Friday, 27 December 2013

Becoming spasmodic

grit's day is changing, oh yes indeed. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are growing up; the heavy-hanging awareness of being suddenly called to account by a Local Council is receding; and I am about to throw myself into that other great purpose of my life, my Knicker Drawers.

I hope the everyday blog has been helpful, in the sometimes, and maybe between-times, as a routine voice of ordinaryness, encouragement, inspiration, suggestion of places to go, things to do, showing a home ed way of life not so very different, but very different once stepped outside school.

In truth, the daily diary is becoming so very less important than so many other projects. My Knicker Drawers are growing very large in my life. And now, in place of grit's day, I need to follow those other lines of thinking and doing. It is there where I need to pause, consider, reflect on a whole first year of business from craft, plan, pay back some of my intellectual debts, experiment, explore, create new beautiful pieces, focus on those I want to reach, book some larger shows, and talk to people who can help.

I shall keep grit's day as our educational record, rather than an evening place to go. I'll post when I feel the need, or when I remember to take the photograph.

Love, Grit xx

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

End of term report?

English. We do that monthly reading group, so are wading our deliberate, slow way through the canon, with as much loud reading as I can manage. Audio disks help. As do movies. Also, leaving the offspring alone for days so they can sink properly, deeply, into eighteenth century airs, raising their heads only for beans on toast. Suffice to say, this approach can raise bibliophiles. I murmur, half to myself and half to Squirrel, 'Sense and Sensibility? We should read that'. She answers, 'I already did. Twice'.

Maths. Don't know. Dig has paid money for a new computer resource bank, and he has been gamely teaching programming to the Gritties Jnrs. It all sounds logical and procedural, so I'm counting it as maths. Shark surprised me the other night by saying she found statistics easier than she expected. Statistics? I have no idea what she's on about.

Latin. Lingua Latina keeps us in order. She manages fortnightly homework, makes us all play games, and comments on the appallingness that is Shark's handwriting. This week it is the Latin Christmas Party, which involves cake, cake, Latin and cake. Otherwise, I support the Classics endeavour; Shark, Squirrel and Tiger have begun reading Homer's Odyssey in all its variations, tellings, and retellings. And you can bet I shall be soon getting out Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn.

Geography. Cake all the way on that one.

Chemistry. Thank goodness I farmed out that one! It's so relieving and relaxing to be an administrator; I am almost totally relieved of the pressure of responsibility. The fear of failing to be entertaining and informative with a bag of caustic soda and a pint of vinegar has almost totally left me.

Do the Gritties do any other subjects? Maybe they do, but they mix the day in a seamless segue of many disciplines, skiving off to watch Horrible Histories, then commenting loudly on Henry VII or Vlad the Impaler. Sub-aqua diving, weekly, if it counts as sport for Shark, and then wide games for them all. Wide games is coming along brilliantly; it involves running about trees trying to pick off an enemy.

Everyone is doing splendidly. (Apart from the handwriting. Spelling. General organisation. Physics. And time-keeping.) Now, what else can I say, but gold stars, all round.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Carmen at the ROH

Superb performance at the Royal Opera House. Home educators can apply for the schools events, even if the language coming from the ROH can be a little teacher-heavy; doesn't matter if you're in a large or small group.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Universities UK? SHAMEFUL

So I gather together my FEMALE children who are GIRLS; my DAUGHTERS who are named - for the purposes of their underground FEMINIST activities from this point - Shark, Squirrel and Tiger.

I gather my children round my kitchen table and, with great restraint, do not show them how to create a home-made incendiary device.

No! I am grown up. I advocate other non-direct forms through which to demonstrate, protest, register my civil disobedience, and generally name-and-shame Universities UK, such as here, in my tiny allotment in blogland.

Because here is this week's situation, girl children of mine, my Women Warriors.

A Speaker (Mister X) says he will happily take up his right to freedom of speech in a university setting. But. Only if you, girl children, behave in ways of which he approves.

Such ways are simple. Sit where he wants you to sit, behave how he requires, and next year, in possibility, dress how he wants.

And why? Because he has a genuinely held religious belief. This, according to Universities UK, trumps your rights to freedom of choice and freedom of association. Your rights are of lesser worth than his. Because your rights are based on a history of movement towards equality for men and women, and his rights are based on a sky god.


Yet gender segregation may be very wise!! Because, as every man knows, a woman's vagina is dangerous and irresponsible. Vaginas run amok at any moment, tempting men's dingly danglies. Men, who are weak, and unable to control making a blithering idiot of themselves at every opportunity, need to be protected. So, we could lock up all owners of vaginas in black shrouds where the vulnerable male is spared from such wanton temptation.


I find a list is useful when my stomach is in full boil and the fingers are all jabby.

Daughters, have a list.

1. The moment anyone tells you they have a genuinely held religious belief, do not allow them to use this to claim authority, power, or moral ascendancy over you. Their belief does not give them more rights than you.

2. If any situation, constructed by people who have a genuinely held religious belief, denies you an equal freedom of choice or a freedom of association, then speak out on that injustice.

3. If anyone demands special treatment as a result of their genuinely held religious belief, question their demands closely. Equal male and female treatment in public places, social settings, and on a university campus - which should value intellectual rigour - is your right. Social niceties can oil the way or obscure the view. But they do not replace your right, and expectation, to equal treatment.

4. If anyone tells you that because of this genuinely held religious belief then we must respect and make normal the separation of people at a lecture/speaking event in a UK University, based on their gender/skin colour/hair colour/class background/ability to draw an orange, then I, Mother Spirit, expect you, Women Daughters, to protest. LOUDLY. Make your protest known at all levels in this society, from the top to the bottom, and back again.

5. If a speaker tells you they will only take up their right of freedom of speech if you, Woman, behave in a way that he demands, then you can be sure he is about to say exactly what you can't trust.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Find your local STEM

Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. We attend the Christmas set at the OU today. Honestly, these lectures can be audience aware, age-appropriate, and as a home educator you get to think, thank goodness someone is standing up talking about techie stuff they know.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013


Tiger joins the Central London Art Group for a workshop on Dürer, held at the Courtauld Institute. Me, I'm thrilled to see those beautiful fluid lines expressing character and mood in every turn. And isn't he handsome in those self portraits? Tiger, she's less excited. Maybe he didn't draw enough horses.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Monday, 9 December 2013

Probably out of step with the nation

Repeating the Christmas nativity story. In Latin.

(Ignore the one with the metal detector. He cannot keep his trumpet aloft.)

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Gone to market (day 2)

Selling my lovely, lovely notebooks at Marston Vale forest centre. I said farewell to my favourite witch confection, offering magic wand, animal bone and blackbird feather, but the homage to Sherlock is still waiting for the right customer to come along.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Forget about the market (day 1)

Mama stands all day at her craft stall, selling lovelylicious notebooks - which I would happily describe to you in intimate detail until your ears fall off - but her achievement is of no significance today.

It is that time of year when Smalltown disgorges onto the streets in its wicker-and-fire festival.

Newcomers, you may see this in terms of its sinisterness and perversion. And I could not explain otherwise, really, because no-one round here knows why. Like all fine local traditions, it just is.

Fetch Edward Woodward. His time is come.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Making wreaths

So it felt like we were creating funeral wreaths for Mandela but, honestly, that was not in my mind when I set the dates for wreath making.

And this one is nearly circular.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

And the paper-based evidence

Yes, education of your recognisable variety goes on.

Thus be assured, ye maiden chained to the Local Council Drone Desk. We home educating clans do stuff other than lolling about, reading books, complaining about schools today, swotting up on Latin because we're all terrified of the fortnightly Latin teacher, and going squishy-eyed at cute baby seals. We have Geography sessions!

Admittedly, they involve cake, somehow, but they also necessitate maps and tribal warfare team games.

See, sorted. Now don't look to count them as neets, thanks.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Film Family Fun

...I made Shark watch Jaws.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Let's copy China. What a great idea!

Well, here we are, living in home ed la-la land, then I have to go and spoil it all, making reference to the outside world, the one that starts at the line where my front door protects us (even though the door handle always falls off); the door stands there still, door to my home, gate to my castle, place where Mr Gove and all the little Ofsted pixies will never tread, unless I am ambushing them with boiled oil and a dead goat, if they dare.

Anyhow, PISA.

What a ridiculous thing to do. Rank your country via tests for children, and then judge yourselves as failing this and failing that, we must make the children work harder. They are slackers, loafers, and they are causing our country TO FAIL.

Are you all turned mad?

Say, I have a great idea! Why don't we create an international ranking of creativity, then issue all four-year olds with an orange, command DRAW THAT, and rank England better or worse than China, based on the International Creative Orange Quotidian Indicator Assessment Framework Initiative. I could listen to John Humphrys shake his surly locks and sternly ask how could we English, nearly Jerusalem, be quite so bad at the ICOQIAFI. What has gone wrong, so very wrong?

Pay attention to PISA then, if you must, if you want to construct little Chinese-copy-scholars whose days start at 6am, and whose homework ends at 10pm, for this will save you the playgrounds maintenance.

Be aware, be very aware, playgrounds for children over the age of five are virtually non-existent in your PISA-loving world. You will find a youth training camp, sure, but the PLA do not approve of play with a y: all that free-ranging, free-thinking, free-shifting, imagination-mixing, possibility-enhancing, multi-perspective-making, childhood play.

But when you've had enough of being told Tinkertop, aged 6, is never going to be good at PISA - she's a failure at representing her country, she's not making the grade, she's not taking the weight of our national expectations, her performance is too poor, and all is lost, lost, lost, you damned parent, this is all the fault of your low ambitions - when all she wants to do is dig a frikkin' hole in the ground, then remember, home education is still, as yet, an option.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Geography at the shopping centre

Dear Central Milton Keynes Shopping Centre, I would just like you to know that Squirrel is outraged by your sales and security staff.

Here we are, all fired up with Chapter 4 of a Geography IGCSE - in which we must find out how raw materials are processed then sold, what LICS are, and how Monsoon pull that slippery branding trick on a frock stitched in a Chinese Special Economic Zone - and we don't even get thrown out of your shoe shops. It simply isn't good enough.

I set our lovely home ed Geography group the activity of finding out where goods have come from. For this one, Squirrel and Shark decide to take themselves off to a shoe shop. Shark sat down with a clipboard while Squirrel picked up every boot on sale yelling out the country of manufacture. Shark solemnly wrote it all down. (Brazil, mostly.) After ten minutes, no-one had challenged them. No-one at all. Shark began flapping her clipboard about and Squirrel began sticking her head under the display racks, shouting out random nation names in the hope of being arrested. Mexico! Spain! India! Burkina Faso! Nobody paid them a blind bit of notice. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Now this could be the ordinary range of behaviour any ordinary teenager can exhibit in a shoe shop in Central Milton Keynes on a Monday morning, when we are all supposed to be under threat by terrorists and extremists, and they are supposed to be in school.

If so, I am delighted. Squirrel, as I said, was not. She felt it was the duty of all shoe shop uniform holders to come out their holes and provide a free lecture on third-sector economy. Failing that, to kick them out. I suggested next time, they could ask for a floor manager and pump him with questions until he covertly bribed them with chocolate to go away. After all, it was a strategy that worked in Tesco.

Catching up with a gentle economics questionnaire in CMK's Winter Wonderland.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

This is where they can lead you

This is Toddington Service Station at 3am.

I only post the photograph here so you do not need to travel yourself to stand in the small hours of a Sunday morning, in this happy location on Junction 12 of the M1.

But if you were to be seduced by the bright lights of Toddington Service Station at 3am, then you could stare rigidly ahead at nothing in particular, until a member of the all-night staff asks you if you are alright.

Thanks to lack of sleep and not because you are smashed on vodka, but he is not going to believe that, you can wobble slightly, fall over your own feet, and respond with slurred, incoherent speech that you are just fine and dandy, whatever that means, I have no idea, the brain was still in bed just off Junction 14, I distinctly remember leaving it there some time ago.

Well, the Woodcraft Folk only made me wait half an hour, so I suppose I cannot be too cross with them.

And if you were midnight skating at Ally Pally, thinking you were turning up for a quiet spin round the ice, then hoards of strange juveniles appeared from all over London, the Shires and East Anglia, I suppose you have a glimpse of their bizarre ways, too.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Thursdays probably drive me to it

Had a minor breakdown last Thursday (denting and crumpling variety), and only now got round to remembering it.

But I would just like to say, it bothered nobody much at all, which is how I want it. All good friends went into efficient auto parent-teacher mode, taking Shark, Squirrel and Tiger off me and commanding me to put my feet up: within hours Peepah had the juniors away to the afternoon's STEM lecture, then fed them, wrapped them up warm, and took them on a stargazing night at Bedford Observatory.

Within a day I was back to normal. Well, normal enough to read To Kill a Mockingbird before going round to San's house to watch Gregory Peck in the film of the same.

See? An education in life goes on as normal. Home ed need not stop because the parent-teacher starts the day flat out on the floor, snivelling. There are people who help, truly help, with big hearts and practical hands.

I am not repeating the same crumpling today, but I note that it is Thursday, and I did manage to wangle events well enough to get Dig to take the little grits off me yet again. They went to the Galapagos while I stayed in Jamaica.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Quiet day list

I feel some sort of checklist is in order. Admittedly because another day passes when I haven't got a clue what is happening (gone notebooking) and I feel a list may help me deal with my control issues.

Shark. Has seriously fallen behind her sisters in Chemistry assignments posted weekly to Sam. If I ask her if she has any pages to post for Chemistry or Physics, she gives me a fixed stare and says in a firm voice that she is doing it. I am not sure what doing it means when it looks like reading a book on the sofa, but I console myself with the knowledge that Shark is one force of nature who will do what is necessary to get where she wants to go, in her own time and her own way. No threats, nor hufty-pufty parenty pressure will have any impact on her. Her handwriting is, however, appalling, and I am giving her merry hell for it.

Squirrel. Behaving oddly, so everything is normal. She has become inscrutably teenagery of late, shrugging indifferently at me and hanging out mostly in the cellar, having taken up residence with her computer in a pair of old cane chairs that I strapped together in the woeful hope that from this act would emerge some sort of chaise longue. At the time, I rather fancied bringing a touch of eighteenth century aristocratic glamour to my interior design. In the cold light of day, it looks like someone strapped a couple of old cane chairs together in the cellar and a Squirrel sat in them. Anyway, she is quiet and producing the filled in Latin worksheets, so I'm not disturbing her.

Tiger. Gloating, with a vengeance. She is up to date on Chemistry, Latin, Geography, Horse Knowledge, and Goading her sisters, and has enthusiastically begun making a model of a 4-foot horse from willow withies, wire, clingfilm, tissue paper and an electronic circuit so that it glows. It must have articulating legs and a tail apparently, or the whole thing is rubbish. She has worked hard on the knees (do horses have knees?) and shows me the tail proudly. I say nothing except It is very good etc etc etc. I know better than to confront her about anything. She shares this characteristic with her sisters: a quiet determination to pursue some inner driving need, for which they have taught me, better not thwart it.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Antony and Cleopatra at the RSC

See Antony and Cleopatra at Stratford with the RSC. This is in keeping with the gritty agenda to equip Shark, Squirrel and Tiger with an education of all the world, via Shakespeare.

I'm brave. The Guardian saw the best of things, the Independent didn't bother reviewing the play, and it had an 'utter dud' comment from Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph. Makes me wonder what axe he has to grind.

But it would be ungenerous to wonder about that axe. Or pick out, say, the sentence Jonathan Cake, who I always think of as Jonathan Beefcake because of the rippling musculature which he so often seems touchingly anxious to show off, since - for a maidenly Grit - grabbing an eyeful of the adorably handsome Jonathan Cake's rippling musculature was a particularly uplifting moment, and one worth cherishing; maybe she has gone over that scene in her mind a few times, couldn't say.

But could Charles be upset at how this Ant&Cleo is placed all wrong? Not in Egypt but Haiti? Eighteenth century at that, black vs white, French vs slaves.

Agreed, it is odd, but this open-minded family approached it as if it was a good idea - Julius Caesar was set in Africa, and that worked brilliantly. And it provided an opportunity for this lot of smug bastard home educators to swot up on eighteenth-century Haiti, so who's complaining?

Okay, after doing that, I didn't feel the parallels stood up to a great deal of scrutiny, so I stuck to wittering on to the kids about colonialism and how setting it under the French rule made for a great costume opportunity, what with gold dangly epaulets and tight britches.

The performance itself was sound but somehow not exceptional; Cleo was all sex rather than politics, Ant was a great swaggering, winking creation from Stringfellows, and Octavius was appropriately cold-hearted, insincere, and downright mean.

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger liked it, gave it 8/10, but I have a feeling it's one which will fade into Grit's middle grey, except for Chukwudi Iwuji, the way it was set in eighteenth-century Haiti, and Jonathan Cake's rippling musculature.

But I'm glad they set it in a hot country. Howabout Aboriginal Australia, say in the middle of a hot, hot summer, just as Jonathan Cake has to go native?

Monday, 25 November 2013

The promise of art leads me to penury

Take Tiger to join a London-based home ed art group.

These particular creatives (organised, dedicated, 100% focused - if you see them working their way round the V&A, do not approach or attempt to distract them from great arty purpose), are to be found this month in the bowels of the British Museum, holding to ransom a Japanese woodblock expert for four hours, extracting from her all knowledge of Japanese woodblock printing techniques until she squeals*.

They are proper wrong 'uns, this home ed art lot.

They are leading me into bad, bad ways, I can tell you that. Within a couple of hours of Tiger finishing printing her Japanese bird I am come over all Amaazzing ooh ooh oh! Look at that birch plywood! then I'm off over here ogling Japanese Vinyl and Hosho Pads, feeling an urgent need for a 'Fancy Leather Dabber Shiny', and totting up an order for a stack of wood and some carvers.

Expect another art route to ruin.

*Workshop availability probably tied into the British Museum's present exhibition, Shunga: Japanese Art, which, no, I am not taking the gritlets to see. I couldn't face the lengthy explanations of what he is doing with that stork.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Everybody's happy

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger go here.

I was effusive with my thank you's, mostly because the organiser didn't have us down on the list (even though I was holding the tickets) and still let us in, but partly because the very kind and generous staff and remarkably handsome young man were removing the children from me for a five-hour block.

Five hours! This allows me to hang around the Member's Room and pick up men.

I did do, too! Okay, it was Dig, flying in from Hong Kong en route to Morocco. The Member's Room is an ideal place to put him on a sofa and pour coffee into his face, while I can read a book about Anthropology in Latin America to research for a notebook commission.

All in all then, no bad day.

I think there's a film from it, somewhere.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

What's on your list?

I first assumed the Meeks were home educators (outdoor education wing, survivalist tendencies, possibly militant Jesus set, because who else is going to build the shelters come judgement day?) but then I found out they were safely in the bosom of normality, so unlike several thousand alternative educators living off-grid or dragging the kids round the Atlantic, their activities can be happily endorsed by the Daily Mail.

Their list got us started early anyway, planning the happy family goals for 2014.

We can ignore Tiger's, because they all include horses, and I can feel my hives starting up badly.

Shark pips up that we all should have a go at weaselling, and next time not in daddy's office. Then she says 2014 has to be the year for whale watching or else. Apparently I promised it for 2009 and what happened then?

I say I rather fancy glamping. Or a stay in a yurt. I will not put on the list the 2013 triumphs, like being carted off to A&E in the back of an ambulance, receiving yet another Notice of Prosecution, or having the hamster die. (Or was that 2012?)

I will put onto the family list a visit to Spurn Head at Hull, some Peak District rock scrambling, an ill-advised watery pursuit, and yet another bash at hearing the nightingale sing in a wood in the dark. Bastards.

Apparently I am not allowed to add goals like Teach Yourself Maths to GCSE Level. That, according to Squirrel, can only remain the stuff of hopeless aspiration.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Popular culture? Fail.

I told the kids they had to prepare themselves. We are going to watch Dr Who and his 50th anniversary programme.

They stared, blankly. No-one has ever watched Dr Who in this house. We don't turn on the TV for a start. No one knows how.

But this is a big cultural event, I insisted. Everyone, all over the world is watching! I distinctly remember growing up with Patrick Troughton, my favourite. Intense, with a touch of the unpredictables. I gave up at Sylvester McCoy.

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger looked at me piteously, like they are meeting one of the afflicted. But they have not yet developed subtle avoidance techniques to duties and obligations, like exiting the room, sharpish. So I plan to figure out how the TV works, then sit them in front it with a packet of ginger nuts, quick as a flash.

I had my arguments ready. I said, As home educated children, it behoves you to recognise and partake of popular culture. Without knowing society's significant cultural moments, the signs, systems and semiotics, people might think you, my poor home educated child, are excluded! People may receive the erroneous impression that you are out of touch, unable to take part in society, unaware of everyday common normalities!

'I know all about Dr Who' snapped Squirrel impatiently. 'It is that man who plays Richard II.'

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Perfect for bibliophiles

I have a new love, and it is this. BibliOdyssey. Obscure, off-beat, eclectic. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Shark said keying an Audi is okay, but posting dead fish? Definitely not.

One of the bits that make up this grit is determination to bust ignorance about home ed.

Yes, it's like getting all argumentative because someone on the internet is wrong, but I can still do my bit for this community, and that is through ordinary information.

Politics is not how I want to give my time. How draining is politics?! Blimey, last month I went nose-to-nose in a local arts argy-bargy and I'd done my bit after the first round. It seems to me, in all local politics, you must chuck into the bottomless pit your days, your emotional reserves, your intellectual time, and a chunk of your sanity. Be a stronger person than me to keep your perspective.

But home ed politics? Turf wars, big egos sitting aloft on moral clouds, unpredictable bedfellows and a basic lack of trust - two weeks with this lot and you might even sympathise with the local authority. Nope, I can't be in home ed's political thick. Get involved in everyone's problems, and everyone hates you anyway. It ain't for me, which is why I remain grateful to those who persist in it, what ever their forms.

But I still want to help, right? So I show any passer-by how home education works for us. We don't do school at home; we don't do autonomy, and we do both of these in any one week. We mix anything and everything, living and learning, label it how you want, and I make sure I unchain the kids from the radiators once a day at least.

So this is one big reason why I keep grit's day going. To show home ed as normal, to show what my kids do, where we go for the S word, and to indicate some of the rich resources around - for which you don't need to pay teachers, you don't need to sit Tinkertop in a classroom, and you don't need a CRB-checked leader with a teaching certificate. Home ed can be anything your child needs or wants. It can be exhilarating, and it can be the worst decision you ever made. On the same day. And sometimes in the same moment.

So it depresses me hugely to see articles like this. The report Richard Garner refers to explicitly excludes home educated children. But would you know it from this article? Doesn't this article, raising that image of kids out of school, just ask you to consider we're all swilling round in the same pot of uneducated, anti-social delinquency?

A disregard to factual accuracy, the ignorant mixing of school and education, the dramatic language of prey and abuse stalking the text. That just made the issues of we 'out-of-schoolers' a little less clear. It made my life a little harder. It made it a little more hazardous for Shark to walk alone to the secondhand bookshop next Monday morning. It made our culture a little less tolerant, a little less understanding, and maybe a little less forgiving.

Worse, this article rides on the back of a greater, unseen force. Yes, there are politics afoot in the world of home ed, and there are people gunning for us; they are pressing to put those registrations in place, they want the monitoring to be there, they're looking for another job in Ofsted. The idea of home ed - as the invisibles, the unmonitored, the unknowns, the unaccountables, the cruel abusers of the preyed upon - it all adds up to an easy target where something must be done. And articles like this always take us closer to that event, simply by spreading ignorance.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Monday, 18 November 2013

Only three years behind

Lucky we keep up with popular culture!

Because in this up-to-the-minute gritty household we are now hugely enjoying Sherlock, updated by Moffat, Gatiss and co., and procured on DVD from LoveFilm in great batches of satisfying episodes.

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are happily pointing out to me the many references to the original stories, from pig poking to globe spinning. They love it, and so do I. A totally recommended way to spend 90 minutes. Looking forward to the next instalments.

(But please someone give me a nudge when it starts.)

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The problem with seasides

Is the car filled with stolen beach that we then must proudly display on every surface in every room until the Hippie Mama has a big squeal on finding the egg cases floating in my sandwich box balanced on the toilet lid.

I am not to touch them, apparently. And neither should I think for one second about moving the dried out salty ones waiting to be examined and now resting on my antique carriage box in the hallway.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Titchwell marsh to Hunstanton cliff

Example of managed retreat and old rocks. Perfect. Especially for budding geologists, beach explorers, and the 1960s educated hippie mama who thinks that seeing, touching, feeling, smelling (and eating the gravel if necessary) is all a fitter education for the juniors than staring forlornly at page 32 of a secondhand geography text book.

(Plus, big plus, while the two boilers at home are still not working, there is a hot shower to be had at the King's Lynn Premier Inn.)

Friday, 15 November 2013

A load of seals and some spit

Take a boat trip round Blakeney, north Norfolk. We are not here to watch 500 cwt of seal blubber flop about on beaches with white fluffy seal pups, oh no we're not. We're here to observe the development of a sand and shingle coastal feature aka a spit.

Cute huh?

Go during the school term, that's my strong advice.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Richard II bringing out my jealous streak

Obviously I take the Gritty Juniors to Cineworld to catch an eyeful of Shakespeare's beautifully versed Richard II, today screened live by the RSC, with the key kingly role played by a Time Lord.

A visit like this, to a Shakespeare play, one on our hit-list, hardly merits a mention in the Gritty blog.

However, what I would just like to mention is that our neighbour - she who clomps about in 3-inch platform boots and does up her hair in a Winehouse bee-hive - she was much quicker off the mark than me, and managed to acquire for herself and her coterie actual tickets for bottoms-on-seats at the theatre.

When her tickets - in an envelope helpfully stamped RSC - plopped on the mat in our shared house, I thought about nicking them. I thought, if I steamed open the envelope, how many tickets would I find? A lucky four? Then I could pinch them with ease! I could pretend her precious tickety package never arrived, and I could doll up my hair and roll off to Stratford pretending all the while that Shark, Tiger and Squirrel are not actually my children, they are fans of a Time Lord. Like me.

That set of events did pass through my mind, yes, several times, while I mulled over the consequences, looking enviously at that envelope, holding it, with all its promise of actual eyeballing stage-side seats.

But this is my point. Because, let's face it, the neighbour with the beehive hair and platform boots has shown zero interest in Shakespearean history dramas until this point. Until right now, when there is a willowy Time Lord to fret over and ogle at, musing where is his Tardis and what's under his Jesus robe?

And I do not know whether to be grateful to the Time Lord for this circumstance, or not.

Because he is doing a good thing. By getting up into the gear of a white Jesus-lookalike frock and glittery gold nail varnish this particular charismatic Time Lord is obviously bringing to a lot of people (including my beehived neighbour) the whole Shakespeare representation of medieval kingship thing. And who knows where that might lead? There might be thousands of people turned on to Shakespeare right here and now, even though they really went to see a televisual Time Lord and not a weak and feeble Richard II.

But then he is doing a bad thing. I don't want Shakespeare to be made over with too many lovely leading idols. Because if she with the beehives and platforms suddenly gets turned on to histories, comedies, tragedies and problems, then I am certainly in competition for those seats, all those desirable seats, but I will be just as slow as last time! And then what will happen? I'll just have to take a chance and nick her tickets.

Monday, 11 November 2013

I have had enough now

Okay, so I have booked a couple of overnight respite stays, well away from my own house.

There is nothing odd about that is there? Running away from your own environment? Not when you know how I am being gaslighted by non-functioning electrical items. I know what they are about. Ganging up on me and waiting until I become properly unstable before tipping me over the edge.

You see, I am not dreaming it. As fortune has made it so, from the three boilers we run across this house, two are now refusing to do anything. One is in league with the ring main and stares at me silently and sullenly, like a horror movie only worse, while the other threatens me with growling noises, before chewing up 3amp and 2amp fuses and spitting out the remains over the carpet. The third boiler works. It is just in a place we don't talk about and is connected to a sink no-one wants to see.

Now as things stand, I have no heating, no hot water, no working sockets in half the house and three smelly children. But! I have an engineer coming! Yes, hopefully sometime before the apocalypse. He will undoubtedly want to suck out the contents of my bank account before confiding in me the news It's broken, love and You need a part for that.

Let us all pray it is not the boiler man who electrocuted himself last time.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

And this

I think about this problem logically. I ask myself, what are the properties of water?

Apart from dripping into buckets I have strategically placed now in four locations under the plumbing. Apart from that. Water can travel a long way between the leak and the paddling pool on the cellar floor. And water conducts electricity!

Shark tuts at me and tells me that pure water does not do this; impurities conduct electricity, and that is why I should never plunge exposed wires into dirty washing up water.

But that would explain my ring main problem, would it not? If the rat chewed the cable, as rats are wont to do, then the plumbing dripped and travelled and the fuse blew on my ring main.

I am minded to take an evening course in electrical doodahs. I think I quite have the aptitude for this.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Mostly, I stare at this

Drink it in, as I do, with your eyes, enjoying every luxurious moment, this enormous grey metal panel on the wall with all the fuses and the big switch that goes THWANG. It is a delight, is it not, when everything electrical turns off across eight rooms and you can add the heating into that moment of joy.

I stare at it all a very long while, tempting buttons when I am not blaspheming and setting about the entire thing with a broom handle.

After lengthy consideration, I pronounce the fault is at 'the ring main'. This I can do with some authority because it is helpfully written above the fuse that keeps tripping. Anyway, for some light relief, I also stare at this.

I will try my hand at most things without a handy bloke, but there is no good, no good at all to come with me having a bash at electrical jiggerypokery. Until very recently I assumed electricity was tipped into the walls where it stays until you trap it with plugs. And make sure the little switches are turned off at night because the power can leak out of holes. Or not, in our house.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Impasse at Fiddleford Manor

It has a roof.

A very fine roof, since no-one's looking.

I don't know why, but we have a major family fall out here, perhaps caused by the fact our excursion is over and we all are bound home, or possibly because she has elbows, or maybe the five-hour journey and the way the rain is tipping down, then the Great Expectations story disk ended with three hours to go, or perhaps because I unwisely tell everyone our next stop is Hungerford when the mass slaughter changed British firearms law in the 1980s. I distinctly remember it because I coincidentally drove to Hungerford that very week to interview a marketing manager at a software company.

At everyone's sullen and miserable face I regret it all, because no-one at this moment needs to know about these damaged bits of our humanities; we need to know what ancient, settled places remarkably exist in these areas of outstanding natural beauty, still here, still standing, because we all care. If only we could see it through the drizzle.

And I have no idea what caused the argument in the first place except she has elbows, but only I really looked at the roof.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The erosion continues

We have to walk this bit of the south coast path quickly, before it too falls into the sea. 

Here then, our intrepid iGCSE Geography group walking Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door. I make everyone chant five rocks from Portland Cement to Softy Chalk then we prove how we can put one foot in front of the other and stop to squint an eye through a hill-measuring thingy I bought off the internet for a tenner. Squirrel spends hours in her favourite rock-staring posture and I write elegiac poetry on pebbles, thankful in my heart for England's beautiful coast and another educational excuse to get here.