‘Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud’ or ‘The 3 Foot Festival’

Actually, it wasn’t quite that bad. But we did end up covered in mud (feet and legs) and got through an awful lot of baby wipes 😊

I took Mini Mister to the 3 Foot People Festival at Hylands House in Chelmsford yesterday. I always wanted to take Maxi, but was always at work when it was on and now he is too old. So I have taken the opportunity of the hiatus in work to go with Mini. And we loved it! He tried out loads of things and spent most of the day running around a muddy, straw-covered field. Except when he was in the sandpit.  What toddler wouldn’t love that?

For those who have absolutely no clue what I am talking about, the 3 Foot People Festival is a 3-day event in Chelmsford where only little people under the age of 6 and their carers are allowed to go. There are all sorts of activities, and thousands of people go. In fact, I had to spend ages on the Internet when the tickets went on sale, refreshing the browser, just to try to get onto the ticket page. All 14000 tickets sold out within 48 hours this year, I think! Check out here or here if you want to find out more.

Anyway, we had a good day and the weather held. Fingers crossed for today and tomorrow as it is due to rain again today and the ground is already saturated. I hope everyone is prepared!

Actually, that brings me to Things I Would Do Differently Next Year:

1. Wear, or at least take, wellies. We were warned about footwear, but I decided that sandals would be cooler for me and easier to dry off. They are still drying today! I think Mini may have struggled in his this year, and at least I can brush the mud off his trainers (I hope). I think I will get some of those cropped wellies for me. Not so sticky and hot as full wellies. But at least I won’t need to scrub my feet like I did last night.

2. Take a waterproof-backed picnic blanket. Or any, but waterproof would be best given the dampness this year. It would have given us a wider range of seating choices. And I think Mini’s skin may have had a brief reaction to the straw in the bales we sat on having our ice creams. Mind you, we would need to be careful where we put it down; I had to virtually paddle across one part of the field to get to the baby change tent. Yuck!

3. Take hubby. We managed, just the 2 of us, but with a lively toddler an extra person would have come in handy. One of us could have queued for things (like the land train or the refreshments providers) while the other occupied Mini. I am so proud of him for how well he coped though, especially with the entrance and train queues. 

4. Get there early enough to scout out the site first. There was a map, but it didn’t totally match up to what was there (and the tents did not always match their little pictures), so it was a bit confusing until we had been round a couple of times. If there had been 2 of us, one could have scouted whilst the other occupied Mini with snack time.

5. As for getting there earlier, I need to go to Weigh-In on Monday evening instead of my usual Tuesday morning, so that we can get up to Chelmsford at least an hour earlier than I did. To be fair, we were warned about the queues, and they were partly so long (to get into the carpark and then to walk into the Festival area) because the organisers were trying to get loads more straw down to try to combat the sogginess of the ground. They did their best, but the usual British weather had had its say as per usual!

Other than that, I don’t think I would change anything. The food choices were excellent (if you don’t have a total fusspot like Mini), there were plenty of loos, and, importantly, there was plenty of space. It never felt crowded. Mini had a go at 2 different dance sessions, various musical and languages based toddler classes, got his finger chewed by a duck, saw a snake (but didn’t want to touch it), played in a giant sandpit, decorated a crown, had a ride on a train, had his first ’99’, with a flake (!), and fell asleep in the car on the way home.

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Can’t wait for next year! 😊

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Dawning of Realisation…and it makes me sad

Picklepiemama's hand playing the Clavinova

Playing some Einaudi

Sometimes you realise something important, a light bulb moment of self-understanding, in the oddest of places.

This one happened as I was driving to pick up my supermarket shopping from the click and collect service. And it only happened, possibly, as I had the radio on and was listening to a particular conversation. If the supermarket had still had a convenient slot (the laptop was playing up and we lost the one we booked), I would never have been in the car, never been listening to the radio, never heard the conversation, never started thinking, never made the connection. But, maybe it happened for a reason.

The conversation on the radio was about a project to do with people taking up their instruments again; those they played well, those they didn’t play so well, those they have always wanted to learn but never got round to it for whatever reason. BBC Music’s Get Playing is creating a Virtual Orchestra, playing the Toreador’s March from ‘Carmen’. To help people, there are all sorts of video masterclasses and other resources available, so I understand from the conversation on the radio.

So it set me thinking. I ought to do some practice. I haven’t for a long time. I feel bad about that.

Then I started thinking about why I haven’t,  and, to be honest, part of the reason is that there are so many toys and other things in front of the piano, that I just don’t get myself organised to do it. But there is another, much bigger reason, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought through it and made connections.

The biggest reason has to be time constraints caused by work and the professional expectations laid on us. I am expected, and need to, spend vast amounts of my time prepping, reviewing, assessing, etc. But it leaves little time for other things, including instrumental practice. I thought about why I didn’t tend to do practice in school any more. I certainly used to years ago. I remembered that for a long time now, I have felt too guilty to use my time playing the piano or practising my other instruments. The only allowable practice time was for learning and accompaniment or piece of music for a particular lessons. Anything else would be seen as frivolous and not working on the things I should be working on. Like the prepping, reviewing, assessing, etc. So I stopped doing it. I expected to be told off, or at the very least advised (in that way that says you will do it, or…)6 that I would be better using my time elsewhere. Practice time was my choice and therefore should take place in my own time. Not my job’s time. So, as I said, I stopped. I allowed my skills to stagnate. Because of the pressures to conform to a particular way of working as a teacher. Because of my own conscience. It made me sad. It makes me sad. What skill development have I missed out on?

And that is when I made the connection. A “Hallelujah ” moment,  if you will. The point I had failed to realise over all these years is that practising my instruments is relevant. It is professional development.  It is central to my role. It is centrally to the person, the teacher I am. I need those skills to do my job. I didn’t spend all those years training to suddenly stop developing when I started teaching. But that is what the expectations of the system made me think, feel, believe! All that time I have wasted by not developing my skills. And how much happier may I have been?

What I needed was someone higher up than me tell me that it was alright to practise, alright to use my in-school non-contact time (well some of it, as I still need to do the other things) practising my instruments. I wish they had. Other teachers go on training courses, or read about or research their subjects. I have just realised that practising comes under the same umbrella.

Now you may well think that I have been a bit slow on the uptake and it should have been obvious. I don’t disagree. I am not stupid to have not realised before though. Think about the system and how it works. Does it really work well when a teacher feels that they are not allowed to use their professional time to develop the skills that are integral to their job, because they should be filling out forms, ticking boxes, assessing, reviewing and planning/prepping? Does the system work when a teacher feels that others see those aspects as by far the most important part of the role and that if they don’t fit in the narrow expectations of the job, then they are in the wrong at the least, and inherently lazy at the worst? And I can see that the rule-makers, be they politicians, civil servants, or management, will say “But we never said you couldn’t”. But that is beside the point. It is the expectations laid on us, and the examples from other instances which prove to those of us at the bottom of the pile that we must be in the wrong. And everything has to be accountable and measurable.  I don’t have the time currently, with a young family to look after, to do any more exams to prove the amount I have progressed using my professional time for practices. So I can’t easily prove my progress.I

But we are not in the wrong, and we shouldn’t have to provide a specific way of measuring success. All of us need the time to develop our skills, and prove their development through the usage of them in our day-to-day teaching lives, and we should not feel guilty about doing so. A scientist needs to use their time to read new research (or even conduct their own); an English or Languages teacher needs time to read literature (yes, actual stories, novels, poetry); an Art teacher needs time to work on developing their own specialist creative area; a Humanities teacher needs time to read, to research, to even watch about different aspects of their subject. And a Music teacher needs to practice their instruments. This time will make us better teachers, more informed teachers, more effective teachers, happier teachers.

It has taken me too long to realise what I should have done years ago. I am not going to leave it to those higher up to tell us it is fine to practice, although I plead for them to listen and to check their charges to ensure that they are aware that these areas do count as professional development and therefore acceptable  to do in professional time. I am going to make sure people know.

And I can’t wait to start practising in my own professional time again 😊

Pratchett-a-thon

I start my Pratchett-a-thon tonight. Reading through all of the Discworld books in order again, including the last 2, which I have got but haven’t read yet. Add to these a load of his other books, and I am going to be going for a while. I had planned on starting this after Terry Pratchett’s death last year, but with one thing and another, it was yet another challenge/project I hadn’t started. Here goes…

The Colour of Magic 😊

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Oh, and the hexies are over a thousand now…

 

Hexie Counter

Makes and Ends

Yet again I have had a huge gap in my blogging. I have done things, and I have come up with loads of ideas for posts, but just not got round to finishing them. But since it is half term, I have had a good Bank Holiday weekend at Dad’s, and I am shattered from organising the house (looonnng way to go yet), I have been baking and sewing. Because, of course, that is what you do when you are so tired, you seriously contemplate using matchsticks to keep your eyes open 😀

This evening’s offering is a Chocolate and Coffee Marble Loaf Cake, recipe courtesy of The Pink Whisk. I originally planned to make this last week, and even got as far as measuring out the butter, but never did anything else. Anyway, it was an easy, basic sponge cake recipe, with a bit of flavouring, a bit of swirling, and then a bake. It looks like the original and tastes lovely. Will definitely be making this again.

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Chocolate and Coffee Marble Loaf Cake

I made cheese on toast for Maxi Mister earlier as well, but that doesn’t really count as baking. He is quite easy to make meals for as he eats most things, although does go through random spates of hating things (one time it was only melted cheese, then only orange cheese, then only grated cheese, then no cheese – argghhhhhhhhh!). Mini Mister is harder to cater for as he doesn’t want to eat anything he hasn’t specifically decided is OK for any particular day. And that changes hourly, let alone daily. Yes, it is his age, but who doesn’t like chips???!!! At least he tends to eat well at Nursery. We did discover yesterday that he seems to like cheese toasted inside a tortilla (had lunch at Chimichanga in Canterbury), but, of course, if I try giving it to him, he will probably reject it (“No more” is the death knell for an awful lot of meals at the moment).

On Monday I made a beef pie with the remains of the roast beef and gravy from Sunday lunch that Dad had cooked. It was nice, but both Hubby and I thought it would have been improved by the addition of an onion and some mushrooms. With Mini and Maxi being fussy about both (OK, they won’t eat them!) I didn’t even suggest adding them. I did, however, decide to cheer up the top and make it obvious what had been made for lunch:

Pie

Pie!

 

Over the weekend I have also been sewing. Since I have done so many hexies now, but haven’t started sewing them together, I decided to have a go at a mini project which I could aim to finish soon – a Flower Garden Pincushion . I got the kit from Sew & Quilt when I ordered my latest lot of hexie blanks. I also ordered some of the Tulip Hiroshima piecing needles that Jessie sells, just to see how I found them compared to my usual John James quilting needles. Jessie has also been really helpful asnwering a load of questions I had about thread, despite them being about a quilt top totally unrelated to the EPP things she sells. So far, I have basted all the tiny little hexies needed for the pincushion, and sewn the first 7 together. They are really pretty, but oh so tiny (half inch, compared to my usual 1 inch). My aim is to finish piecing and to quilt it by the weekend if I can…

Hexie flower pincushion centre

Centre flower for pincushion

I have a whole truckload of other makes and bakes to tell you about, including several presents, and at least 1 recipe for a cake. They will be in future posts (as soon as I finish them…)

And as for Ends….well, my job has finished. For a variety of reasons I left at the end of this half term. I could have finished at Easter and been paid to the end of April, but I decided the extra money was worth the extra weeks. I have had a difficult few half terms, especially the last couple, mainly resulting from huge anxiety issues which have nearly overwhelmed me. I have yet to decide whether to blog about those. It may help, it may not. Suffice to say, that I have been really lucky to have the support of our local GPs and my Health Visitor. And leaving the job means I no longer have a difficult commute which was increasingly taking me away from my children. I have regrets. There are colleagues I will miss terribly, and some of the classes I taught and lots of the kids. I loved doing the shows. Loved the space I taught in.

But it was time to end and to move on. An end after nearly 12 years, and an end to the commute. Hopefully this means more time for making as well as more time with my wonderful children and husband.

 

And the other Ends? Well, they get posts of their own 😊