Saturday, 30 June 2012

A lucky escape ...

The Murray match is scheduled for later than we were expecting so we decided to go for a walk. The sky looked a little ominous but we decided that this is the kind of summer that if we waited for good weather we probably wouldn’t ever do anything!

The sky as we set out …

The cows were lying down, always a bad sign …

The gathering gloom …

Minutes after we arrived home …

It hasn't stopped raining since! Lucky or what?

P.S. Fish pie for supper - real comfort food with a glass to two of sparkles as we watch Andy Murray play.

I hope he's lucky too ...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Racing again.... S4S

Sunday arrived and Gaynor had another race. Not a ‘race for life’ this time but Scalextric4Schools (S4S).

Tim manages the schools program for PTC a US software company. Each year he sets up the S4S competition, the finals of which were held at RAF Cosford, near Wolverhampton. Pupils use Creo/ProEngineer software to design, build and race their cars and prepare a presentation of their design and developments which they present to a team of five judges. The same software is used to design at Ferrari and Audi. Tim has his mid life crisis Audi  but is still waiting for the Ferrari...

A terrific amount of planning goes into the event which is sponsored by Hornby and a number of other companies. Tim is also fortunate to know some retired teachers (from his previus life as an OFSTED inspector) who are who are happy to lend a hand. Many of you involved in education will be wondering whether it is possible to be an OFSTED inspector and still have friends! This year Tom and I were also roped in to help.

I was given the job of race controller - a very grand title for someone who registered the teams, allocated  time slots for their races and presentations, and gave out the goodie bags. Tom was the official photographer/ gopher and Tim the Bernie Eccleston of the event!

The commitment of the pupils and teachers was tremendous. Some teams had come from Scotland and a couple of teams had even travelled from St Petersburg in Russia

The day was busy but very worthwhile. The RAF museum staff at Cosford were superb hosts and the standards set by the pupils extremely high. Every one of them was a credit to their schools and to themselves. The passion and the technical knowledge of the students was excellent with the Russian pupils able to present to the five judges in near fluent English.

The overall winners with their teacher Bob ...

Amidst all of the Government talk about falling standards these kids were doing stuff that I couldn't have done at their age, although like Mr Gove, I might possibly have been better at rote learning ...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A race for life ....

A few months ago my friend Helen asked me to be a volunteer at a ‘Race for Life’ in aid of Cancer Research UK, which was to be held in Wolverhampton.  I readily agreed, then promptly forgot all about it. About a week ago an email arrived with the details and my heart sank. It’s a busy time at work with my reports, a parents evening, all of my transfer data to enter, two transition visits of new pupils to teach and preparations for a ‘hand over’ day of my science responsibilities to my successor –  IN THE SAME WEEK!! All of this in addition to my normal teaching load.

 I quickly learned that being busy is as nothing when compared to the real challenges in life, and death.

I am so glad that I was asked.

The TA’s at school are a good bunch and I was entertained by their banter on the journey from school. We arrived and were given T-shirts and allocated to the finish line where we were asked to distribute the medals, water and goodie bags to the participants at the end of the race.

Unfortunately a large number of the volunteers didn’t turn up on the night so we were asked to multi-task. Good job we were a bunch of women!

Joy volunteered to be a flag bearer.  Helen, Judith, Dee, Di and Liza were selected to be a human shield. So when someone came back and said that they were short of course marshals Sally, Kathy and I were the only ones left.

They must have recognised something very special in me because I was given a radio and a Madonna style head microphone and precise instructions about how to use it!! For a scientist I am probably a gadgetphobe. Little did they know that in my day job I am used to shouting from one end of a school field to another without any such aids!
After a slight hiccup in map reading – I was roaming around the opposite end of the park searching for my marshalling position – I assumed my responsibilities as M7.

The whole race/walk was so uplifting to be a part of. There were about 3000 participants most dressed in pink costumes of one sort or another. Many were wearing the names and photographs of loved ones who are or have been affected by cancer. Some of the runners were suffering from cancer and many were nurses who work with cancer patients.

I was joined at my position by an elderly gentleman who told me that his wife is suffering from terminal cancer but was too ill to come to watch his daughters (one of whom is herself in remission) run. He was in tears as he told me about the effect the disease on their lives. He stood with me for over an hour and cheered.

The 'back marker' was a very brave lady who was walking with her nine year old daughter. Mum was a cancer sufferer, walked with a stick and a great deal of pain and difficulty. It took her over an hour to walk the first 2km lap and she really couldn’t manage any more but her daughter wanted to finish. She walked the final 3km with a marshal and was rewarded tremendous cheer as she crossed the finishing line. It was very emotional.

The bravery, strength and sense of humour I witnessed from so many people was tremendous.

Next time I am asked to volunteer for such an event I will do so without hesitation, and might even be persuaded to take part.

Our local hospice has a fundraising midnight pyjama walk in September and Helen is determined to organise a large team of walkers.

Whether I’ll wear a pink tutu with my pyjamas remains to be seen…

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Angles-sur l'Anglin...

I’ve posted about Angles before as it’s one of my favourite places to visit whenever we're at Le Pre Vert. Angles is in the neighbouring Vienne. You can read the posts and view some of the wonderful sights here and here

A couple of weeks ago I made a flying visit to catch up with a friend who is in the midst of revovating a beautiful home there. It is an ongoing labour of love, but such a lot has been accomplished and the outcome is stunning. 

Before tea we took a stroll around the village where there is always something new to see.

Tim didn't come with me this time because when we are in France he still has to work, but I know he is keen to see the progress.

Luckily for Tim, I came home with a 'doggy bag' of cakes for him to enjoy...

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

What DID the chaffinch say to the woodpecker?

When we arrived home on Sunday afternoon we were greeted by a couple of ‘friends’ vying for position in the old oak tree outside our front gate.

Can you detect a change in their 'body language'?

Tim quickly unpacked his camera and took some photographs but it’s a pity we didn’t video so that you could see and hear the racket they were making ….

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Door to door ...

In exactly nine hours and fifty minutes - even allowing for the time difference!

We left early at 4:20, didn’t hang around and sailed through the usual trouble spots. We even drove straight on to a shuttle.

This isn't a photograph of any of our doors but it used to be lived in by someone! This des-res is tucked away on the hill as you come into Le Petit-Pressigny.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A bar-blog-que bleet ...

Yesterday we were invited to a BBQ in Preuilly-sur-Claise at the home of our friends Susan and Simon. They had organised the event so that Martine (from Belgium), who is on holiday in the Loire valley with her friends Mats and Vera (from Sweden), could meet up with a bunch of people who live in the area, and others who live further afield in St-Aignan, Arlington Virginia (via Paris), Antwerp and the Charente. We were amazed at how easily our friends moved from language to language. Even Florence managed three!

The rogues gallery!
Back L-R Mats, Simon, CHM, Martine, Gaynor, Antoinette, Ken, Nigel, Diane, Florence and Alexander
Front L-R Tim, Susan, Walt, Vera, Caroline and Niall.
Thanks to Simon for the photograph, who manfully set the timer and then sprinted into position!
Susan co-ordinated the food contributions and the result was a magnificent and delicious table of food and wines.

Simon manned the BBQ and we all sat around and chatted for the whole afternoon.

We met friends old and new and there was always someone interesting to chat with.

 Martine had brought gifts of some exquisite Belgian chocolates.

Martine had brought gifts of some exquisite Belgian chocolates.
At the time of writing you can read and see more here (Simon and Susan), here (Ken) and quite possibly here (Walt)here (Niall and Antoinette)here (Diane) or here (Martine)

Susan even kept her guests comfortable by holding up the sun/rain canopy!
A big thank you to Susan and Simon for hosting the event and making the bar-blog-que bleet possible.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Jubilee - French style ...

The UK media has been gripped by Diamond Jubilee fever and blanket coverage has been the order of the past week. Not really surprising as sixty years of anything is a magnificent achievement, and I wish Queen Elizabeth and her close family well. The extended hangers on have less of my good wishes, although their hats always raise a laugh!
We’ve enjoyed our celebrations here in France starting on Sunday with a Jubilee Dinner with friends at Champagne. We toasted the Queen with more of the same! Fine company, fine food and fine wine, all worthy of such an auspicious occasion!

On Monday I spent the morning making and decorating  some Jubilee cakes and a ‘jewelled’ rice salad as we had been invited to a BBQ Jubilee celebration at La Gavaudière.

Chris and Julia certainly know how to throw a party! They had rigged up a large screen so that music was provided by the Jubilee concert outside Buckingham Palace and the Mall. The food was fantastic and we caught up with our good friends John,  Maureen and Poppy - suitably garlanded for the occasion!

They told us that the English tea party they’d organised for their French neighbours had been a roaring success, with over thirty enjoying a selection of sandwiches, cakes and pork pie. I'm looking forward to seeing the photographs on thier blog.
At 10pm Chris’s magnificent beacon was lit by their friend Michel, the Maire of Chatillion.

That Chris and Julia have integrated into the local community was apparent from the mix of guests.

They were presented with a special platter from the local Chasse who use their land, but who also manned the BBQ, and dispensed their brand of 'fire water' which they called punch!!. 

Ann and Claire demonstrating that the standard of patriotic dress was a sight to behold!

Finally on Tuesday as the service of Thanksgiving was taking place we entertained some friends for a light lunch of Jubilee Salad, my special Union Jack chocolate cake and more bubbles. The weather was kind to us and we were able to eat outside, with Lorna and Audrey dashing in at regular intervals to check out the processions on the TV.

Later we’d just settled to watch the ‘fly past’ when Ken arrived to inspect our terrace, to be greeted by Gaynor still wearing her pearls and tiara …  

Monday, 4 June 2012

What unites us ...

Our getaway to Le Pre Vert was delayed for a couple of days so that we could meet some of the friends Tom has spent the last year with in Boulder. His girlfriend Meg, and Chihiro were stopping over in the UK and Paris on their way back to Japan. Yuki is staying with her Swedish father, who lives in the UK, before going to Sweden to work in a hotel for a few months.

They were all absolutely stunning, and fantastic house guests. We had dinner and breakfast with them before dashing away to France. They were happy, gentle, articulate, polite and spoke excellent English. They all looked so much younger than their 21 years.
Meg, Chihiro, Yukiko and Morrissey(aka Tom)
Tom needed to bend down to fit in the photograph!

Tom will meet up with them all again in Japan. A living example, in a different context (JFK was addressing the Canadian parliament), of JFK's "what unites us is greater than what divides us". 
He can't wait ...

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Red, white and blue muffins ...

…..or who burned the cakes?
On Thursday we had a special afternoon with our classes, during which we could do anything with a Jubilee focus to ‘entertain’ our students. I got in quick and booked the food room as I had a fancy to do some baking with my Y8 class. We discussed all sorts and eventually decided on the red, white and blue muffins, Jubilee theme decorated gingerbread men and a decorated box to take them home in. Tim made the net for the box and some stickers to hold the box closed.
The muffins included red cherries, blue blueberries and white chocolate.

All went well as I demonstrated the recipe, but unfortunately I chose to use one of the ovens which according to Jake, ‘plays up’. It’s a pity he didn’t say this before …
Two sets of muffins, guess which ones are mine?

The afternoon was hectic and I have loads of great photographs of my students at work, but unfortunately I don’t want to run the risk of being caught up in and child protection controversy. However, my TA Helen is fair game!

The afternoon just wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Helen and Dee, who did much more than their fair share of the clearing up. They also wanted to give me their perfect muffins. We compromised, sharing the perfect ones. Tom likes muffins and I knew he wouldn't mind eating the charred ones.
This is my recipe - sorry it's just a photograph, the original is sitting on my home PC.
I forgot to write that you add the sugar with the flour!

And finally, my headgear for the day…