Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Fish and the People - fable by Hobbes, composed after eating trout

Many years ago, the fish and the people were friends. The fish helped the people when there was a famine and the people helped the fish when the lake dried up. Then one day a famine came that was so bad that one of the fish decided to sacrifice itself so that the people would have something to eat. The people ate the fish and it was delicious. It tasted so wonderful, and the people were so greedy, that from then on there was no more peace. The people were always chasing after the fish and the fish were always fleeing from the people.

The End

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Not Quite Wordless Wednesday: Five mile geology walk

Zig-zags in sandstone, possibly formed by an earthquake shaking wet sand, leading to sand layers slumping

Trying to see fossilised sand ripples

Checking out erosion in a wall: stone reverts to sand

Coal seam underlain by a white sandstone named seatearth; the latter has black rootlet marks from the forest that used to flourish above it

Brownish sandstone marked with the remains of tubes dug by burrowing worms or other animals

Unexpected rock monster

Calvin decides that whatever is round the next headland is not worth seeing and makes for home.

Round the next headland: volcanic plugs from ancient volcanoes.

Geology dog

Folded and tilted rock strata

Sea stack

Did we really leave the car on the other side of St Andrews?

The times they are a-changin'

It's been a strange week. On the one hand, Calvin has been embarking on new interests and courses - he and I are beginning to study for Geography IGCSE and he has begun an on line Classical Civilisation GCSE, as well as an on line ICT (computing) course. Simultaneously, we have been coming to decisions about when the boys will go to school. I've been touring schools recently and the boys came with me to visit our favourite. They won't be going to school for another two years but just as Calvin sets off in new directions I am also having to consider preparing both boys for their new adventure.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

A Blusterous day

I had washed clothes the night before, so the breezy morning I woke up to seemed perfect drying weather. I put them out on the line and, by the time I was indoors again, rain was coming at the clothes sideways. I ran out to rescue them, then half an hour later hung them back up.

Husband called from Edinburgh. He said it was a fine sunny day, but a little blustery. As we talked, I looked out the window to see our washing hanging horizontally. By lunchtime it was all dry. At about that time, the bin fell over.

Blondie likes to pee in private, so I took her out to her run for a quiet half hour to herself. When I went to pick her up to accompany me on a walk, her ears were blowing inside out.

I had meant to read from A House At Pooh Corner, but we ran out of time. Instead, the next morning, we snuggled up on the sofa and giggled through Piglet Does a Very Grand Thing.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Half term: theoretical gardening, singing, dogs and more theoretical gardening

We are having a week off school, so the boys are entertaining themselves. I write a list of (minor) chores for them each day; otherwise, they are on their own, apart from a few scheduled activities.

8-9: Calvin's still asleep. Hobbes reads in bed for a bit, then makes himself breakfast and feeds the dog. He feeds his online virtual pets for ten minutes too.

9-10: Calvin wakes up and the boys muck about in the sitting room for a while. I tell them to go to their rooms if they want to fight. I notice enormous holes in Calvin's socks:

Laura: Please take off your socks and put them in the bin.
Calvin: Yes, I quite like the way that the patch of skin sets off the colour of the socks.
Laura: In the bin please.
Calvin: Who ever looks at the bottom of my feet?
Laura: In the bin please.

The boys want to have an hour playing on the Wii. I tell Calvin to eat breakfast first. They start getting rambunctious again and I lay down rules for the holiday: I won't force them to run every day (as they do in term time) so long as they keep their outpourings of energy to their bedrooms or garden.

Laura: There's a whole world outside for you to discover.
Calvin: There are about a thousand of them in the library.

Calvin goes to the kitchen, then comes back to say there's nothing he wants to eat. He gets short shrift and is told to add any requests to the shopping list. He comes back again to tell me that I've eaten all the yoghurt. Short shrift again (mother is allowed to eat; it wasn't all the yoghurt).

Hobbes is reading a Marvel encyclopedia. He asks what 'intangible' means.

Calvin comes back and apologises for complaining. He's told it's not a big deal, but to try not to do it again.

10-12: Calvin eats breakfast and the boys unpack and repack the dishwasher. They then spend an hour playing on their Wii. I take a shower, then retire to Calvin's bedroom to practice for the concert that my choir is performing on Saturday. We are singing Bach's Passion According to St John. The choruses and chorales ring in my ears all day long ('Write thou not, write thou not....' 'Crucify him, crucify him...' 'Lie still, lie still....'). I read St John's account in the King James version with the boys last week, and was struck by how terse it is.

Calvin's bedroom overlooks the patio. I am distracted by the (lack of) planting in the garden. I've been watching Alan Titchmarsh's television series, 'How to be a gardener'. He calls this style of garden 'centrifugal' - all the plants have spun out to the boundaries. There's a thin line of planting around each obstruction (edge of patio, boundary fence, house, stray boulder) but none of it means anything. There's no shape or interest. It needs a lot of work.

12 - 3: We eat a hurried lunch (whole grain pasta mixed with tinned mackerel, along with steamed broccoli and an orange) before I take Blondie off to the groomer. The groomer is very chatty, so I call the boys when I've dropped Blondie off, as I've been away a little longer than I expected. There's no answer, so I call again. Still no answer. I realise that I'm going to have to go home straight away to check on them. It's very unlikely that there's a problem (beyond living in an old house with thick walls through which you can't hear the phone) but home I go. They are, of course, fine - reading and playing. While home I disinfect Blondie's carrying crate and wash all her bedding.

Hobbes comes with me when I go back to get Blondie; I like driving with just one of the boys - we have good conversations in between listening to my CD of the St John. Hobbes helps me to hold Blondie while the groomer gets gunk out of her ears.

On the way home, we stop off at the railway station to buy tickets for the boys to go to Chinese school on Saturday with their dad (I have choir rehearsal that afternoon). The nice lady in the ticket office works round the system so that we can get reserved seating despite using a cheap ticket. Hobbes talks to an elderly lady in the queue.

3-4:15: I work on some home education issues: Calvin's maths curriculum needs some consideration. I send and receive a few emails, and finally decide to try Life of Fred for him. I am also looking into geography IGCSE. The boys romp in the garden.

4:15 - 5:20: I suddenly realise that I will have to start cooking again at 4:30, so carve out fifteen minutes to read my How to Be a Gardener book, which arrived today; the boys received a Wii manual by the same post - they clubbed together to put their savings towards it - so they are studying that. Then it's a quick supper (shop-bought steak pudding with sugar snap peas and an apple) and we are on the road.

5:20 - 8:15: Chess club. It's a 40 minute drive each way. The boys are greeted by the high concentration of long-haired boys that constitutes the chess club; I take the opportunity to do the weekly shop. I discover a new horror in the freezer compartment at the supermarket: chips (french fries) in batter.

8:15 - 12:45: Home again, home again, jiggety jig. The boys have a snack and take showers while I go to the WTM boards. We call husband, who is in the US visiting his parents. Then I snuggle Hobbes into bed. Calvin and I stay up watching, yes, an episode of 'How to Be a Gardener', followed by The Nature of Britain. I see him off to bed, take the dog out, then type these last thoughts.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Accidentally wonderful

We were finishing up our art history book on Friday, before starting on music theory after our half-term break this week. We've been using Discovering Paintings - Myths and Legends, which we bought at the National Gallery in London. It's a little young for the boys, but we've enjoyed the link between well-loved myths and art.

The last painting in the book is Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus (short digression to talk about the word 'deride' and link it to 'rire' in French) by Turner. Whilst we were at the National Gallery, Calvin chose a print of Turner's Fighting Temeraire to hang in his bedroom. I sent him to take it down and we sat with the book illustration of the one painting and the framed print of the other.

Then I realised: the layout of the two paintings is identical. Detail by detail, we went over the composition: the similarities were so great that it became easy to discuss the divergent moods of the paintings, evoked by the specific differences. I hadn't planned the lesson - our art history is a somewhat casual Friday session - but it fell into my lap and left us all excited.

I've been looking into the curriculum for the International Baccalaureate, on the assumption that the boys will go to school at some point before university. One of the subject options is art history. I wish that had been available to me at school: I had little interest and no obvious talent for making art, but I would have enjoyed studying the art of others.