmen:

  (I love how fed up the Queen looks!)


........ but unfortunately, my family are not as cultured as I am.  

Here they are in the amazing British Museum, with all its wonders of the world, and I catch them taking a selfie with an Easter Island head:



I just despair!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Geek Alert!


I seem to have come late to the party, but I've recently discovered "The Big Bang Theory" on E4.

It's "Friends" for geeks - geeks like me!

Sheldon is my hero.

I may be a mathematician, not a physicist, but I do seem to share some of his traits.

And I am falling about laughing at his disdain for engineers - the "Umpa Lumpas of Science".  I have actually told a joke at work about the difference between mathematicians, physicists and engineers.  My colleagues in the Maths Dept were greatly amused.

And then there's my favourite mathematical joke:

"Why did the chicken cross the mobius band?"

"To get to the same side."

Ha ha ha!

(I'm even laughing as I write this!)

(Hubby doesn't get it)

Friday, 13 February 2015

When to retire?

Recently the Teachers' Pension Agency sent out by e-mail a calculator for members to work out what level of pension they will get in the future.  After inputting a few details about our length of service, salary and date of birth, it tells us what pension we could expect when retiring at different ages.

Hubby is currently quite perturbed about the fact that his long-time colleague is retiring this year aged 55.  I have pointed out that he does not have children - a major factor in our continuing in employment.

So hubby and I had a go on the calculator.

55 is a no-no finance-wise.

70 would give me a decent pension, but I would probably have dropped dead before then if I tried to keep on teaching till 70.  It' a job that requires a lot of energy and how out of touch would I be with teenagers by then?

Hubby would get something reasonable by about 59.

Not bad, but I don't want to be liontaming teenagers until I'm 59.

Then I realised that I'm nearly a year older than hubby and could retire before him.

"No, you won't", said hubby, looking slightly aggrieved, "Either we retire together, or I retire first".

"Wouldn't you like to come home to a lovely home and your tea on the table every night?"  I tried to pursuade him.

"I already do".

Damn!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

When is a Guide not a Guide?

During my sabbatical from blogging, daughter finally went up from Brownies to Guides.  With three Brownie packs at our church and only one Guide company there is a bit of a bottleneck, but she made it in the end.

Last night I dropped her off as usual and came home to watch University Challenge and Only Connect, but when I got in there was a phone call.

An unknown mobile number.

"Hello?"

"Mummy"


I was intrigued, daughter doesn't have a phone and I'd just dropped her off, what was the problem?

"We're suppposed to be making a cake," she said, "but we don't have any scales.  Can you bring some?"

"Okay"

"And some flour, oh, and sugar"

"Anything else?"

"Some butter"

"How about eggs?"
(She didn't notice the sarcasm in my voice)

"Oh, yes, we need those"

"Sounds like you're not making a cake", I retorted.

"Oh"

So we said our goodbyes and rang off.

I thought that part of being a Guide was being independent, getting organised, thinking for yourself, being reliable.  I didn't think that phoning your mum to ask her to bring all the ingredients and a pair of scales to church was in the spirit of Guiding.

When I picked her up, I asked her what they'd done instead.

"We baked a cake", she said.

"How did you do that?"

"One of the Guiders went and bought the stuff for us"

Huh ?

Sunday, 8 February 2015

School Trips - A Real Choice?

This week daughter's year is going on a school trip.  

She is not.

The trip is to London overnight to see a show; we weren't convinced about the level of supervision, not happy about the accommodation and the cost was quite extravagant for one child for one night (£180) given that we live in Manchester which has plenty of shows they could have gone to at a fraction of the cost ("The Lion King" is currently at The Palace).  The official year group residential is to Derbyshire in April and we were much happier about that trip and have signed her up for that one.

What we didn't anticipate was that we would be the only parents in the entire year not sending our daughter on the London trip.

She is a little upset.  

We are little upset.

I spoke to several other parents before we made a decision about the school trip, and others were not happy about the trip for various reasons, so I thought there would be several pupils not going, but it turns out that all have decided to send their children on the trip.

The problem is that the trip was offered to the entire year group (all 63 children) so there is immense pressure on parents to send their child based on the fear that their child will be the only one not attending. 

Now ours is.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Wolf Hall

So who's watching "Wolf Hall"?


The eagerly anticipated BBC production of Hilary Mantel's Man Booker Prize Winning novels "Wolf Hall" and "Bring up the Bodies" is a real triumph.  If there isn't a cluth of BAFTAs awarded to this series there is something wrong at the Academy!


Last summer I read Wolf Hall as part of our school library's Summer Challenge and at first I found it quite difficult to follow.  Written in the third person, it was difficult at times to know who "he" was, but I was advised to persevere and when I got used to the way it was written I was hooked - absolutely hooked.  It was one of those books that I couldn't put down.

I knew that the BBC were going to dramatise it this year, but what I didn't realise was that they were televising both books and it was airing in January.  I was saving "Bring up the Bodies" for this summer, but suddenly I needed to read it before the TV series started!

I always like to read the book first, and I couldn't record the series and not watch it because I was dying to see how the BBC had brought this evocate piece of historical fiction to the screen.  I finished the book last week and I've watched the first three episodes so far.

I have not been disappointed.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Snow Days and Snowdrops

On Thursday morning it snowed round here.  My husband's school had sensibly had an emergency meeting on Wednesday and, being positioned up in the hills and prone to snowfall, they decided to close for Thursday, hence he had a snow day. (I made sure he had a list.  You know, clean the bathrooms, hoover the house, make the dinner,....)

At my school the snow started at 8am and seemed to come as a complete surprise to everyone (even thought the Met Office had forecasted it precisely) so there was chaos as staff couldn't get in, pupils couldn't get in, parents kept turning up during the day to take their children home early, sixth formers decided to go home without permission, etc.  My lessons were in disarray - in one lesson I had one pupil - they got private tuition!

However, the snow was very popular with daughter who, the minute she got home, rushed out with daddy to make Winston:

(Named after Churchill; it's hard to see in the photo, but he does have a cigar and is making a "V"sign - how our children grow up!)

Then yesterday, instead of going to the beach as we had planned (yes, really, we were going to go to Crosby to see the Gormley installation) we just went back to Dunham Massey to see the snowdrops:


 (Dunham was listed in this month's Countryfile magazine as one of the top 10 Winter Gardens in Britain!)
Of course, we took the opportunity to play in the snow as well:








Friday, 30 January 2015

New Year Resolutions

I know it seems a bit late to be talking about New Year Resolutions, but as I've only just come back to my blog, I'm doing it now.

This year my New Year Resolution fits with the mindfulness that I'm trying to embrace in my life to reduce stress and anxiety, so not only will it benefit my body, it should benefit my mind as well.

I've decided to do something which I've known for a long time is good for me, but I didn't really make the effort.

Every week I am going for a walk!

Sounds simple, I know, but actually getting out, whatever the weather, for just 30 minutes of daylight and fresh air is something I just didn't manage before. There was always an excuse.  Something else to do, daughter reluctant to be dragged out, too cold, too wet, too difficult.

So, since Jan 1st I have been for a walk every weekend.  I've been to some local gardens (dragging daughter 10 feet behind me), I've been to Dunham Massey Park (bribed daughter with chocolate cake in cafe at end), I've been to Lyme Park with friends and best of all, I can fit in a 30 minute walk whilst daughter is at Pony Club on Sundays.

It really seems to work.  A bit of daylight, the wind (and sometimes rain) on my face reconnects me with the world and puts problems in perspective.  Hopefully, as the weather improves I'll be able to do more and will reap even more benefits.

Bravo!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Christmas Cake

Following a request to post a picture of my latest Christmas cake, I will oblige.  However, the Christmas cake seems to have taken second place to the Gingerbread House now in the Working Mum house.

In fact, this Christmas I spent about an hour quickly decorating my cake before dashing out to sing at The Bridgewater Hall whilst daughter and I spent two days making the Gingerbread House.  So I will post both.

The Christmas Cake was hastily decorated with baubles on ribbons:



I'm sure that with more time I would have done better; there's too much red.  I think all gold ribbons and baubles in different colours decorated with royal icing would have been better.

On the other hand, the Gingerbread House was a confection of chocolate buttons, jelly tots, smarties and glacier fruit stained glass windows:



I think the Gingerbread House wins!