22 years ago…

My children start back at school tomorrow. My youngest is starting top infants, and my eldest is in his penultimate year of junior school (I don’t know what that is in American, but my kids are 9 and 6 if that helps!). Obviously (as says every parent) I can’t believe that they are already at this stage in their education (it’s Handsome’s seventh year in school, counting nursery!) but what really made me stop and think was remembering what I was doing when I was nine.

Twenty two years ago, my parents and I had moved from a heavily populated area just south of London to a tiny village in the wilds of Mid Wales. My original primary school had two classes of up to thirty pupils in each year. My new primary school had twenty nine pupils in total.

Me, not long before we left London. OMG the sandals!!

I remember feeling huge trepidation about starting in a new school. I think I was quite excited, but at the same time couldn’t envisage such a small school. My new headmistress (and class teacher; there were only two teachers. One for the infant class and one for the juniors) had written to my mother before we moved, telling her a little about each of my four classmates. Actually, they were table mates rather than classmates as each year group had a table within the junior classroom.

We moved about a month before term started. I remember walking to the village shop with my parents from time to time, and peering down towards the village school whenever it was within sight. I met a few local people before starting school, but I don’t think I met many kids of primary age, and certainly none of the four others of my age.

We walked the half mile to school on my first day, and indeed most of the others which followed. I remember standing on the road side of the old grey stone wall which separated the school playground from the outside wall and peering hesitantly through the gate. A group of children were playing dodgeball in the playground, and I was quickly brought into the game by the headteacher, Mrs Morgan.

I don’t remember much about my first days in the primary school, other than being amazed that everything was in Welsh. I do remember going home, about three days after I’d started and telling my dad that I’d learned a song in Welsh. He asked me to sing it, and I have very clear memories of singing absolute gobbledegook to the tune of ‘Rupert the bear’! I was a quick learner back then, but even so, there was no way that I was going to have assimilated enough of the language to be able to sing a song after three days!

The toilets were still outside for the first year I was there, until the extension on the back of the school was completed. We juniors had the bigger classroom and so it was always used for school assembly. Concerts were held in the local chapel, to give room for parents to attend. School dinners were cooked on site, back then, and served in our classrooms. ‘Dinners’ ate in the junior classroom, and ‘sandwiches’ ate in the infants. The original school bell sat on the windowsill of the junior classroom; I remember feeling quite sad that it had been replaced by a handbell to call us into school. I read a lot of school stories (actually, I just read a lot in general!) at the time, and I loved the idea of the school bell pealing over the fields in the mornings and afternoons like something out of the Chalet School, or Anne of Green Gables!

After two years, I came out of that school almost bilingual. High school wasn’t a shock to me, as I’d been used to a bigger school when we lived in London. My primary school stayed open until just a couple of years ago when it was forced to shut as the pupil numbers declined to just two. Really, they should have combined resources with another local school much earlier, rather than basically becoming a publically funded private tutor in a school building.

I often wondered what it would have been like to have been there back when there were sixty, seventy or more pupils. I’m glad now that we didn’t move back to bring up our children. I think that my children get more opportunities and a better education than that which would have been available there, even had the school remained open. Of course smaller schools can provide a decent education, but I think that the teacher needs to be incredibly focussed and enthusiastic about making the most of every child’s potential.

Random things (you’ve got to love it when I run out of ideas!)

Ten days left of my January NaBloPoMo. And nothing interesting happening in Jennieworld. I’m over tired from rushing round after a group of five and six year olds yesterday at Techniquest  in Cardiff Bay. Cheeky’s yeargroup had a school trip and I volunteered to be a parent helper. What. Was. I. Thinking? I suppose it wasn’t that bad. The problem was that I’m just not used to kids that are like little Houdinis. I’ve put the fear of God into my two from a very young age and so they don’t stray far from my side without express permission. The six children entrusted to my care yesterday hadn’t had that, and so scattered around the museum the moment we got through the door. I spent the morning feeling slightly panicky, trying to marshall them all into looking at the same exhibit at the same time (futile. Extremely futile. And foolish. Not to be repeated in a museum aimed at children with hands on exhibits). In the afternoon I was a little more accustomed to them, and so let them dash from place to place. I, meanwhile, walked continuously round the museum (it’s open plan, so the theory is that you can see the children all the time. This is not the case.) counting the children in my group, repeating their names like a mantra each time I saw them. Of course, they all needed toilet stops every time I turned round, and of course, one of my group managed to lock themselves in the toilet cubicle. Thankfully, he managed to unlock the door before the member of staff could return with the screwdriver; I was very glad as I had visions of being sacked from my voluntary parent helper role before I’d had a chance to get started!

The children were all asked what their favourite bit of the day was. My favourite bit was definitely the moment I did a last head count once we were back in the school playground and I was relieved to find that all of my group were back safely! I’m sure though that actually teaching wouldn’t be so stressful, I just saw the group when they were at their most excited and hyperactive! I honestly don’t think they could have been more energetic and lively if I’d fed them all pure sucrose all the way to the museum on the coach!

In other news, I’d like to mention an appeal that I heard mentioned on the radio the other day. Marie Curie Cancer Care are looking for volunteers to give an hour to collect money and sell daffodil pins for their annual appeal in March. This is a great opportunity for those of us who are richer in time than money and who would like to help out. Marie Curie Cancer Care provide nurses to care for terminally ill cancer patients in their own homes, and I think they do a wonderful job. So, if you’re in the UK and have an hour to spare in March, click on the link above and register. They have set themselves a target of 20,000 hours and so far have 2051 hours promised. I’ve just volunteered. Will you join me?

Do you know, that between going on a school trip and going to the Pantomime last night, I didn’t knit a stitch yesterday?! I think I’m having withdrawal symptoms and will have to make up for it today! I’m working on the collar of my jumper now, so I’m hoping that the last few inches won’t take too long. I’m itching to move on to the next project (or more truthfully, finish the one I started when I got bored in the middle of my jumper!).

Also, I’m in the process of updating my blogroll. If you can see any obvious ones I’ve missed out, please let me know.


Friday was a day of jubilee and celebration in the Jennieworld household as both Handsome and Cheeky won the weekly Merit Cup in their respective school classes!

The Merit Cup is awarded each Friday to one child in each class, usually someone who has made extra effort during the week, or has done particularly well in a specific subject. Handsome was awarded the cup for mastering the use of adjectives in his English class and composing some interesting sentences, and Cheeky won it for sustained improvement and being a good friend (bless him!). You can imagine how happy they were when they came out of school. They have both been hoping to win the merit cup for some time now, so the fact that they both won it for the first time on the same day was amazing!

The cups have been taken everywhere this weekend, and proudly displayed to all their nearest and dearest. We had pizza and cake on Friday night to celebrate, and the win has even inspired Handsome to do his homework early – I hope that he wins it more often so that this trend can continue!

There is a plaque on the base of Handsome’s trophy which says his name and class, but the plaque is missing on Cheeky’s cup so, in place of telling people what the plaque says, he has been proudly telling everyone that on the base of the plinth it says that it was ‘Made in China’!

Snow day again?

We’re playing the waiting game again at the moment, trying to find out if the school will be open or shut. I’d be surprised if they opened it, given that Cardiff Bus have decided that the road past the school isn’t safe for the buses to use. Also, I’m supposed to be going to Llandough Hospital today. That’s not going to happen, given that I don’t feel happy driving there with my arms being weaker than they should be and the bus to the hospital isn’t at present running.

More snowman building, anyone?

ETA** School’s shut. Snow’s still falling. Woohoo!

Anticlimax and confusion

My children both went back to school yesterday. They are in year 4 and year 1 now, so even my baby is well into his school life, being as he is in his second full time year at school. And going back to school was something of an anticlimax. For which I am, actually, quite grateful. My children take everything in their stride. It has always been thus, and I expected no difference this term. Getting ready for school yesterday felt like we hadn’t had holiday. They slipped right back into the routine, were ready in plenty of time, walked to school as usual and then waved goodbye as they headed towards their new classrooms with no qualms, no looking backwards towards me or anything. And I’m glad because I’d hate it if they didn’t want to go to school, if they were stressed or worried about it. I’d be miserable all the time they were away from me, worrying about how they were getting on. But as things are, they both have a nice group of friends, like their teachers and enjoy their schooldays. So we’re back into the old routine straight away.

The confusion (maybe not the right word, but as near as I could get) arises due to the problems I’ve been having with my hands recently. I’ll be seeing my doctor on Tuesday about it, and hoping that she’ll have some answers. In the mean time, in case it is a repetitive strain type injury, and because it flares up when I’m typing at work (and sometimes at home) I’m severely cutting back on my internet time. This will be a real challenge to me, but I will prevail!

You would have thought that knitting and crochet would be the last thing I should do, but it appears to actually be beneficial to my hands. Yesterday, I had a very bad day in work as my hands were aching so badly, and I nearly didn’t go to my Stitch and Bitch meeting. However, I decided that I could always sit and chat rather than knit if my hands wouldn’t play ball, so I went along. At the end of the evening I realised that I had steadily knitted all evening and that my hands were much less painful than they had been. I think it must be because I don’t hold the needles tightly, and knitting only involves small and gentle movements. Maybe it’s almost like a form of physio? Knitters, what do you think? So, to conclude, I’ll still check e-mails most days, and read blogs, but I’ll not be doing as much typing until I’ve worked out what’s wrong. Before any of you suggest it, it’s not arthritis (thank goodness) as I had blood tests for that earlier in the year. Neither does it seem to be a carpal tunnel problem. Websites that I’ve looked at seem to suggest that the pain would be on the other side of my hands (my problems are mainly wrists and middle to little fingers, whereas carpal tunnel apparently affects more the thumbs and index finger side). So it’s a mystery!

Quiet time with the Husband

Today I had a treat. My husband (who I won’t refer to as NDT, Jo!) took a half day holiday from work today and took me out for lunch. We went to La Tasca and enjoyed our last uninterrupted meal and calm daylit half hour which we will have for the next week and a half. Yep, school has broken up for half term, so I can look forward to a week of trying to find things to keep the boys amused (and I’m including Hubby in that!).

True to form, school has sent home a half term project for Cheeky again. This time they want him to “create a mobile representing ‘light and dark'”. Oh good. Something to keep Cheeky and Hubby entertained while Handsome and I find better things to do with our time!

But back to our meal. It was all a bit muddled up, really. We originally decided to have lunch in La Tasca because I had found a voucher entitling us to two for one on all tapas dishes. However, when I looked at it this morning, I found that it was only valid Sunday to Wednesday. Duh! And so then I remembered a ÂŁ5 off voucher that I had for joining their online club. However (again), on closer inspection of that offer, it was likewise not valid for use today.

Never mind. They have a lunchtime offer of which we took advantage instead of these other promotions. I had already decided that I didn’t want a huge meal, so it suited me fine. The offer was a choice of any three tapas dishes and one of the set drinks (from the special lunchtime menu) for ÂŁ7.95. We each chose three different options and then shared the lot – yummy! And then Hubby bought me a cake to have with a cup of tea after collecting the boys from school. I was spoilt rotten today!

When I got home, my Rosemary Conley Diet and Fitness magazine was waiting for me, but i really wanted my cake so I’ve not opened it yet! I’ll save the guilt trip for tomorrow, when I’ll probably open it to find a whole feature about the perils of eating tapas and iced danish whirls. Ah well, it’ll get me back on track, I suppose. But I did really enjoy my meal out, and feel no guilt about the excess food that I consumed today. I might do tomorrow, but I’ll deal with that when I get to it!

Ahhh, fond memories of school!

I saw this article today on the BBC news website about a classful of boys from a school on Australia who have been suspended just prior to graduating due to their antics to celebrate the end of school.

Now, I should qualify this; my year at school did NOT get suspended and neither did we do anything (particularly) offensive towards the end of our school careers. However, there was a mystery incident which I never heard the solution to, which occurred at some point during the last couple of years we were in school.

We arrived at school one day to find that the school hall was five inches deep in foam. Now, the mystery was that the hall had been locked by the caretaker the previous evening, and as far as he was concerned, had stayed locked all night. The windows were shut. My friends and I had absolutely no idea as to how it could have happened. I still would love to know the pranksters responsible, and how they managed to carry it out!

Anyone got any good stories like this from their schooldays, of great pranks carried out? I’m sure I can remember some more for the days to come (not carried out by me, of course, as I know my parents both read this!).


I was reading today on TimesOnline Sarah Ebner’s view on homework. Both my children are in primary school, and Handsome, having recently started in the Junior unit (or year 3) brings home homework every Friday as well as a book to read each day.

Obviously I don’t want my children to have to spend all their free time doing homework, but I think that a bit of it can be a good thing! I want my children to be able to learn the self-discipline required for home study from a young age. It is something which I never mastered, and something that, had I had it, would have enabled me to have performed much better in both my later years in school and in university.

I try to make quiet time for half an hour to an hour each Friday after school where Handsome and Cheeky can sit down and do their homework (I have to make up some homework for Cheeky to do so that he a) doesn’t feel left out and b) doesn’t distract Handsome from his homework!). I bring them a hot drink and a snack to eat while they are doing it, and they know that, as long as they take their time and do it properly (and with best handwriting!) they will be able to play to their heart’s content as soon as they are finished!

I have no problem with the regular type of homework which my elder son (Handsome) is bringing home. Mainly he can sit down on his own to do it with little or no intervention from me. I like this work as it is supporting and reenforcing his work in school. However, the homework I can’t stand is the homework which gets sent home at each half-term holiday – the joint parent-child project, which generally means parent project whilst trying to stop the child spreading paint/glue/glitter etc over the living room carpet! I cannot see the point of these things other than to provide the school with cheap decoration for their hallways. If schools want to send homework for nursery and early years primary school children, why not some elementary number or letter work rather than projects like making a fish, making a spider or making a flower (all projects which I have completed over the last four years!).

Rant over. Educators, take note!

Summer holiday versus the Welsh Monsoon season

It will be school holidays in a week and a half, and the long term weather forecast is not looking promising. With that in mind I’m trying to put together a list of activities which will keep my kids happy, amused and away from each other’s throats for a potential six and a half weeks of rainy housebound days. I’ve been looking online for simple science experiments suitable for four and seven year olds which can be done at home, as well as new ideas for art projects. I’m thinking about setting up a weather station. So, any advice would be gratefully received! I don’t want to make it seem like they’re still in school for their holidays, but I don’t want them to be sitting in front of the tv all the time either. Are any of you planning things to keep your children entertained through the holidays? I’d be really interested to hear from you.

I’m going to miss this when my children get older…

The one thing that I think I’ll miss most as my children grow up is the mis-pronunciations and slight alterations of words that you get from little children who are trying their hardest to be grown-ups and talk like Mummy and Daddy. We’ve already lost so many; my elder son is very well read for his age and has a good vocabulary, and we’ve already lost many baby words from my younger son’s vocabulary. “Lellow” is on the way out, they have blackcurrant squash now instead of “purple juice” and many other things have gone away into the mists of babyhood. But a new one has emerged! The annual epidemic is underway in the nursery school, something which luckily both of my children have had before. Several of my younger son’s friends are affected though, so I’ve been hearing plenty about it. And what is this mystery ailment which has struck the local pre-schoolers?


Bless him! Just when I thought the amusing verbal interludes were a thing of the past, he finds all new words to delight my ears! But doesn’t that sound like a much pleasanter disease than the poxy variety?!