Up at 6.30 to get breakfast for the girls ready for their first full day back at school since March. It hasn’t gone down well! They both seem OK about going back, I must admit, though, I’m apprehensive. I can see what the school has done to mitigate any virus spread and our region has been hit very lightly compared to many but even so. Once people start mixing in a classroom situation it will be impossible to maintain any real social distance. It’s also going to be a much flatter school experience as all of the important extras (sports, choirs, study groups, drama etc) are on hold so school is just about academic education. This is a problem if it lasts for a long time. The hidden curriculum has been shown repeatedly to have a longer term affect of future life than basic subject lessons. Here’s hoping for a quick return to normality.
Just a reminder that I am stopping adding to this blog but am continuing my verbal ramblings on other blogs which can be accessed here:
Please do check them out and subscribe if you’re interested. The updates for each are set to be weekly and the e-mails with details of any updates are sent on a Sunday evening. I’ve enjoyed writing this and it has certainly helped to keep me sane. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it too.
Saw this article was on the BBC website this morning. I clicked through to it after reading about China’s move to reduce food waste. I’ve written about this before but I think, as a family, we can be very proud about how little we throw away compared with the national average. This is mainly because we do what is suggested at the end of this article. We plan our meals weekly and we buy for the plan. We keep well stocked cupboards of basics (tinned food, dried food, spices, sauces etc) but only long-lasting items. All fresh and short-life products are bought little and often. We save leftovers for lunches or snacks. If, as a society, we can cut back on our food waste we will lower our food deficit (although the UK hasn’t been self-sufficient in food since the 1880s and we won’t get there again) and reduce the amount of food being imported. This, in turn, will reduce the emissions due to food transport and have a positive impact on out national carbon footprint. It’ll also make more food available for other areas of the world and/or reduce the need for over production and intensive farming which is causing such environmental damage. Like with recycling, it may feel like what we can do individually is irrelevant. The thing is, every little saving we each make, adds up to a great deal over a national or continental scale. If we want to leave a fit planet for our children and grandchildren we must do our bit today.
One of our favourite breakfasts this morning – Baked Eggs. Absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of them! Spread butter around a ramekin and break 2 eggs into it. Add a heaped teaspoon of crispy cooked lardons and a sprinkling of fresh herbs (we used chives and parsley today, it also works with basil) and place in a large pan – sit the ramekins in about 1cm of boiling water. Put the lid on the pan and cook for 3.5 minutes. Add a teaspoon of fresh cream and a covering of grated cheese then put the lid back on the pan and cook until the cheese is fully melted. Serve with brown toast.
After breakfast, “S” made some more Lemon Curd.
So, since the girls go back to school, properly, tomorrow morning I think we can now call Lockdown over. We’re still under restrictions, of course, and things are certainly not back to normal but we’re heading in the right direction I think (I hope). I think this is now the time to stop this daily blog as it will get harder and harder to keep on top of it as we continue to get back to order. I have enjoyed writing it and think I’ve got a bit better too. I can also see how keeping a blog (or any kind of journal or diary) positively affects your mental wellbeing. I have plans (!) to switch to another blog which we will update weekly rather than daily. I’m also planning on putting together two other blogs, if anyone is interested. I’m planning an educational blog once I’m back in work and routine over the next week or so. Not 100% sure what the main focus will be, I need to figure out what the priorities are – at the moment I am leaning towards Digital Learning. This is to keep pushinng me to read and keep expanding my knowledge – living lifelong learning! I’m also planning to move my political rantings to a seperate blog too. Again, I will try and update each of these weekly. All I have just now is the holding page for each. As they go live they can be accessed from our website homepage.
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Since we are nearly out of lockdown it’s a good time to reflect on how well we have coped as a family. Considering all of our family members outside of our nuclear group are at least 3 hours away and we haven’t actually seen any of them since March we have coped extremely well. We are extremely lucky that, as a family, we do get on so very well. We enjoy each other’s company and can happily spend time together. The daily game time and the film club arrangment has given us fixed times every day when we do things together to help us keep some structure and routine. Haviong the dog has forced us to have to get out of the house every day and, of course, we live in a beautiful part of the world. It’s not always been easy. This year has been, by far, the most challenging but it has been made so much easier because I am part of such a close and supportive family. Others haven’t been so lucky and the past 6 months must have been terrible for them. Things are looking up now so our task is to make the most of the future.
Took the dog for her walk, turned out to be quite a nice walk this afternoon.
After we got back it was Game Time (the last of the lockdown game times) and we played cards: Kaboo, Stealing Bundles, Chase the Ace, Linger Longer, Rolling Stones, King’s Corner and Spoons (of course).
I’m now making dinner – Sunday roast is Pork with all of our usual trimmings.
Tonight we’re catching up on this week’s Musical – Les Miserables. I do love this as a show (I saw the original London cast), as a soundtrack and as a film.
3 days into my Virtual Mission to get from Land’s End to John O’Groats and this is my progress.
I’ll keep posting progress updates weekly on the new blog. Hopefully they’ll look a bit more impressive than this!
75 years ago today the Second World War, the most destructive war the world had ever seen, finally came to an end. The end of the war ushered in the Nuclear Age after the allies dropped 2 atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’m of the same opinion as those historians who argue that Japan was already beaten and would be unlikely to fight on beyond the end of August so the dropping of the bombs was more a message to the Soviets than a necessary strategic requirement. How different the world would be if that hadn’t happened. The war was devastating and perhaps would have rumbled on for another few weeks and caused several thousand more deaths. The amount of money expended on nuclear arms in the years since is obscene. We’ve come close to nuclear war twice since then – during the Cuban missile crisis and again in the early 1980s. It doesn’t bear thinking about. Today is a day for remembering all the service personnel and civilians who died or were injured in a horrendous war in the hope of building a better world. I do have hope that we might realise that goal – but sometimes it’s hard to keep positive.
After breakfast we did a test run to the station for the girls since they’ll have to get themselves to school this year. “E” wants to cycle and “I” wants to walk. Either way they need to leave a safe 30 minutes to get there. We stopped off at Tesco on the way back to pick up some school supplies for them for Monday.
A quick lunch when we got back then “S” and I took the dog for a walk. It was a nice walk today, we saw quite a range of interesting things and, as is often the case, the sky was impressive.
Game time this afternoon was time for cards, we played Linger Longer, Classic Rummy, King’s Corners and Spoons. Such Fun! (We’ve started watching Miranda again over lunch!)
While we were out “E” made the base for some ice cream. Mixed Berry this week. “S” then made some meringue with the leftover egg whites.
It’s Saturday Soup and we’re having Spicy Potato Soup today.
After dinner, instead of watching a film and in recognition of the day, we watched the BBC broadcast commemorating VJ day. I thought it was very moving and struck just the right, sombre, tone. It’s 75 years, I don’t think these things should be “celebrated”, I found the party atmosphere that seemed to be promoted in May for VE day to be in very bad taste. We should commemorate the sacrifices made and lament the diplomatic and political failures that led to the war. It is all of our duty to do all we can to ensure it never happens again.
Well, “T” slept soundly in her nest on the bedding chest all night. She must have been tired after her adventure yesterday.
Reading about the English grading row this morning. This was a difficult and unprecedented situation, but . . . There is an overwhelming belief in English education governance that terminal examination is the only way to measure performance. This is false but is embedded in the national conversation because for years the printed media have attacked any form of progression through the introduction of coursework, assessed presentations, open-book exams etc as “making the exams easier”. The public, generally, believe how they were educated is better than schools now because it plays into the “better in the past, youth of today” narrative. Evidence doesn’t matter, appearance is what is important. Gove’s changes to the assessment system, the backwards step to remove coursework and school assessment components and place all on final examination has brought us to this point. 10 years ago, every subject had elements of coursework which would have been completed before lockdown started. These elements could then have formed the centre of awarded grades this year, with the teacher prediction and school ranking the confirmation. Instead, there is no formal assessment material as the grades should have been based on exams which didn’t take place. The model used for calculating these grades is based on historic performance of a school. Every teacher knows that every cohort is different and every student within that cohort is different. To base the results so heavily on past school performance immediately disadvantages the hardworking student from a historically low performing area and advantages the weak student in the historically high performing school. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this hands the best grades to Independent schools and schools in more affluent areas and downgrades those in poor areas. I’ve taught in independent and international schools since 1998. Such students are not automatically more able, they come from educated parents who often can afford to buy additional support. Such schools also tend to have smaller class sizes and better resources. The comments by the PM that “the system is robust and reliable” and the comment by the Education secretary that “raising grades will lead to a generation promoted beyond their ability” are appalling and an insult to all students in England who have been affected so badly by the pandemic. This fiasco is the result of a fundamentally flawed assessment system across education which has removed teacher and school involvement in final awards. It comes from a political ideology that only things that are quantitatively measurable have value. I don’t know what the solution is now, teachers in England are painted by press and politicians as incompetent wasters so the obvious answer of altering the algorithm to give more weight to teacher prediction won’t be accepted. This article from Sky is a really interesting analysis of the problem. It is the government’s responsibility now to accept there has been a mistake, investigate and offer a fair solution. The Scottish government recognised the same problem and, while their solution may have gone too far in the other direction, at least it enables young people to move forward to the next stage in their lives. If any individual has been over graded beyond their ability they will be found out at the next stage. My experience, though, is that if you give them the chance, they will rise to it. It’s those who are raised to expect the chance to be handed to them who tend to underperform.
Went for my bike ride after breakfast. I’ve done the same route 3 times this week. We exactly the same route (the one I filmed on Monday). The distance recorded on Strava on Monday was 7.8km, on Wednesday it was 7.5km and today it was 7km! How can I have lost 0.8km over the week? Very frustrating. Anyway, I made good time today so I’m pleased with the ride if not the recording!
I created an account with My Virtual Mission to track my exercise against the target I’ve set myself of travelling frmo Land’s End to Jon O’Groats. I wish I’d found this website at the start of lockdown! Anyway, I’ve added today’s cycle in to it which I record on Strava and at the end of every day I’ll add the totoal number of steps I’ve done which Samsung records anyway. We’ll see how I get on.
At 12 I took “I” to school then went to Tesco. We were planning to have Steak & Kidney pie for dinner tonight but, unfortunately, they had run out of kidney. One of the staff recommended I replace the kidney with black pudding and follow the rest of the reipe the same. She assured me it was delicious so we’re giving that a go. Back home for a quick lunch and to unpack the shopping then back to school to collect “I”. Back home to find “S” and “E” were still out with the dog so we walked back up the road to meet them. They saw a paraglider while they were out.
We played the Marvel game this afternoon.
As mentioned, tonight’s dinner is now Steak and Black Pudding Pie with chips and vegetables. It smells delicious and looks really good so, hopefully, it’ll taste as good. I could try this with haggis too if it works well.
It was really good. The black pudding made the pie filling really rich and the beef stock gave it a deep flavour. Lovely.
Tonight is film series night and we’re watching the second Starship Troopers.
Quiet night on the storm front thankfully, slept through but it’s still quite close and sticky. Hopefully there’ll be some rain today. Up early anyway as “E” has her first morning back in school today. She does half a day where the new arrangements are explained and they get to ask any questions they might have. “I” is in tomorrow afternoon.
“I” went with us this morning, she needed to see if there were any S6 blazers in the Uniform exchange. Unfortunately not, so we’ve had to buy her a brand new Blazer and Tie for 1 school year – a bit frustrating really! When we got home I sorted out the menu and shopping list for next week then “S” and I did some puzzles. Back to pick “E” up for her 12 o’clock finish then home for lunch.
After lunch, “I” needed to go to the doctors, she needs some catch-up vaccinations which are given in the UK but weren’t in Romania (today she’s having the second HPV). She was supposed to go for it in march but it was cancelled due to lockdwn and she’s not best pleased the surgery is giving vaccinatins again now but she realisees she needs to have it. It went OK, although she now has a sore arm!
While we were out, “S” realised she didn’t know where our black & white cat was. She looked all over the house but she’s either really well hidden somewhere (which is possible) or she’s got out. We had the back door and the kitchen door opened when we were puzzling this morning to try and get some air through the house but we were both in the kitchen. If she has got out, though, this is the only time she could have done it.
We looked for her while we took the dog out, still odd weather, it’s still really heavy in the air and there are quite ominous clouds around and about but I don;t think it is going to rain..
We’ve had a look round the estate for her too and have spoken to a few people who will look out for her. We’ll go out for another look after dinner.
We played Skip-Bo and cards (Brag, Chase the Ace and Old Maid) then we went out for another look. I’m now making dinner, we’re having Mexican Chicken stew (BBC).
Slight changes to the recipe, I’ve added ringed pepper at the end when I put the onion rings in and I used chicken thighs (I’ve learnt that for casserole-type flavoursome meals, chicken things add a real depth compared to chicken breast. I’m not taking the chicken thinghs out to shred it, we’ll have it whole). Other than that, pretty true to the recipe.
Went for another look for the cat after dinner – no joy unfortunately. Back in now and we’re about to watch Oh Brother Were Art Though. Another Coen brothers film.
Good news! We went out to look for the cat when the film finished. I saw a tabby cat bushed up under our car and heard a growl. There is only one animal can growl like that – it was her. She had made her way under our car and was hiding up on top of the rear diff and prop shaft. Very pleased we found her. No idea how she got out, I’m sure it wasn’t through the garden as I don’t think she’d have climbed the wall without us seeing her. She must have got out through the front door somehow. Anyway, she’s had her annual trip outside and is now safely back in the house. The dog was really excited when we brought her back in – she’d missed her.
We were woken up at 1am during the night by the thunderstorm which finally reached us. All of the animals were stressed and it was a very restless night. The storm continued until about 5am. Only managed to doze intermittently due to animals pacing and crying and, generally, being unhappy and on edge. The internet went down about 4am, the latest from BT is an issue with a main exchange in Edinburgh which they’re working on. It’s now 11am and we’re using mobile data but that won’t last us too much longer if the broadband doesn’t come back on soon. I got up about 6:30 (“S” had given up and come downstairs at about 3) and went for my bike ride. It was very wet and muddy so was quite hard work. Still felt better when I got home so it was worth it. I’m not quite tired though! This is the current state of the weather warnings, although right now we have blue sky trying to break through.
Sorted some of the flowers out this morning with “E”. We’d used some cut-down Fruit Shoot bottles as pots and the plants had outgrown them so we transplanted them to some bigger former bottles. They’re now back out the front of the house looking pretty.
Still no Internet. Sounds like some serious problems in and around Edinburgh. The airport was closed for a time this morning and there’s major flooding.
After lunch the girls took the dog for a walk for me while I tried to have an hour nap – I have been awake since 1am after all and “S” went back to bed after breakfast! Anyway, Managed to get about 20 minutes which was enough to mek me feel a bit better. It’s really hot and sticky here again, still need more rain to clear the air. In fact, it feels like we’ve got the heating on!
While I was not able to sleep during the night I looked back through some photographs to try and find the rules to a couple of games we learnt when we visited Hampton Court a couple of years ago. Managed to find them so we played these this afternoon. Here are the instructions.
The internet came back on around 4:30, so everyone is happy again now.
Another recipe-free dinner today. We’re having sweet and sour pork with stir fried vegetables and noodles. It’s a sauce mix we bought at a food fair a couple of years ago and haven’t used yet. The others were all really nice so I have high hopes for this one. In with the pork we’ve got some shredded ginger, carrot, pepper, onion and green beans.
This evening we’ll be watching Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 (no surprise that this is a choice of “E”). It’s got a really good soundtrack and is a very easy watch.
Looks like we could be in for another disturbed and stormy night. Hope it doesn’t put down as much rain this time!
We’ve got blue sky at the moment this morning although the forecast for the day is not good.
Or for the whole country.
I’m glad we’re not in Northern France or the Low Countries at the moment- they have red warnings.
After breakfast we did a Logistical puzzle as a family then “S” and I finished another Puzzle book. Actually, this one was half-completed. Dad gets them for us and this was one that had got mixed up with his as he had nearly finished it. We’ve obviously pi8cked it up one time when we were down there. Anyway, it’s another one done. There’ s still a sense of satisfaction. After this, we cleaned the kitchen then “E” finished her Airfix model of HMS Illustrious. It’s a huge model and has taken her, on and off, about 3 years to complete it but she’s done most of it since the schools closed in March. It now needs paiting (if she’s going to) and the transfers putting on it. It looks really good.
I took the dog for her walk this afternoon. It’s really close and sticky here today. We haven’t had the storms that we were warned about but it feels lilke we need one. It’s not pleasant at all.
Today was a card games day.We started with Texas Hold ’em then moved on to Knock-Out Whist, Gin-Rummy, Go Fish; Chase the Ace, Dominoes and, finally, Spoons.
Tonight’s dinner is “E”s favourite – Carbonara. No recipe because I’ve been making this since I was in my teens. It’s got tomaties and spinach in it to give it a fresher taste so it’s hardly authentic but we all love it.
We drew new films for Film Club after dinner, a real thriller for tonight – The Green Mile. Not watched that in years but it’s an absolutely outstanding film.
The girls go back to school this week, “E” is in for the morning on Thursday and “I” is in for the afternoon on Friday. They’re both back full time from next Monday. There’s been a lot of work done to get ready and try and make the school safe. A 2-week timetable limits the movement between classrooms, a one-way system around the school, different entry for each year group, staggered breaks. It’s all good but I’m still very wary of them being back. The rates in Scotland are looking good but the virus is certainly not beaten yet.
After breakfast we started a new puzzle book and all 4 of us did one of our new favourite puzzles – Logistical. “I” has been doing more and more with us over the last few months now “E” is joining in with these we’re starting to make the puzzle book a family affair.
I went out on my bike this morning. Quite pleased with the ride today. Extended the route slightly again and managing to improve my time too. I attached the dashcam to my handlebars so have managed to record the route.
Monday is bread making day and the load went on before breakfast. Another success this week.
After lunch (fresh bread) “S” had quite a lot of baking to do and I took the dog for a walk. A pleasant walk but the weather is certainly on the turn.
“S” made Churchill’s Fruit Cake again ( it’s really good) and a baked lemon cheesecake. They both look delicious.
We always have a more involved breakfast on a Sunday and today we’re going for a traditional with sausage, bacon, black pudding, haggis, hash browns, mushrooms, beans, poached eggs and toast. We’re using our usual breakfast plates so it all looks a little squashed together but I can assure that it tasted great.
After breakfast we finished another puzzle book while I also helped “I” with her NS&I issues. We evenmtually managed to get some help online to find that you can’t cash in completed bonds on-line – you have to fill in a form and post it in! Quite frustrating really. Anyway, after battling through a seperate form for each account she needs to cash in we now only need someone to witness her signing the form (!). We’ll either ask a neighbour or she will take it when she goes to school on Thursday. She’s going to use some of the money to buy herself a laptop.
That took most of the morning so it was pretty much straight afterwards that I took the dog for a walk. another gorgeous day for a walk. Just me today.
It’s clearly been a slow day today, after I got back from the walk it was game time. Today we played Skip-bo: Uno; Snip, Snap, Snorum: Stealing Bundles, Linger Longer; Rolling Stone; King’s Corners; Dominoes and we finished off with a particularly silly game of Spoons.
Sunday Roast for dinner. Haggis this week with roast root vegetable medlay (turnip, parsnip, carrot, beetroot and Onion), Roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and green veg.
This evening we’re back on track with Film Club and we’re watching Rise of the Guardians. Not a favourite of mine, Dreamworks aren’t nearly as good as Pixar with this type of film.
Saturday morning is Independent puzzles day, we did well this week. After breakfast (we had roll & bacon today) we also did this week’s Richard Osman’s quiz where we also did very well. All in all a smugly successful morning.
After breakfast and puzzles I went out on my bike. It was a lovely morning and I think I had a good ride – certainly the best weather all week. Unfortunately and frustratingly, I forgot to start Strava so I have no accurate record of what I did. Ho humm!
“I” has some Chidren’s bonds that have matured and she finally has the details to log onto her NS&I account. Unfortunately, the site wasn’t working so she we decided to have another look tomorrow.
We all took the dog for a walk this afternoon – the weather was gorgeous.
When we got back, we bathed her in the garden. A bucket of hot water and some of her special champoo (sensitive skin you know) and she now smells much better!
This afternoon we played Sequence. This is always a good game. “E” and I versus “S” and “I”. I’m pleased to say that we won each of the 4 sets we played. The end score was 8 games to 4.
Saturday Soup is a brand new one for us – Celeriac soup from this BBC recipe. It proved to be delicious!