Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Stop patronising us Mr Geldof

To start with...what she says (read the article).

Why Adele was right to ignore Bob Geldof and Band Aid

Bob Geldof has never been my favourite person. Yes, I liked "I don't like Mondays" and "Rat Trap" but that was about it.  I appreciate what he did with the first Band Aid single and his motivation and yes, it raised a lot of money.  But here we are again. May I remind you this is the 3rd time.  I can't even recall what the re-released Band Aid single was for some years ago, that's how memorable it was.

Raising money for a good cause is...well, good. He's done well this time putting together a shambles of a bunch of pop stars who nearly all, conveniently, have albums to promote and most of whom us 'older folk' have never heard of.  Is that scraping I hear at the bottom of that barrel?

Perhaps if he had asked all his celebrity friends and pop pals to put their hands into their pockets instead of making yet another bloody begging single, he'd have raised more than the current 200,000 copies at 99p each out of one of them!  I'm sure Sir Elton has that dropped down the back of his sofa!

Like the lady says, they give a bit of time, and we are asked to pay.  Stop patronising us Geldof and show us the money - the money you and your famous friends gave to help this awful disease!

Today, 19th November 2014, this article appeared in The Guardian - Why I had to turn down Band Aid. I suggest you read it.  Very interesting indeed and I have to agree.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A Brilliant Launch

Today was launch day. No, I'm not the newest British astronaut.  This was a Brilliant Club launch at my university - Royal Holloway - to meet the latest pupils I would be teaching.

The day started with a briefing in Crosslands Cafe before we tutors went off to meet our pupils and some of the teachers that accompanied them on their visit here.  Mine were so early arriving at RHUL that by the time I arrived to meet them, they were already on their campus tour.  The tour guide's phone was switched off as it was suggested I find them and meet them. I have to say that secretly I was a tiny bit pleased as I know what a slog that hill on campus can be and I'd only just puffed my way up it ;-)

After being shown around, we had an introductory talk in the auditorium and I handed out the folders to my girls.  Yes, 12 lovely girls this time for me.  I know about girls you see - I have 3 of my own! :)

After the intro, we headed off for the first set of tutorials.  My group were split into 2 x 6 and the first set of girls arrived.  We got some good conversations going quite quickly and I think they quite enjoyed my 'spot the terrorist' game. It started some small debates.  Yeah, that sounds kind of odd but trust me, it was all in the name of philosophy.  It was when one of them said "we're learning terrorism" that I gulped a bit. I hope MI5 weren't listening in (I'm sure they are monitoring my Internet traffic now that I've been looking up terrorists online and downloading information on them).
Hang on...a black sedan is pulling in our drive....oh, it's ok, just a taxi for next door...but why is he talking into his wrist like that...?

First session completed and my second set of girls arrived.  They needed a tiny bit more coaxing to speak up.  I think once they realised there was no hiding or being quiet and that I would ask any one of them a direct question, they soon all joined in.

After the tutorials, we headed off for lunch.  The rooms were packed with young people so I sat on the floor with a couple of teachers from another school and we had a chat about the Brilliant Club, what they did and what I was doing.  Everyone was friendly - teachers and tutors alike - and lots of diverse conversations were happening which made it a very interesting experience above and beyond the tutorial element.  In fact, I met another tutor who has a shared interest in WWII history so we've swapped details.  Who knew right?

After lunch there was an opportunity to sit and chat to the lead teachers at my new school.  It gave us an opportunity to get to know each other a bit and also discuss more about what the pupils would be doing in terms of learning and assessment.  Naturally I ran over time a bit.  I do enjoy finding out about people.

Finally, it was the close of the day. The time seemed to have flown past.

Everyone there did a great job - from student ambassadors walking groups around like tour guides, through to RHUL outreach personnel getting everything ready for us all, through to the lovely Brilliant Club staff who are always helpful and smiling (not in a manic way though).

Next week I have my first 'in-school' tutorial which I'm looking forward to. Most of my pupils have already explored the VLE and sent me a message.  That's why I'm on my PC at this time of night (it's 10.30pm in case you're wondering).

The pupils have a lot of work to do but hopefully they will engage with it, enjoy it, learn and, ultimately, pass the course and celebrate their achievement in a graduation ceremony at another highly selective university in the UK.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Remembrance Sunday

S and her troupe of Rainbows were involved with the Girlguiding Remembrance Sunday event locally.  She was really keen to do this and got her uniform on this morning, pinning her poppy with pride (she has talked a lot about what war is and why people died and why we remember).  We arrived with all the other children and they needed someone to carry the troupe flag. The leader asked one little girl who said no. S, on the other hand, said yes. She couldn't wait to carry the flag and did a super job of it too.

The parade was very sweet.  Each group laid wreaths or bunches of poppies.  The service went well with everyone - even the little children - managing the 2 minute silence.

We will remember. We will not forget.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

I hate party bags

It really is full swing into party season for my two youngest at the moment.  They have endless party invites which is lovely for them (but costs me a bloody fortune in presents).  Last week it was N, today S, next week is their joint party (mid-way between their birthdays) and the following week S has two and N has one - all on the same Saturday.  Mum's taxi service will be in full swing!

The variety of parties is amazing. The girls have had a princess party, quite a few at varying soft play centres around here, some parties at friend's houses, and an art and craft party. All of which they have loved.  They themselves will be having a circus party (a great entertainer, well priced, and a disco afterwards).

As much as I'm delighted for them to go to parties and have fun with their friends, the bane of my life is the sodding party bag.

Now when I were a lass [please say that in a Yorkshire accent - I can get away with that as my mother-in-law is a true Yorkshire lass] you went to a party, played games (usually in someone's house), and had some sandwiches, biscuits and Twiglets for the party tea.  The cake was sliced and wrapped in a paper napkin for you to take home.  That was your party bag.  Of course most of the fun and challenge was actually separating the cake from the napkin once you'd squashed it in the car on the way home.

Occasionally, you actually got a party bag which usually consisted of a balloon, and one of those funny pop-up toys - you know, the ones where you press the sucker pad onto a spring and 3 seconds later it pops up and nearly takes your eye out - and sometimes said cake was in said party bag.

I would rather not do party bags but it seems now that every child who goes to a party expects to have a bloody present in return!  Trust me, I've had some corkers.  From the extreme of a children's DVD movie (I kid you not - in fact, I'm sure our present cost less), pen with feathers on top and more sweets than the average shop will hold, through to those awful colouring pencils that just refuse to deposit their colour onto any paper, accompanied by a colouring book around 2" x 2" of the thinnest paper you've ever seen in a kind of grey colour.  You're nodding at that aren't you...

I would rather give every child a piece of cake and wave goodbye at the door and never see another party bag my entire life. Am I being mean?  I don't think so. I never went to parties to get a bag of treats in return. I went because they were my friends, we played games like 'pin the tail on the donkey' and 'blind man's buff' and got too eat sandwiches and sweet biscuits for our tea without anyone grumbling at us.  We didn't expect anything in return other than a piece of the birthday cake, oh, and maybe a bag of sweets if we won the pass-the-parcel (not every wrapper having a bag of sweets as happens now - come on, a bit of losing does kids good!).

So, I'm lured into the seedy world of the party bag.  I suppose I'm fortunate in that I'm no sucker for giving back lots of stuff. I do love eBay *grin*  and have managed to source some little things at good prices on there like stretchy yellow men and tattoos (no, not real ones of course, although...no, stop it). I hope most of it isn't flammable or manufactured using lead (I'm kidding - I'm far too tight to buy things like toy cars...).

I hope the kids have a great time at our party next week but if any are expecting a DVD for turning up, they'll be sorely disappointed.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

16 years...

Off to Camden Market they go
...have flown past.  It was J's 16th birthday yesterday. Surely I can't be old enough to have a daughter of that age?

She had a super day celebrating. It started when we picked up her best friend and the two of them headed up to Camden Market, London on their own for a days shopping.  They had a ball (and lunch) and bought lots of band merchandise, great t-shirts and little bits and bobs.  They arrived home around 4pm having got the slow train as, of course, the one I suggested they catch was cancelled.

In the evening we went out and got a take-away curry as that's what she wanted for dinner.  We went to a restaurant locally to order. Hubby and I had eaten food from there once before and it was good so we were hopeful of another quality curry experience (it can be a bit variable around here unfortunately). I think we over-ordered. Hell, we totally over-ordered!  I  have never spent £91 on a take-away in my life (before yesterday) *fans forehead*.

The food was good but nothing exceptional. My chicken kori was basically a whole onion, cut into quarters and dumped into a little bit of curry sauce.  Not nice at all. By the time I picked out the entire onion, there was very little left to eat.  Naan were good but typically the little ones didn't like them as they weren't Sharwoods *sigh*  The rest we enjoyed.

Feeling very full and fat (that's all of us you see), we left the birthday cake for half an hour to bring in and sing.  We then left it another hour before we could manage a slice.

Chilling with a film in the evening before BIL and family arrived with their presents for J.  We even got a her a balloon (well you have to don't you).  I think it was a successful day.

Not bored - holding fringe out of the way!
So, thank you J for being a wonderful daughter. You make me proud every single day.  You are funny, kind, dedicated, have the messiest bedroom and intelligent.  We all love you so very much and hope this next year brings you joy and happiness, and great GCSE results! :)

If anyone is hungry today, we have lots of curry in the fridge!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Halloween Fun. How many sweets?

Halloween is a time the girls are very excited about. They love dressing up and visiting friends to get sweets.  First of all though, we went to one of S's school friends for a Halloween tea and some playtime. The girls really enjoyed themselves and the snacks they got.

Then it was time to go out trick and treating.  Normally we only go to people we've already asked - so a few friends and family who live locally.  So, we did our little trips out and then headed back home as we had a bit of time to kill before going to our neighbours who were expecting us.

However, for the first time, I decided that it would be ok to have a walk around the local houses.  Explaining to the girls that we would only knock on the doors of people who had pumpkins or other Halloween stuff displayed, off we went.

They had a ball!  It was surprising how many of S's school friends live locally.  Everyone was so lovely and friendly and we saw lots of other trick or treaters having fun too.  N was slightly concerned by a teenage ghost who kept making spooky noises as we passed him and his friends but she was far to busy collecting sweets to be too concerned.  Lovely "Happy Halloween" and "Thank you" for the sweets from the girls.  Proud of their manners.

The girls ended up with so many sweets their sweetie tin lids can't even shut.  I think J wishes she'd taken a bucket and dressed up too ;-)

I won't have to worry about buying sweets until next summer now it seems!  Thank you to everyone who made their evening so much fun.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The bird said it! Daddy has smelly socks

S asked for the Little Live Pets Bird Cage toy as she had some birthday money to spend. I have to confess that I didn't expect much from it - even for £19.99 - but we have all been very pleasantly surprised.

The bird we received is a very nice looking green and yellow 'budgie' style - much better than the weird pink one shown on Amazon's page.  In fact, the one that I looked at on Amazon seemed almost 'inflatable' looking.  Can you see what I mean?

However, the cage is nice with a little catch for the door, a food bowl, a little 'stopper' to prevent the perch swinging around if you're taking it in the car perhaps, and on top of that, the perch will hold up to two birds. This, naturally, means she wants another one already *sigh*

The bird has an on/off switch (hooray!) and responds to touch by tweeting cheerily or whistling a tune when it's very happy - London Bridge or Yankie Doodle it seems.  Both girls adore it already and I can see another one of these going onto N's wish list for Christmas (ok, I confess, I've put it there now already).

The best thing about it?  You can record your own things for the bird to say.  Have a listen to our little fun one on the video.


I have to say that this little bird is a super toy for children. It says from ages 5 and upwards but N is only 3 and she works it fine. There are no small parts for younger children to be concerned about so I would say it's great from age 2 onwards personally. Even the teen thinks it's great!  We've been giving it silly stuff to say all afternoon. I can foresee messages being left for the family via bird now!

It's always lovely when a toy surprises you for the better.  This little bird cage certainly managed that.

This review was done because we all had so much fun making the bird say whacky things and, well, just because it's so darned cute!