School Summer Holidays

My determination to stay positive following our lovely holiday in Kos remains strong. And how could it not after a day like yesterday? ūüôā

wpid-20150730_091433.jpgFirst, there was this piece of paper left carelessly on the sofa¬†by Amber. If you can decode the¬†handwriting it’s a presentation she’s written talking about my BLISS award (you remember the BLISS award, right?)

Where did this come from? Who will she be presenting it to? Are there PowerPoint slides to accompany it? No one knows. She just upped and decided to write a presentation about BLISS awards.

But it made me very happy and earned her a huge hug.

Second, as it’s the school holidays, and I had the day off to look after them, so we went to Peckham to see¬†Inside Out, the new Pixar film.

wpid-20150730_130352.jpgPeckham might seem like a strange choice, but I go there with my friends Nick and Si most Tuesdays¬†to see a film (Tuesday is cheap night at Peckham’s premier cinematic experience, the PeckhamPlex!) I’ve taken the girls to the Bexleyheath Cineworld¬†many times, but that’s a rather soul-less and expensive complex. Peckham’s¬†not the best cinema in the world but, like a slightly down-at-heel¬†old pub, it has personality, which¬†I like.

It’s a slightly smelly and crazy¬†personality, but a personality nonetheless. ūüôā

And I discovered you can get from our local station, Albany Park, to Peckham Rye in less than 45 minutes. At least, you can in the daytime.

At 10am yesterday I was in my dressing gown at home looking at showtimes on the computer. By 11.15 the girls and I were stood outside the PeckhamPlex.

To me, that’s¬†remarkable. To you, maybe not so much.

The girls loved Inside Out, as did I, and were completely unfazed by Peckham. Well, except for the obligatory crazy guy roaring and shouting at people inside Peckham Rye station. That left them a little confused, but we could only hear and not see him, so they laughed that off.

And the pi√®ce de r√©sistance for the day? My installation of¬†the brand-new Windows 10 on my PC. I was almost disappointed as it downloaded, began to install and…finished installing, without a single white-knuckle moment.

In¬†the old days when there’d be code appearing¬†on the screen, the monitor would flash, you’d get a cryptic error message and the whole thing would just hang for about an hour. Eventually¬†you’d have restart,¬†ignoring all the warnings that said “DO NOT RESTART YOUR COMPUTER DURING THIS PROCESS!”

Then, following¬†three more ill-advised restarts, when Windows actually started, it wouldn’t recognise your Internet connection, all your thousands of mp3 files would be appended with “Copy” and half your programs would crash when you opened them.

Nope. Windows 10 installed itself, restarted and worked perfectly. Hell, I even like some of the new built-in Microsoft applications!

Kos

Annnnd…we’re back from our summer holiday.

It’s taken a bit of getting used to – Kos was relentlessly warm, sunny and delightful, it’s hard to believe how cool¬†and wet it is back at home. Apparently you had a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours?¬†Sorry to hear that. ūüė¶

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I’ve uploaded 70-odd photos of our holiday to Flickr.¬†There won’t be a test or anything, so you don’t have to look at them, just, y’know, if you feel like it.

Kos was¬†so beautiful and warm and friendly and just…just¬†everything you I want from a holiday. Our hotel, Tigaki’s Star, was clean and quiet, the staff helpful but¬†unobtrusive, the sea crystal clear, the sand glittered¬†as though made of gemstones, the sky endlessly blue, the food delicious…

I could go on. ūüôā

We spent roughly four days round the hotel pool: me, the Lovely Melanie, the girls and my mum and dad; four days spent reading and lounging and sleeping and swimming and eating.

The girls Рespecially Amber Рspent most of their time in the pool: hours and hours and hours swimming, splashing, laughing, jumping in, diving to the bottom, holding their breath, doing handstands, playing with inflatables.

They spent literally half their day in that pool!

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But we also visited the main beach at Tigaki a 20-minute walk away; that was a bit hot and crowded. Fortunately, we¬†discovered another cooler, quieter one just four minutes away. Probably one of the nicest beaches I’ve ever visited. ūüôā

There was a day at a water park, a visit to Kos Town, a trip into the hills one evening to see the sunset Рwhich never failed to amaze, but were amazing-squared seen from a restaurant in the hills.

Thanks to the people of Kos for making our stay so lovely. Before we left the UK we heard a lot of negative things about Greece at the moment, both from individuals and in the media. Preferring to make our own minds up we went anyway, which was unquestionably the right thing to do.

Greece may have its problems, but the Greek people are not one of them.

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And an extra special thanks to the¬†medical centre and the pharmacy who helped me out when I realised I hadn’t brought enough insulin for the holiday (due to a confusion about boxes while packing in the UK). The medical centre assistant, who spoke English, sent me straight to the pharmacist, who also spoke English, and she called her boss for help. He spoke English, too, and within three hours I had enough insulin for the entire holiday.

Thank you all for turning a minor holiday drama into an¬†upbeat, positive story. ūüôā

It’s back to work¬†now but¬†feeling so much better than a week ago. Not only¬†physically refreshed but mentally refreshed and full of positivity.

Hopefully I can hold onto this positive energy and use it to do some good. ūüôā

School reports

Of relatively little interest to¬†those not genetically related, but¬†Millie and Amber both had glowing¬†end-of-term school reports yesterday. ūüôā

Millie, now in Year 5, got an A+ for Reading, and A’s for almost everything else (except Science and ¬†– unsurprisingly – PE).

She also had a lovely summation from her teacher, Mrs Chitambara (also known as “Mrs Chitty-Bang-Bang”), who wrote that¬†Millie has had a “wonderful year” and¬†would be sorely missed.¬†As much as I want my children to grow up smart and educated, this testament to Millie’s (mostly) sweet nature was a real¬†highlight of this year’s¬†report.

Amber’s Year 2 report was also covered in A’s (just a couple¬†of B’s) and her teachers (she has two) particularly complimented her efforts¬†to control her talkative nature. She’s still the chatty, outgoing, friendly little thing¬†she always was, but has improved her¬†self-control (basically, she’s gotten much better at shutting up and listening!)

I was really pleased that Amber’s grade for Maths had gone up to an A for effort and¬†for attainment, but¬†surprised¬†to hear that it’s now her favourite lesson.

Both girls got some extra pocket money and a great big hug for doing so well. ūüôā

Dungeness

Dungeness is a weird¬†place,” a friend told me at the pub on Friday. “It’s just¬†weird.

We should go there!” everyone agreed. So the girls and I did, on Sunday,¬†with a mission to gather seashells.

My dad stayed at the weekend, part of his annual trip to Wimbledon with the Lovely Melanie. He drove up, which meant we had a car at our disposal, but my original plan to visit the beach at Camber Sands was scuppered by the rotten weather forecast.

But Dungeness, despite being on the coast, is not a beach excursion; Dungeness is a classic English destination. Rotten weather would only make it a more English day out! So-called patriots with the flag of St George hanging from a window can only dream of being as English as us!

DSCF8294Which is why on Sunday morning we made some sandwiches and weak squash, put¬†raincoats, cardigans and an ironic towel in a bag, and¬†set off down the M20 to visit¬†a nuclear power station and collect sea shells in Britain’s only officially-classified desert.

We were a little late arriving, as Millie got confused following the¬†directions on my phone and we missed three motorway turn-offs. But we we eventually pulled into a car park at Lydd, just down the road from Dungeness proper. The sky was monochrome and¬†the wind brisk, but it wasn’t¬†actually raining, and there were miles of pebbly shingle beach loaded with shells and pebbles.

There was even a film crew working in Lydd beach car park. A man¬†couldn’t contain his amazement that they were filming someone putting rubbish in a bin. “They’re filming someone putting rubbish in a bin!” he shouted at us in amazement, as we climbed out of the car.

Yeah, whatever Hollywood – we’re after shells!

And, by crikey, we found shells! Ignoring the wind and the steadily building rain we found cockles (with cockles still inside them, much to the girls amazement), mussels, spiral shells, pink shells, yellow shells, big shells, small shells, just…SHELLS!

“Daddy, look at this one!” was the call roughly every 15 seconds.

“Yep, definitely a shell,” I’d reply (except for the one time when Amber¬†had found a piece of plastic) or “Nice one,” and “That’s a beauty.”

Never have I seen anyone so fascinated¬†by shells – these two are¬†natural marine biologists. I’d seldom seen them happier than when scrabbling around Lydd beach on a damp¬†and blustery Sunday morning, half filling their buckets with an impressive collection of shells.

DSCF8247After an hour I¬†decided it was time to move on and head for the¬†mother lode at Dungeness…

Ten minutes up the road was Dungeness, across a landscape that looks to have been missed out when England was being designed, as though one corner of the plans had slipped off the edge of the desk and been overlooked. But then, when the mistake was noticed, the designer panicked and filled it with anything they had lying around: two lighthouses, stranded fishing boats, rusty machinery, wooden cabins, slabs of broken concrete, a nuclear power station, all plonked down amidst miles and miles and miles of pale shingle.

As my friends said, “Dungeness is a weird place!”

The wind was howling, rain was flying parallel to the ground and anyone with a nugget of sense was hiding in the pub (the pub next door to the nuclear power station Рthink about that!)

But after eating our¬†sandwiches in the car the Carter Family were out on the shingle, hunting for shells and having the time of their lives. Every few seconds¬†one or other child would scream, making me think they’d fallen down an abandoned mineshaft or something; but no, it was simply another¬†fine shell¬†added to the ever-growing collection.

DSCF8280Ignoring the wind and rain, we crunched across the endless shingle desert; me, surprised by the radiation detectors and amazed by the abandoned boats; the girls, staggered by the number and variety and size of shells, filling first their pockets, then mine, with them.

As requested, the girls also kept their eyes peeled for white stones for Uncle Trev’s grave.¬†A¬†small handful of candidates were found, including one that’s in the shape of a heart.¬†Trev would have liked that, just as he’d have loved the day had he been there. ūüôā

Once we got home the girls went into the garden to sort through their haul, throwing away the rubbish then¬†washing, grading and sorting each¬†shell, placing it carefully in its assigned place as though these were the archives of the Natural History Museum (Amber’s classification system was a bit more…open than Millie’s. Their methodology reflecting, I think, their¬†psychology).

Now we only need to figure out what to¬†do with all these shells. There was talk of going round the neighbours and selling them – perhaps in¬†necklaces, perhaps as “raw” shells – but I tried to discourage that (especially as our¬†neighbours were out, too – well within earshot!)

I had some vague ideas of using them to decorate the garden, but a friend on Facebook had the idea of simply colouring them in with felt-tips (thanks, Emma!).

Anyone want to buy a job lot of hand-picked psychedelic shells…?

Minion Mayhem at the Movies

When you’re ten years old, the time¬†for birthday parties is past.

wpid-wp-1436175823374.jpegWell, not¬†quite, but there’s a higher level of sophistication expected by your guests.

Which is why on Saturday I found myself at Bella Italia in Bexleyheath with the Lovely Melanie, Amber and four¬†ten-year-olds: Millie’s delightful friends Ione, Megan, Emma and Allyse.

They had a separate table from us, giving the illusion of being grown-ups with the freedom to chat about boys and friends and whatever else ten-year-olds talk about these days. Amber clearly wanted to be sat with them rather than her parents, taking every opportunity to slip away and see what the big girls were doing.

There was a little bit of¬†squealing, about ten group trips to the toilet over the course of an hour and lots of chatter with the waitresses – just like grown-ups. ūüôā

wpid-wp-1436175915143.jpegAfter saying ciao bella to Bella Italia with a picture of them all on a scooter (Amber somehow slipping in there, too) we took them all next door to see the Minions movie, which, I confess, was pretty funny.

Stupid, but none the worse for that. ūüôā

Here I realised that groups of pre-pubescent girls simply¬†cannot¬†keep their emotions to themselves – they just¬†have¬†to¬†shout “Ahhh…!” or “So cute!” when anything remotely sad or cute happens (seriously, they can’t help themselves.¬†As a boy, I find this weird).

And finally, Millie’s friend Megan came back with us for a sleepover. We would have liked to have all of them to stay but…

Actually, no, what the hell am I saying?? Two excited ten-year-olds were more than enough!

Ahh, no, two excited – but tired – ten-year-olds were just fine, even¬†rather sweet to watch (and occasionally¬†overhear), somewhat¬†awkwardly straddling the gap between children and teenagers. ūüôā

And the final act of this tenth birthday is just playing out: after a gentle chat about what she could/should spend her ¬£100 birthday money on (and regular¬†admonitions not¬†to spend it all on cuddly animals¬†or novelty¬†stationery) Millie chose to buy…a tablet.

We spent an exciting¬†afternoon on eBay with me explaining how bidding and buy-it-now¬†worked, as well as¬†the basics to be aware of when¬†buying IT products. The Lovely Melanie dropped by at one point to wryly note that I was loving every second of this – and I couldn’t argue, I was. ūüôā

With¬†an absolute maximum of ¬£100 to spend, we found Millie a fantastic ¬£70 tablet, a¬†Nvidia Advent VEGA Tegra Note 7¬†(no, I know, you’ve never heard of it, but for what Millie wants and can afford it is¬†perfect!).

It should arrive tomorrow (Tuesday). And let’s hope it does because Millie’s talked of nothing else for the last 24 hours. Gotta love that little geek child of mine. ūüėÄ

Everyone’s doing it

We’re not sure what¬†it is precisely, but Millie’s class has been struck by the Cup-crackin’ Bexley Beatbox Craze.

Bonny¬†brought it in, everyone else saw it and before you could say Excuse me Doug E. Fresh, you’re on!¬†it’s a mini-craze.

This one I quite like – the way the rhythm rises up out of the chaos…

Hot in the city

2am in the morning, I’ve just gotten to sleep on the hottest night¬†of the year after a two-hour journey home with a migraine.

hot weather_mapOur bedroom is¬†baking, I’m utterly exhausted and sticking to the sheets, as is the Lovely Melanie. Then Millie wakes us up to tell us there’s a spider in her room.

The Lovely Melanie tells her¬†we’ll sort it in the morning. Millie starts to whine that she doesn’t like spiders. I tell Millie to get the hell back to bed.

Millie starts to cry. Amber wakes up and asks what’s occurring.¬†I tell Millie to get the hell back to bed.

I’m so hot and tired I almost cry. Millie now¬†is crying about a spider that’s so small we can’t see it.

The Lovely Melanie waves the spider-catcher around in the general direction and declares it gone. I tell Millie to get the hell back to bed.

Stepping back into the bedroom the heat has gone nuclear. I give up and decide to fetch the big fan from the attic. This will require the step ladder.

The Lovely Melanie tells me not to be ridiculous, it’s two in the morning. I’m tempted to point out that it’s also at least 30 degrees C, but instead go downstairs and lie on the hard floor. It is¬†wonderful.

In the distance, the Lovely Melanie can be heard telling Millie to get the hell back to bed…