Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Holiday fun (and some bad service!)

We've just come back from a fabulous holiday to Cala d'Or, Mallorca.  We chose an apartment/hotel so that we could make the odd lunch for ourselves, then go out for dinner.  A nice combination.

The hotel was lovely, with plenty to do for the children including a mini splash-park and some play equipment, along with a lovely main pool, children's pool area and a jacuzzi.  The Animation team were great and really helped keep children entertained (although they need to pay a bit more attention during 'competitive' games as just guessing the winner is not what it's about!).

Lovely location just 300m from Cala Gran beach, which is lovely.  500m from Cala Ferrera beach too which is much smaller and less facilities on.

Only downside was that I caught a stomach bug there and needed a doctor out at 4am on a Monday morning due to sickness and stomach pains.  Took me 36 hours to recover but the medication she gave me helped. Glad we had travel insurance.

There are two things I am furious about however:

1.  The night porter at the hotel suggested I was 'just drunk' when my husband went down to request a doctor be called!
2.  We paid over 109 Euros for the VIP lounge at Palma Aiport which was a rip-off/joke!  The Thomson coach didn't get there until 11:00 for our 13:00 flight, and then we joined a queue of about 10 other flights going that day which meant it took 1 1/4 hours for us to check our bags in (during the queue, Thomson shut 2 check-in desks - WTF?!) and then our gate had been called so we had to swiftly move through the airport to get to it with 25 minutes to spare, only then to be told about 10 minutes before departure that it was 20 minutes delayed.  I'd recommend not wasting your money on that lounge as you're never likely to use it. Surely Thomson must have known this as they have reps there constantly?!  I want my money back!  Watch this space for the result as, despite phoning them today and emailing in a copy of the receipt, it will, apparently, take them 21 days *minimum* to respond to me (the email says 56 days).  Do that have that many complaints?

On a personal note, it was great to take advantage of going on holiday before the half term week. Our school is now an Academy and have added an hour to our Friday finish time to give us an extra week off.  I think parents are taking advantage of that now as lots of us seem to be away.  I, for one, am grateful for that week as it cost us £850 less to go on holiday then.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Migraine update

You may recall that I went to my doctors in the hope of stopping the increasing amount of migraines I was getting (this here blog post).  I'm pleased to say that since I've been taking the Amitriptyline tablets, the migraines have pretty much stopped.

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I have had the odd 'rotten headache' and needed to take two Imigran when I was at work a few weeks ago BUT I could carry on working and the headache went (slowly) away without needing anything else. 

It's early days and I don't want to say too much yet as I don't want my hopes dashed by a real banger but...so far, so good.  The side affect of the tablets - dry mouth - has become quite noticeable and I feel like I've been walking through a dessert most days.  I'm having to take a pint of water up to bed with me and I tend to drink that during the night. Every time I wake (which happens a few times per night) it's due to my tongue seemingly being stuck to the roof of my mouth.  At the moment though, I can live with that as it's 100 times better than having a migraine. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

AS Levels at a failing school?

Teen is about to sit her first AS Level this week.  It's maths and she's a bit anxious about it. I don't blame her. The irony is, the AS Level counts for nothing according to her school, so why have they then told all the Sixth Form that they need a minimum of a 'D' to pass?  'D'?  I thought that most children should be aiming for a minimum of a 'C' right?  Seems her school continue to aim low and often fail to get that.
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I'm not impressed. It looked like the school was turning around and then it stopped dead in its tracks and turned right on back again.  It's a failing school. Her year have had the brunt of the failure. In actual fact, the only thing her school is good for now is to put on her University application form that they are rubbish in special measures and ask for grade adjustments in light of that.  It's just too late to change schools - that's even if she could get in somewhere.

She's taking 3 A Levels - Maths, Biology and Chemistry. The class sizes are 6, 4 and 3 respectively.  Yes, you heard me, 6, 4 and 3 students.  This should awesome, amazing (almost) 1-2-1 tuition going on here. These children should be flying.  They should be making amazing progress with such small class sizes but they are not.  They are doing anything but.

My frustration level is beyond compare. When we had all the trauma of the maths classes at her school falling apart due to an incompetent teacher, I spent what felt like much of my life in email and telephone correspondence with the school. We got J a private tutor for maths.  The school brought in additional maths classes after school and J began to get back that lost time.  Sadly, standards have slipped again and it seems no-one but us parents and the children care.  I'm sad, lost and confused for my daughter.  Her school have failed her miserably and there seems to be nothing we can do about it. Surely someone needs to be taken to task for this?

Her future is important and yet no-one seems to care.  She may have irrevocably damaged her chances of getting into a decent university and no-one at the school or at the local authority seems to care.   These are the days I wish I were rich and could get her into a private school or get her private tutors for these subjects. Sadly I'm not.  I just hope she can achieve her dreams in spite of the lack of support at her school as heaven knows, as parents we are trying out best to help her get there.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Another Blue Peter badge

S is delighted to receive her 3rd Blue Peter badge. This time it's the sports badge.  She's very proud of her Blue Peter badges, and rightly so.

A couple more to get and she'll have all the ones she can apply for.  I'm so glad she loves Blue Peter as I recall also loving it as a child.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Planting the pots and the new watering system

It's all go in our household today.  I nipped out early and headed over to my favourite garden centre, Longacres, to pick up some plants for my pots at the front of the house.  I was also after a watering system as I confess to being pretty rubbish at remembering to water things like the hanging baskets. Even my orchids and plants on the kitchen windowsill live a precarious life and they are right in front of me!

I queued with the other crazy people waiting for Longacres to open (anyone would have thought they were giving away free money, the number of people who were poised with trolleys outside!).  Ramming my way through the doors...ok, strolling in...I headed off to pick up some geraniums.  These are my favourite flowerpot flower (did that make sense?).  They bloom all summer long and need minimal maintenance. A bit of dead-heading and they're away again.   I also picked up a few other plants just to add a little variety (trailing petunias and fuchsias).

Then I went to find the watering systems. I had no idea there were so many box sets and so much extra you could add to it. I could rig up my entire garden and never have to set foot near a watering can again.  Tempting....  I had to ask one of the nice assistants for advice and then decided on a Hozelock 20 pot set with a timer (I'm loving garden timers right now).  I don't have 20 pots (yet) but you never know.

Home I headed and set to work. Firstly, planting my new flowers into the pots. They'd looked pretty bare since the Spring flowers had died off so it was nice to get some colour again.

Planting done, it was on to the exciting bit of my watering system. Hubby set off for work and left me armed with some sharp snips and my glasses, ready to work out what to do.

First obstacle was batteries. The timer takes 'C' batteries.  Typically we have every other type in the house but those!  Teen went off and bought me some whilst I set to working out how I wanted the system to look.

Timer on and then to work out what connector to use.  Double on so I can work left and right across my pots.  It was then just a matter of snipping hose and connecting joiners.  I'm not sure about putting it against the wall permanently so decided to leave it fairly loose at the moment so I could take it in during the winter.

Sections were coming together nicely.  I didn't take long to do and I was jolly chuffed with it when it was finished.

Time for the big switch on!  Dramatic countdown (in my head), timer set to 'on' and tap turned.  Ta-dah!  Nada.  What?  Not a drop of water came out.  Oh no.  Clearly the pressure switch wasn't working.  Took the timer off the tap and the tap was working. Took a hose out of the bottom splitter unit from the pressure switch. Yep, water coming through there. So what on earth was wrong?  Took the dripper/stake off the hose and water came through.  It was then the light-bulb went off in my head.  Clearly I'd managed to put the dripper/stake the wrong way round.  Talk about feeling daft. They clearly have a one-way valve.  Had another look at the picture in the instructions. Yes, even with my glasses on I'd failed on basic instruction reading.  Turned them all around, switched to manual again and water flowed.  Hooray!

Set the timer up for 9am and 9pm so I'll take a peek later and see what's happening.  No more forgetting to water the plants. I've even put a section up to the hanging basket (clever huh).  I think I may need to buy some more pots now *grin*.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Crazy weather for vegetables

This bonkers English weather we're having has been great for our veg!  Look at the size of them now! Sunshine, rain, plus a new (Hozelock Sensor Plus Controller) timer on the hose to make sure they're watered for 10 minutes morning and evening so we don't have to keep remembering.

We're thinking of buying another Zest4Leisure veg bed (look out Longacres - we're back for more!) as we love this one but, as you can see, it's getting pretty full!  Next year, we're planning to grow even more veg in this corner of the garden.  It gets the sun from mid-morning until it sets in the summer so it's the perfect little spot.   The only problem I have with all of this?  Stopping the girls from wanting to harvest everything before it's ready!  They're so excited about their vegetables - it may even encourage them to eat more of them.

Monday, 9 May 2016

The perils of primary school friendships

I'm bloody furious today.  I picked S up from school but before she came out of class, her class TA asked if she could have a word with me.  Turns out S has been given a 'Stage 3' warning today in her lunchtime.  Stages at her school are levels of naughtiness.  Stage 1 is 'You're talking whilst a teacher is talking' or similar, through to about...well, I don't really know what Stage number it is but effectively you're expelled.

S is a really good little girl. She's very friendly but suffers a lot of anxiety as well.  She's never been in trouble with the school in any way.  Her 'best friend' and her best friend's new friend, however, are a different kettle of fish.  M, the best friend, and S used to get along very well indeed. That is until A came into the picture.  Sadly, M and A struck up a friendship which is not the best.  A is a total little shit sod who clearly is not controlled or disciplined by her parents in any way.  That's quite clear from the number of stages that she has had.  Sadly, her influence has affected M on more than one occasion, resulting in A and M together doing nasty things to S.  There haven't been a lot of events, but enough to see the pattern very clearly.  A and M throwing crayons at S's pictures on the wall to try and ruin them and upset her...A and M pretending to be sick at lunchtimes knowing full well that S has trouble coping in the lunch hall...general horrible little girl things that one nasty little brat encourages another to do.

So today, M encouraged S to hide one of A's shoes.  A was happy with this as they were playing a kind of 'shoe-hide-and-seek'. However, it turns out that S threw the shoe into some shrubs trying to hide it (she informed me), at which point M goes running to a teacher to say what she's done.  Nice.  Anyway, they all get in trouble and are put on a Stage 3.  This is normality for A and I doubt her parents would even bat an eyelid at such an event.  M has had one or two Stages but I'm sure her parents won't be too happy.  However, I'm sure they'll find a way of making her a semi-innocent bystander as, apparently, they keep saying what a horrible child A is (but keep having her round and encouraging the girls to play - go figure).

I don't generally get involved in school-yard politics but this time it's gone too far. I've asked the TA and teacher to ensure that S does not play with M and A again.  We've had a long chat to S about what friendship means and explained that M is not a friend and A is certainly not one.  Oddly enough S does not like A at all but liking M so much, has meant that M 'forces' S to play with A if she wants to play with her.  I resorted to a text to M's mum.  It clearly said my feelings about A and the relationship between the 3 girls (I'm not friends with A's mum you'd not be surprised to know, so clearly couldn't text her.  I'm currently debating having a word with A's mum but I feel it would be a waste of my breath and time).  Obviously I've not heard anything back from M's mum, and nor did I expect to.  To be honest, I'd never even consider being friendly to M's parents if it weren't for our children going to school together so as far as I'm concerned, nothing lost there.  As for S, she's a sociable little girl and I'm sure she has lots of friends to choose from. Isn't it sad that this sort of thing goes on in primary school?  I don't ever remember such things when I was at school as we all seemed to just get along as one big group.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

More vegetables

I had a spare grobag in the garden and so asked the girls if they would like to get some more vegetable plants.  They did!  Off we popped in the car to our local Squires to pick up a few more plants.  Happily they had a deal on of 6 plants for £10.  The girls chose some peppers, tomatoes and chillis (all things we eat quite a lot of), along with some more birdseed (I didn't plant that, clearly).

We planted them once home and I decided to use a little raised 'table' to put the grobag onto as this idea seems quite successful for the other grobag that is sitting on the bug barn. I think we have lazy slugs around here who only eat things at ground level!  A little netting over the top to stop the birds having the small plants - N's sunflower seed that I nurtured on the windowsill until it was about 4 inches tall disappeared the day after I planted it in the garden - and the veg corner is looking good.  The pots behind the grobag have strawberry plants in them so hopefully we'll get a few this year (if we are fast enough to beat the birds to them).

Monday, 2 May 2016

Oral-B Frozen Stages Toothbrush Heads

I've got both of my girls Oral-B electric toothbrushes but, of course, we're now in the 'trap' of buying Disney toothbrush heads for them to go with the Oral-B App. I don't mind this really as they love using their toothbrushes so you can't knock it right?

Both brushes came with a character head on them, both princesses but different ones (fortunately). They've got a bit 'fluffy' looking now so last week I popped to Sainsburys to pick up some new ones.  Disney's Frozen was the request. I had to search around the packets as some seemed to be all the same characters and others had different heads you could see.  Cleverly, Oral-B package them so you can't see the character at all (they all face inwards) and so you have to work it out but different colours on the back of the brush head.  I ended up with 2 Anna, 1 Elsa and 1 Olaf for the tidy sum of £14.  Ouch.

Excited girls chose their toothbrush heads today and I scanned N's - who had gone for Elsa - and off she went to collect her first sticker in her new book on the Oral-B App.  Then it was S's turn.  This is where it all went wrong.  No matter what I did - including restarted the App *and* even restarting my bloody phone - Olaf would not scan. Nor would either of the 2 Anna heads. After 20 minutes (I kid you not) and a little girl starting to get upset, I scanned N's Elsa again and we were off.  S would have to live with Elsa in her sticker book on the App and Anna now on her toothbrush.

Now, as you may imagine, annoyed doesn't even begin to cover it.  Not just about the £14 for 4 heads, of which 3 won't scan, but upset children at bedtime.  These were not some cheap, imitation stuff you get off eBay. These are genuine heads sold by Sainburys.  So, what the heck is going on? Clearly it's not the App - it's the heads. I have therefore Tweeted Oral-B, Disney and Sainsburys and I need this sorted out as I'm not a happy mummy, especially paying those prices.

Oral-B and Sainsburys came straight back to me - quality service!  Oral-B pipped Sainsburys to the post and gave me a number to call their customer services.  A very polite man spoke with me about my problem.  He looked through all related fixes but nothing seemed to show for my issue of toothbrush heads not scanning.  He did suggest re-installing the App but as I explained, if I lost the sticker books the girls had already collected, there would be even more tears (probably mine!).  He totally understood and sorted me out with a voucher to buy some new ones.

I was very impressed with the service from Oral-B and will happily pop up to Sainsburys to buy some new heads for the girls' toothbrushes.  It's nice to know that when things do go wrong, even with the simplest article, some companies do still give excellent customer service.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Rusty Rockets

J was absolutely delighted to meet this young man yesterday - Rusty Rockets (aka Russell Brand). He was a real gentleman and happily posed for this 'selfie' with her.  She did, after all, lend him a hairband #longhairissues *grin*

She had always said if she met him she wanted to sing 'I can't fight this feeling anymore' to him.  I don't think she did but watching him in Rock of Ages will have new meaning now. Thank you Mr Brand. You made her day.