Winning in Weymouth

It’s a quiet week here in Bexley – but an easy one, with the girls away in Weymouth with their cousin, Izzy, and  my parents.

Waking up Monday morning I was quite confused – should I get up now and go into work nice and early, or enjoy the peace and quiet in bed for another 45 minutes? Which train should I catch to work? What time did I want to get home in the evening?

All decisions normally made for me by having to take the girls to school then catch the next available train (the 8.59, timetable fans).

In the end, I compromised and caught the 8.34. Mind you, yesterday I went crazy and caught the 7.46!

The Lovely Melanie hasn’t altered her schedule one bit – she’s still catching the very first train in the morning.

Speaking of trains, we had some lovely news for Millie: her entry for a competition with Southeastern Trains, to draw and colour the station cat, has been chosen as the winner. Out of all the entries received across the Southeastern region!

Millie’s won a family day pass to travel anywhere in the Southeastern region, a family pass to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and a goodie bag of some kind.

Penny FallsBut she was more interested in her winnings on the Penny Falls in Weymouth when we spoke to her on Ooovoo her last night.

Sadly, we don’t have a photo of the winning entry; it was done on a school morning so there wasn’t really time. However, Millie put a lot of thought and effort into hers – as she always does with drawing and making things, so I’m quite pleased she won.

Amber’s effort was nice, but nowhere near as patient or polished – again, as always.

Millie’s talents lie in the visual and the written arts; Amber’s more towards the performing arts. ;-)

Double Time

As anybody in the UK will know, the clocks went forward an hour yesterday for British Summer Time (or was it back an hour…?)

As always on Sunday I was up first, got the girls their breakfast and put all the clocks forward.

An hour later, the Lovely Melanie got up, got herself some breakfast…and put all the clocks forward!

Fortunately, she didn’t touch my watch or phone, otherwise I’d have been very early getting to Paddington to hand the girls over to my Dad for their week’s holiday in Weymouth (which they’re very excited about!)

In fact, the mistake remained unnoticed until four ‘clock, when she couldn’t believe it was five o’clock already.

Oh, it was just like an episode of Terry And June.

Sigh.

Shakespeare Rocks!

Last night’s second performance of Shakespeare Rocks! (featuring Miss Millie Harriet Carter!) was a smash hit.

Shakespeare Rocks!Good reviews had filtered back via the Lovely Melanie, who went to the opening night (lack of a babysitter for Amber meant we went on different nights). However, I was still unprepared for how bloody good the show was!

The entire Year 5 at Hurst Primary always do a big show: almost a hundred 8-9 year olds, singing and dancing and acting and dressing up onstage in front of hundreds of adults. They’ve all been on this stage before – for assemblies, nativity plays, etc., but this is the first time I’ve seen it organised on quite such a grand scale – and done so very very well.

The big change I noticed were the proper performances by many of the players, no longer rote recital of lines, and this made Shakespeare Rocks! properly funny and entertaining. I’ve always enjoyed assemblies and nativities by my children – because they’re my children – but last night was pretty enjoyable all by itself.

There were boys hamming it up dressed as girls, girls pretending to be boys, excellent comic timing – even a little ad-libbing, I suspect, on display – as well as some quite moving solo performances by the more dramatically gifted cast members.

Millie had just a very small part (as Babs, one of the three witches from MacBeth), which was exactly what she wanted. Unlike – ahem – certain other of my offspring, Millie’s not interested in being the centre of attention. She asked for a small speaking part, was given a small speaking part, and enjoyed her small speaking part, perfectly happy to watch others soak up the applause.

And I was just as proud of her performance! :-)

Here’s some film of her moment of glory:

Commuter heaven

There, I’ve come out and said it: I love my commute!

Non-Londoners may think I’m insane: how could he possibly enjoy an enforced 2.5 hour journey every weekday, you say? Surely an extra hour in bed would be infinitely preferable? Isn’t he just trying to make a virtue out of a necessity?

London commuteBut honestly, I’d be a bit lost if I didn’t have my daily work commute. Working from home, as I did for six months in 2014, had its own rewards, but was ultimately rather lonely. Starting my current job and being back in an office, I was initially relieved just to get out of the house (then disappointed that most of my workmates weren’t more sociable…)

My daily commute to King’s Cross is ten minutes of walking, 35 minutes on the train and another 15 minutes on the Tube, rounded off with another ten-minute walk. It’s the perfect mix of exertion and introversion: an hour of enforced relaxation with no responsibility whatsoever; stretching the legs, waking the brain and preparing for the day ahead.

Similarly, the journey home to leafy Bexley is a chance to wind down and think on a comfy seat on a warm carriage whooshing through the metropolis.

Outside the windows are a surprising number of unbelievable sunsets.

Inside, I might choose to read and enjoy an endless amount of wonderful literature.

If I don’t feel like reading I can people watch: wondering where the person next to me bought that shirt; watching the lovely lady opposite put too much make-up on; marvelling that the rough-looking chap by the window is reading Dostoyevsky; eavesdropping on the endless conversation the older lady behind me is having with someone called Claire.

If I was out the night before, I might take a nap. Listen to music. Stare at the clouds.

I can simply sit and think – I did this a lot in the weeks after Trev died.

Wouldn’t I much prefer to be home? No. At home I’d be distracted by my lovely family, by the lure of the TV or the computer; there would be jobs to be done, things to be fixed, washing, cleaning, children, writing – all unavoidable!

On the commute there are two hours of the day that are mine alone; surrounded by people, I’m left blissfully alone, free to do anything – or nothing.

(thanks my old colleague Brooke for her excellent post on the joys of commuting…)

It’s not easy being mean…

As regular readers may remember, I asked to be put on antidepressants following my brother’s sudden death in 2011.  This was after counselling didn’t really help and on the advice of lots of friends and family.

18 months later I came off them, but later went back when I wasn’t coping particularly well.

October 2014 I felt well enough to start coming off them once again, slowly reducing my (already very low) dose; and just before New Year’s I finished my last packet, feeling reasonably confident that I would be OK.

January was not a good month for me, not a good month at all; but I persevered.

February couldn’t have been any worse than January, and I did feel better. Mostly.

What’s been difficult since is the sudden change of moods – and not just for me, but for my nearest and dearest, who can never be quite sure how I’m going to react to, well, anything really.

It’s not easy for them – it’s not easy for me either, but they’re the ones on the sharp end.

Anyway, the main problem is how unpredictable my moods can be. Sometimes I feel just about back to my old self: tolerant, laid back and ready to face the future. Other times – particularly on Saturdays for some reason – I struggle to stop myself snapping at the slightest perceived slight.

I read an article the other day stating something supremely obvious that I’d somehow forgotten over the last few years, which is that children don’t want lavish gifts and money, what they want is your love and attention.

We don’t have an awful lot of the former, but it struck me that even some of the latter had gone missing in action (the attention part, not the love). It struck me because I played Mr Potato-Head with Amber Sunday morning, and realised I hadn’t done this in a long time, just sat and played with her.

potatoheadI realised how important it really was when she came back to me twice in the afternoon asking to play Mr Potato-Head again. Nothing else, just play a silly Mr Potato-Head game with her with silly voices and a little bit of imagination and laughter.

And I was embarrassed to ask myself: How did you forget something so simple?

The Art of the Brick

We took the girls to that hotbed of hipsterism, Shoreditch, on Saturday, to see The Art of the Brick, an art exhibition where everything is made from Lego.

Millie and Munch - The Scream
Millie and Munch – The Scream

I loved Lego as a child – hell, I loved Lego as a teenager! – everyone loves Lego, right? Show me someone who doesn’t love Lego and I’ll… Well, I’ll be disappointed.

Nathan Sawaya, who made all the models in the show, loves Lego, too, and he’s done an amazing job making the blocky limitations of those bricks into a plus rather than a minus.

There are recreations of famous works of art – statues and paintings alike. Up close, these look as disappointingly crude as you’d expect, but stand back a little and make the most of the powerful directional lighting and they look remarkable.

Halfway through, marvelling at how good some of the recreations are I realised Sawaya must have not only built the models but planned the lighting for each one. Seen under a plain overhead white light you’d lose a lot of the detail from each model, but by illuminating them from certain directions the light and shade work together to emphasise particular details in each model.

Lovely Melanie with Lego Cello
Lovely Melanie with Lego Cello

Less clever were Sawaya’s explanations that came with each piece. He really likes referring to himself as an Artist.

And while I enjoyed seeing Lego used so cleverly, enjoyed seeing it taken to places I could never have reached as a child, I’m not convinced it’s Art.

The accompanying captions, explanations and inspirational aphorisms would have embarrassed me when I was doing GCSE Art back in 1988, let alone as a grown-up today.

Should’ve let the Lego do the talking, Mr Sawaya. :-(

Seriously, if you get the chance to see The Art of the Brick (and I highly recommend it) then do yourself a favour and keep your eyes on the Lego.

Handy Amber
Handy Amber

At the end of the exhibition you’re invited to play with some Lego yourself – huge trays full of more Lego than I’ve ever owned. Millie and I dived right in, alongside plenty of other kids with their dads (but curiously few mums…). I built the space station I’d always wanted to, but lacked enough Lego to actually realise; Millie spent ages putting together a sort of Curiosity Mars Rover, and we put them both on display with some other splendid examples of audience participation.

More time was quite probably spent building our own models than looking at Nathan Sawaya’s!

Afterwards we went to Spitalfields Market and had Japanese food at Wagamama’s – my first time Wagamaming!

It was… Yeah, it was quite nice.

Lego Beatles
The Beatlegos

Finally, here’s one image from The Art of the Brick especially for my dad and Carter family uncles – the Lego Beatles!

All taken using my LG ‘phone, these images came out amazingly well considering you weren’t allowed to use a flash.

The Twister Sisters

Amber spends more time than is probably healthy watching YouTube videos. She especially likes two sets of sisters who do crazy stuff online, such as eating chillis or “Russian Roulette” with unmarked tins of food.

Seriously, she spends hours watching these things!

Last week I explained that it wasn’t hard to make a video and stick it online – that’s kind of the point of YouTube!  Why don’t we, I suggested, do our own?

So, this Sunday, we did.  It’s a first effort and has a ramshackle feel, but the girls come across surprisingly well, I think.

The final version took about five or six takes – getting the format right, getting the girls to look at the camera, speak clearly and not ramble. And they were so pleased when I showed them the finished product this morning. So, can I ask a favour – would you mind “liking” their Twister Sisters video, below?

And if you have any requests or suggestions for future videos then let me know – because Millie’s suggestion of “Doing a massive loom band” really isn’t going to cut it!