Monday, 19 February 2018

Half term 2

And then there were more normal things. Thea made butter by shaking cream.

Nathaniel spent the day in Durham playing hockey.

Thea played with friends.

And the then Nathaniel and I spent the weekend at the Birmingham Conservatoire playing recorders. We enjoyed our journey by train (which was definitely part of the adventure, especially when you have a book of logic puzzles to entertain you!) and then Nathaniel and the other York kids did a sterling job at rehearsing with Conservatoire students until 8:30 at night.

We were playing Matilda (Walter Bergman), complete with percussion, and The Shepherdess, a new composition written around the strangest and naffest fairy story found in Walter Bergmans' papers after he died. It was great fun. Nathaniel learnt a lot about counting bars and playing atonal music, and I learnt treble fingering!

We stayed in a hotel over night with friends and they got to watch TV at 7am, which was a massive highlight for them! They also discovered that there were linked ventilation gratings that they could talk through.....

Then we did more rehearsals and then met Granny Janni and Grandpa Beard and played a concert in the afternoon. It was exhausting, but pretty amazing, and Nathaniel seemed to really enjoy it!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Half term 1

January sped by, and suddenly it was half term.

We celebrated by immediately taking off to a youth hostel in the North Pennines. It was bitterly cold and when we diverted off the road on the way to check out Cauldron Snout we saw our first proper snow. It was wonderful - a hill-top reservoir with the wind whipping up white horses on the grey water. Cold simply doesn't cover it.

It was about a mile and a half walk to Cauldron Snout, and at times I wondered if we were going to make it or whether we were going to have to carry a child back with a broken leg, such good fun they were having sliding on the ice that covered the track.

But we made it (thanks to a pocketful of chocolate) and found a rushing waterfall behind a most James Bond-esque damn.

We had hoped to go further down the waterfall to admire the Whin Sill cliffs, but the rocks were very icy, and anything that wasn't slippery was sodden peat. Wonderfully treacherous.

We set off onto the youth hostel at Ninebanks later than we had intended, as as the snow came down, we found ourselves driving across the top of the Pennines on a tiny road, half covered with snow, in the pitch black. Never before have I actually used those poles that they put up at the side of the road to mark it in the snow. It was amazing.

But we got there, and found it was just us and our friends in the hostel. So we filled up the log burned, cracked open the whiskey, the children started a mammoth game of Exploding Kittens, and we made ourselves at home.

Next morning we woke to discover that the snow had covered everything and we were living in a proper winter wonderland! We planned to go to Hadrian's Wall, but the Hill's car wouldn't start, so we had a happy morning rolling down hills.

In the afternoon, the lovely youth hostel people found us a sledge and we sledged until it was dark.

We dined on haggis and neaps and tatties and ate like kings.

The next day (after an amazing cooked breakfast of scrambled eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon, beans and leftover haggis (seriously, it's good!)), the Hill's departed on an AA truck, and we headed off to Hadrian's Wall.

To our surprise, the snow disappeared as we left our valley and we reached the wall with no snow on the ground. But our walk along the walk was accompanied by lots of ice and intermittant snow flurries, so we were able to have lots of fun pretending that we were soft southern roman soldiers posted to the farthest frontier.

In preparation for world book day, we took a photo of the children reading The Eagle of the Ninth in milecastle 39 (in the snow).

And we visited that tree. You know, the sycamore that you visit on your way from Dover to Sherwood Forest by horse:

There were a surpising number of people around. We decided that a Monday in February in the snow was the right time to visit, and that we wouldn't return during the summer holidays (except possibly at sunrise).

And then we drove home across the North Pennines in the snow (which we could see this time) and vowed to come back again soon.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

December 2 (other stuff)

Of course there was other stuff that went on too....

Ian tried for the record for the most number of countries visited in one month (he failed due once he realised that Birmingham is considered the same country). In Rotterdam and Amsterdam he was rewarded with proper snow.

In Paris he was rewarded by his colleague going to the local cheese shop for us a providing a whole bag of carefully chosen cheeses for us!

Thea had cello concert. She decided to play a viola piece for her solo(!), and very nice it sounded too.

In fact they all sounded amazing. There was not one child who didn't adjust their tuning as they played (in a positive direction!), and the general tone was incredible. They all were very happy and played us all Jingle Bells. Thea hadn't played it before and did a great job at keeping up by playing by ear and watching Laura (the teacher)'s fingers!

Nathaniel spent most of December writing comics based on the computer game Terraria. One of his friends owns it, but Nathaniel and his other friends have only played it once or twice, so their comics have covered a fascinating array of ideas about what the game might be about!
This is the draft - the eventual comic was much more detailed (with much worse spelling!).

Saturday, 23 December 2017

December 1 (Christmassy things)

Then advent started!

And so the advent calendar encouraged us to do Christmassy things like eating breakfast by candlelight!

Then the great card making started,

followed by much making and munching of mince pies.

Nathaniel's choir did their concert in the Minster Chapter House which was lovely! They make a wonderful noise (they are coached by the amazing Director of Music at the Minster School), and had a room full of parents and tourists absolutely captivated. They were a little surprised to have to provide an encore (apparently that has never happened before), and Alison had to explain to some of them what is was before they decided en masse what they would sing again! It was so sweet!

The next week, instead of a rehearsal, the choir had family carols at the school. We all brought tasty things to share and spent the morning singing carols (with accompaniment by the assistant organist who plays for the choir), with all the descants! Unsurprisingly, the families of the kids are quite enthusiastic singers as well and the noise we made was rather impressive! It was a very fun morning! Here is Han being happy outside the school:

I spent a happy morning in the church crypt making Christingles:

And then it was the school Christingle service. Thea was thrilled to represent her class in the telling of the Christmas story. She got to sit on the "stage" and read her line using a microphone.

Then they all got to terrify the teachers by lighting 178 Christingles and singing to them!

So despite school finishing on the day before Christmas Eve's Eve, we were suitably Christmassy!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

November 2

And now it seems like we are constantly running around to things, but yet not doing much!

We went to the dentist and Thea's first wobbly tooth was encouraged out. She was very proud!

There was a training day at school and we were too sleepy to do anything exciting so we vegged at home playing minecraft, watching Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and covering the kitchen with bits of cut sugar and tissue paper while we did random Christmas crafts. They look better with the sun coming through them!

We celebrated Dylan's birthday by Dorothea and F learning to play scrabble and then playing it competitively for 3 hours!

Ian went off to hack a train which he enjoyed.

The rest of us went off to the Grand Northern Suzuki Play-until-you-drop. We got the train to Dewsbury, enjoyed a merry walk through the deserted streets to the rather amazing Civic Hall and then spent all day doing the "Gala Concert" and the "Graduation Concert" and the "Northern Playtogether". The kids were amazing and managed not only to stay awake for the whole thing, but to play their instruments for the whole thing, sit politely for the whole thing, and, most importantly, seemed to enjoy the whole thing!

There may be more pictures coming.....

And then suddenly it was December and so it must be time to decorate scooters for some random school event (it was slightly unclear as to why we were doing this)...

....and have fun at the Christmas Fair. We ran the candy cane fishing stall which involved much painting of giant candy cane signs and wrapping of "fishing rods" in electrical tape to make them look fancy. Many thanks to two grandparents who spent hours cutting out card christmas trees for the craft table. You'll be disappointed to hear that it was a total flop - no-one wanted to make christmas tree sun catchers!

But the candy cane fishing was busy all night and sold out of candy canes!

In the midst of this it snowed properly and we had a good 2 cm of snow on the ground for almost 2 hours! The things we get excited about..... This is when it started.

It's all good fun really!