Sunday, 8 November 2015

Book Clubs

I've always fancied joining a book club.  I'm an avid reader, I always have two books on the go (on paper and one audio) and I enjoy talking to friends about books we've read.

Unfortunately, in term time, it can take weeks for me to read a book.  One chapter before bed is often too much as my eyes close involuntarily as I am reading.  I also can't cope with anything too "worthy" in term time, and leave those books for the Summer holiday.

So, two friends of mine, who are also stressed out teachers with families and sing in the Manchester Chorale, suggested we form our own book club and only meet up after we have read the book - no pressure!

In Summer we chose this:


Then, in October half term, we met up to discuss it:

(of course, if we can escape for a couple of hours, 
we need to have a lovely afternoon tea while we discuss the book)

Now we've chosen this book:

It's the first of series, which I'm hoping I'll enjoy and want to read the rest.

We've tentatively suggested that we meet to discuss it between the rehearsal and the performance of a concert we're doing at the Bridgewater Hall in December (with Aled Jones, so excited!). 

Unfortunately, I haven't even bought the book yet and with the next month full of parents' evenings, report writing, open mornings and daughter's piano exam, hockey matches (she's taken up hockey, deep joy) and horse riding, never mind the Christmas preparations, I don't think I'll manage to read it, even if I can manage to buy it!

The trouble is, I don't want to be the one that says I haven't read it!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Cinema Paradiso!

For the first time in over a decade hubby and I went to the cinema on our own, in the evening, to watch a film which wasn't made by Disney or Dreamworks.

While daughter was at a halloween party and sleepover (with the severed finger and eyeball cake) we splashed out on Premium seats and went to see Spectre.




Fabulous!

There was lots of this:


and this:


and this:


(The story was good as well! He he he!)


Monday, 2 November 2015

Halloween Cake

True to form, daughter and I have been baking, and for halloween we abandoned the traditional halloween cupcakes we usually make and went for a sandwich cake instead.

Red Velvet ....

,,,, with severed fingers and eyeballs!



Muuuhahahah!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Half Term Hi Jinx

I've been neglecting the blog lately, having been seduced by Facebook, so here's a quick round up of what we've been up to in half term.

While hubby ate chocolate in Berlin we went in search of Mr Darcy at Lyme Park:


Had afternoon tea at Slattery's Patisserie and Chocolaterie:



Went for a walk and a picnic in Macclesfield Forest:



 I sang in a concert at the Bridgewater Hall
(this is my view when seated):
 

I've made a lot of pumpkin cake, had the first meeting of a book club my friends and I have founded (one in which we give ourselves plenty of time to read the book!) and I've done a couple of other things that will appear in the next two posts.........


Thursday, 3 September 2015

Mindfulness Part 3

Do you remember my posts Mindfulness Part 1 and Mindfulness Part 2?

Well, ever since then I have continued with my mindfulness meditations and trying to live a more mindful life and it really seems to help. I haven't stopped encountering stress but I can control how I deal with it.

Then I got to thinking; there are a lot of issues with young peoples' mental health at the moment and it seems to be getting worse.  I've seen evidence of it myself as a form teacher.  As our young people live in a far more pressured world than I grew up in, negotiating constant exams and a minefield of social media, it's no wonder that some are struggling to cope.  NHS mental health services for young people are overstretched and I suddenly thought, "Why aren't we teaching mindfulness in schools?"

Well it seems some schools are.

There's a Mindfulness in Schools Project which is training teachers to teach mindfulness to pupils, so I looked into it and I've just told our deputy head I'm interested in training. She's a practitioner and  advocate of mindfulness herself and is delighted that I've volunteered because she wanted it to be introduced at school.  Talk about good timing!

So I've taken the first step.

Here's the founder of the Mindfulness in Schools Project talking about it, watch it and you'll see why we should be teaching this in school:


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Joining the 21st Century

I've finally done it.

I've updated from this:

 (my ancient, but trustworthy 9 year old Nokia brick)

and this:

 (my now obsolete 6 year old i-touch)

to this:
(my new i-phone 5s)

I'm loving the fact that my apps now work again and I can do my Tesco shop by scanning the barcodes on the products already in my kitchen!

I've also joined this:



Don't really get the point of it yet, but I guess it's hard to switch mindsets after blogging for nearly a decade.  

Now wrestling with the thorny problem of what to do when a "friend" of a "friend", who you know in real life, has sent you a friend request, but you don't really want them reading your facebook page. 

Oh, blogging is so much easier.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

WM's Tram Law

Yesterday daughter set off on her first Guide Camp.  Excited, but a little apprehensive, she sat on her own on the coach and we waved her off.  Immediately I worried that she had no friends, no one would talk to her, she would be lonely and unhappy for the entire weekend.

Anyway, my worries abated as I realised that this meant that hubby and I could go out on our own for the first time in ten months!

We booked a lovely restaurant in Didsbury and, since the tram network has been extended across Manchester, we decided to use the tram to get there thus enabling us both to drink alcohol and be really bad parents.

This involved changing trams at the Cornbrook stop.

This is where I realised that there is a tram law which I have been subjected to many times, but I'm not sure if anyone has recorded it.

"I'm going to publish it, so it's mine" I told hubby.

So here it is:


"A tram for every other possible line will pass you before the one you want arrives."

We saw two Altrincham trams, two Manchester Airport and one Eccles before an East Didsbury tram arrived.  And the same thing happened on our journey back!

In fact, when I think about it, every time I've stood in the city centre waiting for my tram, several others go past for every other line before the one I want.  

Now there's a law about it, it won't be so frustrating, will it?

Friday, 28 August 2015

God's own County

The school holidays are flying by and we're still enjoying ourselves.  We've had lots of days out, we sampled Chester Zoo's new Island Adventures, we've been blackberry picking along the Mersey, we've walked along parts of the Bridgewater Canal we haven't explored before and this week we went for a walk in God's own County, Yorkshire.

I absolutely love Yorkshire.  

It's such a beautiful place and so varied from the Moors to the Dales.  And right on our doorstep!

We ventured to Malham, walked to Janet's Foss:

 and then Goredale Scar:


Our original plan was to climb up the waterfall onto the top, but the sign said "Warning: Dangerous Climb" and it was roaring with fast flowing water.  (There is no footpath, you literally have to climb up the waterfall - look at the people in the picture for scale).  I have done it before, but as we were slipping around on the lower rocks and other people were turning back I decided it was too risky, so we walked back and along the lower path to Malham Cove.

Harry Potter fans might recognise the limestone pavement which featured in the later films:


We then walked down the side of the pavement to the bottom of the cove:


and back into Malham, past Town Head Barn, for a well earned cup of tea and a scone.

A great day out!



Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Ola!

Yes, we've been to Mexico!

We've been on a tour of the Yucatan Peninsula, looking at ancient Mayan ruins and beautiful Colonial cities:






We ate beautiful Mayan food:


 including, of course, chocolate:


then we headed for the beach at Tulum to relax.

I say "relax":




Friday, 24 July 2015

Cheesden Valley

Amazingly, there have been one or two days with some nice weather since we broke up and so for one of our Family Days Out we decided to go to Cheesden Valley, near Bury.

The walk took us up a hill to a TV mast and then over into a gorge/valley where there are ruins of old Victorian mills.

If you look carefully in this valley you can just see a chimney peeking out of the trees:

This chimney:


We walked a bit further on and guess what we saw?


 another mill!

If you look carefully you can see hubby and daughter in the windows!

What a fascinating walk!


Thursday, 16 July 2015

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Not to Pony Club we go

So, as I start the Summer Holidays, daughter gets a job!

Yes, really.


Here's the story:

A year ago daughter joined The Pony Club:



and although it started well with a well-planned programme, working on achievement badges and fairly easy (for daughter) but disciplined riding lessons, it has deteriorated.

After Christmas the woman in charge stopped running Pony Club and handed over to two younger blokes, there wasn't much happening in Winter, or Spring, but we thought it would pick up in Summer.

It has got worse.

There is now no planning, no structure and the lessons are a shambles (no attention to detail, children shouting out, no discipline) and I'm worried about daughter picking up bad habits.

In twelve months she has achieved one badge (the Pony Club website shows 90 possible badges) and to add insult to injury they have increased the subscription from £15 this time last year, to £17, then £20 per week!

That's a 33% increase.  

Hands up who's had a 33% pay increase this year?

I thought not.

Although we tried to find out what badge she is working on and what plans they have for the summer (last summer they did the Tetrathlon Badge going shooting and swimming as well as riding), they were very defensive and clearly have no plans - and yet they are now charging £1000 a year for this?

Eventually we decided she had to leave.

Now, she joined Pony Club because she wanted to learn about looking after horses, so I had this brainwave that we ask at the stables where she has her riding lessons if they do any kind of stable management lessons for children.

Well, it turns out she can "work" at the stables during the holidays where they will teach her all about horses and for every 5 days she works she gets a free riding lesson.

Hang on........

..... so this costs us nothing and she gets some free lessons?

Where do we sign?

She starts tomorrow!

Monday, 13 July 2015

Why you should always check your statements

My mum brought me up to be pretty financially savvy so I always keep my receipts and check every transaction when my statements arrive.

Good job, too!

On Saturday my credit card statement arrived and there, amongst all the petrol, Amazon and Tesco shopping, was a transaction for £88.87 to Jet2.com

Not me.

Not hubby.

I rang the credit card company to report this fraudulent transaction, but the guy at Security didn't seem to believe me.

"It's just one transaction, normally they use your card as much as they can until it's cancelled", he said.

"It's not us", I replied.

"Have you flown with Jet2 recently?" he asked.

"We went to Rome in May with Jet2, but booked it through Thomas Cook and paid with a debit card"

"Did you pay for excess baggage or upgraded seats?"

"No, we didn't use our credit card at all"

and so it went on.

He clearly thought I paid for something and forgotten.

Eventually, he agreed to refund the money, but said they would contact Jet2 and if it was genuine, we would be charged.

Fair enough, but I knew it wasn't us.

I also asked for the cards to be cancelled and new ones to be sent out.

So then I contacted Jet2.

They looked up the transaction and said that the card was used last Wednesday to book a flight from Glasgow to Prague in a completely different name to mine!

I have to say I was pretty impressed with Jet2.  

They took the matter very seriously and obviously have robust systems in place as the woman I spoke to went through various stages to deal with the matter.  She said they would refund my card and would pass the matter on to their head of security (she gave me their name) who would contact me for further details and they may prosecute the fraudster.  Sure enough, the security person phoned me back, apologised that this had happened through their website, went through some details, refunded my card and advised me to report it to the police via Action Fraud.

I phoned my credit card company back, asked to speak to the same person as before and explained to him that it was a fraudulent transaction and that Jet2 are going to investigate.

"Well, it's strange that it was just one transaction", he said.

"Maybe they thought I wouldn't notice and then they could do it again next month" I suggested.

That seems a pretty good scam to me, and perhaps one that credit card security employees should consider?

Or is it just me?



Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Finished

In more ways than one.

Yesterday I broke up for the summer hols, so I've finally finished this academic year.  (Apart from having to go back in next week to unpack and check off the department stationery order which still hadn't arrived yesterday).  It was a long one, but I made it.

Also, daughter has finished primary school.

Forever.

She's had the year 6 party:

(Daddy was the bouncer at the the party, in case you were wondering)

I've bought the leavers' hoodie and the yearbook (is it me, or is this a bit too much when she's just moving up to the seniors in the same school?) and on Monday we had her final Junior School Speech Night/Prize Giving.

Now allow me a little proud mummy moment here:

Daughter won the English Prize!!

Out of 65 children in her year, she won the English Prize!

She's an official Prize Winner!!!
 
Who knew that when she got the Good Work Award in 2008:


It would lead to the English Prize at the Year 6 Prize Giving?

Well done, Izzy Wizzy!


Saturday, 4 July 2015

How Men and Women Shop

This morning daughter had a party at the Trafford Centre so we dropped her off and then set out to do some end of term shopping.  Hubby needed to get presents for colleagues who are leaving or retiring, presents for his form tutor team and presents for his brother-in-law's birthday (which was on Thursday, see my earlier post Get With The Programme!).

As we headed off to John Lewis he declared:

"Now I'll show you how men shop!"

He had his list, he knew exactly what he wanted, no browsing, no messing about, in and out.

After 45 minutes of going from shop to shop trying to find what he wanted and failing, I said,

"Shall I tell you how women shop?"

"Ok"

"We stay at home, on a comfy sofa with a cup of tea and a laptop, and order everything we want, to be delivered tomorrow"


Advantage Working Mum!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Moving On, Getting Ready

This September daughter is moving up to Senior School.  

She is ready, but am I?

Well .........................

Last week we went to the New Parents' Information Evening, bought the requisite dictionaries, art pack and valuables pouch from the school bookshop and met her new form teacher.

We received a pack containing no less than 10 letters I had to read, fill in and sign, ranging from Day Trip Consent to Health Information to Bad Weather Contingency Plans.

I have an extensive uniform list (why does PE kit consist of three times as much stuff as day to day uniform when they only wear it for 2 hours a week?) and I have already mounted a preemptive assault on M&S to buy socks, tights and shirts.

I've also been to the official school outfitters to buy the rest at three times the cost of normal school uniform.  (Why does the embroidering of a school badge onto jumper increase its cost by £15?)

 There will be lots of sewing of name tapes.

I've also put in place insurance, as the school recommends we do, in case we can't pay the school fees in the future (Bank of Grandparents).

But all I can think is "how have I got here?"

It doesn't seem two minutes since this:

 (Starting in Reception, Sept 2008)

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Last Sports Day

Today was daughter's last Sports Day.

I can say that with some confidence because in the Juniors all pupils take part in Sports Day, but from next year, in the Seniors, they have to be chosen to take part in an event, and as daughter is blessed with my sporting genes, she will be a spectator for the next seven years.

Whilst attending my last ever Sports Day as a mum I heard other, disgruntled, competitive mums complaining about the fact that the children are put into ability groups to take part in events, so those who are good at sports don't always get medals, whilst lesser sporty children do.

At the end of the day daughter looked like this:


That's right, six gold medals!!!

I have never seen her so pleased or proud of herself.

She even wanted to keep her t-shirt on until daddy came home so that she could show him.

That's why they are in ability groups, competitive mums!!

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Get with the Programme!

I'm often heard to utter the phrase "Get with the programme" to hubby when he doesn't know what's going on in our family.   He really seems to opt out of responsibility for ensuring things get done and that people, primarily Izzy, gets to where she needs to be with the right stuff and on time.

However, there is one area where I stand firm.

Birthdays.

I do my side, he does his.

They are all written clearly in green ink on the family calendar in the kitchen.

No excuses.

Today, hubby said:

"Oh, it's Gary's birthday tomorrow and I've not sent his card"

It's been visible on the calendar since 1 June!

In that time I've:
  • sent my brother and his wife an anniversary card
  • bought my mum's birthday card and present
  • sorted out my dad's fathers' day card and present
  • sorted out hubby's fathers' day card and present
  • bought card and present for daughter's friend's birthday
  • bought presents for hubby's birthday from me and from Izzy

and he hasn't managed to post one card!

(There are several to choose from in a box in the study, where stamps can also be found)

GET WITH THE PROGRAMME!!
 


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Trouble with a Trojan Horse

No, I haven't been on more classical holidays, this is the computer variety.

I thought I had grown accustomed to my new laptop (have I mentioned, it's purple?!).   I have finally got it all set up how I want it and was beginning to relax when using it, but then, on Saturday, disaster struck.  Despite having McAfee installed, up and running and up to date, I acquired a trojan horse.

A trojan horse is malware that pretends to be something else, then reveals it's evil intentions, installing more malware onto your computer at the same time.

In this case, it was something called "LowPrice" which hijacks your browser so that you are bombarded with what look like real offers and coupons for the website you are on (or the subject of your Google search), but if you were to click on them, you would go to a part of the internet you never want to see.  I realised straightaway that it wasn't legitimate, I didn't click on any of the ads, but I couldn't stop it.

I didn't ask for it, I didn't download it, it snuck in somehow while I was uploading photos to a respectable photo printing website.

It took me an hour, two laptops (I needed a second to look up instructions on how to remove it, as I couldn't use my browser) and a lot of inner calm to remove it from my laptop.

I think I've fixed it.

So beware of "LowPrice", and never leave your laptop connected to the internet for a few hours while you upload your photos of Rome!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Arrivaderci Roma

Over half term we went to Rome.  It's 22 years since we last went to Rome and although the Eternal City hasn't changed much, the queues certainly have.  Can you believe that last time we went there was no queue for St Peter's, we just walked in, but this time there was a five hour queue around St Peter's Square!?!  (We didn't bother).

Luckily, we skipped the two hour queue for the Vatican Museum by booking on-line before we went.  Hurrah for the internet!

Anyway, did this:
and this:
and this:
and this:
and lots of this:
Fantastico!