Sunday, 30 November 2014

Cyclists - know your place!

I'm going to have a rant. I'm just a tad fed up with the local Sunday Surrey cyclists deciding that they are in some major road race and cycling 2 or 3 abreast down roads.  I understand perfectly if the road is clear and you don't have cars trying to pass, but when you are holding up traffic, you need to move over into single file at the very least.  You wouldn't walk 3 abreast down a narrow pavement, chatting and expect everyone to get out of your way or just wait behind you. Or would you?

Boris Bike Stunts (
I've heard the justification of this as "riding side-by-side makes us bigger to see and more like a car, therefore drivers have to overtake us like they would a car".  Reality check - you are NOT a car. You do not travel at the speed of a car and any car driver following another car doing 20 mph in a 30, 40 or 50 mph road will soon be on their horn and losing their patience.  You are no different! In fact, you are more annoying as you seem to think you have a god-given right to go bloody slow, not bother to pedal and hold up traffic when you know full well cars are behind you.  Heaven forbid if I car driver toots you to try and get you to move over or speed up a bit - you are all V signs and swearing.  Positively charming.  Horse riders move apart and often look for traffic to help us poor car drivers get past.  Cyclists ignore everyone and don't give two shits a hoot most of the time.  I bet you all complain about horse riders on the quiet.

Do any of you drive a car?  I bet you all do and I bet you don't happily sit behind a group of cyclists when you want to get to work thinking "ah, bless them riding 3 abreast to stay safe. I'll just get to work late".  I bet you're a right Mr/Mrs Angry when you're held up!

No-one in their right mind wants to hurt another road user and cyclists are no exception but sometimes you do things that are beyond comprehension and I wonder if you remove your brain cells when you put that Lycra cycling gear on?  For example, when you are a road user, you abide by traffic signals.  Red means stop. It does not mean slow down a bit and then go through the lights when you fancy it.  Pedestrian crossings are for people.  You stop like every other road user and let the pedestrians cross. You do not ride across in front of them or between them and nearly run them over.  You do not pedal on the pavement, press crossing lights, wait for them to change to red and then decide you are a bloody road user.

You need to look behind you before you pull out to go around parked cars, other cyclists and general road hazards.   Do not swerve out into the middle of the road and expect my psychic abilities to kick in to know that you have now decided (with no indication) to turn right/left/stop/become a pedestrian on 2 wheels!

Do not clean your visor/glasses at a major road junction whilst standing chatting to your mate and then, as I'm about to turn left, decide that you are now a road user again and almost crash into the side of my car as you haven't looked to check what traffic is coming that may have rightly assumed you were stationary because you were!

Some riders - I'm sorry to say - seem to have a death wish. They consider the road is theirs and everyone else needs to bow down to their whims and desires.  They ride around with a GoPro on their helmet but with no lights on their bikes and cunningly disguised in a black outfit at night.  If you want to die, please don't choose my car as your tool of destruction.

Before you hop onto your helmet box and start shouting at me - I'm a cyclist too.  However, I am also a car driver and a pedestrian. I try to do all with equal care and consideration and just for once, I'd like the cycling clubs around Surrey to do the same.  So, if you're off for a cycle, be safe, wear something we drivers can see at night, put lights on your bike and decide whether you are a pedestrian or cyclist and behave that way.  I want my children to learn courtesy and safe cycling and I'd like you to be a good example.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Pigs have arrived

I ordered N some new Jelly and Bean books which arrived yesterday.  You may recall, we are huge fans of Jelly and Bean in this house  (see here and here) and the books and illustrations are a fabulous way for young children to start their reading journey.

The new books we have - The Pig Family Blends - help children develop their blending technique.  The books have 8 pages each and concentrate on using words with adjacent consonants where the medial vowel is a ‘short vowel’ ie. a, e, i, o, u.  I remember the pig family coming home with S when she started school.  In fact, all Jelly and Bean books have been definite favourites with both of my girls - and rightly so.

The stories are fun and have elements of repetition so children can learn to recognise words as well as construct them (needed for those 'red' words that they learn at school).  The fact that all the books feature characters that children can engage with certainly makes them a worthwhile addition to any home library.

Along with our order came a super extra book - thank you so much Marlene. This one helps children to understand Phonemes and Graphemes and is aimed at Key Stage 1.  Naturally N was straight at it, looking at the picture above each word to help her understand how it is spelled/sounded out and then trying the ones underneath.

I can guarantee that there will be more Jelly and Bean coming to this house as there are a few more sets we need to buy as N works her way through her existing ones.

So, now we have:

A Series 1 - 10
A Series Extra Books 11 - 16
AD Digraphs Series 17 - 24
B Series 1 - 10
B Series Extra Books 11 -16
Follifoot Farm  Series 1
Follifoot Farm  Series 2 : The Cats Who Fell Out of the Car
Pig Family Blends Series

You may notice that the 'Cats' series is one book short. I wasn't allowed to photograph that as N has her bookmark in it and it is on her reading shelf so you'll have to take my word for it that we do have it ;-)

Don't to forget to check out the Jelly and Bean website or their Twitter page.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Linkin Park at the O2 Arena

Yesterday (23 November 2014) my hubby and I headed of to see Linkin Park at the O2 on their The Hunting Party tour.  Support act were Of Mice & Men (their opening song is here on my YouTube Channel).  We don’t live too far from London so as a rule it would take us around 25 minutes to reach Waterloo and another 10 or so to get to the O2. But of course this is a weekend. “Over-running engineering works” were apparently the cause of our pain.  We took 1 hour and 10 minutes to do the 25 minute journey into London Waterloo and the same home. Not impressed I can tell you.  However, the main thing was that we were off for an adult night out for the first time in…well, years!
O2 Arena
O2 Arena
Arriving early at the O2, we decided to go ‘air-side’ and went into the arena area itself. Mistake!  We could have taken in a £1 bottle of Fanta with the lid off but oh no, we decided to buy drinks when we got in (which seemed sensible until we got there).  £3.50 for a Fanta or Diet Coke.  £3.50!  That was just a bottle emptied into a plastic cup.  Good grief! Talk about captive audience.  It was only £5 for a beer so the price differential was crazy.
Mobile Phone lights on
Mobile Phone lights on
We found our seats and sat down to soak up the atmosphere. We were right at the end of a row by the steps so no-one in front of us. We had a few laughs at the people tripping up the steps and one chap who had very clearly arrived too early and been way too long at the bar!
Of Mice & Men start the show
Of Mice & Men start the show
At 7.30pm, Of Mice & Men came on and got the audience warmed up. A bit ‘shouty’ for my liking but not a bad intro band.  They played until 8.10pm.   We then eagerly waited for Linkin Park to appear.  Stage was reset quite quickly and we waited….and waited…and waited.  Finally at 9pm they came on and went straight into ‘Guilty All The Same‘ from The Hunting Party album. Fantastic!
Linkin Park
Linkin Park
Light show was amazing, sound booming – you could feel the bass vibrations right through your body. I was hoarse from singing.  Awesome!
They played until 9.10pm and left the stage.  Was that it?  Surely not.  It was.  That was a pretty short set considering that Chester and Mike left every couple of songs while an instrumental was played (albeit, a very good instrumental).
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We decided to leave as the encore was about to start.  I’d heard this could be one or two songs at most and as so many of my favourites had been played, we headed off to beat the rush back to the station.  A wise move I think.
Here’s a link to Guilty All The Same that I put onto my YouTube channel.  This was their opening number.  Here are also my links to In The End, a medley of songs (Leave Out All the Rest, Shadow of the Day and finally Iridescent (Let it Go) with Austin Carlile of Of Mice & Men) and The Final Masquerade.
If you’re going to see Linkin Park. They are absolutely amazing. I just wish their concert was another 30 minutes or so longer. 
P.S. Hubby bought me a Hunting Party t-shirt as part of my Christmas present. Shush...don't tell me ;-)

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,, 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.