May you live in Interesting Times

We are rapidly approaching the end of the academic year.  A year that has been momentous for all three Baguettes in varying degrees.  Éowyn moved to the big campus and automatically went from being one of the bigger children in a small pond, to one of the smallest in a larger pond.  In addition to this change of location (and a change of teacher half-way through the school year) school work started to become more serious: there was homework and regular spelling tests culminating in her end of Key Stage 1 SATs.  Amélie’s year was, arguably more momentous as she began her journey through full-time education with her reception teacher Miss Snow while Ezra begun his journey of school (or pre-school) life taking advantage of the 15 hours of child care that the government provides for over threes.

All three of the Baguettes enjoy school and that shows in their varying success in their respective development.  Amélie is progressing well with her reading and writing and maths.  Indeed she has rapidly progressed through the reading levels, finishing the year on level 10, one of only two that have reached those dizzying heights.  Her writing is coming along and she has begun to create little books filling the pages with stories.  She has also, in some ways more importantly, made some good friends that she so desperately wanted to do at the start of the year.

Éowyn, too, has progressed well.  The previous school year saw her move schools and to a teacher that she didn’t get on with and this upheaval and disenchantment therefore meant she did not progress to her potential.  This has been highlighted with hindsight in how she has progressed this year and how hard she works for a teacher she likes.  Indeed, not only a teacher that she likes but teachers she likes.  Éowyn’s first teacher of year 2, Miss Bernath left at Christmas to travel around Australia and was substituted by Miss Jetten.  Éowyn responded well to both teachers and their respective teaching styles, progressing well in both numeracy and literacy.  Indeed, since Miss Jetten took over and homework has changed she has scored 10/10 in every spelling test – only one of two in the class to have done so.

This may sound like it should be something that Éowyn and, indeed Lucinda and I would be proud of, and yes, we are however until last week we didn’t realise the pressure Éowyn was feeling.  A constant stream of 10/10’s is definitely something to be proud of but it heightens expectations, not from Lucinda and me as such but from Éowyn herself.  She begun to think that we would be disappointed in her if she got 9/10 or less.  We didn’t think we had ever given her this impression and thought we were doing the right thing praising her for her outstanding marks, but that was not what was going through her mind.  This came to a culmination and thankfully a resolution when she tried to fake illness on the day of her spelling test.  Parents have an innate ability to detect fake illnesses and so we realised something was up and made Éowyn go to school.  Wanting to get to the bottom of it I sat Éowyn down in the evening to find out what the problem was.

It was then that she confessed that she thought that we would shout at her or be disappointed in her if she didn’t get 10/10.  You can imagine how we felt: the archetypal pushy parents.  We had both been trying to praise her for her outstanding scores not put pressure on her to keep that 100% record going but somehow we had got the balance wrong.  So, we had a long chat about how test marks are not something to get upset and worried about; doing your best is important but never worry about exams.  Exams can’t measure the important things and certainly can’t measure you as a person, just whether you have a got a good memory.  Yes, Mommy and Daddy are happy when you do well in a test but Mommy and Daddy are also happy when you read Ezra a story, or cuddle Amélie when she is upset or help Mommy to lay the table or help Daddy in the garden.  These things are much more important that whether you can spell ‘discussion‘.  We will have to keep an eye on this for the future.

The end of the academic year also means a number of things ubiquitous to schools up and down the country and so it is for the Baguettes.  Éowyn and Amélie has their respective end of year discos, held on the same day though not at the same time.  Amélie’s was straight after school, then there was an hour or so break for the teachers to tidy the school hall ready for the slightly older children in years 1,2 and 3.  They both enjoyed their discos, dressing up and taking a little handbag with some money that they could spend on sweets, drinks, tattoos and glowing rings.  When I came home from work, Amélie had returned from her disco and was shattered, getting ready for bed so I picked up Éowyn (and our neighbour’s son Blake).

Éowyn and Blake were hyper when I picked them up.  They couldn’t stop talking and telling me all about the evening and the amount of sweets that they had eaten.  There is no proof that high levels of sugar caused children to behave hyperactively (is that a word), however I think sweets coupled with the excitement of being at a disco with all your friends didn’t help.  It was like walking home with slightly drunk friends who can’t stop giggling and half tell you stories that make no sense to your sober mind.

Unfortunately Ezra is a little too young for a disco, however the nursery organised a pirate party for the class.  Ezra was quite excited at home about dressing up as a pirate and looked quite good with his hat, sword and drawn on beard.  He seemed quite happy when I dropped him off and all his friends were dressed in their pirate finery.  When Lucinda picked him up, however, the teachers said that he got a little overwhelmed with all the piratical shenanigans and spent most of the day sat on the lap of one of the teachers.  Poor sensitive soul.

The other main school event found at this time of the year is ‘Sports Day’.   Éowyn and Amélie have been placed in the same house at school and with modern school days being about team effort rather than sporting prowess, we knew it was going to save arguments and were thankful.  However they had to wait a little longer than we expecting for this year’s sports day.  The weather this spring and early summer has been awful, cold and wet and the weather was so bad that the event was postponed for an extra ten days (and even then nearly didn’t go ahead on the second date).  Indeed, the weather has been so bad that we have, on more than one occasion, serious considered lighting the fire.  1st July 2015 saw temperatures approaching 37ºC, 1st July 2016 it barely touched 17ºC, however Summer will start soon.

Therefore, Ezra had his Sports Day before the girls.  Ezra isn’t very sporting, he can be lazy and you don’t find him running around for the sake of running.  Therefore, it was no surprise that he didn’t win any races for in addition to his inherent unsportyness (another new word for you all) he is one of the youngest at nursery.  Some of the other children are 18 months older than him and when you are three, 18 months is a significant percentage of your age.  Nevertheless in the spirit of ‘no one is a loser’ Ezra received his medal (real plastic gold) of which he was very proud.

Éowyn and Amélie’s Sport Day was all about team races and therefore eliminating the individuality of the races (for both eliminating individual competitiveness and because with 90 children per year and 3 years worth of pupils, it would probably take a two-week tournament to involve all children in all races individually).  As mentioned both girls were in ‘Yellow’ house and so the result didn’t really matter, however it was the icing on the cake that ‘Yellow’ won!

Discos, parties and Sports Days are not the only things that have been happening since the last update.  Amélie has taken a bit step towards growing up: she had her first solo sleepover at her best friends.  Amélie has had one sleepover before but with Éowyn at Éowyn’s best friend, and has had sleepovers with the other Baguettes at Nanny Fran’s but this was her first on her own.  She had a fantastic time and was impeccably behaved and so can go again!

Despite the weather we have had recently we have nonetheless had invites to a couple of barbecues.  The first was Lucinda’s friend Lisca.  Lisca and her family live in High Wycombe and the barbecue was in part to celebrate her birthday and as a good-bye for her, Theo and the kids are moving to Norfolk.  There will be no more nipping over for a Saturday afternoon barbecue, Norfolk is a tad further than High Wycombe.

The second barbecue of the weekend was a little closer to hand: next door.  Our next door neighbours are completely renovating their house and building a two storey extension so, somewhat ironically, it has brought us closer together as neighbours as we have had lots of, amicable, discussions about the work.  We felt very blessed to be invited and kids loved playing in their big garden, especially since they had hired two large inflatables: a bungee run and a basketball game.  It must be the ‘in-thing’ to do at barbecues for Lisca and Theo had hired a bouncy castle at their barbecue.  We will have to buck up our ideas for our next soiree.

‘May you live in Interesting Times,’ is oft purported to be a Chinese curse.  The saying is apocryphal and there is no such evidence of its use in China.  The closest Chinese expression is ‘Better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a human in a chaotic period,’ and that is exactly how we find ourselves at the moment.  I could write reams about my feelings regarding the result of the E.U. referendum but this is not the forum.  However, I will say that it is extremely concerning that the political elite that offered this choice to the general public to placate voters of a far right party had no plan of what to do if the ‘leave’ side won because they are so out of touch with the general public that they never truly believe that the ‘Leave’ vote would win.  But win they did and since that vote, the Prime Minister has resigned, the leader of the Brexit campaign has resigned (because he really didn’t want to win), the leader of UKIP whose raison d’être was to leave the European Union has resigned because his job is done.  The Labour party are ripping themselves apart because they have a leader than 60% of members like and voted for but none of his M.P.s like and have tried to use this political maelstrom to try to oust him rather than take the Government to task for their lack of vision.  There seems to be no leadership and no direction and no one wants to activate article 50 – which is the no turning back exit from the European Union.  And in our democracy 0.2% of the population are going to decide our new Prime Minister.  ‘(Theresa?) May you live in Interesting Times’.

Work is still manic but for once viewers in the UK can see some our work.  The Caribbean Premier League (T20 Cricket tournament) is happening through July and into August and can currently be seen on ‘Dave’ at 1300 each day (that there is a game).  This is a rerun from the game that will have happened through the previous night, however they are broadcasting a number of games live.  Both the re-runs and the live offerings are coming under my watch so if you find yourself watching cricket on Dave think of us.

Before I leave you today one amusing little tale. Ezra has stopped telling you that he loves you.  If you say that you love him, he will reply with ‘I like you.’  Regardless of the incentives you offer or how many times you tell him that you love him we will only go as far as telling you that he likes you.  Cheeky little tyke!

I will leave you now to enjoy the photos and see you soon.

Peace and Love

Baggie

 

Indian Summer

Thought I would try to sneak in a quick update between Amélie’s fifth birthday and Éowyn’s seventh. There is not a great excuse as in past years, but considering the Indian Summer that we are enjoying then it seems only right and fitting that I celebrate it on the website.

The girls have been at school for over a month now and are settling in nicely.  For Éowyn it is a matter of getting used to being one of the youngest children on campus (even though she is one of the oldest in her year) and for Amélie it is simply being in full-time education.

As you may recall Amélie was getting upset each morning, complaining (mainly to Lucinda) that she didn’t want to go to school.  We spoke to her teacher about this and she said that Amélie was never upset at school.  She walks through the door each morning with a smile on her face and takes an active part in all the day’s activities.  Therefore, our suspicions that Amélie was getting upset not about going to school but about what she was going to miss out with Lucinda seemed to be true.  The fact that Amélie only got upset with Lucinda and not with me, strengthened this suspicion since she wasn’t going to miss out on anything with me, as I was going to work.  She was hoping that the waterworks would work with mommy.  They certainly had an effect on Lucinda, I had to be the bad guy.

That phase is now past.  Amélie doesn’t get upset in a morning, well not that often, there are the occasional wobbles but on the whole she quite happily gets ready and heads off to school with a smile on her face.

As I mentioned in an earlier update, the school have employed not only a traffic light system for disruptive behaviour but a similar system for good behaviour.  There is also a reward system for the class as a whole.  Individually, they can can receive a bronze, silver or gold reward for positive behaviour and as a group the class can earn tokens and when they have reached a pre-agreed amount (1000) they will get a class reward.  Both girls have earned their respective classes token and both girls have been put on bronze multiple times.

In addition I came home from work last Friday to be greeted as I walked through the front door to be told by Éowyn that she had earned the accolade of ‘Star of the Day’.  This was obviously excellent news and Lucinda and I were extremely pleased and told her so.  However, not wanting to be outdone by her big sister Amélie came home on the same day with the news that she was the ‘Star of the Week’, well what could one say?  So as I am praising my two daughters Ezra comes up to tell me that he has earned a butterfly sticker for good behaviour at playgroup.  What a way to end a week!

As the title alludes and the opening paragraph states, we have experienced somewhat of an Indian summer.  This coupled with the fact that I now, for the first time in many years, have two out of every three weekends off we have been able to take advantage of the unseasonal warm temperatures.  We decided that we would also take advantage of our National Trust membership and visit nearby Runnymede.

As anyone with a soupçon of English history will recognise the name Runnymede.  On the 15th June 1215 (800 years ago) King John was forced to cede to certain political reforms by rebel barons incensed by the taxes that King John had levied on them to fund unsuccessful wars against France to regain the ancestral lands that he had lost to King Phillip II.  This agreement was known as the ‘Great Charter’ (Magna Carta in the language of law: Latin).

The Magna Carta carries little weight in modern law but one of its remaining legacies is right to a fair trial by jury.  Therefore, when Surrey County Council and the National Trust commissioned Hew Locke to install a permanent artwork on the ancient meadow to commemorate the 800th anniversary of that historic document the result was ‘The Jurors‘. A dozen bronze chairs each decorated with panels representing significant struggles for freedom and equal rights face each other as if waiting for occupants to sit and debate some topic of importance.  The public are encouraged to sit in the chairs and engage with thoughts that they invoke.

Admittedly it was probably a little too highbrow for the baguettes (teach ’em young) however they did enjoy sitting in the chairs and for some reason Ezra somehow gravitated toward the chair with the panel representing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (see the photo below).  Was it just random? He wasn’t too interested in the panels on the other chairs.  Or did he just know?  I haven’t quite made up my mind on that one!  Perhaps we’ll just go to Legoland next time!

This isn’t the only historic subject that Éowyn has been learning about of late.  At school she had to take in the ubiquitous building block of any school project the empty cereal box.  Each member of the class brought in said box and had to make and decorate a Tudor house.  Éowyn really enjoyed this display of art and duly earned a trip to Bronze for her efforts.  We thought that this was just one of those things that the children do and then they bring it home and you have keep it in a prominent place until they have forgotten about it and dispose of it at some ripe opportunity.  Not so, for Éowyn’s Tudor house.

Not really the Tudor era (although undoubtedly there would still be Tudor house around), Éowyn’s class is also learning about the Great Fire of London of 1666 (another of those historical dates that the majority of people born in these isles would know).  To demonstrate the devastation that the fire wrought and why it spread so quickly the year 2 classes placed their ‘houses’ in streets in the school playground and the teachers set a fire in one house and watched it spread around the cardboard London.  What a great demonstration and something that they will all remember.  When I found out what they were doing I was disappointed that I had to go to work and couldn’t stay and watch the fireworks.  I quite enjoy a good fire!

Building Tudor houses hasn’t been Éowyn only display of artistic tendencies of late.  She also decided to write a song for ‘Show and Tell’.  A photograph of the first draft can be seen on our Flickr pages replete with musical notation for the percussion solo (a homemade shaker – a plastic bottle filled with toy beads), ignore the atrocious spelling.  The transcript (with correct spelling) is in the postscript to this update.  Not a Lennon and McCartney but not a bad first attempt I am sure you will agree.

Éowyn’s spelling is getting better as she has a weekly spelling test in addition to her daily reading and weekly athletics homework. She has been recently moved up a level in reading and thus the books are a little more difficult.  Nevertheless she reads them quite well and blends the words that she doesn’t know.  However occasionally there are slips of the tongue which are quite amusing to the 9-year-old inside of me.  The mis-reading of the word busy as busty and the phrase solid bed as soiled bed, made me smile and made Éowyn guffaw when I explained the joke.  Bad father, I know!

Amélie has also begun reading and it is now nice that we have to sit down with them both and help them to read.  It is something that we both enjoy doing at the end of the day as it gives you a little bit of quiet time with just one of the children without feeling bad that you are not attending to the others at the same time.  Lucinda and I take it in turns so that the other can focus on the other two allowing that special time for some one on one learning.

Before I leave you today it has to be noted that the earliest recorded Bewick’s swan has been sighted on our shores.  This Siberian visitor overwinters in the UK to escape the bitter cold of its homeland.  An early sighting normally heralds a cold winter.  Indeed there is a Russian saying: The Swan brings snow on his bill and this is because they tend to be just ahead of the cold weather.  This is not that far off the truth in the fact that although we are still enjoying sunny days it has turned much colder lately and heavy snow has fallen across Poland and Germany and France, Belgium and the Netherlands have had snow fall.  So put aware the summer clothes, turn the heating on and get the winter coats out of the wardrobe, as the Starks would say: Winter is Coming.

Peace and Love

Baggie

PS.  Éowyn’s song in full:

When I woke up I saw a butterfly and a bee flying sweetly, aren’t they precious?

They made me smile, smile, smile.

Come on and celebrate and sing to nature 🎶🎶🎶

Celebrate and smile, smile, smile 🎶

Sing, sing, sing 🎶

Come on and we can celebrate,

Celebrate and sing to nature

And everyone will see that nature is beautiful.

Are you sure it is only six weeks?

August is always a lean month on Baggie and Lucy dot com mainly due to the start of the football seasons, which keeps me busy at work and the fact that, along with millions of other parents, the kids are to be entertained.  Thus there is little time left for tinkering on computers and little time to keep you abreast of the trials and tribulations of the Bagnall family.

So with Éowyn heading back to school (Amélie has a few more days!), what has happened since the Bagnalls returned from Flookburgh and the Lake District?  Six weeks is a long time so forgive me if there are omissions.

In an attempt to break the holiday up and prevent the girls from getting too bored we signed them up for a couple of courses.  Neither of our girls are very strong swimmers, something that we want to rectify, so the first of the courses we signed them up for was swimming.  Not that Éowyn really needed any encouragement but her best friend (from her previous school) Aaliyah was also signed up for the week.  Thus the added incentive was that after every lesson she got to play with Aaliyah, a whole week of playing with her best friend!

It seems that the girls have inherited my swimming ability.  It appears that I am denser than fresh water.  In swimming pools (not the sea) my resting suspension is about 6 inches (15cm) below the surface of the water.  Therefore to prevent drowning I need to keep swimming, hence I have never been a strong swimmer and it appears than neither of my girls have a natural affinity to water.  Nevertheless it is an important skill to have and so once they are settled back at school we will be signing them up for more swimming lessons.

The second course, only Éowyn could attend for Amélie wasn’t old enough, and again attended with her best friend Aaliyah.  Cheerleading isn’t the first course that one would naturally think of as a one week session but we thought that Éowyn would enjoy it.  The idea of combining gymnastics with teamwork appealed to us as something that would also be good for Éowyn.

The culmination of the week’s work was a performance at the Rainbow Nursery summer fair in Lyne.  Fortunately, the weather held off and so the field didn’t turn into a swamp.  The girls’ performance was the first of many acts, which was nice as they didn’t get too nervous.  Éowyn and Aaliyah were the youngest of the troupe and so didn’t do many of the over-complicated moves.  Nevertheless Éowyn’s forward roll was executed to perfection and was steadfast as the base of the human pyramid.

Éowyn wasn’t over-enamoured with cheerleading, which surprised us somewhat, but it is possibly due to the fact that it was such a quick course: four days, all leading up to a performance.  Therefore there was no time to develop the skills that she was lacking.  If you could do a cartwheel, you did one in the performance.  If you couldn’t, you didn’t.  There was no time to teach them how to do a cartwheel, and I think that was endemic throughout the skills.  In fairness, it was a taster session and thus wasn’t designed to develop skills but to use the strengths they already have but unfortunately it may just have put her off.  We will see.

As alluded to above, August has not been the greatest of months weather-wise, in the UK at least.  Temperatures below average, sunshine (and thus my electrical output) below average, rainfall: the fifth wettest August on record. Despite the Bagnalls usual stoicism in the face of such inclemencies even we decided not to incur the wrath of Indra (insert rain deity of your choice) that frequently and risk too many far-flung days out.

Lucinda took Amélie and Ezra to Legoland (Éowyn was having a play date).  Fortunately, the rain deity of the day was looking upon the Bagnalls with kind eyes and it was one of the warmer days.  Unfortunately, this meant two things: a) Legoland was packed and 75 minutes was not an unusual queue time and b) the wasps were out in numbers.  Amélie currently has a real phobia around any kind of flying insect – to the point of hysterics if there is a fly in the house.  Obviously, we can’t let that continue and are trying to help her overcome this problem, although with wasps she probably has a point!

Unusually for me in August, I managed to secure 5 days off in row.  Unfortunately the weather was awful so we concentrated on jobs around the house and visiting friends in the local area.  Nevertheless we decided that we would have at least one big day out.  Initially, we thought that we would head to the seaside, however unsure that the weather would hold we decided to head to Frensham ponds.

Frensham Common and ponds cover about 1000 acres lying between Farnham and Hindhead.  The common is heathland with two large ponds known as Frensham Great and Little Ponds, and great for wildlife watchers.  But we headed there for its sandy beach and to bathe in the Great Pond.  Angling and Sailing are also available for member of those clubs but there is a special area for swimming.  Unfortunately, the weather was more Autumnal rather than Augustal (if there is such a word).  Indeed shorts were a very bad idea as I sat freezing on the sand.  Even paddling in the pond was out because there was a bloom of blue-green algae which meant that the pond was closed to the public.  However, we made the best of the weather eating our picnic and building sandcastles and reflected that we were glad that we hadn’t headed to the seaside!

The flipside of 5 days off was that I managed to sign myself up for 9 days in a row.  Therefore Lucinda decided to take the kids to visit Nanny Fran in West Bromwich.  Although it was a flying visit (they were only there for two days) they all enjoyed themselves as they usually do in West Bromwich.  I, however, was not having as much fun.  I got home on the Tuesday night and decided to have a Chinese takeaway for tea.  Now whether it was the Chinese takeaway (fingers point at the Prawns on Toast) or whether I picked up a bug I spent most of the night with my head down the toilet.  Now, I now I need to lose a few extra pounds but that wasn’t the way I intended to do it.  Unfortunately I had an important meeting the next day and so after a couple of hours of sleep I dragged myself into work, had the meeting then headed home.  In a deluge.  The rain was coming down so fast that the drains couldn’t cope and the car park at work and our street had inches of standing water. I got home crawled into bed and fell asleep until Lucinda returned home with the kids in blazing sunshine.  For a split second I thought I had been asleep for days such was the difference in weather conditions.

The summer has also been a time for changes in the house.  We have decorated our bedroom and en suite and Ezra’s bedroom.  We have moved a couple of radiators around which has enabled us to change the furniture around in the house making the lounge more cozy and exposing the wall where we are going to have a chimney and wood burner installed.  For if the summer is anything to go by we could be in for a cold and snowy winter and so the extra warmth from a wood burner would be most welcome.

The summer has also seen Ezra growing up.  His speech is coming along and he is saying a new word nearly everyday.  Although some of his phrases are rather strange.  One that he spontaneously came out with was ‘I don’t like mayonnaise‘.  Not sure why he said it, as we were not offering him any mayonnaise, so we laughed.  This only agitated him further and started to get irate shouting ‘I don’t like mayonnaise!‘  I think we have the message!

This week is an important week in the girls lives.  Éowyn will enter year two and the large campus of her school while Amélie will start full-time education.  Both will be worthy of their own entries so stay tuned.

In preparation for Amélie’s first day, her teacher miss Snow came for a home visit.  Amélie was very excited and showed her some of her favourite toys and more importantly her new school shoes.  Miss Snow said that she thinks she has seen all of her new pupils school shoes.  Must be something very important to all of the new starters.

With those teasers I will leave you there and keep an eye for those updates as well as the Flickr pages as there will be new photos uploaded in the next few days.

Peace and Love

 

Baggie