Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Thoughts about Life in the Little House on the Prairie

 One of my favourite books during my own childhood was the Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

 I've recently revisited it and am struck by the resilience of the children. During one episode, the two older girls are left by themselves, aged 8 and 9, as their parents and baby sister travel to town a few miles away. They are completely isolated, no phones, no neighbours, no electricity. They must fetch wood and water for their needs and their only companion is their large dog.

My own girls are older than Laura and Mary and have been through some extremely tough times in their short lives so far. I'm proud of them, the way they have coped and matured into two well balanced individuals. I'm proud of their thoughtful inquisitive minds, their sensitivity to others and the planet and I harbour the hope and belief that they will be able to safely negotiate the teenage years to become two very lovely women.

It makes me wonder if we underestimate children. Perhaps they are all as capable as Laura and Mary Ingalls were but we have been brainwashed into forgetting how determined and inventive most humans really are and at a very young age.

What do you think? How were you as a child?

Monday, 12 October 2015

A visit to Harry Potter Studios

Are there any children in the UK above five years old who have not heard of Harry Potter and dreamed of enrolling at Hogwarts?  I doubt it!  J.K.Rowling captured the hearts and imaginations of thousands with her book series and the films are probably destined as classics. So a trip to Harry Potter studios comes quite high on the wish list in our little family. Not that long ago for someone's birthday treat we made the journey to the edge of London to make the tour.

The entrance, with it's large canvas photographs of the main characters lining the walls, is large and impressive. There are masses of people milling around but the tours are fairly well regulated as you have a time slot so the numbers are not too excessive and the wait is bearable. The suspense grows in the crowd especially among the smaller visitors, some of whom are dressed in their best cloaks.

First we were shown into a small cinema and saw a short film of some of the background of the film and short interviews of the stars. Afterwards the birthday girl got to push open the great gates into the big hall of Hogwarts. After that you are free to wander around as you see fit and read or look at which ever exhibit interests you the most.

My children whizzed around fairly speedily and whilst somethings intrigued them, not all did so. We didn't ride on the broomsticks and pay £16 for a photograph because they didn't want to queue and (whisper here - you don't really fly!)

At the end of the tour you have no choice but to exit through the gift shop and if there is another more exorbitantly overpriced place I hope I never get to see it! The cheapest thing in the whole place was a small chocolate frog, and from memory it was priced at about £8. Plastic wands (made in china) retailed at £25, mugs from £12...well you get the picture. I was not a happy bunny as we had taken a friend of the birthday girl who had been given £50 to spend by her overindulgent mother and there was no way I could match it for my two even if I had wanted too. (That buys us a huge amount of groceries from Aldi!).

Was it worth it? Well, it ticked a box and was interesting but we wouldn't go again. Was it value for money? Not unless you are on a fairly high income. My advice to the families not so blessed is take your own food and have a picnic near the bus and place blindfolds around your children as you exit the place. Good luck!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Silence has ended!

It's been a while since I posted. Life can be difficult and for legal reasons I cannot post on here some of the reasons I have been so quiet. Still, after today and certainly by October 19th, things may be more sorted and our lives considerably more peaceful. Back to normal service very shortly!

Thank you XXX

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Remember the Time

The 11 year old adores Michael Jackson and on a recent browse around Waterstones, she spotted this book. Always anxious to encourage reading, I purchased it for her.

She loved it and was so enthusiastic that I borrowed it afterwards. Prior to the 11 year old I had not taken much notice of Mr Jackson but now am familiar with much of his work. Last year we got tickets for Thriller whilst it was on tour. Have to say it was the best show I have ever seen and if it ever comes this way again we shall be there.

This book is written by a professional writer to bring together the stories of two body guards employed by Mr Jackson in his later days. At first I was cynical, believing it was just another money making scheme. I take it all back. The love for Mr Jackson and his three children just oozes through the pages. The story is poignant, frustrating and moving. There are so many "if only" moments. I particularly appreciated how the story was told and then the two men each gave their perspective on it. They come across as wonderfully loyal and dedicated to their work.

I'm not going to say too much and spoil anyone's enjoyment but this gets a huge thumbs up from us and even if you are not a fan it really is a very good read.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Two by Two

New Trailer, Poster & Promo For Animated Comedy TWO BY TWO

Today whilst the big girl went to her first summer school adventure the little one and I had a few spare hours to while away before collection time.

"What shall we do?"  I asked

"Let's go and see a film" said my 10 year old who is partial to the cinema. So we drove to our local one so fond out what was showing. Luckily for us one was about to start and it was one of the movies for juniors so was only £1.75 per ticket.

The friendly assistant recommended Two by Two saying it was very funny. We purchased our drinks as we opted for this one.

It was ok. No it wasn't. It was quite boring and very predictable. Half way through I noticed the daughter was stirring but she didn't look at me or I would have suggested we leave. Afterwards she said she wanted to go but thought it was a bit rude to walk out. (Love this child, she is so polite).
Maybe the younger children will enjoy it but for us it tried too hard to tick all the boxes;
Fluffy heros with enormous eyes,
Independent loner learns about friendship,
Awkward social misfit creates a team of misfit loyal buddies,
Evil pair get their comeuppance,
Rescue happens at the last minute,
Emotional music indicates how to react

Well you get the picture...

The best bit was the trailer before the film. Horrible Histories doing William Shakespeare, coming out on August 21st. Now that does look very good!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

School appeals

Because of where we live we were allocated a school nearly 9 miles away from home instead of the school which is 4 miles in the other direction and in the same town as I work and the primary school both girls attended. This effectively meant the 11 year old would not know a single person as all her class mates succeeded on securing places in the local town.

I bought a book on school appeals, as recommended by the primary Headteacher, who also gave me a few pointers. I read that book so often I could have taken an exam on it! I followed all the advice and spent hours researching the statistics on all three schools in the local town. I knew the number of teachers, support staff, the number of  pupils needing special help. I knew the sizes of classrooms and the minimum government requirements. I wrote my appeals and sent them off in time.

I attended 2 of the appeals which are similar to a court experience. At the first, only one other parent asked questions apart from myself although 20 parents were there. The first Headteacher was pompous, sarcastic and vain. It was the first time I had seen him and my first impressions were not good (can you tell?). When it came to my interview with the panel I found it emotional and difficult. After all this really matters to you and your child and if you get it wrong or make a mistake then it is only you and your child who suffer.

There were 22 appeals for the first school. They accepted 2 extra pupils but we were not one of them.

The following week the next appeal was held. This time it was not as daunting and more parents spoke up at the first meeting. The Headteacher of this school is delightful and is one of the reasons his school is now outstanding and oversubscribed by 30 places. I enjoyed my interview but as I spent time with a distraught lady whose interview was just prior to mine I felt her case was far more needy than ours. My daughter will do well wherever she ends up (I hope!) but this lady's son had real needs to be at this school. I volunteered our prospective place to her when I began my interview. They said it did me credit but they still wanted to hear our case.

We didn't get in.

At the end of the school year we found that the school we are going to has plummeted into special measures. I went to the meeting and was dismayed by the lack of attendance by future year 7 parents. Out of 240 pupils there were probably only 50 at the maximum. I rang the school admissions and found we were still in 13th place at 2 schools but they could offer us another place at a 3rd school where most of the year 6 primary school were going to. The problem is getting to it as traffic is grid locked everyday and it would be a horrible, difficult journey. We turned it down.

Resigned to our fate we have made the best of it. Then yesterday I received a letter telling us there had been a review and we have a place at our first choice after all! (The one with the nice Headteacher). How did that happen? I have no idea how we have queue jumped but we are very happy.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Little travelers

August 13th already. Where are the summer holidays going?  The youngest cousin is over from Vancouver, Canada for a short visit. She is a delightful girl and every time she speaks I want to smile as it is like being with a Disney character. That cute little accent. Her mother, who is as English as can be, has lived out in Canada for years yet still sounds (and looks) like Emma Thompson the actress.

Both my girls have been lucky enough to go out to Canada to stay with their Auntie and the eldest has decided she will live out there when she is an adult. When asked why, instead of talking about the beauty of the country, the friendliness of the people there she replies, "it's the pancakes, they're so good". Why else would you emigrate?

We have another cousin preparing to travel. Their older cousin is flying to Australia with a friend in October. They plan to buy a camper van and work their way around the county as they both have good trades. One is a carpenter and the other a mechanic. What a wonderful experience, don't you agree?

Where would you go if you had no responsibilities and six months to spare?